Little for England to ponder

  • Last Updated: July 13 2012, 14:27 BST

England's selectors will have few variables to consider when they meet on Friday to select their squad for the first Test against South Africa.

Ravi Bopara: Set to replace Jonny Bairstow

National selector Geoff Miller will be announce the 12-man squad for the opening encounter - which gets under way next Thursday and will be live on Sky Sports - on Sunday morning.

However, only Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan's sore elbows are minor concerns - with both having played for their country in the past two weeks, without apparent discomfort or mishap.

It seems likely, though, that England will make one obvious change, among the batsmen, in an otherwise settled side.

Jonny Bairstow's blooding as a Test cricketer resulted in 38 runs in three completed innings against West Indies and an apparent consensus that he may at present have a weakness against the short ball at the highest level.

If so, England will not allow that complication to persist for a young player of such obvious talent.

But Bairstow's initial Test travails were enough to see him back on the periphery of the 50-over team, in a succession of NatWest Series victories over the Windies and then Australia.

His first-ball duck back in four-day cricket for Yorkshire on Thursday is an irrelevance - England coach Andy Flower has made it clear that this week's county performances will neither clinch nor squander a place in the Test team.

It seems likely that the 22-year-old will cede his No.6 spot to Ravi Bopara.

Bopara appeared a certainty to replace Eoin Morgan at the start of this summer, only to pull up lame for Essex on the eve of the squad announcement for the first Investec Test against West Indies at Lord's.

The only significant question therefore, in an England team who have re-established their table-topping credentials after their shock defeat by Pakistan with a 2-0 win over the Windies, is the identity of the third seamer.

That deliberation too ought not to bring any surprise name in the squad announced this weekend.

Bresnan and Steven Finn can both expect to be in contention to play at The Oval, until the morning of the match.

A rain-ravaged third Test at Edgbaston cost the Yorkshireman his talismanic claim to ensuring England victory.

He had played 13 and won 13 before three washed-out days in Birmingham made a draw inevitable, and prevented even him from finishing on the winning side.

Still, England will be loath to ditch such a resourceful cricketer who has not by chance previously been associated with wall-to-wall victories stretching back more than two years and including their historic 2010/11 Ashes success.

The suspicion, even so, is that Finn's outstanding form in white-ball cricket may prove irresistible.

That, though, is a decision which can wait a few days.

Probable England squad: AJ Strauss (captain), AN Cook, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, RS Bopara, MJ Prior (wkt), TT Bresnan, SCJ Broad, GP Swann, ST Finn, JM Anderson.