Bopara back for England
Batsman is recalled for first Test at the Oval
Last Updated: 16/07/12 1:37pm
Ravi Bopara: Makes an expected return to the team after injury
Essex batsman Ravi Bopara has been included in England's 13-man squad for the first Test against South Africa at The Oval starting on Thursday.
Bopara has not played for the Test side since last August against India after a thigh injury scuppered his return at the start of the summer following Eoin Morgan's loss of form.
But the selectors have kept faith in the 27-year-old, who regains his place in the squad ahead of Yorkshire youngster Jonny Bairstow, who did not do enough in two Tests against West Indies to justify his retention.
"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," said national selector Geoff Miller.
"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, and 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."
England have kept their options open among the bowlers, by including Steven Finn and Graham 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.
With those two first-choice fast bowlers back, the only decision remaining for coach Andy Flower and captain Andrew Strauss - given England's long-held policy of a four-man attack - is to pick between Finn, Onions and Tim Bresnan to complete the team.
Concerns over the fitness of Bresnan and off-spinner Graeme Swann, both nursing sore bowling elbows and therefore missing the final stages of England's NatWest Series win over Australia, appear to have proved unfounded.
Squad: 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)