Haseeb Hameed named as England Lions red-ball captain

Graeme Swann returns in mentor role, as Tom Abell takes charge of white-ball team

Haseeb Hameed raises his bat on reaching a hundred, Nottinghamshire vs Durham, County Championship, Division Two, Trent Bridge, September 26, 2022

Haseeb Hameed was in fine form in 2022 after a tough Ashes tour  •  Getty Images

Haseeb Hameed will captain England Lions for their red-ball tour of Sri Lanka next month.
The Nottinghamshire opening batter will take the reins for a three-day warm-up match in Colombo on January 25, before leading the Lions in two four-day "Tests" against Sri Lanka A in Galle. Somerset captain Tom Abell will then skipper the white ball team for three unofficial ODIs against Sri Lanka A in Colombo.
Hameed earned the most recent of his 10 Test caps at the start of 2022 in Sydney before being dropped for the fifth and final match of a disastrous Ashes campaign. He looked revitalised for Nottinghamshire in the summer, however, playing a key role in their promotion from Division Two of the County Championship with 1,235 runs at an average of 58.80, with four centuries and a top score of 196. Not only was it his most productive summer in terms of tally and average across a domestic campaign, but a strike-rate of 62.40 suggested a change of tack from the 25-year-old, to become more of a run-getter than an accumulator.
That was particularly evident on the Lions training camp in the UAE last November when Hameed scored 145 from 172 deliveries against the full England team ahead of their tour of Pakistan. Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum, who have led the revolution that has resulted in the Test side playing in a more authoritative manner, were suitably impressed by the manner in which Hameed had showcased his higher gears.
Hameed has previously captained England at Under-19 level, and captained Nottinghamshire in last season's Royal London One-Day Cup having been appointed vice-captain of the club. Speaking about the decision to hand him more responsibility, men's performance director Mo Bobat praised his qualities as a leader.
"We thought long and hard about the options and there were lots of good options, people I'd regard as senior players," Bobat said on Friday, having also overseen the UAE training camp, which began with three intensive weeks in Dubai in October. "You've got Alex Lees, who's done a little bit of Lions captaincy before, he could no doubt do this pretty well. Tom Abell himself has captained Somerset, he could easily have captained the Test stuff. You've got other experienced players, Sam Cook, Matt Fisher who I regard as pretty senior players, Tom Haines who has captained at Sussex. Loads of good options but we felt Haseeb would be a good shout.
"When he did bits of leadership on the training camp we found he was very astute tactically and very creative with how we might take wickets in those conditions, which is going to be important in Sri Lanka. He's done bits of captaincy and been vice-captain at Notts and captain in Royal London. He's done some age-group captaincy with England so it's great to give him that opportunity."
Neil Killeen will operate as head coach of the Lions across both formats, having joined the ECB this week as men's elite bowling coach. He will be assisted by Ian Bell and Min Patel, who reprise their winter roles as batting and spin bowling coach respectively. Somerset's Paul Tweddle will oversee fielding and wicketkeeping duties, though mainly for the limited-overs part of the tour once he has fulfilled off-season duties at Taunton.
There will also be a return to the Lions set-up for Graeme Swann. Regarded as one of England's greatest spinners, with 255 dismissals across 60 Tests, Swann will act as a mentor for the first half of the trip, a role not just restricted to working with the spinners.
It is a job he fulfilled in the UAE before taking on commentary duties for the T10 and something he has long craved. Players and staff were impressed by Swann's knowledge and energy among the group.
That was his first formal involvement with an England team since his retirement at the end of 2013. His move into coaching is a recent development, though he has spoken often about his willingness to help the next generation of English spinners. He was part of the backroom staff for Trent Rockets in 2022 during their successful men's Hundred campaign.
That he is back hints at a greater involvement in the national set-up as a whole going forward. Indeed, Bobat believes the manner in which Swann approached his game is aligned with what Stokes, McCullum and director of men's cricket Rob Key are trying to instil throughout the English system.
"It will be great to have him supporting the spin bowlers in particular," Bobat said. "But not just them. He added so much value in the UAE, with all players around tactical understanding and insight.
"The type of cricket the Test team is trying to play, Swanny's a great example of that with his positivity and energy and even just tactically, working with the captains.
"When Keysy first started, he and I spoke about trying to get the right personalities and characters around our players, people who really embody the type of cricket we're trying to play. He [Swann] was someone who certainly came to mind.
"We all saw the way he approached his bowling. He used to take a lot of wickets in his first over, freakishly so. It was often because he literally tried to take a wicket. It sounds so basic but often a spinner will start thinking 'I'll ease into my spell' or 'I'll start with sweepers out and build to attack'.
"But Swanny just thought from ball one: I'm here to attack. That fantastic mindset we want our players to embody. The way he embodied his spin bowling, yes, but also the way he batted. He was always aggressive, had an impact with the way he batted and approached things in the field. It's infectious.
"He brings great energy as well and you want to have that in the environment. He's had great success in the sub-continent and will know how to win Test matches in that part of the world. More importantly, getting him to work with the spinners, to think about attacking lines, attacking lengths, attacking fields. Thinking non-conventionally, like Stokesy has done as captain, is something Swanny has done really well."

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo