England have a plethora of seamers. The pecking order of which no one truly knows. Cameron Ponsonby takes his best educated guess at how England’s seamers are stacking up ahead of the World Cup.
Right, let’s just get this one out the way. I have no idea. Predicting which England seamers are going to be fit, in form, available, back-broken or heartbroken in two months time is a job for the likes of Hogwarts Professor Sybill Trelawney, not, as it happens, freelance journalist Cameron Ponsonby (that’s me). But here I am, giving it my very best go through a combination of brain, brawns, guesswork, science and magic.
Let’s also get this other one out the way. Never will all of these bowlers be fit at the same time. But it’s fun to imagine all the same.
In order to make some sense of the task, I’ve divvied up the bowlers into distinct categories. Admittedly mainly in the hope that even if I get all of the answers wrong, I can still get some marks for showing my workings.
Ready? Fantastic. Let’s cook.
The only player who is an auto pick amongst England’s battery of right-arm seamers is also the player who is the most mythical. Archer has played just 12 T20Is in his career, the last of which was in March 2021, but his stock remains high. Capable of bowling at any stage of the innings and also able to clear the ropes, he’s a T20 (and all-format) superstar.
Mark Wood, Chris Jordan
In an absolutely perfect world, England will play three specialist seamers with a fourth option in the likes of Ben Stokes or Sam Curran playing as an all-rounder. So, if England could pick any two specialist seamers to play alongside Archer, Wood and Jordan would top the list.
Mark Wood is rapid and his high pace is valuable in any format and in any part of the world. If he manages to recover from his elbow injury England will be desperate to pick him.
On the flipside Jordan had seemed to be on the way out. His international record had been on the decline for a number of years, but he has had somewhat of a renaissance this summer, having a fantastic series against India before a more underwhelming showing against South Africa. Nevertheless, the stock of Jordan is high once more, and while he has had his detractors off the pitch, England have never wavered from backing the right-arm quick. Particularly with the retirement of Eoin Morgan, Jordan’s position as a senior player in the squad is all the more increased.
Reece Topley, Chris Woakes, Tymal Mills
Topley has had a fantastic summer and shot up the rankings of England seamers. It currently feels hard to imagine a tournament where he doesn’t at least feature in part.
With Mills and Woakes however, it is less clear. Both have fitness issues. Mills’ are reoccurring, but long-standing. Woakes’ are recent, but also long-standing, having missed the entire domestic season. Mills was sorely missed in the semi-final last year as England struggled in the death over, whilst Woakes had a fantastic tournament having not featured in the format for England for six years previously. Whether the two will be named in the squad having hardly played this year remains to be seen. But in theory, they’re still the (almost) top dogs.
In the mixer
Richard Gleeson, Saqib Mahmood
Gleeson had one of the greatest starts to an international career in history, claiming the wickets of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant all in the space of seven balls. Making the World Cup squad would be a fairytale selection for Gleeson, who works as a teacher at a college in Preston, but a deserved one after impressing when called upon this summer. Mahmood will miss the tournament with a stress fracture, but in this blue sky scenario where everyone is fit, he is firmly placed in and around the mixer.
The ones who can bat
Ben Stokes, David Willey, Sam Curran
Head coach Matthew Mott said after the South Africa series that the availability of Stokes would make selection, “a hell of a lot easier”. That may well be the case for England, but less so for Willey and Curran whose position as a fourth seamer becomes near-redundant if England have the option to go with Stokes alongside specialist seamers Archer, Wood and Jordan. Nevertheless, both can give it a good old whack and are able to swing the new ball, so don’t be surprised if various team balances sees one or the other feature.
David Payne, Luke Wood, George Garton
The outsiders. The boys. The lads. Payne made a long awaited England debut against the Netherlands in their three-match series in Amsterdam but is yet to make his debut in the shortest format. Similarly Garton made his T20I debut in West Indies but has missed six months of this year with Long Covid. Wood was called up to the ODI squad for Netherlands for the first time and his progress is worth tracking. All three would need fantastic Hundred campaigns to leapfrog their way into the squad, but they are in the conversation.
Yes, contrary to false reports Tom Curran is – in fact – alive. And not only alive, but alive and bowling. Curran has had a wretched 2022 after suffering a stress fracture in January that has ruled him out of almost all cricket until now. He featured on two occasions as a specialist batter for Surrey in the Blast but finally made his return to bowling in Oval Invincibles’ opening match of The Hundred against London Spirit. A member of England’s World Cup squad last year, a late bolt for the 2022 squad is unlikely but possible, with his batting becoming an increasingly strong second string to his game.