England recall Bopara for South Africa opener

England recalled Ravi Bopara in a 13-man squad announced Sunday for the first Test against South Africa at The Oval starting on Thursday.

Now in line to bat at number six, the seam-bowling all-rounder was given a chance to add to his tally of 12 Test caps, the last won against India in August last year, also at The Oval, after impressing with 182 runs and four wickets in the 4-0 one-day series thrashing of Australia completed earlier this week.

Bopara had been set to be included for England's home Test series against the West Indies but the 27-year-old injured his thigh playing for county side Essex the day before the first Test squad was announced.

He was replaced by Jonathan Bairstow but the Yorkshire batsman struggled in his maiden Test series, scoring just 38 runs in three matches in a 2-0 win.

"Ravi Bopara has worked hard to regain his place in the Test squad following some injury concerns earlier in the season," national selector Geoff Miller said after the squad was announced.

England may be the the world's top-ranked Test side but South Africa will replace them at the summit of the International Cricket Council rankings if they win this three-match series.

"We have played some very good cricket over the last couple of months in all formats to win series against the West Indies and Australia -- and preparations are now under way for what is sure to be a very competitive Test series against South Africa," the former England off-spinner added.

Miller, in a subsequent interview with BBC Radio, said England had high hopes for Bopara while insisting Bairstow's Test career was far from finished.

"We always hope for something big from all our players when we select them in the England side and over the last few years they've produced on most occasions," Miller said.

"Yes, we would like to see something big from him, but he's only part of the side so he needs to actually perform to cement his place."

He added: "Jonny Bairstow obviously had a bit of a tough time, we know he's a young and a talented cricketer, that goes without saying, so he just needs to go back to Yorkshire and score some big runs and fight for his place."

England included seamers Graham Onions and Steven Finn, selected for the rain-marred drawn third Test against the West Indies at Edgbaston where first-choice new-ball duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad, also both included Sunday, were rested.

Now, with Anderson and Broad back, England must decide between Tim Bresnan, Onions and Finn for the remaining seam bowling spots should they stick with their policy of a four-man attack also including off-spinner Graeme Swann.

Both Bresnan and Swann have been struggling with elbow injuries lately.

But the lack of another specialist slow bowler in the squad suggests England are confident Swann will be fit to face the Proteas.

Meanwhile Kevin Pietersen, as expected, returned to the Test squad having missed the one-day series against both the West Indies and Australia following his retirement from limited overs internationals.

The star batsman warmed up for this latest clash with his native South Africa by scoring a superb double century for Surrey against county champions Lancashire this week.

England first Test squad:
Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Matt Prior (wkt), Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Graham Onions
 

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