England Go for Davies; Exclusive
Byline: by PAUL NEWMAN Cricket Correspondent
STEVE DAVIES will be handed a chance to revive his international career tomorrow when he is named in England's tour party for the Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
Davies, ruled out of the World Cup squad when England had a late change of heart over their wicketkeeping plans, will travel to Dubai next month as Matt Prior's deputy, a role he filled during the Ashes before he was dropped in the one-day leg of the Australian tour.
The Surrey man's selection solves one of the few problems for England before they name their squad for a sensitive tour that will attract added scrutiny because of the jailing of three Pakistan players for the spot-fixing offences that marred the last meetings of the sides.
Davies is a talented keeper-batsman who has thrived at The Kia Oval but England had concerns about his temperament before ruthlessly jettisoning him, believing him a little meek to become the leader of the team in the field, as they expect their keeper to be.
Yet since he revealed he was gay after the Australia tour, Davies's true personality has emerged and he will be a lot more confident and relaxed on his return to the England set-up.
The move leaves Jonny Bairstow, who was widely expected to be elevated to the Test squad as back-up keeper, competing for the reserve batsman place. One further spot -- second spinner -- is also up for grabs today before the selectors finalise their 16-man party.
Bairstow, the pick of the many emerging talents in the domestic game, is competing with Ravi Bopara, the man in possession, and possibly Samit Patel to support the established top six.
Bairstow and Bopara both had a poor time on the one-day tour in India in October but the Yorkshireman has a lot more credit in the bank than Bopara, who may be running out of chances to prove he can transfer his ability to the international arena.
Patel did well with bat and ball in India but, as Andy Flower told Sportsmail last month, there are still concerns about his fielding and fitness, and he will have to prove to England that he really is serious about getting into top shape if he is to make the cut.
Monty Panesar had a very good season with Sussex and even though Durham leg-spinner Scott Borthwick, another promising emerging talent, offers more with the bat and in the field, it will be a surprise if Panesar's left-arm spin is not included.
There could even be room for Panesar and Patel in the squad to give England options on what are expected to be slow, turgid pitches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
England are very keen to go into the first Test, starting on January 17, with Eoin Morgan in their team because he is such a good player of spin. With Morgan at six and Prior at seven, England will have room for only two of the five fast bowlers expected to travel if they go into the series with two specialist spinners.
The most imaginative selection England could make would be that of Bairstow, who has shown a rare batting ability, particularly when playing a starring role on his ODI debut against India at Cardiff, and is capable of following in the footsteps of his late father David in becoming a keeping all-rounder at the highest level.
Bairstow is a mature, levelheaded character who is trying to learn from the mistakes he made in India on a return visit to the subcontinent with the Performance Squad, where he is practising and playing alongside England captain Andrew Strauss. …