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England's national selector, Geoff Miller, has ruled out the possibility of a shock comeback for Marcus Trescothick, but has admitted that Mark Ramprakash is being seriously considered in a one-off capacity for the crucial fifth Test at The Oval, as England attempt to bounce back from their Headingley humiliation, and reclaim the Ashes for only the second time in 20 years.
Speaking to Cricinfo's Switch Hit podcast, Miller said that the squad selection, which will be announced at 9.30 on Sunday morning, would have to strike a balance between the long-term requirement to build the tight and cohesive unit essential for future England success, and the short-term desire to win the world's most prestigious Test series. And that means that Ramprakash, who turns 40 next month but has averaged 100 in each of his last three seasons for Surrey, cannot be discounted.
"Mark has not stated he's not available for international cricket, so we will discuss that," Miller told Cricinfo. "It's not just my decision, it's a team decision, and we'll sit down as a unit. We have a consistency and continuity angle as far as selection policy is concerned and we try to stick to that as much as possible. But we do want to win this series, which is a matter of winning this game in a one-match situation, so it's a very difficult equation as [is the case with] all selection policies."
At the same time, Miller defended the players he selected for the fateful fourth Test at Headingley, and reiterated that there would not be a kneejerk reaction ahead of the Oval showdown, regardless of how much speculation is going on in the media.
"I don't think anyone has ever said being a selector is an easy job, and one bad performance like that spotlights it," said Miller. "A selector is there to be shot at - if we do well the players have done well, if we do badly it's the selectors' fault - and that goes with the territory. We fully understand that, but the job now is to rectify the performance and win at The Oval, and that's what our minds are on.
"What's happened is that the press have jumped on one mediocre performance - which it was, and there's no getting away from that, it was very much an under-performance, and that has got to be rectified - but it's not as though we are three or four-nil down, it's 1-1. If we win this Test match we regain the Ashes, and that's what we intend to do.
"We as an England team tend to do well with our backs to the wall so we are hoping we can bounce back mentally and technically, and I'm sure the players can, because they are international quality players."
In particular Miller defended his No. 3 batsman, Ravi Bopara, who entered the series on the back of three consecutive hundreds against West Indies but who has since managed 105 runs at 15 in four Tests. At Headingley he looked like a man in need of a break from the front line as part of a middle order that contributed 16 runs for six dismissals, but Miller disagreed.
"Not necessarily," he said. "It's an option, certainly, and we'll strongly look at it, but you don't become a bad player overnight, just because you're in a bad trot. It also depends what you are like mentally as well as technically. We'll look at it in discussion with the captain and coach, see what he's like in the changing room, and if it's necessary we'll go down that line.
"But we don't just make changes for the sake of making changes," he said. "Our meetings are not two-minute affairs, never have been, never will be. We'll look at every aspect of each game separately, and hopefully make the right decisions because this Test decides the series."
Those decisions will also include the role that Andrew Flintoff may or may not make in what will be his final Test before retirement. On Monday a leading specialist, Andy Williams, concluded that the swelling in his right knee had reduced significantly, but though he welcomed the news, Miller said that Flintoff would ultimately be judged by how he performed in the nets, just as he was prior to his omission at Headingley.
"It looks very favourable at the moment, but we'll wait and see what's happened in a couple of days," he said. "If it looks as though he can be selected in the squad then we will probably do that because the England side with Freddie playing in it at his best is a quality side, but we'll have to monitor it day by day and see how he performs in the nets, because he's got to do the workload required by the captain to justify his selection."
However, barring a dramatic volte face from the West Country, one player who will not enter into the selectors' discussions, is Trescothick, who this week confirmed to a local newspaper he did not intend to come out of his international retirement, despite being the leading run-scorer in first-class cricket this summer. With a hint of regret, Miller said he would not attempt to change the player's mind.
"Marcus has many times said he's retired from international cricket, and until I hear contrary to that, he will not be a part of the selection process. He knows where he is, he's really comfortable and playing really, really well, but he's retired from Test cricket so he's not a part of our thoughts at this moment in time."