Ravi poised for England recall
Ravi Bopara spent England's awkward winter waiting in vain for a Test recall - but only now can he be confident his turn has come again.
The balance of England's team in the Middle East, then a side strain which would have prevented him bowling when the Asian experience moved on to Sri Lanka, conspired against Bopara.
He was therefore an ever-present tourist, but surplus to Test match requirements.
When the selectors name a 12- or 13-man squad on Sunday morning, however, to face the West Indies at Lord's next week, the case for Bopara's inclusion is so overwhelming as to mean his omission would be conspicuous and ominous for his future Test prospects.
All the indications are that the selectors will not divert from the obvious, having allowed Bopara to play for his county this week - he already has a hundred for Essex under his belt, in this summer's tough early-season batting conditions - rather than face the West Indies in the England Lions match at Northampton.
Samit Patel was picked ahead of Bopara in the two-Test drawn series in Sri Lanka, where his left-arm spin was a very handy commodity.
Back in England, the world-beating hosts can expect their frontline pace attack to hold sway against a vulnerable West Indies batting line-up.
At any rate, Bopara's medium-pace is a more likely source of back-up overs in seam-and-swing weather - and perhaps accordingly, Patel is the one undertaking the Lions trial in a team featuring only Ian Bell as a first-choice Test player.
Should Bopara make not only the squad but the team at Lord's, it will be a lucky omen for his 13th Test cap that he is picked to bat at number six against opponents and at a venue where he scored his career-best 143 three years ago - the second of three consecutive hundreds, before his career stalled in a memorable home Ashes series.
There is a less welcome echo of the more recent past in Bopara's situation this week.
Just a year ago, he was strong favourite to fill England's last specialist batting spot against Sri Lanka - only for Eoin Morgan's big hundred against the tourists at Derby, within days of his return from the Indian Premier League, to cause a last-minute rethink.
Morgan has eliminated himself with some hapless batting, alongside a few others, for the world Test number ones against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year - and has perhaps not helped himself with his inaction for the IPL's Kolkata Knight Riders rather than taking the option of attuning himself to relevant preparation with Middlesex.
His county can nonetheless hope to be doubly represented on their home ground.
England will be led by Andrew Strauss, notwithstanding the opener's lack of convincing batting form and quest for only his second Test hundred in his last 50 attempts.
His Middlesex team-mate Steve Finn should be in the reckoning to retain his position as third seamer, having returned in last month's eight-wicket victory in Colombo last month when Stuart Broad was injured.
Finn may edge the verdict over Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions, and if he does make the cut at Lord's he can only hope he and others bowl better on his home patch than against Sri Lanka during his only Test of 2011.
England probable squad (v West Indies, first Investec Test at Lord's on May 17): AJ Strauss (Captain), AN Cook, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, RS Bopara, MJ Prior (wkt), SCJ Broad, GP Swann, ST Finn, JM Anderson, TT Bresnan
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