England news June 13, 2017

England set up Test opener shootout

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Mark Stoneman is one of four openers with a chance to press his claims © Getty Images

England have set-up a Test shootout for the role of Alastair Cook's Test opening partner as four batsmen vie for the opportunity in the Lions squad which will face South Africa in Canterbury next week. Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings are the two men in pole position, but they will have to promote their claims alongside the Middlesex batsman Nick Gubbins and Mark Stoneman, who is having a fine inaugural season with Surrey since making the switch from Durham.

Jennings is averaging a shade under 40, with only one century, in a Durham side that has been in the doldrums since relegation to Division Two of the Specsavers Championship with a 48-point penalty, but he also had an unproductive Lions tour of Sri Lanka earlier this year as he also came to terms with the responsibilities of captaincy, a role he has retained.

Hameed has had a disturbing loss of form, averaging only 19.33 and still to pass fifty in six Championship matches for Lancashire as his inclusion in their 50-over side has coincided with a reduction in the ingrained concentration that won so many plaudits last season.

The confidence surrounding England's one-day side as they have advanced to the semi-final of the Champions Trophy has not been without its own uncertainty about the top of the order with Jonny Bairstow well placed to replace the out-of-form Jason Roy in the semi-final against Pakistan on Wednesday.

The questions in the Test side ahead of a four-match series against South Africa, beginning at Lord's on July 6, are equally pressing, yet with different personnel. Joe Root batted at No. 3 throughout England's disastrous Test series in India last winter, which if that policy persisted against South Africa, and ahead of this winter's Ashes series, would leave only a single place available.

Somerset's spin-bowling duo, Jack Leach and Dom Bess, a teenaged offspinner, are both named in the squad. Leach, who played in the Lions' last four-day game against Sri Lanka A in Dambulla in February, is also joined by another Somerset team-mate in Jamie Overton.

Stoneman and Bess, about a decade apart in age, are the only two members of the squad not to have played previously for the Lions. A separate Lions squad will be named next week for a three-day match against the senior South Africa tourists in Worcester starting on June 29.

James Whitaker, the national selector, said: "We have had to delay naming that squad because the game clashes with the Royal London One-Day Cup final, and we will not consider players from the counties who qualify for Lord's.

"There were other considerations in selecting this squad - as ever, we were mindful of counties who have important fixtures in the Specsavers County Championship, while four members of the Lions squad who won the Royal London One-Day Series against South Africa A were unavailable after being selected for the full England squad for the NatWest T20 internationals against South Africa."

England Lions squad: Keaton Jennings (Durham, capt), Mark Stoneman (Surrey), Haseeb Hameed (Lancashire), Nick Gubbins (Middlesex), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Ben Foakes (Surrey, wk), Sam Curran (Surrey), Jamie Overton (Somerset), Tom Helm (Middlesex), Jamie Porter (Essex), George Garton (Sussex), Jack Leach (Somerset), Dominic Bess (Somerset)

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • landl47 on June 20, 2017, 5:23 GMT

    Opener is proving to be a real conundrum as none of those who played so well last year are doing well this year. Stoneman is a decent county bat, but 30 years old next week with a career average under 35 does not shout test player. Players like Lees and Bell-Drummond have not made the progress I expected. I think Hameed will make it eventually, but his form this year has been dreadful. It's really Jennings' position to lose. As for #4, Ballance has ironed out his technical problems and is playing very well. The XI I would pick would be Cook, Jennings, Root, Ballance, Stokes, Bairstow, Ali, Rashid, Broad, Wood, Ball. Woakes comes in for Ball when he's fit. Other players suggested: Westley- age 28, average 37, 17 hundreds. Lawrence- age 19 (almost 20) average 47, 6 hundreds. That's why Lawrence is in and Westley isn't. Coad bowls 78mph. To be a test player bowling that speed you have to swing it both ways and land it on a sixpence. Coad can't do either.

  • jackiethepen on June 14, 2017, 17:20 GMT

    By the time the Test comes along England will have rattled through nearly all the possible players in County cricket to have a shot at 1) a partner for Cook 2) a player for the middle order. If the selectors had got anything right over the last two years then we wouldn't be looking now. Test cricket has been ignored while the shorter formats have been prioritised. This now looks to be a poor decision by Strauss. He's not sackable of course and neither is Flower. It's the players who'll get the blame. I think the idea of a shoot-out sums up the wrong attitude - selectors should have the talent and skill for spotting Test players. How you play on a particular day in cricket tells you nothing. Test batsmen have to look the part in their technique. The problem is that fans for years think this player or that player can play Test cricket. Well it's really difficult and those who do succeed deserve more respect.

  • awahid on June 14, 2017, 11:04 GMT

    I would pick Hameed to open with Cook. Hameed's temperament was outstanding in the Indian series. Jennings played rather rashly with questionable shot selections. Also some good fortune aided him, as he was dropped on 0 the innings he made a 100.

  • jjamez on June 14, 2017, 10:25 GMT

    The batting options for the middle order seem a bit lacking too, so it could be a case of taking a long term risk on a dan Lawrence and or liam Livingstone if they dexide to replace rashid for a batter.

    Side for first test. The lions game effectively deciding who opens 1) cook 2)kj/ hh/ms 3)root 4)ali 5)stokes 6)bairstow7)overton/ plunkett 8)rashid 9)broad 10)wood 11)ball

  • jjamez on June 14, 2017, 10:17 GMT

    Woakes and anderson will probably miss out through injury, so replacements will be needed there. before they look at the openers they need to identify a pace bowling allrounder of sorts and an out and out seamer, plus the batters to replace the third spinner and buttler, although buttler could keep his place, but the lack of county cricket he's played would be an issue for me. In regards to the seam bowling allrounder it will be interesting to see where they go, will they go for plunkett who is bowling well in the odis or will they go for a craig overton or tom curran, whilst also bringing mark wood into the bowling attack. jennings and hammeed are the two that are to be expected to fight it out, but both are struggling for form, so that leaves the door ajar for stoneman. I cant see england having cook, jennings and hameed as the top three, bayliss is a firm believer of having the best batter at three. A recall for ballance is an option due to form, but he seems to get found out. 1/2

  • sevillano on June 13, 2017, 23:43 GMT

    I am interested to note that Mr. Hopps refers to Hameed's loss of form coinciding with his inclusion in his County's 50 over team. I am of the opinion that it is best for certain Test batters, particularly those whose technique is rooted in a solid defence with soft hands, to abstain from participating in limited over cricket and to specialise in the red-ball game. In this way they might avoid defects creeping into their technique. I seem to remember the distinguished commentator Mr, Selvey remarking some years ago that, in his opinion, Alastair Cook would have been well advised to avoid participating in the white-ball formats.

  • J.Felix-Languar on June 13, 2017, 20:08 GMT

    Tom Westley. A man who has Test cricket written all over his game. A curious omission.

  • MrCompletely on June 13, 2017, 18:32 GMT

    If Rashid is left out of the test, he should cash in in the IPL next year. Loyalty needs to run both ways, and he hasn't enjoyed the sort of support Finn and Roy have...

  • ScottMcNair on June 13, 2017, 17:23 GMT

    Im a big fan of Ben Foakes so I think this is another big opportunity for him. He had a succesful winter I would say and against what I assume will be a strong SA attack is a good chance to put his name ahead of Jos Buttlers for a place in the Ashes squad! Expect Jamie Overton to be watched very closely too, pace in Oz will be craved by the selectors

  • brahms on June 13, 2017, 16:09 GMT

    PALINANO asks "Why not a first class wicket keeper too ?" Hasn't he notcied that England already has a first class keeper ! Perhaps he ought to peruse the stats of present and recently past keepers - then he would see that Bairstow's figures are up among the best. As for openers, there's no one other than Cook who cries out to be selected. Ideally you want a right hander which narrows the choice a bit. I think Root ought to return to 4, but then you have a vacancy at 3. Ballance prospered there and has had a good season so far. Stokes, Bairstow and Ali (in that order) for 5,6 and 7. the loss of Woakes leaves a big hole - Willey is the nearest to him but is not in the same class either as batsman or bowler. It would be nice to see Rashid in there, but I suspect our selectors will ignore him in favour of a slow left armer. Finally there's Wood and Broad.

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