Bopara handed chance to impress
Ravi Bopara has been named in the England squad for the first Investec Test against South Africa
Ravi Bopara is set to play in his first Test match for almost a year after being named in England's squad to face South Africa at The Oval next week.
Bopara is one of the six batsmen in the 13-man squad announced on Sunday morning which also includes Steven Finn and Graham Onions, who can therefore still hope to oust incumbent Tim Bresnan as the third seamer.
It was last August, at the same venue, that Bopara won his 12th Test cap - when Jonathan Trott was injured - for the innings victory over India which completed a 4-0 series whitewash.
Following Eoin Morgan's loss of form last winter, the Essex batsman seemed certain to return at the start of this summer - only to injure his thigh playing for his county the day before the squad was announced for the first Investec Test against the West Indies at Lord's.
Jonathan Bairstow was therefore chosen to make his debut. But the young Yorkshireman did not do enough in that 2-0 series win to retain his place for the first of three matches against South Africa, starting on Thursday which will decide who tops the International Cricket Council rankings at the end of this summer.
National selector Geoff Miller noted 27-year-old Bopara's hard work to push himself back into the Test reckoning for such a high-profile match.
He said: "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 after a month of limited-overs cricket, preparations are now under way for what is sure to be a very competitive Test series against South Africa. We know we will need to play excellent cricket to win this three-match series.
"The squad will be determined to start with a strong performance this week during the first Investec Test and set the tone for the rest of the series. Ravi Bopara has worked hard to regain his place in the Test squad, following some injury concerns earlier in the season, and is the only player included who is yet to play a Test match this summer."
England have kept their options open among the bowlers, by including Finn and Onions - both involved in the most recent Test, a rain-ravaged draw at Edgbaston last month for which James Anderson and Stuart Broad were rested.
England squad for first Investec Test: AJ Strauss (Middlesex, captain), JM Anderson (Lancashire), IR Bell (Warwickshire), RS Bopara (Essex), TT Bresnan (Yorkshire), SCJ Broad (Nottinghamshire), AN Cook (Essex) ST Finn (Middlesex), G Onions (Durham), KP Pietersen (Surrey), MJ Prior (Sussex, wicketkeeper), GP Swann (Nottinghamshire), IJL Trott (Warwickshire).