Former England captain Alastair Cook joins a team of Test hopefuls and regulars in the Lions XI to take on India A at Worcester this month. Six of the line-up chosen for the four-day match starting on July 16 already have Test caps.
They include seamer Chris Woakes who, as previously announced by the England and Wales Cricket Board on Friday lunchtime, will play the match as he bids to prove his fitness after a knee injury in time for the five-match series against India which starts on August 1.
There is also a clutch of intriguing bat-offs and bowl-offs in prospect at New Road as openers Rory Burns and Nick Gubbins have an opportunity to press Test claims – while the middle order houses England incumbent Dawid Malan and rising star Ollie Pope.
Among the bowlers, Somerset spinners Dom Bess and Jack Leach will both be out to impress.
All-rounder Sam Curran, who made his Test debut at Headingley last month, is included too – although he may yet have to miss the match if England instead need him for their third and final one-day international against India back in Leeds on July 17. The Lions will wait until the morning of the match to announce their captain.
England Lions XI (v India A at Worcester, starting July 16)
Alastair Cook, Rory Burns, Nick Gubbins, Dawid Malan, Ollie Pope (wk), Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Dom Bess, Matt Fisher, Jack Leach, Jamie Porter
Stokes remains on course to play if needed on Sunday, despite suffering a bruised foot in practice for his comeback match with Durham on Thursday evening.
The all-rounder hit an unbeaten 90 for his county in their opening Vitality Blast match against Yorkshire at Headingley, which ended in defeat.
But a brief England and Wales Cricket Board statement on Friday confirmed he will be in attendance – although not yet available for selection – at the second match of three against India in Cardiff. It read: “Ben Stokes will be at the ground tonight. (There are) no issues with injuries, and he is expected to be available for selection on Sunday.”
For the hosts, it’s a must-win game after India won the first encounter on Tuesday by a convincing eight-wickets at Manchester.
Here are the main talking points ahead of the second game.
WHERE WILL JOS BUTTLER BAT?
The 27-year-old again let the bat do the talking when he scored 69 on his home ground at Old Trafford. It was his second consecutive half-century after hitting 61 against Australia in the lone T20 clash. Both those scores came when he opened the innings but despite his heroics, England’s middle-order batting collapse against India has raised questions whether it’s best to bring him down the order.
Shortly after the loss, Buttler said he finds opening the innings ‘refreshing’ but is happy to bat in any position. Former England batsman Mark Butcher believes England will be more effective if Buttler bats at No.4 considering he has the firepower to accelerate and finish the innings in style. Judging by Buttler’s recent form, his stats certainly proves that with his scores of 110, 54 and 91 in the ODI series against Australia coming at either number five or six in the batting order.
HOW TO DEAL WITH KULDEEP YADAV?
The left-arm spinner stole the show with figures of 5-24 including three in one over to set up India’s win. The 23-year-old gave Eoin Morgan’s men a torrid time at the crease with the captain, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root removed in six deliveries. They will be eager to ensure there’s no repeat in Cardiff with Morgan admitting they will have to come up with a game plan to stop the impressive spinner.
“Kuldeep is a very big threat – we knew that. We maybe need to be a bit better with the way we go about our business. He completely deceived us, and I thought he bowled well,” Morgan said in his post-match press conference.
With Yadav expected to carry on his fine form, England will need to keep him quiet. According to reports, England are ready to use the Merlyn spin-bowling machine in the nets at Cardiff on Friday.
With such bowlers hard to find in England, the piece of technology seems to be the best option available to Morgan’s side. The inventor of the Merlyn machine, claims it can “bowl any ball known to man” but no matter how much practice they have, it is about making it count when they face Yadav in person.
VIRAT KOHLI TO CONTINUE PLAYING THE ‘CUSHION’ ROLE
After the win against England, the Indian captain made it clear he does not want his team to be one-dimensional anymore. We saw that in the Ireland series where Kohli dropped down from number three and again entered the crease at Old Trafford as the fourth batsman.
KL Rahul stepped up with a century and with less than 12 months to go until the World Cup, the Indians want to try out new positions for batsmen so that they are used to any role. Kohli reiterated he wants his batsmen to play with freedom and the ace batsman is happy to continue playing that ‘cushion’ role in this series.