Ansari set for Test debut in Dhaka
It will come a year later than anticipated, but Zafar Ansari looks set to make his Test debut in the second Test against Bangladesh in Dhaka on Friday.
But for a badly-broken left thumb, Ansari would almost certainly have played his maiden Test in the UAE 12 months ago. But, just hours after he was picked for the tour, he sustained the injury in the field, and was subsequently obliged to undergo two operations. Samit Patel was recalled, instead, and he played the Sharjah Test.
While Ansari enjoyed a decent rather than spectacular season for Surrey in the County Championship - he averaged 27.43 with the bat and claimed 22 wickets at 31.40 - the England management admires his calm temperament almost as much as his all-round abilities. While they were reluctant to thrust Jack Leach, the Somerset spinner, who enjoyed a more remarkable season - he claimed 68 wickets in the first-class season at an average of 22.58 - into international cricket, they seem to have no qualms about Ansari.
The case of Simon Kerrigan continues to influence selectors in such cases. Kerrigan, drafted in for his debut in the final Ashes Test of the 2013 summer, was mauled by Australia's batsmen, and appears to have never fully recovered from the experience. Even Leach's captain at Somerset, Chris Rogers, remarked that "emotionally, he still has a bit of a way to go" before he would consider him suitable for selection. He will instead be given an opportunity to familiarise himself with the England environment as part of the Lions programme.
Ansari, though slightly younger, is seen as more worldly and experienced. He gained a first from Cambridge University, and, having graduated through the England age-group system - he played for England at the Under-15, Under-17 and Under-19 levels - made his international debut in the rain-ruined ODI in Ireland in May 2015. He bowls at a relatively sharp pace, and, as a left-arm spinner whose turn will take the ball away from the right-handers, could prove more useful than a second spinner when England face an Indian top-order heavily stocked with right-handers.
Ansari fits the mould of this team, too, in that he can bat, bowl and field to a decent standard. Generally patient and compact in red-ball cricket, he has opened the batting for Surrey. But, after a modest County season - his highest score was 53 - it seems Ansari will bat at No. 8 for England. That will move Chris Woakes to No. 9, and Adil Rashid, a man with 10 first-class centuries, down to No. 10. It seems Gareth Batty will be the unfortunate one to make way.
There might have been a good case for resting Rashid instead. The pitch looks remarkably dry and cracked already, and, while the weather forecast for Dhaka is not wonderful - the city is braced for cyclonic storm Kyant - it seems likely that Bangladesh may take a bit of a risk in preparing a result-surface in the hope that they can square the series. On such turning surfaces, the control of Batty might prove more useful than the turn of Rashid, though Rashid did look as though he would benefit from anther long bowl ahead of the India series.
England are also set to recall Steven Finn. He has been bowling with good pace in the nets and will probably replace Stuart Broad, who will have to wait until the India Tests before gaining his 100th Test cap. While there will be a temptation to give Jake Ball a game and rest Chris Woakes, the team management may be wary of making too many changes against an improving Bangladesh side that went within an ace of achieving their first Test victory against England in Chittagong.
That means little opportunity for Jos Buttler. While he continues to hit the ball well in the nets - as one of the local net bowlers discovered on Wednesday when he received a black eye after being unable to get out of the way of a straight drive - Jonny Bairstow took another step towards cementing his place with the gloves with an impressive performance standing up to the stumps in Chittagong. And Trevor Bayliss has already indicated that he is keen to stick with the top-six in the batting line-up for the Dhaka Test.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo