England in Bangladesh 2016-17 October 26, 2016

Ansari set for Test debut in Dhaka


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Butcher: England will want to look at Ansari

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Percy_Fender on October 28, 2016, 4:44 GMT

    I understand that Ansari is a multifaceted individual, and that he has excelled in art and music as well apart from his promise in cricket. Considering that he has also been an exceptional student, from Cambridge, he looks someone special. I wish such a person the very best as he embarks upon a career as a professional sportsman. NUTCUTLET ,I wouldn't worry too much about what YASIR KHAN says about the English media because my impression is that they are fairly objective in their reporting. This despite the ex pats outrageous support for their favoured visiting teams, being quite the provocation that the locals needs to be biased. I haven't seen it happening in England .

  • masterstumper on October 27, 2016, 16:57 GMT

    I doubt if anyone who plays Test cricket would lose sleep over Ansari playing. You have to ask yourself who has more chance of picking up wickets if Batty is to miss out and I would back Batty to do more damage than a bowler who hardly sends county batsmen into a panic. If you can't do it at county level than how will you cope against Test players?

  • Whatsgoinoffoutthere on October 27, 2016, 15:19 GMT

    My reservations about Ansari surround one incident I saw on TV: that horrible open-faced poke that got him out in the Royal London final this year. Can he play spin?

  • TheRipper on October 27, 2016, 12:19 GMT

    VILLAGEBLACKSMITH - Very valid question I think. But you know the answer already as whenever India or Pak play against England in England 70% support is for the away team. This is especially true in LOIs.

  •   Edward John Dorrell Webb on October 27, 2016, 10:57 GMT

    The article fails to mention Zafar Ansari's most important attribute in getting selected: He went to the right school.

  • TheRipper on October 27, 2016, 10:40 GMT

    JMCILHINNEY - How is it possible to release the delivery without extending your arms. If you bowl with a bent elbow the bowl with go straight up in the air.

  • luukefurtado on October 27, 2016, 10:33 GMT

    So this is a test between Bangladesh and Pakistan I see.....

  • VillageBlacksmith on October 27, 2016, 10:10 GMT

    It is most encouraging to see 2nd/3rd generation players representing Eng... I wonder if 2nd/3rd generation fans will support them and Eng?

  • the placeholder on October 27, 2016, 9:09 GMT

    @samwinston92 that's pretty much exactly what i'd go for except I'd drop batty or rash for Woakes or Finn, think we need a third seamer just in case the spinners don't look like picking 20 wickets, we need that reverse swing, especially for the lower order, a few overs of right bowling with a bit of reverse could run through the bottom 5 of the BD order if the conditions are right. less than 24 hours before we see what they'll pick for Dhaka, generally less of a bunsen than Chittagong but seeing as BD is 0-1 they might ask for more of the same because they know they can squeak out a win in those conditions if a couple things go their way, not least of which is the toss... good luck to all and may we see some inspiring cricket!

  • Nutcutlet on October 27, 2016, 8:59 GMT

    Yasir Khan: your remark about the (UK) media being critical of foreign origin players has absolutely no basis in fact. I have no idea where you get your prejudices from, but I can assure you, that for all the failings of UK society in the 21st Century (and I would be the first to point out what they are!) discrimination against sportsmen and sportswomen on the grounds of 'racial origin' is arrant nonsense. If you want to see discrimination in practice, just examine any non-democratic country with an illiberal culture and an often vicious intolerance of anyone different racially,culturally or religiously from that of the ruling elite. The UK has no truck with such divisions. The England cricketers are selected on merit by a small group of selectors. Revise your opinion, please. It has no place in rational debate.

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