Please excuse the title. It’s been a long week. But at least a bad pun is better than a misspelling. I just wanted to say a quick word about the England Lions’ winter squad… Of course, any mention of the Lions would provide ample opportunity for cheesy headlines. Thankfully, I didn’t roll out the age-old chestnut “Roaring Lions of Success.”
So what do we do with the squad? That’s about as expected in the title, with one or two notable exceptions. There’s a good mix of experience — or failed tryouts, if you want to get tough — and promising young players … some of them just out of kindergarten.
The options of Tom Westley, Keaton Jennings and Mark Wood may be the most important. In theory, if injured, or in Ben Stokes’ case, a disgraceful exile, they’d be promoted to the Ashes. I suspect too many of you are excited about the prospect of Westley and Jennings heading to Brisbane or Perth. I personally prefer Liam Livingstone as the first backup.
The most interesting names, however, are young players who have found considerable success in domestic cricket. These lads may not be ready for their national team debuts, but they are promising enough to have a long career in England. I’m talking Dan Lawrence, Joe Clark, and maybe even Alex Davis. It was refreshing to have Davies on the phone, rather than his Lancashire team-mate Jos Butler.
Speaking of Butler, after securing a lucrative Bangladesh Premier League contract, he will focus on improper cricket this winter. Ben Duckett, on the other hand, turned down T20’s chance to join the Lions tour. Good for you, Ben.
There is also a place for Jack Leach, who remains the leader in county cricket. I wonder if they’ll find anything wrong with Leach this time? We’ve already had questions about his bowling moves and maturity, so I’d bet on his teeth or haircut this time around.
Other notables from the trip include Somerset’s Dombeth, a young overspinner who catches the ball like a panther and knows where to stop, and Sussex’s George Gardon , who could very well be the new Taymar Mills…but without debilitating injuries. Rumor has it that Garton could make up the entire Ashes roster as a tempo wildcard, but I’m guessing James Whitaker played his usual once-a-decade, let’s pick a random teen card last winter.
Speaking of random teenagers, it was quite surprising to see Sarri’s Amar Virdi in the squad. He only played 3 top-flight games and took just 6 wickets. Clearly he’s a bit of a disciple of Saqlain Mushtaq, but is that enough to justify his selection of a more deserving candidate?
So did 20-year-old Saqib Mahmood, who took 13 first-class wickets. He’s clearly a good Ocean bowling prospect, but why he was picked over Worcestershire’s Josh Tongue is unclear. The tongues took 47 wickets that year alone. His exclusion needs an explanation.
The absence of Rory Burns, who some Sarri fans rate more than Mark Stoneman, and Nick Brown is a bit of a headache. Sam Northeast’s absence, on the other hand, is easily explained: he is Sam Northeast. This is the James Hildreth rule again.
The only boy lucky enough to take part in this trip was Nick Gubbins – or as his friends called him Nick Random Utensils. He barely scored that summer but had impressed Graham Thorpe in previous training camps. My response to this approach is “fair enough,” though it probably says more about the lack of potential for an alternate opening than Gubbins. Notably, Haseeb Hameed is injured.
The final two players in the squad are Jamie Porter, who has enjoyed wickets this summer, and Durham’s Paul Coughlin. Although it might be a bit of a misnomer to call him Durham’s Paul Coughlin when he went to Nottinghamshire.
Let’s just say Durham chairman Sir Ian Botham wasn’t overly impressed. Well done Beefy for mentioning the words “selector” and “conflict of interest” in the same sentence. I find it inconceivable that Mick Newell (and Angus Fraser) were still allowed to act as selectors when Notts and Middlesex were directors of cricket respectively. But when does something about British cricket matter?