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Bopara backed for England future

NatWest International T20

Ravi Bopara

National selector Geoff Miller believes Ravi Bopara to be a key England player in all formats of the game for years to come

Ravi Bopara remains the “future of English cricket” despite being dropped for this week’s Ashes decider at the Brit Oval.

The Essex batsman’s run of low scores culminated in just one run from two attempts in England’s innings-and-80-run defeat at Headingley Carnegie.

That result levelled the series at 1-1 and handed the initiative back to Australia as they seek to retain the Ashes.

England’s selectors reacted by leaving 24-year-old Bopara out of their Oval equations, replacing him in the batting line-up with Jonathan Trott.

But yesterday Bopara was named as an ever-present in three separate limited-overs squads - which were also notable for the inclusion of injury-troubled lynchpin all-rounder Andrew Flintoff and the uncapped Joe Denly, as well as the omission of key batsman Kevin Pietersen as he continues his recovery from ankle surgery.

National selector Geoff Miller wasted no time making it clear how highly Bopara’s talent is still prized, after the NatWest Series and Champions Trophy squad was announced alongside those for two Twenty20s against Australia and for a one-off one-day international against Ireland.

“Ravi Bopara is an exciting player,” he told Sky Sports News.

“He has been released from this Test match but he is a quality player, and we see him as the future of English cricket.”

Miller also had to address the issues surrounding Flintoff’s potentially heavy workload - the 31-year-old retires from Test cricket after tyhe Oval because of chronic knee trouble - and the reported recent setback in Pietersen’s recuperation.

England are hoping Flintoff’s decision to concentrate solely on limited-overs cricket will pay dividends.

Kevin Pietersen

Kevin Pietersen, on crutches last month, is expected to be fit for the winter tour of South Africa, which begins in November

“We are hoping he is going to be able to play as many of those games as possible - because that is what he has set himself to do,” Miller said of Flintoff.

Pietersen’s first realistic target now is the start of England’s Test and ODI winter in his native country.

“We will now look for Kevin to be a part of the side for the tour of South Africa at the end of the year,” Miller confirmed to BBC Radio 5 Live.

“It is disappointing for Kevin and it is disappointing for us, but obviously he is very much a part of the future of this team in both five and one-day cricket.”

While fast bowler Steve Harmison did not feature in the latest squads, Miller insisted he still has a futute in limited-overs internationals.

“It is not the end of his (one-day) international career - because he has not made himself unavailable, so the opportunity is always there,” Miller said.

“If we feel there are better players suited for the job we need on all kind of surfaces around the world, we will go in that direction.

“We will see how Steve reacts. I am sure he will go back to Durham and put in the performances. Then it is our decision.”

Wicketkeeper Matt Prior is back in the fold - after James Foster was preferred for the mid-summer World Twenty20 - and Owais Shah is retained.

Miller explained: “Matt Prior has proved himself as a very, very good all-round player. His wicketkeeping has improved, and he is a quality batsman.”

Denly, meanwhile, is already hoping ODI cricket can prove a stepping stone.

“Test cricket is the ultimate for any cricketer,” he said.

“I hope I can now push for a place in the Test squad.”