Cricket 19: NWHTC – By the Skin(ner) of Their Teeth!

Brexit uncertainty continues, power outages frustrate and flooding wreaks havoc. Food prices go up as does fuel but protestors are shot down. TV shows reach their season finale, VAR prevents a goal and people find themselves unemployed after years of dedicated service. House prices go up as does the cost of your holiday but trees still fall. Promiscuous youngsters are considered role models, endangered animals go extinct before our very eyes and uncontacted tribes become contacted and face the possibly deadly consequences. Despite all this, cricket continues…

After seven ODIs on the bounce we returned to the Test format in the territory of arch-rivals Scotland. The players survived the treacherous voyage north of the borderline but found re-adapting to the game’s longest format challenging. Maybe we need to rethink our selection policy and have fewer players straddle dual formats.

Dawid Malan (25) displayed promise at the top order in an opening stand of 49 with Haseeb Hameed but committed the schoolboy error of not having a look when part-timer Roman Bruce came onto bowl and immediately became only Braveheart’s second Test victim.

Ben Stokes, who you might have anticipated would be a little more at home in the alien conditions provided his familiarity with northern surfaces, was bowled when opting to leave having made only 8 (My wife walking up to me with our youngest daughter in hand contributing to the Durham man’s demise!). Leader of men Joe Root was caught at slip for 11 before Hameed and Moeen Ali set about repairing the damage. Hameed (67) was needlessly run out however when a century beckoned and Moeen (51) was caught behind the very delivery post posting fifty.

Jonny Bairstow was bowled first ball but an under pressure Jos Buttler (75) alongside Sam Curran (56) batted maturely to propel us from 180-6 to 295-7. Chris Woakes was less mature when caught behind for 6 which left last men standing Stuart Broad and James Anderson to extend the score. Coming together at 301-9, Broad was dropped just three runs later and Scotland were made to pay somewhat. Our opening bowlers lifted us to 329 with Anderson falling for 18 and Broad left not out on 10.

It was a rather juxtaposed innings with a number of batsmen looking in glorious touch and executing some majestic shots but only Moeen and Curran can really say that they were got out. Spin duo Martin Law and Mark Watt astonishingly claimed identical figures of 3-57.

In Scotland’s first venture to the crease, Stuart Broad soon dismissed opener Mahdi Clay (5) to leave the home side 9-1 before the ultra-aggressive Kyle Coetzer (150) alongside a more steady away Caden McCarthy (81) batted for the rest of the day. Possibly distracted by thoughts of a century, McCarthy soon fell to Broad the following morning. The impressive Broad then claimed a third victim when he trapped Burke (6) LBW before Chris Woakes stoked the fire further by claiming three wickets of his own. Coetzer was roughed up by Sam Curran bowling around the wicket before Woakes terminated his expansive innings. Out of nowhere Warwickshire’s Woakes was suddenly bowling at his peak. Curran himself as well as Stokes then both got in on the wicket taking action as Scotland collapsed from 195-1 to 302-8 at the end of day two.

Scotland’s tail wagged a little the following morning before Watt (21) and Abdulrahman Egan (12) fell to the excellent Broad (4-59) and Anderson (1-51) respectively. The home side’s efforts equated to 318 meaning that we effectively commenced our second innings on 11-0.

Dawid Malan (37) and Haseeb Hameed compiled 63 second time around before Malan edged a tame chance skyward when trying to deflect to leg. The Middlesex man had once again laid the foundations but only produced a promising not substantial innings. Ben Stokes made a brisk 31 whilst compiling 67 with Hameed before Hameed himself, who’d gone over the top a few times, inside edged when attempting another grand shot and looked rather ugly in falling for 76. 175-3 was the score come the respite.

The evening session’s premier delivery resulted in Root (13) edging behind and Jos Buttler (14) didn’t last much longer. The unheralded medium-pacer Roman Bruce (3-111) was chief-tormentor yet again. Jonny Bairstow should’ve been out to the next delivery but Scotland’s close fielders inexplicably failed to attempt the catch despite replays confirming that the ball had deflected off the Yorkshireman’s glove. As a result, YJB avoided the ignominy of a king pair but it mattered little as he soon succumbed to spin for just 2.

Just as Scotland sniffed a serious chance of making their run chase more manageable, Moeen Ali and Sam Curran (60) combined for an exhilarating 104-run partnership to seemingly take the game away from the hosts. Chris Woakes fell for a breezy 11 when attempting a maximum but to the next delivery Moeen Ali performed something possibly unique. The left-hander reached a century from only 56 deliveries courtesy of an all run 5!

Stuart Broad (14) briefly entertained before becoming Martin Law’s (4-76) fourth victim of the innings. Moeen (120 not out) and James Anderson (12 not out) lifted the score to 399-9 before we declared. Bizarrely, spinner Mark Watt wasn’t called upon to bowl during our second innings. Scotland were set 410 for victory with a few overs to negotiate at the end of day three.

Scotland’s chase got off to an inauspicious start when Clay was comically stumped by Bairstow of the bowling of Anderson to the last delivery of the first over. 0-1 soon became 13-2 when Anderson struck again. This time it was was key man Coetzer trapped LBW for only 7. McCarthy and Bruce resisted despite Stokes originally winning an LBW appeal before it was overturned however Moeen Ali struck first ball to dismiss McCarthy (40). Bairstow pouched the edge to end the 74-run combo with Scotland still a mammoth 324 runs shy of victory. Unbelievably, Moeen then repeated the trick with the first ball of his second over. Left-hander Gene Moore was caught behind without scoring to complete a disappointing Test match for the left-hander and another dismissal for Bairstow.

On the fourth morning the home batsmen saw off James Anderson but Dorian Burke perished to the Moeen/Bairstow combo having crafted an elegant 29. Roman Bruce then converted form with the ball into form with the bat by compiling a magnificent career best 148. Bruce compiled a 167-run stand with Martin Law and really opened up having passed the century mark. However, with 104 still runs required for victory, Bruce was bowled by Moeen off the second ball of day five. Captain Joe Root, whose captaincy on day three was heavily criticised in the media, deserves huge credit for starting the day with Moeen when the ball was only ten overs old.

Law then added an immensely frustrating 70 runs with the resolute Saul Skinner as Scotland closed in on victory. Eventually, having switched to bowling around the wicket, Sam Curran got Law to play on to his stumps via an unnecessarily excessive forward defensive shot. Law (127) had finally fallen having contributed a superb maiden Test ton to put his side within touching distance of a famous win.

James Anderson soon snapped up Mark Watt for 1 courtesy of Joe Root in the slips with Scotland still 30 runs shy of victory and suddenly we looked like favourites. It wasn’t to be…

With Scotland requiring 7 runs for victory, Moeen Ali and James Anderson bowled back to back maidens before we gifted the home side four overthrows. More maidens followed but Scotland went onto win by two wickets with a composed Saul Skinner (39 not out) and Abdulrahman Egan (18 not out) seeing them home. Huge respect to Skinner in particular who endured a chastening game with the ball but faced 119 deliveries to seal an amazing run chase.

To say that Moeen Ali didn’t deserve to be on the losing side would be an understatement of epic proportions.

For us, it’s back to the drawing board after another defeat against a Scotland side that we failed to defend a total in excess of 400 against for a second time in this competition. That’s six wins from six for the Scots and, with us level on points with Ireland, means there’s little room for manoeuvre if we hope to make the final where we’ll almost certainly take on Scotland once again. Next up we host Canada (W3L3) at Lords. Our squad for that match will be announced soon.

Cricket 19: GODII – Nepalling!

From an encouraging 34 without loss visitors Nepal freefalled to collapse to just 77 all out from 45.4 overs in Leeds. The side from the mountains actually scored at four runs per over for the first few overs and hinted at providing us with a rare contest but 34-0 became 34-3 in the blink of an eye and then deteriorated to 50-8 in a lot more blinks. Nepal dragged the innings out the best they could, highlighted no more so than by Reginald Purcell’s 71-minute 58-ball innings of 9.

Chris Woakes led the demolition with 3-18 while fellow new-ball bowler, debutante Lewis Gregory (1-22) claimed his first international wicket. After conceding one run in his first over, another debutante in the form of spin bowler Matthew Carter (1-6) bowled five consecutive maidens. Having already had the possible final wicket dropped (An absolute sitter by Dawid Malan!) the Nottinghamshire youngster provided captain for the day Jonny Bairstow with yet another tournament catch.

Surrey’s Sam Curran (2-8) picked up two wickets whilst brother Tom (1-11), Ben Stokes (1-4) and Liam Dawson (1-0) snaffled one each.

Nepal’s limp effort was particularly disappointing after opening pair Gamesha Murthy (22) and Akanksha Shroff (12) had started reasonably productively. Adopted Nepali Lyle Bradley contributed an encouraging 18 not out from number nine.

In pursuit of the small victory target Dawid Malan and Liam Livingstone compiled 53 for the opening wicket before the former was deceived by a Pramod Kapadia slower ball and trapped plumb LBW for 21. The world’s worst review couldn’t save the Middlesex man! Lancashire’s Livingstone was scratchy at first but had moved to 32 from 27 before top edging and being caught by slip behind the keeper again of the impressive bowling of Kapadia (2-17). Joe Root (9*) and Jonny Bairstow (15*) were promoted up the order to provide their county fans with a rare glimpse of their homegrown stars and the experienced duo guided us to an eight-wicket victory.

Some of Nepal’s players come from the country’s capital Kathmandu but the men on the field could do nothing to save their nation from a heavy defeat. The batting of Murthy and Bradley as well as the bowling of Kapadia should at least provide some encouragement to one of Asia’s emerging cricket nations.

We now stand alone at the top of the table after the Netherlands failed to chase exactly 200 in Canada. Of course it’s a trip to Amsterdam for us next in the final ODI before returning to the Test format. Look out for our squad announcement soon.

Cricket 19: GODII – Living the Dream!

We commenced the Global ODI Invitational with a resounding 177-run victory over Papua New Guinea at The Oval. It was a long trip for PNG and that may have taken it’s toll, particularly on their batsmen who looked severely jet lagged.

Having been put into bat we posted 272 but were disappointed to be bowled out in just 39.4 overs. Nearly all our batsmen need to reflect on their dismissals and ask themselves if they could’ve avoided getting out at that stage of the game. It’s only game one though in this format and ultimately we produced enough runs to win the match but we’ll likely face sterner tests (Or ODIs!) as the tournament progresses.

Liam Livingstone and Dawid Malan were our new opening combo and the pair batted with measured intent to reach 55 without loss. Lancashire’s Livingstone (33) was given out caught behind and frustratingly replays seemed to suggest that had he reviewed then the decision would’ve been overturned. Following the debutante’s departure, Ben Stokes was needlessly run out for 27 before Joe Root nicked behind for 10.

Soon after, Dawid Malan, who looked on course for a century, inexplicably through his wicket away having compiled 64 from only 56 deliveries. Moeen Ali (29) was another who got started but soon got out. He, the first wicket to fall to the persistent Caspar Sandhu.

Sandhu would finish with impressive figures of 5-64 and also claimed an excellent catch on the boundary to dismiss skipper Jos Buttler for 56.

Right-arm medium-pacer Sandhu ripped through our lower order adding the scalps of Jonny Bairstow (8), Tom Curran (15), Sam Curran (4) and Chris Woakes (1) to that of Buttler. Meaning no disrpesect to Sandhu but all our batters could’ve avoided getting out. Jofra Archer was dropped early on but finished undefeated on 19.

In pursuit of overhauling our total Papua New Guinea started reasonably well before Kaidan Donahue (11) nicked behind off Chris Woakes with the score on 17. Bairstow claimed his first competition catch and would go onto claim three in the innings.

The Yorkshireman has forty-one catches in only five North Western Hemisphere Test Championship matches and transferred that form to the GODII. As the competition progresses however we may occasionally rest our premier gloveman both from keeping and/or the playing XI altogether.

Wickets fell at regular intervals but amongst the chaos opening batsman Carlos Ahuja (49) bounced back from a tough time with the ball (7-0-51-0) but fell agonisingly short of a deserved fifty when he was caught by one Curran brother, Sam, off the bowling of another, Tom, both of whom were playing on their home turf.

Jayant Rege (13) was the only other batsman to reach double figures.

Livingstone (2-7) wrapped things up with some impressive leg-spin while Woakes (2-27) and Sam Curran (2-10) also picked up two wickets each.

Moeen, Stokes, Archer and Tom Curran all claimed one wicket each as PNG folded for just 95.

It was a decent start to the ODI festivities but our batsmen will need to kick on and last the full allocation in future if we’re to post the sort of seismic scores we strive for.

Next up for us it’s Canada away. We thoroughly enjoyed playing a Test match in the beautiful surroundings of Ottawa Oval and look forward to revisiting the area. We’ll take a reasonable touring party with us as travelling so far from home we need to cover for all eventualities.

Cricket 19: North Western Hemisphere Test Championship – Watt on Earth?!

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Eleven players took to the field for England’s first ever North Western Hemisphere Test Championship match against Scotland at The Oval. Such was the state of the pitch that we bravely (Naively?) chose to omit our main spin threat of Moeen Ali. That left the part-time efforts of captain Joe Root as the only spin bowling option available to… captain Joe Root. On his home ground it was felt essential to select the effervescent Sam Curran. The left-arm seamer provides our attack with a crucial point of difference.

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Having won the toss we chose to bat first and local boy Rory Burns (26) alongside Haseeb Hameed (23) laid a solid foundation in reaching 37 without loss before Burns was caught when attempting a pull. Ben Duckett soon followed for just 1 and the rest of our wickets continued to fall with alarming regularity. This was despite 98 minutes of stoicism from Lacnashire’s Hameed. We also benefited from skipper Joe Root (9) having earned a reprieve when dropped in the slips on just 2 but he added only a further seven runs before being dismissed. 37-0 became an embarrassing 121 all out before lunch on the first day at The Oval.

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A reverse-sweep filled counter-attacking innings of 34 from only thirty deliveries courtesy of Jos Buttler was pivotal to us even reaching three figures. Buttler struck 18 (44244.) from left-arm spinner Mark Watt’s first over before Watt struck back to claim figures of 3-26. Fellow twirler Martin Law bettered that with analysis of 4-19. Having ourselves omitted our number one spinner, seven of the wickets to fall on the first morning fell to spin! A word too for Scottish gloveman Mahdi Clay who claimed six dismissals in the innings.

Following that and having reached 39 without loss, the visitors looked well placed to gain a substantial first innings lead. Opener Kyle Coetzer’s 49 from 55 balls led the way but enter Stuart Broad. Broad thought he had Clay trapped LBW on 13 but the decision was correctly overturned.

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It mattered little though as without another run added Broad sent Clay’s stumps shattering in all directions. Promisingly placed at 63-1, Scotland subsided to 166 all out. A few batsmen got starts but none could kick on. Chris Woakes (5-42) led the way, striking in his first over and claiming three key wickets in his premier spell before returning to finish the job later in the innings. Broad would finish with figures of 3-47. Jonny Bairstow went some way to redeeming himself after being dismissed for a golden duck in England’s first innings, the result of appalling shot selection in the circumstances, by claiming four sharp catches. A lead of 45 runs was healthy for Scotland but not necessarily game defining.

We commenced our second innings late on day one and lost Hameed for 12 before the close but the standard had been set for a more disciplined batting effort second time around. Hameed’s exit meant that the small matter of 21 wickets had fallen on the first day. Such statistics will no doubt have caught the eye of the NWHTC Pitch Inspection Squad or PIS.

Burns (44) and Duckett (46), who was dropped at slip in the first over of the day, compiled 92 before the latter fell courtesy of a top edge when reverse sweeping. Duckett was just starting to open up and we’ve selected him to play his own game but it was a disappointing end to an innings that could’ve cemented his place in the team long term. As it was both Burns and Duckett performed well enough to secure their place in the side for the next match but not sufficiently to confirm that they’re the answer to our long-standing top order conundrum. Duckett’s departure opened the floodgates as 118-1 became 185-6 at sandwiches.

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Captain Joe Root perished soon after for 63 before Sam Curran (63), in front of his home fans and Chris Woakes (68), not content with a five-wicket haul, seemed to take the game away from the visitors. The pair put on 117 for the eighth wicket however Woakes was out to the first ball after tea. Just when Scotland thought they’d done enough to stay in the match they could only watch in horror as our last wicket pair of Stuart Broad (39 not out) and James Anderson (50) compiled 90 runs for the final wicket. The latter registering only his second Test half-century though he promptly fell to the very next delivery. Scots’ spinner Mark Watt added figures of 4-121 to his first innings triplicate to complete the match with bowling analysis of 7-147. Stumper Mahdi Clay snaffled another five victims taking his match total to eleven. All that equated to Scotland requiring the small matter of 401 runs for victory. Surely that would be out of reach?!

As was the case the night prior, the batting side lost one wicket before the close of play. Sam Curran, promoted to opening the bowling, cleaned up first innings top scorer Coetzer with an unplayable inswinger for just 6. Mahdi Clay and Caden McCarthy looked in good rhythm during the rest of the evening session however and Scotland progressed serenely to 54-1 at the close of the second day’s play.

Despite our best efforts the following morning, the visitors picked up where they had left off and batted throughout the session without losing a wicket. McCarthy (105) and Clay (113) went onto record maiden Test hundreds. Their partnership was worth 191 and set Scotland well on their way to a headline making victory. Roman Bruce (108 not out) also passed three figures and was there at the end as the Celtic side claimed a seismic and historic Test match win. Though we claimed a few wickets we were never really in the hunt as Scotland achieved the fourth highest run chase in Test history, although they did have to come back on day four to knock off the remaining nine runs required, finishing on an astonishing 402-4! If the North Western Hemisphere Test Championship needed something special in its first round of fixtures to get people excited… boy did it get it!

A special mention for the administrators at The Oval who welcomed spectators through the gates free of charge on the fourth morning.

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Extremely late in the piece, Jonny Bairstow couldn’t maintain his first innings standards and what would’ve been a first over maiden international wicket for Haseeb Hameed went begging!

Match Analysis

England 121 (Buttler 34, Burns 26, Hameed 23/Law 4-19, Watt 3-26, Egan 2-22)

Scotland 166 (Coetzer 49, Bruce 24, Burke 19/Woakes 5-42, Broad 3-47, Curran.S 1-14)

England 445 (Woakes 68, Root 63, Curran.S 63/Watt 4-121, Law 2-31, Scott 2-70)

Scotland 402-4 (Clay 113, Bruce 108*, McCarthy 105/Curran.S 2-82, Broad 1-78, Woakes 1-82)

Scotland won by six wickets

Maybe in part because it was hard to choose between three centurions, though wicketkeeper Mahdi Clay scored his as opener as well as claiming eleven dismissals in the match, spin bowler Mark Watt’s match figures of 7-147 saw him awarded the Player of the Match award.

Match bowling figures of 1-104 for James Anderson and 0-77 for Ben Stokes, who also contributed only five runs with the bat, mean that their places in the team for the next match may have to be reviewed. Spinner Moeen Ali among others waits in the wings.

Congratulations to Scotland on an epic victory. Like us they applied themselves much better with the bat second time around but we now know that we must do even better both with willow in hand and with the ball in order to be successful in this new competition.

In the other matches in Round One, Canada brushed aside neighbours USA by 86 runs. This was despite being bowled out for only 48 in their second innings however they then bundled the States themselves out for a paltry 44. Subhan Breen’s second innings figures of 6-10 may take some beating in the competition.

Ireland thrashed the Netherlands by an innings and 191 runs with the Dutch crumbling for 69 in their second dig. There were contributions from throughout Ireland’s XI though Stuart Poynter’s undefeated 95 led the way.

Next up for us it’s a long and arduous trip to Canada. Though the Mapleleafs defeated the Stars and Stripes, surely we can get our first victory near the Arctic. Playing conditions will be alien to us though and as such we’ll need to get the composition of our playing XI spot on. We’ve sent a pitch scout across the Atlantic already and the feedback is that though the surface is hard it’s also dry with some cracks. Our travelling squad for the trip will be announced shortly.

Thank you for your support and apologies for our opening result. It was not for the want of trying!

Paul Morris, Selection Architect, England Men’s Cricket Team

Disclaimer: Firstly, please be aware that I’m playing on Pro difficulty level with specific settings at medium. Please also be aware that due the the current state of play with the Academy and downloading players, opposition teams are a mixture of real and fake names and I’ll be referring to them however they appear on the scorecard.

What if Archer Doesn’t Hit the Target?

England coach Trevor Bayliss has all but confirmed that Jofra Archer will win his first cap for England in the home ODI series against Pakistan. Presumably Selector Ed Smith is on the same page as Bayliss but what if Archer doesn’t merit selection? What if he’s only taken two One-Day Cup wickets @ 92.50 when the series comes around?

Archer is a good player but whether or not he’s worth all the furore remains to be seen. English cricket has a habit of demanding undamaged goods but should Archer record figures of 10-0-87-0 on international debut and go onto claim only a few wickets at 50 apiece in the series, will it be seen as part of his development or will he be written off as another tried and tested player who didn’t cut it?

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Mark Wood has cemented his place (Fitness providing) and good for him. As for Liam Plunkett, Tom Curran and even Chris Woakes, their World Cup places suddenly don’t seem so certain. As for David Willey, who couldn’t even get on the pitch in the West Indies ODIs, a strong showing in the shortest format is vital. I was particularly disappointed for Curran. He was a star in the Big Bash but couldn’t impose himself in the ODIs.

When England line-up against West Indies in the World Cup, it’ll be interesting to see which personnel form their pace bowling attack. How has it come to this on the eve of the World Cup? Did England’s attack peak a year or two too early? Will Barbados born Jofra Archer take to the field in English colours against the maroon of West Indies that he wore at youth level?

Filling the Void

James Anderson and Stuart Broad won’t be around forever, so who can fill the void for England when these two have rolled into retirement?

In English conditions then Chris Woakes and Sam Curran should be reliable options but overseas it’s a different story.

Could any of the following step up for England with the new ball in the future…

Jamie Porter 275 First Class wickets @ 23.78

Is Porter destined to be a nearly man?

He continues to take wicket upon wicket at domestic level but by the time Anderson and Broad have departed, will the ship have sailed for Porter?

The spearhead of Essex’s attack has overcome injury, not unlike Anderson and could be primed to fill the void.

Ben Coad 103 @ 19.70

Yorkshireman Coad is behind Porter in the pecking order and is absurdly still awaiting Lions recognition. Any suggestions of him being a one season wonder have already been dispelled. Another campaign of the sort he’s had in recent seasons should surely see him knocking the door down.

Tom Bailey 155 @ 26.05

Anderson’s Lancashire colleague Bailey had nearly slipped under the radar despite his regular ripping up of wickets on the county scene. This winter however he got the recognition he deserved with a call-up to the England Lions squad.

Has he learnt a few tricks from England’s record wicket taker that he can bring to the Test arena himself?

Jamie Overton 130 @ 33.22

Were it not for injuries then Somerset’s Jamie Overton may have already debuted for England. His extra pace and bounce would be welcomed on Australian decks (Hopefully by England, not Australian batsman!) but can he last five days or even ten overs?

Steven Finn 531 @ 28.96

254 international wickets but little case can be made for selecting Middlesex man Finn. If he can hit the ground running in 2019 however and snaffle a giant bag full of wickets then maybe England could yet get the best out of him.

There are plenty of other options and it will be interesting to see who England turn to when the time comes to… fill the void!

Frustrated Foakes!

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Surrey’s Ben Foakes spent last winter warming the bench during a lengthy Ashes tour and could now be set to do the same in Sri Lanka. Since last winter, Jos Buttler has returned to the side not only as a specialist batsman but also as second choice wicketkeeper. As a result, even though Jonny Bairstow injured himself playing football, former Essex-man Foakes remains unlikely to play in the first Test. If Bairstow is anything shy of 100% fit then based on his attempts at playing when injured during last summer, he should be nowhere near the XI. The England management need to be brave enough to make the sort of calls that Italy’s football coach Arrigo Sacchi did with star player Roberto Baggio during the early stages of World Cup USA ’94. England also have Foakes’ Surrey teammates Ollie Pope and rather less likely, uncapped opening batsman Rory Burns as alternative wicketkeeping options. That’s just the five glovemen in the squad then!

Based on what we saw last winter, it’s quite possible that England’s XI in the third Test may be rather different to what we see in the first encounter. With little game time under his belt, Somerset spinner Jack Leach may be unlikely to start the series but if England fall behind then he may well be called upon. It may also be the case that the delicate Olly Stone benefits from not playing though you’d think some overs under his belt would be helpful.

Much maligned opening batsman Keaton Jennings missed out in his only opportunity on tour so far as did Joe Denly. Though Denly’s return to England’s T20I side went romantically well, the nature of the game means that he was able to claim wickets without bowling at his best. That is unlikely to be the case in the Test series. It’s tough to call but with rumours that Stuart Broad may be rested and Sam Curran’s left-arm variety useful, particularly if Leach is omitted, could England’s line-up in the first Test look like this?

Rory Burns

Keaton Jennings

Joe Denly

Joe Root (c)

Ben Stokes

Jos Buttler (w)

Moeen Ali

Chris Woakes

Sam Curran

Adil Rashid

James Anderson

If the weather allows, England basically now have a one-day game before the first Test. Wickets for the likes of Broad and Leach or runs for Pope or Foakes could yet have a bearing on the make-up of England’s XI. Of course if Buttler were to get injured during a Test, it’d be perverse if Foakes and Pope were sat on the bench alongside Bairstow whilst Rory Burns assumed the gloves on what would turn out to be a heck of a demanding introduction to international cricket for the Surrey skipper.