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England selection conundrum amid pink ball uncertainty

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'Grit your teeth and crack on' - England prepare for the pink ball (1:40)

England players reveal their thoughts on the pink ball as they prepare to try it out for the first time against the West Indies. (1:40)

An undercooked England side will go into their first day-night Test almost as pink as the ball in these conditions.

While West Indies have already played a day-night Test - and had a warm-up match under lights on this tour - several of this England squad will be learning on their feet when this match starts. And with three day-night Tests in England's schedule over the next few months (subject to confirmation from Auckland), they will need to learn fast.

None of that is to suggest the initiative is a mistake. It has, in some ways, already proved itself a success with around 70,000 tickets sold over the first three days of the match. Had the novelty factor not been there, this match, against a side shorn of many of its best-known names, could have proved a desperately tough sell. In attracting a new audience to Test cricket - Warwickshire reckon more than a third of these ticket sales are to those who have not bought Test tickets previously - and allowing more people to watch the TV coverage after work, the authorities are to be congratulated on their attempt to keep the game relevant.

But there are doubts. There are doubts over how comfortable it will be for people to sit outside in England in the final session, there are doubts over the durability of the pink ball and there are doubts over England's readiness to use it.

In a perfect world, England would have had more time to prepare for their first pink ball Test. While all players were made available for the round of County Championship lights played under these conditions at the end of June, many of those games were ruined by rain. So Jonny Bairstow, Tom Westley, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and Mason Crane either didn't bat or didn't play at all, while Joe Root (who faced 13 balls) and Ben Stokes (who was dismissed for a duck) had limited opportunity to benefit from the experience.

James Anderson, meanwhile, delivered 32 overs in Lancashire's first innings against Warwickshire at Edgbaston. But even the man who might be England's greatest swing bowler couldn't persuade the old pink ball to move once it was 20 overs old. Perhaps, when twilight fell, there was a hint more assistance for the bowlers - or more trouble for the batsmen, anyway - but the evidence so far suggests the pink ball goes softer quicker than a red ball, is hard to buff and shine and, after those first few overs, won't swing, conventionally, at least.

The result? Fairly attritional cricket where neither batsmen nor bowler gain full value for their work. At Edgbaston, Andrew Umeed compiled the second slowest century (in terms of minutes) in the history of the County Championship. If those new to Test cricket are treated to any innings like that this week, they may be put off for life.

It is not all bad, though. The black seam helps with the ball's visibility, while the way in which that seam remains hard will encourage the bowlers even after the shine has gone. In trails towards the end of the 2016 season, the Dukes ball out-performed the Kookaburra comprehensively. The Kookaburra looked as if it had been a dog's toy by the time is was 40 overs old.

The Edgbaston groundsman, Gary Barwell, is reckoning upon a good, Test wicket offering true bounce and decent pace and carry. While it is not the same surface used for the Ashes Test of 2015 when Australia were bowled out for 136 on the opening day (that one was used for the ICC Champions Trophy semi-final here) it is only one pitch away on the square and he expects it to behave similarly.

Chris Woakes, back with the England squad but far from sure to play, admitted the preparation - both in team and personal terms - had not been ideal. Ideally, Woakes would have liked at least one more Championship match before returning to Test cricket but the schedule - weighted, as it is, to T20 cricket at this time of year - does not allow and he has instead had to make-do with one Championship match and a few overs for the Warwickshire second team.

"Monday night was the first time I've actually bowled with the pink ball," Woakes said. "I suppose the more that we play with it the more we'll learn about it but at the minute it's a little bit of an unknown.

"It would be nice to have a few more games under our belts. But I guess the nature of the beast is that we haven't and we have to go out there and try to perform and react quickly to what the ball's doing whether with ball in hand or bat."

While Woakes has not yet been informed whether he will play at his home ground, it seems probable he will have to wait a little longer for a return. He might add some pace to the attack, though, and his batting - he has made nine first-class centuries and made his Test debut as a No. 6 - might be considered good enough to allow him to play ahead of Dawid Malan and shuffle the middle-order up a space. England's embarrassment of allrounders - suggestions as to what a collective of all-rounders should be is very welcome; a Sobers, maybe, or even a circumference? - gives them many options.

The England coaching staff was, as usual, augmented by the presence of some familiar faces form the county game at training. Pierre de Bruyn, the Leicestershire coach, Tony Frost, the Warwickshire batting coach, and James Foster, the veteran Essex wicketkeeper, were among those involved in the fielding drills, while Somerset spinners, Jack Leach and Dominic Bess took a full part in training, though they did face the indignity of being picked last for the football match (teams were picked in a manner that would be familiar in school yards across the land) that precedes nets. Bess, an offspinner of rich potential, later spent some time working with Saqlain Mushtaq.