England set to pick two spinners at Lord's

England will go into a Lord's Test with two spinners for the first time in almost a quarter of a century on Thursday.

Ahead of his first Test as captain, Joe Root confirmed that Liam Dawson will form a two-pronged spin attack with Moeen Ali in the first Test of the series against South Africa. It will be the first time England have fielded two specialist spinners in a Lord's Test since 1993. On that occasion, they conceded 632 for 4 in the first innings on their way to an innings defeat.

Some might dispute that neither Dawson nor Moeen is a specialist spinner. Neither has a first-class bowling average under 36 (Moeen's is 41.89 and Dawson's 36.86) and it is true that neither would have enjoyed the careers they have without the batting ability that renders them more valuable to each team they represent. They are allrounders by most reasonable definitions.

It is Dawson's inclusion that is most intriguing. Or, as he termed it, "a bit unexpected". Halfway through the India tour, Adil Rashid looked as if he had gone a long way to establishing himself as England's first-choice spinner. He claimed 23 wickets in the series.

But his star faded as the series progressed. And Dawson, making his debut in Chennai, not only offered England some control with the ball (he conceded three an over in that Test while Rashid went at 5.15) but struck an unbeaten 66 in England's first innings. Rashid, to be fair, also scored 60 but Dawson emerged as a man the England management felt they could rely upon in all situations. He's not necessarily a match-winner, but he can keep an end tight and provide late-order acceleration or rebuilding as required with the bat.

While that might not, at first glance, appear to fit with the bold talk of positivity that surrounded Root's elevation to the captaincy, it's worth remembering that England lost eight Tests in 2016. A team containing the likes of Root and Ben Stokes and Moeen doesn't necessarily require more flair but more solidity. Dawson looked calm amid the storm in Chennai and while it is hard to see him pulling off spectacular individual performance, it is a team game and he can contribute a supporting role in all departments.

It means that Toby Roland-Jones again has to wait for his chance. Even with all the other seamers coming into this Test with something to prove as regards their fitness and even on a surface that just might prove uncharacteristically green, five frontline seamers could have been excessive. Not since 2003 have England fielded five seamers in a Test.

When all options are fit, Roland-Jones remains behind Chris Woakes and Jake Ball in the hierarchy, too. With the likes of Jamie Overton, the Curran brothers and Tom Helm also developing, time is probably running out for the 29-year-old Roland-Jones.

There have been a couple of other notable faces at Lord's over the last couple of days. Gary Palmer, the freelance batting coach, had a long session with Alastair Cook that started at 7am on Monday morning (Palmer has been working with Cook regularly over recent months with some success but has found his requests to work with other Test candidates falling on deaf ears), while Chris Taylor, the fielding coach, was also involved in training on Tuesday. Taylor has, on the whole, been used in white-ball sessions, so it is fair to interpret his presence as an attempt to increase the emphasis on fielding. Saqlain Mushtaq, the spin-bowling consultant, and Andy Hurry, head of the ECB's cricket development programme, were also among the coaching team.

Root also confirmed that Gary Ballance would return to the side at No. 3 with the captain dropping to No. 4. Both would, you sense, prefer No. 4 to No. 3, but Root - having fought for the selection of his old friend, flatmate and colleague - is the boss and may well require Ballance to take responsibility for the higher position.

Might it have made more sense to pick a specialist for such a position? Mark Stoneman, in particular, can probably count himself unfortunate. Even for England Lions at the weekend, Ballance batted at No. 4.

Either way, a recall to No. 3 is a huge ask for a man enjoying his third - and potentially final - incarnation as an England player. But a few months ago it seemed Ballance had almost no way back as a Test player. This is a great opportunity for him.