England’s squad for the third and unfortunately final Test at Lord’s will be named tomorrow (Saturday) at 09.30 BST/03.30 CDT. Whilst that will not confirm whether Pietersen plays at Lord’s or not, it will probably be a very good indication. I would be exceptionally surprised if he was in the squad and not in the XI on Thursday. With that in mind, I am very much hoping that when the names are read out they go straight from ‘Onions’ to ‘Prior’. I have said before why Pietersen should not play and the recent ‘textgate’ only adds to that. Despite the argument I have heard that people ‘bad mouth their employers all the time’, I cannot imagine anyone who contends that to do so directly to one’s competitors during the competition is in any way the done thing. It wouldn’t be a make-or-break issue for me, but only because that time has already passed. It appears that the selectors may think otherwise, though that is not a guarantee yet. But coming as it does in conjunction with Pietersen’s snub of Strauss at the post-match press conference, I cannot see how they could justify keeping him in.
Dropping KP does raise the question of how to replace him though and I would bring Bairstow back. He had not got much of a run against the West Indies and just scored an excellent century against Australia A. That’s as a recall to the squad, however, I’m not sure I’d actually play him. Strauss and Flower are dead set against five bowlers, but they did play four seamers in the last match and with Pietersen taking four wickets as the spinner it almost was a five man attack. And that attack all but took 20 wickets and had so much time not been lost to rain there is every chance that England would have won. My first choice would be to play Swann for KP as the spinner and go with five bowlers. I would also possibly play Onions for Bresnan. Bresnan has so far had really only one good spell this summer, against the West Indies at Trent Bridge. But overall his pace has been down and he still looks short of fitness. At his best I would play him, but he is not at his best and I think he needs to regain his fitness with Yorkshire before the tour of India. There is also the fact that we can expect a typical Lord’s wicket, the ECB could send Mick Hunt the proverbial King’s ransom and he would still refuse to make a pitch to order, and those tend to suit Onions. I’d still play him in the more likely four man attack and for the same reason, but in that scenario Finn would miss out as well. Finn is talented, but he has yet to set the world alight in his two chances this summer. I would then play Bairstow at six with Bell and Taylor moving up a spot.
My preferred XI for Lord’s: Strauss*, Cook, Trott, Bell, Taylor, Prior†, Broad, Swann, Anderson, Onions, Finn.
Or with a four man attack: Strauss*, Cook, Trott, Bell, Taylor, Bairstow, Prior†, Broad, Swann, Anderson, Onions.