The English cricket summer kicks off today as the hosts gear up to take on Bangladesh, who are scheduled to play 2 tests and three ODIs during the tour, in the first test at Lord's, later in the day.
Meanwhile, Captain Andrew Strauss finds himself in the unusual situation of having to prove himself all over again, having taken a break from the game during the team's whitewash tour of Bangladesh and their triumph in the World Twenty20 tournament in the Caribbean. Bangladesh may be the whipping boys of Test cricket, but Strauss feels overconfidence is a danger.
"We have to be slightly careful not to get above our station and just expect things to happen," Strauss said. "The success we've had over the last 12 months has been built around hard work and graft and we need to take that to the next level," added the left-handed batsman.
At least one England player will make his debut at Lord's after Irish-born one-day specialist Eoin Morgan and fast bowler Ajmal Shahzad were picked in a 12-man squad. Morgan is tipped to strengthen the middle order at the expense of Shahzad, whereas Steven Finn, a 2.03-meter (6-foot-8) paceman, could make his home debut after impressing in Bangladesh. He is expected to join Tim Bresnan and James Anderson in a three-man pace attack, supported by spinner Graeme Swann.
Test regulars Stuart Broad and Paul Collingwood are being rested by coach Andy Flower, who is trying to avoid player burn-out ahead of November's crucial Ashes series down under. In between, England will play four tests against Pakistan in July and August.
Strauss rejoins an England batting attack that is firing on all cylinders. Kevin Pietersen returned to his destructive best in the Caribbean, although Collingwood, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, is likely to be missed in all the three departments.
With just three seamers, England's pace attack would be stretched by a stronger batting line-up than Bangladesh can muster. England has won all six matches played against Bangladesh, since the two teams met in their first head-to-head 5-day game in 2003. Bangladesh has won just three of the 66 matches it has played since gaining test status in 2000.
In fact, Bangladesh has not impressed ever since the team arrived in England, but the tourists have been encouraged by the return of opener Tamim Iqbal, who has decided to play in the match and captain Shakib Al Hassan, who has recovered from chickenpox.
Tamim has decided to play through the pain of an injury to his left wrist that may require surgery later this year. "Today I have an appointment with the doctor, so we'll see how it goes," Tamim said. "If everything goes all right, and the doctor gives me the green signal, then I'll play the first match _ and if anything goes bad, I'll go for surgery," added the aggressive southpaw.
Plans to use the Decision Review System have been dropped because the host broadcaster and the International Cricket Council failed to reach agreement on how to pay for the extra TV cameras needed for referrals.
Under the system, teams are allowed two referrals per innings to challenge an umpire's decision, with the third umpire making the final decision using the pertinent equipments. Elite umpire Aleem Dar was to have been the third umpire if the DRS had been used, but he has been replaced by a more junior English official now, considering that the role is less important.
England (from): Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Ajmal Shahzad.
Bangladesh (from): Shakib Al Hassan, Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Jahurul Islam, Mohammad Ashraful, Junaid Siddique, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmadullah, Naeem Islam, Abdur Razzaq, Rubel Hossain, Shafiul Islam.
Umpires: Billy Bowden, New Zealand, and Asoka De Silva, Sri Lanka.
Third umpire: Richard Illingworth, England. Match referee: Alan Hurst, Australia.