Eng­land look set to cover bowl­ing op­tions

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE -

ENG­LAND may name an ex­tended squad of 13 as they try to cover all bowl­ing op­tions for their 1,000th Test.

It will none­the­less be a shock if their se­lec­tion fea­tures the left-field in­clu­sion of Adil Rashid at Edg­bas­ton.

There has been plenty chat­ter and in­trigue since the York­shire­man bowled In­dia cap­tain Vi­rat Kohli with a leg­break hailed as the ‘ball of the cen­tury’ as Eng­land won the one-day in­ter­na­tional se­ries on his home ground at Head­in­g­ley last week.

Com­par­isons with the Shane Warne’s fa­mously as­tound­ing first ball to Mike Gat­ting 25 years ago were overblown – fin­ger-spin­ner Graeme Swann, for one, has turned sev­eral more sharply in the in­ter­ven­ing years.

It has still been per­sua­sive to some that Eng­land may want to un­leash a bowler with a po­ten­tial psy­cho­log­i­cal hold on the tourists’ lynch­pin at the start of the five-match Spec­savers se­ries. Much more likely, how­ever – given Rashid’s self-im­posed first-class ab­sence and ap­par­ent stand-off with his county while he tar­gets World Cup as­pi­ra­tions – his white-ball spin twin Moeen Ali will get the nod to re­turn to Test cricket as he re­gains plau­si­ble form af­ter his mis­er­able Ashes win­ter.

Heat­wave con­di­tions have put an un­ex­pected ex­tra pre­mium on Eng­land’s abil­ity to counter their op­po­nents’ Ravi Ash­win and Ravi Jadeja – or wrist-spin­ner Kuldeep Ya­dav if In­dia wish af­ter his white-ball suc­cess – both with bat and ball.

For that rea­son alone, they will be sen­si­ble to stick with the ex­pe­ri­ence they have among their bats­men – and ad­di­tion­ally, may well want two spin­ners to re­turn fire. In the ab­sence of Rashid, left-armer Jack Leach – so un­lucky to be in­jured at the start of the Test sum­mer against Pak­istan af­ter his promis­ing de­but in New Zealand – is a con­trast­ing al­ter­na­tive or com­ple­ment to Moeen. Leach’s Som­er­set team­mate Dom Bess im­pressed more with bat than ball in his first two Tests and made way for his friend and ri­val in this week’s county cham­pi­onship fix­ture against Worces­ter­shire. That just leaves the seam­ers, who of course will be led as ever by fita­gain record-break­ers James Anderson and Stu­art Broad. Chris Woakes has also re­cov­ered from the knee and thigh in­juries which put him out of Eng­land’s white-ball sum­mer, so he will be in the frame for his home Test.

Eng­land are bal­anced for the first Test by all-rounder Ben Stokes –although not the sec­ond, thanks to his Bris­tol court date clash with Lord’s –but they may still want an­other di­men­sion if seam does pre­vail af­ter all, de­pend­ing on con­di­tions in Birm­ing­ham.

If that is the case, left-arm swing bowler Sam Cur­ran did just about enough on de­but in place of Stokes against Pak­istan at Head­in­g­ley last month – and more since for Sur­rey and Eng­land Lions – to stay in the equa­tion.

Mark Wood has once again en­coun­tered in­jury wor­ries at the wrong time, un­able to bowl in the sec­ond in­nings of Durham’s cham­pi­onship match against Glouces­ter­shire at Chel­tenham while he waited for the re­sults of scans on his sore heel.

Eng­land could well de­cide a punt on his fit­ness is one they do not have to take at this stage.

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