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Bob Willis Trophy

The ‘Don’t you forget about me’ XI

Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner
@Ben_Wisden 5 minute read

Ben Gardner picks out a ‘Don’t you forget about me’ XI of players who have fallen out of the England Test reckoning but could build comeback cases in the Bob Willis Trophy.

Haseeb Hameed (Nottinghamshire)

Test record: 3 Tests, 219 runs @ 43.80, HS: 82
2019 County Championship record: 10 games, 341 runs @ 28.41, 1 100, HS: 117

Haseeb Hameed had a 2016 to remember, but a 2017-2019 to forget. He racked up runs for Lancashire before wowing onlookers with his temperament and technique on Test debut as a teenager in India, but his fall was as dramatic as his rise, with the low point 2018, when he averaged 9.44 with a high score of 31 in 18 innings. There won’t be a cricket fan in England who won’t hope his move to Nottinghamshire and some time spent with Peter Moores, one of the best coaches in the country, helps restore him to his former glories.

Keaton Jennings (Lancashire)

Test record: 17 Tests, 781 runs @ 25.19, 2 100s, HS: 146*
2019 CC record: 14 games, 588 runs @ 30.94, HS: 97 

Keaton Jennings has become England’s ace in the hole in Asia, earning a recall for the postponed Test series in Sri Lanka earlier this year. But he’ll be desperate to show a Test average of 17.72 in England isn’t indicative of his utility in home conditions. In any case, in India, where England’s next marquee series will come, the ability to handle the quicks has become just as important as being able to sweep the spinners, so he’ll need some county form in the bank to earn a recall.

James Vince (Hampshire)

Test record: 13 Tests, 548 runs @ 24.90, HS: 83
2019 CC record: 6 games, 365 runs @ 40.55, 1 100, HS: 142

Few cricketers have ever elicited such a range of emotions from England fans as James Vince, and for all those who adore him for his god-given timing, there are many more who will chastise him for his propensity for a wafty drive and an edge to the cordon. His 2017/18 Ashes efforts were as close as he’s come to translating the talent to results. He was run out for 83 in the first innings of the series and bowled by ‘the ball of the 21st century’ when on 55 at Perth. Since that winter, he hasn’t played a Test. A summer of substance rather than starts would answer some of the swirling doubts.

Gary Ballance (c) (Yorkshire)

Test record: 1498 runs @ 37.45, 4 100s, HS: 156
2019 CC record: 14 games, 975 runs @ 46.42, 5 100s, HS: 159

It’s hard to know what more Gary Ballance can do to force his way back into England’s thinking. Despite a first-class average of 47.45 since the start of, including five hundreds in 2019 when he finished second in the Division One run charts, the Zimbabwe-born left-hander couldn’t find his way into a 55-strong training group ahead of the international summer. Another bumper season could make his case unanswerable.

Tom Westley (Essex)

Test record: 5 Tests, 193 runs @ 24.12, HS: 59
2019 CC record: 794 runs @ 36.09, 1 100, HS: 141

Another in his early thirties for whom it’s now or never. In truth, Tom Westley didn’t get much of a go first time round. He draped the bat over it against a fierce South African bowling attack in helpful conditions in his maiden knock before stroking an attractive fifty in the second innings, and ended his first run in the side with a sparky 44 not out in a small chase. But five consecutive single-figure scores had already put to an end his Ashes chances. His form has been neither here nor there since, but a recall is far from impossible.

Dawid Malan (Yorkshire)

Test record: 15 Tests, 724 runs @ 27.84, 1 100, HS: 140
2019 CC record: 13 games, 1,005 runs @ 47.85, 4 100s, HS: 199

There were calls for Dawid Malan to earn a recall last winter after his stellar form in T20 cricket for England and in county cricket for Middlesex. Now at Yorkshire, Malan, like Jennings, will be desperate to refute suggestions he struggles at home.

Ben Foakes (wk) (Surrey)

Test record: 5 Tests, 332 runs @ 41.50, 1 100, HS: 107
2019 CC record: 13 games, 575 runs @ 26.13, HS: 69

The golden boy of English cricket Twitter, Ben Foakes might have his county opportunities limited this summer by being England’s back-up keeper. But with England hoping to provide Bob Willis Trophy time to those in the reserves, and Jos Buttler’s form still iffy, Foakes could yet be back in the Test side before long. He will need to improve significantly on his 2019 form, however, when he averaged 26.13 for Surrey in the County Championship.

Moeen Ali (Worcestershire)

Test record: 60 Tests, 2,782 runs @ 28.97, 5 100s, HS: 152*, 181 wickets @ 36.59, 5 five-fors, BBI: 6-53
2019 CC record: 2 games, 126 runs @ 31.50, HS: 42, 7 wickets @ 30, BBI: 3-126

There’s no illusion over how good Moeen Ali at his best can be, and considering his exploits with the bat in India in 2016, England will be desperate to have the Moeen of old back in the fold. But his late introduction in England’s West Indies intra-squad warm-up was an indication of how far down the pecking order he’s fallen, and so a strong season for Worcestershire will be needed if he is to earn a recall this winter.

Toby Roland-Jones (Middlesex)

Test record: 4 Tests, 17 wickets @ 19.64, 1 five-for, BBI: 5-57
2019 CC record: 11 games, 33 wickets @ 29.18, 3 five-fors, BBI: 7-52

It feels like a lot longer than three years ago that Toby Roland-Jones had it all in front of him. Then, years of toil had finally earned him an England Test call-up and a five-wicket haul on debut. A place in the winter’s Ashes squad beckoned. Stress fractures would put paid to that ambition, and almost the entirety of the 2018 summer. He returned creditably in the 2019 County Championship with 33 wickets at 29, but such is the strength and depth of England’s pace bowling stocks, he will need something special to force his way back in.

Olly Stone (Warwickshire)

Test record: 1 Test, 3 wickets @ 9.66, BBI: 3-29
2019 CC record: 2 games, 7 wickets @ 38.57, 1 five-for, BBI: 5-93

Rated as one of the most exciting pace prospects in the country, Olly Stone enjoyed an excellent Test debut against Ireland last year after a stunning 2018 campaign for Warwickshire. But his career has been blighted by injuries, notably a string of back stress fractures. He’s young enough to come again, and an injury-free campaign could see him do so.

Steven Finn (Middlesex)

Test record: 36 Tests, 125 wickets @ 30.40, 5 five-fors, BBI:6-79
2019 CC record: 7 games, 17 wickets @ 32.23, 1 five-for, BBI: 5-75

Amidst all the batsmen who have come and gone, there might not be an England Test player more unfulfilled in recent times than Steven Finn. That’s not to say his career hasn’t had highs, with an Ashes-sealing six-for in 2015 chief among them, but when he emerged he looked like he had it all, and you’d have banked him to play far more than 36 Tests. Still, Middlesex coach Stuart Law backed him to stake a claim for a recall back in March, and warm-up footage showed him bowling as smoothly as ever. That he’s the third Seaxes player included in this team is indicative of the county’s waning recent fortunes.

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