The Durham bowler’s selection for the two-match ODI series reflects the need for someone who can snatch wickets via extra pace at the Champions Trophy
For the first time England have an ODI series against Ireland. The series lasts for only two matches but this is a landmark of sorts and allows England, at home, preparation for an international summer devoted to white-ball cricket until July.
Meanwhile the Irish always relish the chance to upset the odds (when last in Dublin for a match the wifi code in the press box was Bangalore2011). On Friday the two teams meet at Bristol; on Sunday they are at Lord’s, where only a handful of tickets are still available.
Another “first” is that England are playing an international when three of their key cricketers are engaged in the Indian Premier League. Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes have started to make their mark in the IPL in recent days and they will be gaining from the experience. So this is not a strategy which should be automatically denigrated. Their absence allows Ben Duckett and Steve Finn to be in the 14-man squad for the Ireland games, though they have not been selected in the 15 for three matches against South Africa and the subsequent Champions Trophy.
Eoin Morgan and Jason Roy have also been in India but have played only six IPL matches between them. Sam Billings, who will be keeping wicket on Friday in the absence of Buttler, has made more of an impact for the Delhi Daredevils. Meanwhile those based in England have appeared for their counties without much startling success. So the side looks a little rusty.
Some form players have been overlooked as the selectors seek the consistency of selection, which was spectacularly absent before the last major 50-over tournament, the World Cup of 2015. There have been no late swerves, just a minor punt on Mark Wood of Durham, so often hampered by injury. His selection reflects the need for someone who has the firepower to snatch wickets via extra pace. But there is no place for Liam Livingstone of Lancashire, who impressed with the Lions in the winter in Dubai and has begun this season brilliantly, revelling in the additional responsibility of batting up the order and, on one occasion, captaining his county side.
Liam Dawson of Hampshire misses out as the spin department is left in the hands of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali. In the early part of the winter both were enhanced by the tutelage of Saqlain Mushtaq, who may well rejoin the England camp for a spell during the summer. Rashid and Moeen remain fragile assets and would welcome the reassuring presence of Saqlain as their spin doctor. Livingstone, I presume, may well get his chance later in the year if he maintains his stunning start to the season. He even impressed in Dubai as a makeshift spinner; he began his professional life as a leg-spinner but improvised sufficiently well to propel some effective off-breaks in the Lions’ one-day matches in Dubai.