Cricket: Rankin delight after England Ashes call
BOYD RANKIN moved a step closer to his dream of playing Test cricket when he was named in England's squad for the Ashes tour of Australia this winter.
The 6ft 9in farmer's son from Tyrone played in two World Cups for Ireland and won 82 caps before controversially swapping allegiances last year.
At the time Rankin looked a long way behind his competitors for the fast bowling places but has recently pressed his case in ODIs for England, against Ireland and Australia.
"I've had some good performances in the last few weeks in the ODIs but it is still a big surprise when you get that phone call," the 29-year-old said.
"I've shown what I can do and I think with the pitches out there in Australia, with that extra pace and bounce, it will help me trouble their batsmen.
"I suppose it feels a bit strange, coming from a farm in Ireland and playing for England, but I'm really looking forward to the next few months.
"I've always wanted to play at the highest level. My ambition was to play Test cricket and in terms of Ireland I have no regrets."
Rankin made his debut for Ireland in 2003 in the same match as Eoin Morgan, who played 16 Tests for England following his 'defection' in 2009 but is no longer in the reckoning for the five-day side, despite captaining the team in ODIs and Twenty20 internationals.
Yet there was nothing but delighted support for Rankin after the announcement of the 17-man party yesterday, with former colleagues queuing up to send messages via social media.
Rankin is one of three players in the squad uncapped at Test level, alongside Zimbabwean-born middle-order batsman Gary Ballance – who was dismissed for a second-ball duck in his only ODi, against Ireland earlier this month – and all-rounder Ben Stokes.
Monty Panesar returns as back-up spinner following a well-publicised incident when he urinated on bouncers outside a Brighton nightclub.