@Ben_Wisden 4 minute read
England have named a 16-strong squad to take on Sri Lanka in a three-match T20I series in late June.
While the headline announcement is that Chris Woakes has been recalled after an absence of more than five years, there is plenty of interest from the group selected. Here are five things to take note of from the announcement.
Liam Dawson the next spinner in line
It’s been a tough year for Liam Dawson, who sustained a horrific injury in his first competitive game after the Covid-19 pandemic, and has been slowly working his way back to fitness. Before that, he was an unused member of England’s ODI squad to take on Ireland. While leg-spinner Matt Parkinson has played and impressed for England since Dawson’s last international appearance, it appears that the Hampshire all-rounder’s experience and ability with the bat makes him Chris Silverwood’s preferred deputy. But it’s a blow to Parkinson, who has excelled for Lancashire in red- and white-ball cricket this season, and to the romantics who want to see a player who properly rips it given a chance.
Chance to give youth a go passed up
Parkinson’s exclusion is a trend throughout the selection, with few new faces on show. Lancashire’s Saqib Mahmood is another exciting prospect snubbed, while the likes of Phil Salt and Tom Banton are others some would like to see given a go. Sri Lanka are ranked eighth in the T20I team rankings, and with this tour sandwiched between two more high-profile Test encounters, there could have been a temptation to experiment. England have resisted it.
England’s Test sacrifice laid bare
While there are two notable absentees through injury – Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer – this is otherwise a full-strength squad. In the winter Eoin Morgan said he expected England to be without all of their multi-format stars for their home white-ball games, so the presence of Sam Curran, Woakes, Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow in this squad is something of a turn-up.
The IPL was the cited reason for those players missing England’s Tests against New Zealand, but Trent Boult managed to spend some time at home in the Land of the Long White Cloud and still make it over in time for the second Test, and those players have all featured in the opening rounds of the T20 Blast, which began a day before the Edgbaston game. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that England have prioritised a series against a side ranked seven places below them than one place above them, and with the Blackcaps taking a handy first-innings lead in Birmingham, it could mean England’s unbeaten streak in home Test series, which stretches back to 2014, could be about to come to an end.
Experienced all-rounders recalled
Woakes is joined in the squad by two other all-rounders in their thirties. Liam Dawson and David Willey are both 31, both bowl with their left arm, and both have arguably been harshly treated by England. The former has been a fixture in squads, but England’s rotation policy has rarely stretched to resting one of their two main spinners. The latter was the casualty of Archer’s emergence as an England cricketer, but even with Tom Curran struggling and Willey’s T20 record excellent, he has struggled for game time.
It’s Willey who stands the greatest chance to benefit. His great strength is bowling in the powerplay, where England have struggled for wickets, and he was unstoppable in three ODIs against Ireland last year.
And what of Woakes? He is hugely talented, a force in ODI and Test cricket, and in the IPL he showed glimpses of being an international-class T20 bowler. However, the shortest format is the one to which his skill-set is arguably least suited, and those three Delhi Capitals appearances are the only T20 games he has played since 2018. In a way, this is Silverwood’s boldest call as selector yet, and in trademark style it has come in picking a likeable cricketer in his prime for a lowkey encounter.
Chris Silverwood plays it safe
It’s not much of a surprise, but Chris Silverwood’s first T20 squad is a safe one, and with a couple of T20 World Cups in the not-too-distant future, it might well stay that way. This is a group of capped cricketers who Silverwood will be familiar with, rather than a squad of out-there picks based on deep data and impact ratings. The statement is made by not making a statement.
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