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Feature

Alex Lees, Matthew Fisher, Saqib Mahmood: Who are the new faces for England's West Indies tour?

ESPNcricinfo's player-by-player guide to the less familiar names in England's Test squad

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
08-Feb-2022
Alex Lees captained England Lions in Australia  •  MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Alex Lees captained England Lions in Australia  •  MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

England's interim selectors decided to drop eight of the squad that lost 4-0 in Australia over the winter ahead of March's tour to the Caribbean, with James Anderson and Stuart Broad the headline omissions. But who are the five new faces in the squad, four of whom are uncapped at Test level?
County: Durham
Age: 28
Role: Left-handed opening batter
First-class career: 127 matches, 7078 runs at 34.86, 17x100
County Championship 2021: 11 matches, 625 runs at 39.06, 1x100
Lees made his first-class debut at 17 and set Yorkshire tongues wagging when he hit a Championship double-hundred aged 20. He was part of their title-winning sides in 2014 and 2015 and went on Lions tours to Sri Lanka and South Africa, as well as gaining the limited-overs captaincy.
The runs dried up as he reached his mid-20s, and he moved to Durham midway through the 2018 season, initially on loan ahead of a permanent transfer. He has scored five first-class hundreds since joining them and despite the Riverside's bowler-friendly reputation, his Durham average is significantly higher at home (46.33) than away (27.41).
He captained England Lions in Australia this winter, but made only 2 and 1 in the unofficial Test, becoming the first of many England batters to struggle against Scott Boland. With few top-order options in the squad, he is likely to open alongside Zak Crawley in the Caribbean.
What they said: "Alex has the ability and mindset to play Test cricket. He is a very strong character. He is a much-improved player over the past couple of years. He is a mature batsman, knows his game and wouldn't let anybody down."
Scott Borthwick, Durham captain
County: Yorkshire
Age: 24
Role: Tall right-arm seamer
First-class career: 21 matches, 63 wickets at 27.52, 2x5wi
County Championship 2021: 5 matches, 20 wickets at 19.65, 1x5wi
Long earmarked as a future England player, Fisher made his first-class debut as a 17-year-old - like Lees, who was part of that Yorkshire team - but has played only 21 times since due to a series of injuries which have stalled his development as a fast bowler. He had made a List A debut two years previously, skipping a French oral GCSE exam to play against Leicestershire at Scarborough.
Whenever Fisher has been fit enough to string a number of games together, he has looked the part: since the start of the shortened 2020 season, he has taken 32 first-class wickets at 20.53. He took the new ball for England Lions against Australia A alongside Saqib Mahmood in December, taking 2 for 84. Unusually, he is largely deaf in his left ear.
What they said: "I definitely think that if Fish has a good, consistent couple of years that we will lose him [to England]. He's that good that he will end up going up a level."
Richard Pyrah, ex-Yorkshire bowling coach
County: Lancashire
Age: 24
Role: Right-arm fast bowler
First-class career: 25 matches, 70 wickets at 27.92, 1x5wi
County Championship 2021: 8 matches, 28 wickets at 23.89, 1x5wi
Mahmood has already played 19 limited-overs internationals and been named in countless squads but remains uncapped at Test level, narrowly missing out on a debut against India at Headingley last summer when England opted for Craig Overton instead.
He has limited red-ball experience and has leaked runs on occasion but ]can be devastating when things click, as he showed when he took 5 for 47 - his only first-class five-for - during the Roses match at Old Trafford last summer, finding prodigious reverse-swing on the final day.
Mahmood can touch speeds of 90mph/145kph but it is his low-arm, slingshot action and skiddy trajectory which marks him out as different to the rest of England's fast-medium attack. He played an unofficial Test against West Indies on the Lions tour there in 2018, taking 3 for 67, but struggled during the recent T20I series in Barbados.
What they said: "I think he would have offered something different [in the Ashes]. He bowls a fuller length, has a go-to yorker and can bowl a good bouncer and you only have to look at my record in Australia to see how that can work."
Darren Gough
County: Lancashire
Age: 25
Role: Old-fashioned legspinner
First-class career: 32 matches, 102 wickets at 23.35, 4x5wi
County Championship 2021: 11 matches, 36 wickets at 20.55, 1x5wi
Parkinson has played five ODIs and four T20Is in his nascent England career but, like his Lancashire team-mate Mahmood, is yet to make a Test debut. An old-school legspinner who often finds sharp turn and plenty of drift, Parkinson had his best first-class season in 2021 but was overlooked for the Ashes, with Dom Bess preferred as England's back-up spinner.
As he did in 2020-21, Parkinson has spent much of this winter in bubbles, either for the Lions or at the PSL, but has not played a competitive game since the end of the English summer. Spinners have been relatively ineffective in recent Tests in the Caribbean and it would be a surprise for England to pick two after a similar move backfired on the 2019 tour.
What they said: "If you are doing well, no one will question anything about your pace. If it starts to go wrong, that's when people start to question it, but he has stayed true to himself and that is what I really like. I have been pretty impressed watching him and I'm looking forward to seeing his career develop."
Shane Warne
County: Surrey
Age: 28
Role: Wicketkeeper-batter
Test career: 8 matches, 410 runs at 31.53, 1x100
First-class career: 123 matches, 6214 runs at 38.35, 11x100
County Championship 2021: 8 matches, 350 runs at 43.75, 1x100
Foakes has played eight Tests in a stop-start career and is the only capped player recalled after missing out on Ashes selection. His glovework is superb - Alec Stewart famously labelled him the best wicketkeeper in the world five years ago - but his Test average has dipped since his debut hundred at Galle in 2018, with signs of vulnerability to the short ball emerging on England's last Caribbean tour.
Injury robbed him of a chance to pitch a case for Ashes selection last year - he suffered a freak hamstring tear after slipping in The Oval's dressing room, days after being named in the squad for the New Zealand series - but he did make a second-innings half-century for the Lions against Australia A. England's decision to drop Jos Buttler - and to leave Sam Billings out of the squad after a tidy performance on debut - should give him a clear run at the gloves for the foreseeable future.
What they said: "Standing up, the most naturally gifted wicketkeeper in the world… so natural that he doesn't have to over-complicate his game with technical issues, which allows him to be lightning quick up to the stumps."
Jack Russell

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98