Strong competition among seamers for first Test but balancing XI could be an issue
England’s international summer of cricket is almost upon us and ECB selectors – that’s basically Chris Silverwood with some help from James Taylor and Mo Bobat – are poised to announce the men’s squad to face New Zealand in their two-Test series starting on June 2 at Lord’s. Here, George Dobell takes a look at those in the running.
England are likely to pick four men who are seen as contenders for the top three: Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Rory Burns and James Bracey. While Sibley is just coming back from a broken finger – he is playing a 2nd XI match at present – the England management are confident he will be fine and he has enough credit in the bank to retain his place.
Of the four, Burns is perhaps the least certain of a spot. Having been dropped in India, he is not “in possession” and with England wanting to take a look at Bracey, he could be squeezed. But he has been in consistent form in the Championship (only Kiran Carlson has reached 50 more often than his five occasions this season) and is seen as being relatively well equipped for the Ashes.
The form of Haseeb Hameed (and, to a lesser extent, Adam Lyth) has been noted by the England management, but he will need to sustain it a while longer to win a Test recall. If a Lions squad was required tomorrow, however, he would have an excellent chance of involvement.
With Joe Root and Ollie Pope assured of their places, England have to decide whether to play Bracey in the middle-order or stick with Dan Lawrence. Both will be in the squad.
With Jos Buttler resting, Ben Foakes looks likely to keep the gloves and play his first home Tests. Bracey is also a more than competent keeper and provides back-up if required. Pope’s brief career as a Test keeper – remember the Hamilton Test of 2019? – would appear to be over.
Jack Leach is now established as England’s first-choice spin bowler and is certain to be in the squad. With an even chance that he will not be required in the first Test, though – Middlesex have claimed one wicket with spin bowling at Lord’s this season, though Leach took four there in the first match of the season – it is likely Silverwood will feel that only one spinner is required. He is also keen to ensure fringe members of the squad play cricket rather than remain part of an enlarged squad.
If they do feel the need for a second spinner, Dom Bess (who has nine wickets at 42.66 this season) could be included, while Matt Parkinson (who has taken 19 wickets at 19.21 so far this season) is also a contender. But it is expected that Leach will be the only specialist spinner.
Given the reaction when Stuart Broad was left out of the first Test of last summer, it will be interesting to see how the England management approach this series. They have made it apparent, however, that they want to take a look at Craig Overton (32 wickets at 13.96 this season) and Ollie Robinson (29 at 14.72), so it may be that Broad and Anderson are rotated as they were in the winter and play in one Test apiece. Olly Stone is understood to have recovered from a toe infection and, with Jofra Archer absent through injury, is also likely to rotate with Mark Wood to give England a genuine fast bowler in each Test.
Injuries and the absence of the IPL players renders it tough to balance the side. It means all their viable all-round options (Ben Stokes, Sam Curran, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes) are unavailable and leaves them with the prospect of either batting Foakes at No. 6, and leaving a long tail but a five-man attack, or at No. 7 to allow six specialist batters and make do with four bowlers. The latter is the more likely scenario and would leave England with the option of either playing four seamers or three seamers and spinner. The four-seamer option again appears more likely.
The toughest decision might be over where to bat Bracey. While he generally bats in the top order for Gloucestershire, he could also bat at No. 5 or No. 6 or even do that and keep wicket. He is seen as an unusually versatile player by the England management and may well allow them to only name a 15-man squad.
Other options that might have been considered – picking Matt Critchley (averaging 51.20 with the bat and 36.18 with his legspin this season) as a spinning allrounder to bat at No. 6, for example – would appear to have been resisted.
Likely squad: Joe Root (capt), James Anderson, James Bracey, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Dom Sibley, Olly Stone, Mark Wood
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
Australia in West Indies 2021
The Australia captain said that performances on the upcoming tours will count for a lot in final selection
“I’m seeing them pretty good,” he said in Brisbane ahead of the squad’s chartered flight to the Caribbean on Monday. “I’ve only been hitting indoors on hard wickets, so [I] think the big test will come in night matches, that’s when I noticed the biggest difference in my eyesight.
“It was just bloody blurry which isn’t ideal as a batsman. One day it just sort of changed and got a little bit worse. It wasn’t very sharp and there was bit of a halo around lights and a bit of a trail on the ball, so just a bit unusual. After New Zealand we thought that was the best time to get it done. Was about a three-week process and it was really smooth. It’s all clear now, so seems really good.”
As in New Zealand, Finch will have a squad stripped of some key players due to a combination of resting, opt-outs and Steven Smith’s elbow injury. It was a long-term plan for David Warner and Pat Cummins to miss the tour, but Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson and Jhye Richardson made themselves unavailable.
That has led to recalls for Ben McDermott, Ashton Turner and Dan Christian along with a maiden call-up for pace bowler Wes Agar.
Finch reiterated the view of national selector Trevor Hohns that significant weight will be put behind performances over these two tours when it comes to the final selection of the T20 World Cup squad which means there may not be a certain path back for all the absentees.
“Playing cricket for Australia and doing well is the ultimate, in my opinion,” he said. “So for guys to be on this tour to get the first opportunity to put their hand up and take that spot is what it’s about. It’s tough to ignore really good international performances.
“It could change a lot. That was based on the World Cup being in Australia and I thought our side in the lead-up to the original World Cup meant to be held here was really settled. You have to look to keep restructuring your side to gather more information. The more the wickets change and the more they go away from our traditional Australian wickets think the more we have to keep learning.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
Australians at the PSL: Usman Khawaja, Tim David and James Faulkner leave a mark
Recent Match Report – Gloucs vs Glamorgan South Group 2021
NZ wicketkeeper-bat required just 41 balls to take game away from visitors
Gloucestershire 216 for 2 (Phillips 94*, Howell 53*) beat Glamorgan 182 for 8 (Lloyd 44, Higgins 2-27) by 34 runs
Phillips’ fifth-highest score of his career, and first half-century in the Vitality Blast, powered Gloucestershire to 216 for 2 – their own fifth-highest T20 total. He struck nine fours and six sixes to overwhelm Glamorgan, who gave game chase for a while but could only reply with 182 for 8.
Phillips arrived after Miles Hammond and Chris Dent had given the innings a lively start after losing the toss, making 60 without loss. He cut Marnus Labuschagne through extra cover before lifting Dan Douthwaite over the sight screen. He blasted Prem Sisodiya twice straight back past his for four and swept him fine for another boundary in going to fifty in 26 balls.
He took 14 from the 17th over, clubbing Timm van der Gugten over long-off, before uppercutting Douthwaite for a third six. An extraordinary reverse-scoop flew over third man for six as 23 came from the 18th. In the final over, he launched van der Gugten over the longest boundary at midwicket, crashed him wide of deep cover for four and swung the final ball of the innings over deep-square.
Howell took his chance up at three to make an unbeaten 53 in 33 balls. He struck Callum Taylor for four through extra cover and wide of midwicket before a slug down the ground cleared long-off for six. He drove Weighell for four to raise a fifth T20 half-century.
Glamorgan needed their third-highest T20 total to win and stayed in the game for the first half of the chase. David Lloyd gave them a rattling start with 44 in 22 balls, striking four sixes, three of them short-arm jabs over midwicket and Glamorgan reached 101 for 4 at halfway. But Tom Smith then bowled an over for 9 followed by a wicket maiden to leave 15-an-over for the final five.
Labuschagne was, as ever, a crucial wicket and David Payne yorked him walking across his stumps. His 33 in 21 balls was well light of what Glamorgan needed.
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