England selectors look for Twenty20 vision
Leg-spinning all-rounder Chris Schofield could find himself back in an England squad today for the first time since 2000, when he played two Tests against Zimbabwe without managing to take a wicket.
Tipped to become England's answer to Shane Warne, Schofield's bowling went backwards so dramatically that he dropped out of the Lancashire team and spent much of last summer working as a decorator.
However, he has excelled for Surrey this season in the Twenty20 Cup, claiming 17 wickets to lead the national standings. At noon today England name their preliminary 30-man squad for the Twenty20 World Championship, and Schofield has made a strong case for inclusion.
The selectors will face a dilemma when they finally settle upon the 15 men who will go to South Africa in September: do they rely on the same players who represent England at 50-over cricket, or do they throw in a few short-form specialists who have excelled at county level?
Earlier this week, England coach Peter Moores hinted that there would be some surprises in the mix. "Certain people's games are better suited to Twenty20," he said. "If there are batsmen blitzing county cricket all the time they're going to get a chance to play."
That is good news for Schofield, and for emerging talents like Luke Wright, the Sussex all-rounder. A high achiever at under-19 level, Wright is now 22 and still finding his way in the first-class game. But he has played a couple of sensational Twenty20 innings in the past fortnight, including 103 from 45 balls against Kent, and could be a handy wild card in South Africa.
"We're very keen to go there and win that tournament and we'll pick the best team to do that," said Moores. "That could be the same team as our 50-over side, or it could be a mixture.
"There's always going to be a choice. Do you pick experienced one-day international cricketers who haven't played much Twenty20, and hope they can adapt? Or do you go for domestic players who have played more Twenty20? How will they cope with moving up to international cricket if they have no experience at that level?"
With 30 places available in today's squad, the selectors will not have to make any tough decisions just yet. But the final deadline is little more than a month away.
At the moment, it falls during the third Test against India -which starts on August 9 - but the England and Wales Cricket Board have asked for permission to delay their announcement until the day after the game in case of any injuries.