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It used to be at about this time of the season that cricket followers would begin playing one of their favourite games, second-guessing the selectors about forthcoming winter tours and debating which semi-anonymous county cricketers would be given a chance on the Test stage.
There will be no such fun this year. A victorious side is a settled side and England's selectors will surely not be detained for long on Tuesday when they meet to discuss who will join captain Michael Vaughan on a five-Test tour of South Africa in December.
As they choose the names, they will reflect with satisfaction that every player who was picked for England's Test side this summer made a contribution, most of them significant, and every decision made has been vindicated.
When England needed a wicketkeeper capable of contributing with the bat, they plumped for Geraint Jones and were rewarded with a superb century against New Zealand in Leeds and 311 runs in total over the summer. When Vaughan was injured before the first Test at Lord's, Andrew Strauss was thrown into the fray and has not looked back. When Mark Butcher dropped out, Rob Key weighed in with a double ton and a match-winning innings at Edgbaston. Graham Thorpe's broken finger resulted in a maiden Test fifty for Ian Bell, who for all the promise of his debut, is unlikely to tour.
All of England's bowlers have contributed. Steve Harmison was unstoppable against New Zealand and at The Oval. When he was below par in the first three Tests against the West Indies, others, notably Ashley Giles, stepped into the breach. The set was made complete on Saturday when James Anderson, occupying the third-seamer position that has been England's only real weakness this summer, roared into the game with a fine spell of swing bowling that captured the wickets of Brian Lara and Chris Gayle and with them the match.
It is this sharing of the workload, as much as the emphatic nature of England's summer seven wins out of seven that will give chairman David Graveney and his selectors confidence they have a team capable of maintaining winning ways in South Africa.
Vaughan's team have all the ingredients for a successful tour. They have sufficient depth that has allowed them to overcome the loss of key players. A confident Giles, the run-scoring Jones and the irrepressible Andrew Flintoff give the team balance. But this year they have showed courage and won every session that has mattered. That will stand them in good stead on what promises to be a tough tour.
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