England call up Shah

Middlesex batsman Owais Shah has been called up to England’s Test squad for the first time, as cover on their tour of India. The strokemaking 27-year-old follows Alistair Cook and James Anderson in leaving the England A tour to the West Indies to join up with the senior squad, following a spate of injuries and illnesses in the ranks.

With Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood struggling with back problems, Shah will provide middle-order cover in case the two do not recover. Marcus Trescothick’s return home for personal reasons and captain Michael Vaughan’s long-standing knee trouble already mean it is likely that Cook will make his Test debut at Nagpur next Wednesday, and Shah could yet follow him if neither Pietersen nor Collingwood recover.

With 15 ODIs under his belt, Shah does have some experience of international cricket, although he is yet to win a Test cap. Should their injury situation not improve, England could find themselves fielding an almost threadbare lineup come March 1 – rumour has it that the situation has escalated to the extent that even batting coach Matthew Maynard, three weeks short of his 40th birthday, strapped on his pads and put in some net practice yesterday.

Currently England’s list of absences makes painful reading – Vaughan remains doubtful with a knee problem, while Trescothick is at home for personal reasons. Simon Jones and Shaun Udal are still troubled by stomach upsets, Pietersen and Collingwood are nursing back strains, and Liam Plunkett picked up a heel injury in the recent tour match at Baroda – not to mention the fact that Ashley Giles and Chris Tremlett never made it onto the plane in the first place. England’s squad is creaking at the seams – one or two more injuries and possible stand-in captain Andrew Flintoff will barely recognise his team from the one he has become a key part of in recent years.

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