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Saqib Mahmood set for competitive return on England Lions tour of Sri Lanka

Fast bowler named in 16-man white-ball leg of tour after suffering stress fracture in summer

Matt Fisher and Saqib Mahmood made their England Test debuts, West Indies vs England, 2nd Test, Kensington Oval, Barbados, 1st day, March 16, 2022

Matt Fisher and Saqib Mahmood made their England Test debuts, and both feature in this winter's Lions squads  •  Getty Images

Saqib Mahmood will make his return to competitive action on the white-ball leg of England Lions' tour of Sri Lanka in February, following the stress fracture in his back that ruled him out of the 2022 home international season.
Mahmood, 25, impressed on England's tour of the Caribbean in early 2022, where he made his Test debut and claimed six wickets at 22.83 in his two appearances. However, he has not played since his solitary County Championship fixture for Lancashire against Gloucestershire in May.
He was, however, part of the pace bowler rehab programme in the UAE in October, as was his fellow quick, Brydon Carse, who is also included in the white-ball squad after sustaining a toe injury during last summer's ODI series against South Africa.
Yorkshire's fast bowler Matt Fisher, who made his Test debut alongside Mahmood in Barbados in March, is one of four players named for both the red- and white-ball legs. Somerset's captain Tom Abell, Lancashire's left-arm spinner Tom Hartley, and the prolific Essex seamer, Sam Cook, are also included in both 16-man squads.
The Test squad includes two other capped players in Alex Lees, who opened alongside Zak Crawley throughout the 2022 home summer but was dropped for the recent tour of Pakistan in favour of Ben Duckett, and Haseeb Hameed, who made a century for the Lions against the senior squad in the UAE in October, having been dropped after the last Ashes tour in 2021-22.
With several contenders for England's squads set to be in action at the SA20 and ILT20 tournaments in the coming months, the 28 players in the Lions party include three members of the Under-19 squad that reached the World Cup final in Antigua last year. Jacob Bethell, Tom Prest and James Rew were all key figures in the team that helped propel Rehan Ahmed towards his memorable Test debut in Karachi last month. Ahmed is not included in the Lions set-up, but two other legspinners feature, in Hampshire's Mason Crane and the Essex allrounder Matt Critchley.
Bethell and Rew are both currently playing grade cricket in Australia, and will rejoin the Under-19s squad for this month's two Youth Tests in Australia before joining the Lions ODI squad.
ECB Performance Director, Mo Bobat, said: "This is a really exciting opportunity to expose players to the challenges of playing A-team cricket in the sub-continent, which will be fantastic for their development.
"The series also provides us with the chance to observe the players ahead of this year's World Cup as well as next winter's Test series in India.
"The squads have been selected with careful consideration of each player's individual programme. We've worked closely with the counties to understand the players' best interests as we map their development opportunities. In some cases that includes enabling players to play in domestic franchise cricket.
"The ODI squad takes into account the strength in depth that we have across a number of key roles in our England Men's white-ball teams and many of the players will join us directly from cricket they've been playing elsewhere, in Australia, South Africa or the UAE.
"After a hugely exciting and successful first half of the winter for our Test and Twenty20 teams, I am sure the Lions players will be suitably motivated to make the most of this opportunity."
The red-ball tour will begin with a three-day warm-up match in Colombo on January 25 before two four-day Tests against Sri Lanka A in Galle. The white-ball squad will then play three ODIs against Sri Lanka A in Colombo, with the opening match scheduled for 15 February.
The ECB is set to confirm the Head Coach and the captains for each squad before the series, while selection is subject to attainment of England Lions' minimum fitness standards.
Lions Test squad Tom Abell, Josh Bohannon, Jack Carson, Sam Cook, Matt Fisher, Nathan Gilchrist, Tom Haines, Haseeb Hameed, Tom Hartley, Jack Haynes, Lyndon James, Alex Lees, Liam Patterson-White, Ollie Robinson, Jamie Smith, Josh Tongue
Lions ODI squad Tom Abell, Tom Banton, Jacob Bethell, Brydon Carse, Sam Cook, Jordan Cox, Mason Crane, Matt Critchley, Matt Fisher, Sam Hain, Tom Hartley, Tom Lammonby, Saqib Mahmood, Tom Prest, James Rew, Luke Wood.