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England v Pakistan

‘Can somebody help me out?’ — Ben Stokes forgets names of England debutants at the toss

Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner
@Ben_Wisden 3 minute read

It’s been that sort of a week in English cricket.

As soon as the news broke that England’s entire original ODI squad picked to face Pakistan had been forced to self-isolate, the speculation began. Who would form an all-new, ragtag bunch of players to face a team expected to pose a much stronger challenge than Sri Lanka? We’ve heard England’s white-ball depth is impressive, but even the Mariana Trench has a bottom. How rogue are Chris Silverwood and Co. going to get?

The answer came in the form of a strong 18-man squad, nine of whom had never played an ODI before. Debuts were guaranteed; the question was how many and who? Ben Stokes, standing in for Eoin Morgan at the toss, knew the answer to the first but not quite for the second.

“We’ve got 11 changes from the last game,” he noted, drily and confidently, before stumbling. “We’ve got five debutants. John Simpson, Phil Salt, Brydon Carse and… I should know this, I’ve just done the cap presentation… can someone help me out?”

Soon enough, one of those two forgotten new faces, Lewis Gregory, was nicking off Mohammad Rizwan with a new-ball beauty, while the other, Zak Crawley, had already taken a catch in the slips. England’s team had changed, but their powerplay excellence stayed the same. They bowled first and wreaked havoc.

“Just because we’ve got a change of personnel doesn’t mean we’ll change our ways,” Stokes had said before play. “It’s an exciting time for everyone involved at the moment. It’s a strange situation to be involved in but we’ve got an amazing crop of talent and if something like this comes along and we can pick a team of this caliber then that shows we’re in a good place.”

The early signs are that even England’s C team is pretty formidable.

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