Mike Vince looks at six players not in England’s squad for the first two India Tests who could help reverse a 1-0 deficit.
Whenever England suffer one of their habitual collapses, the traditional response is to demand changes. The current lot aren’t good enough, so the argument goes. Get them out and get someone else in.
But who exactly is ‘someone else’? Here are six players who could perhaps make some sort of difference against England.
With an impressive record Down Under and a proven record on fast, bouncy tracks, England might have already been viewing Malan as an option for this winter’s Ashes tour. With their top order in disarray, the English management may want a familiar and experienced hand to steady the ship before then, and he has shown in T20I cricket that he can handle the pressure of the top level. In Malan’s one innings this season in the County Championship, he made 199 for Yorkshire against Sussex, and he also made a double century in the Bob Willis trophy in 2020, so there is a recent red-ball record in his favour. However, he has played only six first-class innings since the end of 2019, and his Test average of 27.84 is below those of the under-fire Dom Sibley or the dropped Zak Crawley. James Vince, having made his maiden international hundred this year, is another with a similar case.
Unfortunately unavailable at Lords, where his stats are incredible, averaging 61 with the bat and 11 with the ball, Woakes might come back into contention for the third Test, though head coach Chris Silverwood has not confirmed his availability. A brilliant player at home, this would not be a moment too soon. With England in all kinds of batting strife, Woakes can come in at No.8, ousting Sam Curran who claimed a king-pair and a singular wicket at the Home of Cricket.
Bracey has had an odd summer. He came into it as a perceived next cab off the rank, having hovered around squads last summer and this winter, and made runs for Gloucestershire at the beginning of the 2021 season. This was enough to earn him a call-up into the England squad to face New Zealand, where he was both a top-order option and a back-up keeper, ending up playing at No.7 in the latter role after a freak injury to Ben Foakes. He looked all at sea against the world’s number one side, but his struggles should arguably be mitigated by his unfamiliar position, and his stretch only lasted three innings. In terms of weight of runs at No.3 in the County Championship, there are few others with Bracey’s credentials. If England rated him before, perhaps they should now.
Rewind to 2016. Middlesex had just won the County Championship in stunning fashion, and Nick Gubbins was one of the most talked about top-order bats in the country. A few years later and several bumps in the road have taken Gubbins to Hampshire on loan from Middlesex to rediscover some form. To his credit, he has done so.
Gubbins recorded a century on Hampshire debut, undefeated in both innings at Cheltenham, to see Hampshire home. Another century followed in the One-Day Cup against Sussex, an unbeaten 131 from 119 deliveries, with 4-38 with the ball thrown in for good measure. These innings together with two further half-centuries signal a welcome return to form for one of the county scene’s most attractive stroke makers. In a way, it’s a Hameed-esque story. Could a Hameed-esque call-up be a possibility? Other county openers – Jake Libby, Alex Davies and Alex Lees, say – are available.
One of the most talked-about performers in English cricket at the moment, Parkinson is busy spinning a web for opposing batters in The Hundred, as he has done in white-ball cricket for a few years now. But the leggie also has an excellent red-ball record behind him. Like incumbent leg-spinner, Adil Rashid, Parkinson can turn any game on its head and get the best batsmen out when set. England might want to look at him before the Ashes too, where wrist-spin might prove more effective than finger-spin. However, England’s bowling has not exactly been the issue and with Moeen Ali offering an all-round option which Parkinson does not, he is likely only to play as a second spinner.
Pope has had a tough time of things recently, with form escaping him and injuries holding him back, but there is little doubt he remains one of England’s brightest batting talents. However, while some have touted him as a top-three option, it’s not where he bats usually, and he has limited game time under his belt, with just 16 runs in three innings for Surrey in the One-Day Cup.
The county fan’s favourite, Tom Abell has displayed his calm head for Somerset as captain, and averages 51.05 in the last two county seasons. This year that rises to 63.50, bettered only by two other players among those with 600 runs, and he has long been rated as one of the most exciting uncapped players in the country. However, his game for Birmingham Phoenix in The Hundred today is his first since June following an injury lay-off, and his overall red-ball record is uninspiring.
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