Well, it’s happened before.
England’s white-ball squad for the Pakistan one-day series had to be completely replaced following a spate of positive Covid-19 tests in the camp. And with ECB chief executive Tom Harrison saying that there are no plans to return to the biosecure bubbles we saw last year, it’s not out of the realms of possibility that we could see a brand new squad called up for the India series. Best to be prepared case.
So, who’s in, if the unthinkable, but not all that improbable, happens?
Alastair Cook. No? Just me? Two years ago he emphasised that any return was extremely unlikely but that you can, “never never never say never because you don’t know what the situation is.” And, well Alastair, the situation is a global pandemic. Don’t worry about match fees, we’ll cover for you.
If Cook is in for former achievements, Jake Libby is in for his current form. The second highest run-scorer in the County Championship backing up an average north of 50 in the Bob Willis Trophy last year. One summer does not an England opener make, but two and a series of pings does. News of an entirely new squad would likely prick the ears of Ben Slater as another opener in form, whilst Adam Lyth, a Test centurion, is another man who could consider himself in contention. Chris Dent and Hasan Azad will be rueing their form deserting them just as this hypothetical squad was announced.
Despite England’s seemingly never ending batting woes, the middle order options available provide evidence that there is still remarkable depth within the domestic game. James Bracey comes back in to bat in his most comfortable position of first-drop, whilst Dawid Malan and James Vince come in at four and five to give a bit of Ashes 2017/18 je ne sais quoi.
Honourable mentions go to Josh Bohannon who is one of the most underrated batters in the country at the moment as well as Joe Clarke and Tom Abell as the next potential cabs off the rank. County cause celebre Sam Northeast does not make the cut having averaged 26 over the last two years.
Sam Billings is taking the gloves to allow James Bracey to fully focus on his batting. We could also pick John Simpson in order to have a back-up which would be sensible. But we’re picking an England squad in the style of the England selectors, so we won’t do that.
Moeen Ali is in and will captain with little need for explanation. Other potential candidates to provide some balance to the side include Ryan Higgins, having posted exceptional numbers for several years and Liam Dawson as England’s perennial go-to bench warmer. Also Darren Stevens seems a player of promise, but concerns over his lack of experience remain. Maybe next time.
Saqib Mahmood is an automatic pick. It would be wrong to say he’s come from nowhere, but the rise in his stock over the past month has still been remarkable. He had Babar Azam as his bunny during the recent ODI series and looked every part the international bowler. Craig Overton will also return to the side as he looks to turn his dominant domestic form into a prolonged international career. Sam Cook also makes the cut as someone who has had an exceptional record over the last few years and is perhaps a bit quicker than your average county stalwart. Brydon Carse, Tom Bailey and Jamie Porter stay warm. You’re up next.
Arise Sir Matthew Parkinson. It’s time. Part-time leg-spinner, when teams aren’t not picking him for no reason, and full time ball-of-the-century deliverer, a total wipeout of the England squad would see Parkinson finally don the whites for England. Despite a general hesitancy to play a leggie due to a potential lack of control, Parkinson’s first-class economy rate of 2.87 suggests he may be able to perform a holding role as well as an attacking role for the side.
Amar Virdi will run the drinks for now. We could potentially leave him out of the squad as it’s unlikely we’ll need three spinners, but he has great wicket celebrations and for that reason he’s in.
Starting XI: Alastair Cook, Jake Libby, James Bracey, Dawid Malan, James Vince, Moeen Ali (c), Sam Billings (wk), Craig Overton, Sam Cook, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson.
Rest of squad: Chris Dent, Josh Bohannon, Ryan Higgins, Brydon Carse, Amar Virdi.
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