Uncapped batsmen Rory Burns and Joe Denly have been named in England‘s Test squad to tour Sri Lanka, alongside rookie paceman Olly Stone who received his first international call-up earlier this week for the preceding one-day series.
Alastair Cook’s retirement after 161 Tests left Ed Smith’s selection panel with a top-order conundrum which has been solved by a long-awaited summons for Surrey captain Burns and an international return for 32-year-old Denly.
Unlike Burns, the Kent veteran has played white-ball international cricket before but has not been seen at the highest level since a Twenty20 in Dubai in February 2010.
Keaton Jennings, Cook’s last opening partner, retains his place in a 16-man squad despite a poor summer and senior seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad will both travel, scotching suggestions one or both could be rested for the three-match series.
Warwickshire seamer Stone, having already earned his place in the 50-over squad, continues his rapid ascent by taking his place alongside the established duo.
Smith has not shied away from bold decisions since taking the reins earlier this year, the latest being a call for uncapped Warwickshire paceman Olly Stone, who has been been included in the party for next month’s one-day tour of the island.
Friday will see the Test group revealed and, while Stone could also find himself in the frame for red-ball duties, Lloyd has not ruled out something even more eye-catching.
“Ed seems to be a bit radical. I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes up with an absolute wild card,” he told Press Association Sport.
“It could be something like Bob Willis in 1971, when Bob was in and out of the team at Surrey and nobody really knew him.
“He’ll look at players who are suited to that part of the world – horses for courses we’d call it, but I’m sure he wouldn’t.”
One of the most pressing issues to be settled is the make-up of England’s opening partnership following the retirement of Alastair Cook.
The country’s record run-scorer leaves a yawning gap at the top of the order and his most recent partner, Keaton Jennings, is hanging to his own place by a thread.
Although uncapped, Surrey’s prolific Rory Burns looks certain to travel, and has the backing of ‘Bumble’.
Lloyd, speaking on behalf of Test sponsors Specsavers, said: “That will be the type of selection that would interest Ed Smith, he’s in form, he knows his game. If you look at county cricket he’s been the consistent one for several years. He’s not a punt, he’s earned it.
“I think Jennings will go too and be absolutely fine. It’s been a tough summer, for him, for the Indian openers and for Cook too. It’s not a time for chopping and changing.”
There has also been questions around England’s long-tenured seam duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad and whether or not they might be rested in unhelpful sub-continental conditions.
Anderson is eager to travel, with a hard-earned reputation for building scoreboard pressure even on docile pitches, but Broad is more vulnerable despite having the support of captain Joe Root.
“What they’ll be looking for is a young, tall bowler with pace and reverse swing,” said Lloyd.
“Jamie Overton is one, Stone is another. We saw in Australia last winter that four or five samey right-arm pace bowlers wasn’t working.”
Spin, will of course, be even more important at venues like Colombo, Galle and Pallekelle, but Lloyd sees a simple solution with Dom Bess the odd man out in a three-strong selection.
“I think the spinners are absolutely nailed on. You take three and they’re Jack Leach, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali. It’s that simple, don’t look any further.”
* David Lloyd is encouraging cricket fans to book eye tests by working with ‘The Test Experts’ Specsavers who are the Official Test Partner for the England cricket team.
The independent Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) hearing for the two players is set to be held on December 5 and 7.
The matter relates to Stokes’ involvement in a Bristol nightclub brawl in September last year during which Hales was also present. Stokes was charged with affray for the incident but was found not guilty by the Bristol Crown Court recently.
Following the controversial incident, ECB had opened its own investigation into the incident but it was put on hold while Stokes’ court case raged on.
Now, the CDC hearing for the two players has been fixed for a time window between England’s winter tours of Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
The private CDC hearing will comprise of a three-man panel headed by former Derbyshire cricketer Tim O’Gorman.
The Bristol nightclub incident had taken place several hours after England had taken on West Indies in an ODI last year in September.
Following the release of CCTV footage of the incident, Stokes had been indefinitely suspended by the ECB and was subsequently not picked for the Ashes tour where England were handed a 0-4 drubbing.
In the recent five-match Test series between England and India, Stokes had to miss the second Test at Lord’s to attend his hearing.