The rapid rise of Alex Loudon continues with the news that he has been included in England's Test squad to tour Pakistan.

The Warwickshire offspinning all-rounder was yesterday named in a 17-man squad that also includes county team-mates Ian Bell and Ashley Giles.

Loudon will contest the role of second spinner with Hampshire's 36-year-old Shaun Udal, who has been recalled after a tenyear absence. Neither have played Test cricket.

Loudon's is a bold selection. He has a modest first-class record (batting average of 33.29, bowling average of 41.91 with just three five-wicket hauls) and, aged 25, has yet to make a Championship century. Nor have Warwickshire seen fit to award him a county cap.

The news comes at a time when Loudon is being touted by some as Warwickshire's next captain. Clearly he has impressed some influential people.

"I'm as surprised as you!" he told The Post last night. "I'd had a peaceful morning with my mobile switched off. Then I received a couple of suspicious texts [including one from The Post] and checked on the internet. I was extremely surprised. I was planning on touring India with my old school [Eton] in November.

"I didn't think I'd done enough. I haven't reached the goals I set myself and I'm not ecstatic with my performances.

"I do feel I've come on as a player, though. I've done a lot of bowling and I've felt comfortable when batting. I've got myself out quite often, which is frustrating, but at least I've felt settled while I was there. On the face of it I'm the third spinner, but clearly this is a huge opportunity and I'd be a fool to say I'm not going to improve for it. I'm very excited."

Nobody doubts Loudon's promise. Nick Knight has referred to him as an " exceptional" talent. And not just in terms of batting and bowling; he also has the character to prosper and lead. He will be tipped as a future England captain before the tour is done.

Yet he is raw. His performances this Championship season (batting average of 33.79; bowling average of 43.72) hardly merit immediate elevation and his is a selection that owes much to a 'punt' by the selectors.

While Loudon will no doubt take much from the Test tour, an Academy place is the more usual learning environment. His early elevation owes much to England's desperation to unearth a match-winning spinner. Comparisons with Chris Schofield would be harsh, but the motives are the same.

There is logic in the selection, however. Both Loudon (with his 'doosra') and Udal (with his new 'slider' learnt from Shane Warne) have a ' mystery' ball in their armoury.

That, it is hoped, will provide them with an edge at Test level where other England off-spinners (Gareth Batty and Richard Dawson etc) have bowled respectably but never looked likely to take wickets. The most they could ever hope for was containment.

Loudon is different. A more aggressive player than traditional English finger spinners, he has impressed the likes of Harbhajan Singh and Justin Langer this summer. He has the potential to worry good players on good pitches, yet he may also concede runs quickly.

"Bowling off-spin in the modern game has become increasingly difficult," Loudon continued. "I'm not sure that just turning the ball into the right-hander is enough. There is a need for a bit of mystery and hopefully we can provide that.

"I'm still in a hurry [in my career], but the move to Warwickshire has given me the kick-start I was after. John Inverarity's wisdom and playing under Nick Knight have been very important factors."

Loudon will now have the chance to work with the highly- regarded England coaching staff and the selectors will reason that, in an unusually large squad for a six-week tour (late October to early January), they have little to lose if he fails to shine.

Though England have tended to play two spinners on tours of the sub-continent, they may well not do so now. England's quick bowlers are leading exponents in the art of reverse swing, which means they will be more effective for longer.

With only one first-class game scheduled besides the Tests it is probable that either Loudon or Udal, and quite possibly both, could be set for a tour on the sidelines.

If, however, Loudon should team up with Giles it will be the first time since the West Indies tour of 1935 (Eric Hollies and George Paine) that a Warwickshire pair have combined to form England's specialist spin attack.

Graeme Swann, only a year older than Loudon, and Ian Blackwell, surely the most dangerous cricketer outside the England team, have not been so fortunate.

Likeable characters, they didn't impress the England coach with their appetite to embrace all aspects of touring in the past. Duncan Fletcher, it would seem, is not a man to offer second chances.

Meanwhile Sussex's Matt Prior beat off competition from Chris Read for the role of reserve keeper. Despite an inferior batting average to Read, the selectors reasoned that Prior was a like-for-like alternative for Geraint Jones. Whether that's a good thing is open to debate.

Prior's call-up may have consequences for Warwickshire. Sussex recently allowed their reserve keeper, Tim Ambrose, to talk to other counties and Warwickshire are among those interested. However Sussex may now rethink their stance.

Kabir Ali also misses out after a summer in which his career has regressed. Rarely fully fit, he also seems to have lost that late swing that made him such a dangerous proposition.

Instead England will persevere with James Anderson. For all the good work bowling coach, Troy Cooley, has done with the likes of Harmison and Jones, the careers of Kabir and Anderson have stalled ever since England tried to improve them. Chris Tremlett is the more likely to forge a career at the top level.

Among those unfortunate to miss out on selection for the Academy are 20-year-old James Hildreth, 21-year-old Bilal Shafayat and 24-yearold Warwickshire batsman Jonathan Trott. What the likes of Rob Key and Owais Shah will gain from an Academy spot at this stage of their careers is unclear.

* Pat Murphy will be the guest of the Midland branch of the Cricket Society in the 'Tom' Dollery Bar at Edgbaston tonight (7.45pm). All are welcome.