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January 26, 2009
I have always been a fan of Owais Shah. Often labelled as one of the unluckiest England cricketers of all time, the Middlesex man has only played two test matches despite his undoubted talent to score big runs.
However, on this West Indies tour, Shah should more than double his test match appearances. This is because he was in fantastic form for England in their opening tour match against a St Kitts Invitational XI, smashing an unbeaten 125 on day one.
By hitting such an impressive century in the only warm-up match before the test series, Shah has done his chances no harm at all of being named in the team for Jamaica next week. In fact, considering his excellent ODI form in the latter part of the English summer and in India, he simply has to play.
Should this be the case, there are two questions that would need to be answered by whoever makes the final decision on England’s team for the first test. First of all, who does Shah replace? He hasn’t been playing test matches, so one of Ian Bell or Paul Collingwood will need to sit out.
Secondly, what number does he come in to bat? Admittedly, this will more than likely be answered by the conclusion drawn from the first question!
So, with this in mind – let’s tackle it. Who should Shah replace? At this moment, it would seem as though the cricket odds are backing him to come in for Collingwood. The Durham man is absent from the match against St Kitts and Shah excelled at number five, so that is the most likely scenario right now.
As for Bell, well he only made 36 in the first innings against St Kitts, but he may well get another chance to confirm his place in the team during England’s second innings. Should he make a valuable contribution, even a 40-odd not out, then he could well keep his place as Collingwood’s expense.
Overall, the only certainty is that Shah has to play. If he misses out this time, then he may as well give up trying to play test match cricket for England. It would be a scandalous decision to select someone out of form (Bell) and someone who hasn’t played the warm up match (Collingwood) ahead of him.
You will probably be aware that there are two other major talking points after day one of England’s tour match that I haven’t mentioned as yet. Kevin Pietersen’s hundred in his first innings since relinquishing the captaincy and Andrew Flintoff’s injury scare. This is extremely deliberate, for different reasons.
In terms of KP’s hundred, well I just wasn’t surprised! He is the type of character that will always, always respond to his critics. It was obvious that he would score a hundred in his first innings as captain against South Africa last summer and it was the same on this occasion. It is just business as usual for KP and long may it continue. A lot of my cricket betting money will be placed on him scoring big on this tour.
As for Flintoff’s injury, well to be honest it isn’t something I want to think about. Freddie is such an important player for England and has been slowly moving back to his best in recent months. To have an injury setback now would be so, so frustrating. For what it’s worth, the latest is that his side strain will result in him sitting out the rest of this match.
So, a mixed day for England, but one that will hopefully guarantee a place in the side for Owais Shah. As for who he will replace, that depends on two things – Ian Bell’s second innings and Andrew Flintoff’s injury.
By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England cricket