Jofra Archer likely to be wildcard selection in England's World Cup squad

Rory Dollard 16/04/2019
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Jofra Archer. Image: BCCI/SPORTZPICS.

England are preparing to unveil their provisional World Cup squad at Lord’s on Wednesday and will finally declare their hand on wildcard pick Jofra Archer.

National selector Ed Smith will name an initial group of 15 for the tournament on home soil, alongside an expanded squad of 17 for the preceding series against Pakistan, with the newly-qualified Archer set for his maiden call-up.

The Barbados-born paceman – an eye-catching 90mph bowler and a star of the Twenty20 franchise circuit – was already guaranteed an audition versus Pakistan but the temptation to draft him immediately for both squads has also built a head of steam.

Even so, World Cup rules allow teams to make alterations up until May 22, the earlier deadline essentially serving marketing needs rather than sporting ones, meaning Smith’s pronouncement is not yet final.

Should Archer be included in the 15 but fare poorly in his early outings he could be unceremoniously ditched at the last minute, a fate that awaits someone else if the Sussex player is held in reserve at first and excels from the off.

Tom Curran and David Willey appear to be the seamers most likely to feel the heat, though the latter’s status as a left-arm option and the most consistent swinger of the Kookaburra ball may tip the scales in any head to head.

Willey and Mark Wood are among those to have publicly pondered the potential of disruption in what has been a settled limited-overs squad and new-ball bowler Chris Woakes entered the fray on Tuesday, telling BBC Sport: “It (Archer’s World Cup selection) probably wouldn’t be fair, morally, but at the same time it’s the nature of international sport.”

Speaking at the launch of #OneDay4Children, a tournament-long initiative by the ICC and UNICEF, Woakes stressed the importance of taking nothing for granted now there is added competition.

“I’m sure there’s a few questions being thrown around by the selectors, a few names here and there, but I’d imagine the 15 is not too far off what you’d expect. Whether that changes or not in due course we don’t know.

“It’s important for everyone to put some performances in to really cement their place in the squad. Whenever you’ve got an opportunity to perform for England you have to take it because there’s always someone knocking on your door who wants your position. Realistically there could be 17 or 18 players who could make the cut so it’s probably not the time to rest on your laurels.

“I want to be part of the XI, play that opening World Cup game and be a big part of the campaign.”

“This tournament, being at home, is a great opportunity to do something beyond our wildest dreams and I’d love to be a part of that.”

Outside of the fast bowling ranks discussions will have been unusually straightforward with seven batsman inked in, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid the frontline spinners and Joe Denly seemingly in possession as the squad’s utility man.

The likes of Chris Jordan and Sam Billings lead the pack hoping for a chance in the Pakistan series, followed by Sam Curran and Liam Dawson, while a standalone one-day international against Ireland on May 3 could also offer opportunities with IPL players Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Ali likely to be rested.

Woakes expects a tough challenge from five-time winners and defending champions Australia, who have been revitalised by an upturn in results as well as the comebacks of banned duo Steve Smith and David Warner.

“It’s no surprise they are back in the squad after their bans, I certainly expected it,” said Woakes.

“They make Australia a better team and that’s why they’ve been included. They’re going to be competitive after wins against India and Pakistan and they are a world-class team who always bring their best to the World Cup.”

England’s likely squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Jos Buttler (wkt), Ben Stokes, Alex Hales, Joe Denly, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, David Willey, Mark Wood.

Provided by Press Association Sport

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England prodigy Haseeb Hameed hits first-class ton after two-and-a-half years

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Haseeb Hameed.

Haseeb Hameed delivered a timely reminder of his talents to the England Test selectors with a century as Lancashire moved into a first-innings lead against Middlesex on day two at Lord’s.

The 22-year-old opener, who played in three Tests as a teenager, endured a dreadful season in 2018 – averaging below 10 while his side were relegated from the top flight of the County Championship.

But national selector Ed Smith was in attendance to watch Hameed hit a first-class century for the first time in over two-and-a-half years as the Red Rose began their bid for an immediate return to Division One.

Hameed only opened the Lancashire innings because Alex Davies had injured his thumb while keeping wicket on the first day but he made the most of the opportunity with a virtually chanceless knock of 117 from 196 balls.

A first-wicket century stand with Keaton Jennings was the platform for the visitors to take control of the game and they ended the day on 267 for four to open up a lead of two runs.

Lancashire seamer Tom Bailey began the day by completing a five-wicket haul as the home side were bowled out for 265 after the last pair of Tim Murtagh (16*) and Toby Roland-Jones (35) had added 29 to earn a second batting bonus point.

Although Murtagh bowled a consistent line when Lancashire began their reply, the rest of the Middlesex seamers were unable to gain control as Hameed and Jennings progressed to 88 for nought at lunch.

Apart from a difficult caught and bowled opportunity that Steven Finn was unable to cling on to, Hameed offered no chances – but he and Jennings became bogged down as the scoring rate slowed significantly during the afternoon.

Jennings took 133 balls over his innings of 52 before he became the first to depart at 123 for one, chasing an outswinger from James Harris and nicking it behind.

With Davies unlikely to bat, Lancashire sent Brooke Guest in at three and he made a shaky start with a series of edges that fell just short or wide of the slip cordon.

Guest survived to make 17 but he was to be the first of two victims in quick succession for Murtagh (two for 23), missing a delivery that came back and took his leg stump.

Lancashire’s progress appeared to have been checked when Glenn Maxwell followed, playing on to Murtagh in his next over to leave them 152 for three.

However, Rob Jones (55*) kept Hameed company after tea while he advanced to his ton, reaching that landmark in style by hooking Roland-Jones into the grandstand for six.

It was Middlesex skipper Dawid Malan who eventually ended Hameed’s innings, diving to take a smart return catch off his own bowling. But Jones went on to pass his half-century and he and captain Dane Vilas (19*) had added 36 by the time bad light ended play.

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Morgan hails 'near-perfect' England as Windies are dismissed for 71 in T20 series sweep

Rory Dollard 11/03/2019
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David Willey picked up 4-7 in the third T20.

England captain Eoin Morgan commended his Twenty20 side as “close to perfect” after they blitzed the West Indies for the second time in three days to end their tour with a 3-0 series sweep.

Forty-eight hours on from dismissing their hosts for 45 in St Kitts, Morgan’s men were at it again, taking all 10 wickets for 71 – England’s top two performances with the ball in the format.

The top order then made light work of their target, sprinting over the line with 57 deliveries unused to claim a record of their own, this time for quickest completed chase.

Morgan can be a demanding captain but cut a satisfied figure at the close, particularly given the absence of first-choice players Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali.

“The guys played close to perfect, it’s a big win,” he said.

“I don’t think you can fault us for many things. Guys have stuck their hands up on numerous occasions and it’s really exciting to see.”

Despite rest and rotation, England have found a steady supply of match-winners, with standout performances from Sam Billings, Tom Curran and man-of-the-series Chris Jordan.

David Willey was the latest player to show his skills, setting up the concluding win with a decisive new-ball spell of 4-7 – second only to Jordan’s four for six in the previous game among England’s best 20-over figures.

“They are the kind of days you dream about in Twenty20 cricket,” said Willey.

“Very often it’s a batter’s game so to be a bowler and get some wickets, then to win in the fashion we did is brilliant.

“I’d like to think I was on for the five-for but if someone had offered me four for seven when I woke up this morning I’d have bitten their hand off. I’m happy with that.”

Willey was kicking his heels throughout the five-match one-day series, with questions beginning to be raised about his World Cup place. He was happy to get his chance, albeit in a different format, and feels happy with his game after wearing the shirt three times in week.

“Touring is difficult when you’re not playing and when you do get your opportunity there is a bit more pressure on for you to step up and contribute,” he explained.

“I always feel I play my best cricket when I’m playing regularly so it can present a challenge to hit your straps when you’re not playing regularly. So to come out and play as I have gives me a lot of confidence.”

All eyes now turn to this summer’s tournament, with competition for bowling places reaching fever pitch.

Jofra Archer becomes available in a week’s time and has been promised a chance to impress in clashes with Ireland and Pakistan, while Jordan’s recent showings have thrust him back into the conversation.

Morgan suggested Archer will not be the only player from outside the provisional World Cup 15 to get game time in the build-up, in a bid to prepare them should they be required at late notice.

“The guys who did perform certainly will be talked about in selection meetings,” he said. “Moving forward there is an opportunity to look at other guys outside of our mainstay players.

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