FORMER Ireland fast bowler Boyd Rankin has taken a huge size 13 step nearer to his dream of becoming a Test cricketer.

The Bready, Co Derry man was yesterday named in the England squad for the Ashes tour to Australia this winter.

Rankin played 82 times for Ireland from 2003 to 2012, but retired after the T20 World Cup last September and declared for England.

He was a surprise call up for a T20 series against New Zealand but did well and was retained for the recent ODIs against Ireland and Australia.

He impressed in those games, recording his career best AGAINST Ireland, and has now been named in England's 17-man touring party.

Rankin was one of three uncapped players as England left out Tim Bresnan, Graham Onions and Nick Compton.

England chief selector Geoff Miller said: "Gary Ballance, Boyd Rankin and Ben Stokes have all come through the England Performance Programme in recent years and have put in strong performances for their counties and England teams to earn an opportunity to step into the Test environment."

Bouncy Australian pitches should suit tall fast bowlers, and Rankin is the tallest around at 6'8". England's selectors have also picked Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett who are all over 6'5".

"I've had some good performances in the last few weeks in the ODI series but it is a big surprise when you get that phone call," Rankin said.

"I've shown what I can do and I think with the pitches out there, with that extra pace and bounce that I can trouble the batsmen.

"Chris Tremlett showed that in the last series that it does help a lot. I'm looking forward to the challenge and if I get my chance hopefully I will take it."

Rankin also said he has no regrets about turning to England.

"I think I've come a long way. I suppose it is a bit strange, coming from a farm in Ireland but I'm really looking forward to the next few months and I'm really looking forward to it," he said.

"I'm going to have to work hard and try and get into the team. I always wanted to play at the highest level.

"My ambition was to play Test match cricket. In terms of Ireland I have no regrets."

A few of his fellow internationals took to Twitter to congratulate Rankin: with Andrew White tweeting "congratulations to @boydrankin on his selection for the Ashes. #legend #someboy", while Tim Murtagh wrote "congrats big lad".

Ireland captain William Porterfield, a school-mate at Strabane Grammar, told a weekend newspaper: "I suppose it's pretty freakish when you think about it - a small school of about 350 people, so about 50 in a year, half boys and half girls, and two of us are playing professional cricket."

"He's from a farm, I'm from a farm, we're basically country boys from the north-west of Northern Ireland, so coming over to London was a massive culture shock.

"Boyd has always been massive, and there aren't many blokes who are six foot eight and can bowl late 80s.

"He's always had the ability, he showed that with Ireland - every time he came up against world-class batsmen he would rise to the challenge, and I think that's stood him in good stead for what's happened with England in the last couple of weeks.

"We've played India in India, Bangladesh in Bangladesh, in front of big crowds and hostile atmospheres, so I don't think playing Australia in Australia will be a problem for him either."

"The big difference these last two years is that he's got a hell of a lot stronger," says Porterfield. "He's 29 now as well, at a stage where he knows where he's at. So he's been consistently quick and consistently threatening every spell he bowls."