Emphasizing this faith, Buttler was confirmed as one of the team captains in England’s warm-up match, starting on Wednesday, and as England’s vice-captain in the first test against the West Indies. next week. Ben Stokes, regular vice-captain of tests in England, was promoted to captain in the absence of Joe Root on paternity leave, and Buttler assumes the previous role of Stokes. England hope Root will be back for the second test.
The three-day warm-up match will feature 27 players – there are 14 from Buttler and 13 from Stokes – so will not have first class status. The only three players on the 30-player training team not to participate are Amar Virdi, Jamie Overton and Root. All three are expected to be in good shape, but Root leaves the team on Wednesday to witness the birth of his second child, and team management has decided that in order for key players to get the required training, there has no room for the other two. The match will be broadcast live from static cameras at each end of the field on the ECB’s website.
Although England head coach Chris Silverwood gave little when he spoke to the media on Tuesday afternoon, he confirmed Buttler’s inclusion and hinted that in general these players ” in possession ”of places at the end of the tour in South Africa could be in favorable positions. The tour to Sri Lanka was subsequently postponed and the English national season shortened due to the Covid-19 pandemic, none of the players involved has played since the tour in South Africa ended.
“I wouldn’t say the selection is a blank page,” said Silverwood. “You know the people who are the backbone, the engine room of the team. It’s hard to go too far right away from where we finished.
“Jos will be vice-captain and he is in possession [of the gloves] at the moment. No you don’t [have to be a genius] to work this out. ”
This seems like bad news for Foakes and Bairstow. While England may remember Bairstow as a replacement stick specialist for Root – he is likely to compete with Dan Lawrence and Joe Denly for the post – his preference for stick in middle order can count against him.
Likewise, England may be able to play Buttler as a specialized drummer and recall Foakes. Admittedly, Buttler’s record as a specialized drummer – 35.68 in 20 tests – is significantly better than his record as a versatile – he averaged 27.43 in 21 tests when he retained – but all evidence suggests that England is inclined to make few changes.
If possession is really a key factor in this selection, it would seem that this is also good news for Denly and Dom Bess. But Denly could be stuck with Rory Burns’ return to the top of the game, while Bess fights competition from Moeen Ali and Jack Leach as spinner. Moeen, with five centuries of testing behind him, could have a particularly strong claim for a recall in a rootless side.
The beneficiary of Root’s absence may well be Lawrence. While Denly’s durability has been admirable, his failure to register a century in his 14 tests and his age (he is 34) can both count against him. Lawrence impressed on the Lions’ tour of Australia – he made 190 in the warm-up and 125 in the unofficial ‘Test’ – and at 22 he is considered a growing force. With an eye on a return to Australia in 18 months, this might be the time to promote it. Zak Crawley, who seemed to gain momentum with each appearance in South Africa, seems poised to maintain third place behind Burns and Dom Sibley.
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“Dan has settled in very well,” said Silverwood. “He’s a confident guy. He came in, was himself and played well. He is certainly one of them who put his best foot forward. ”
The other area where England faces competition for places is in its bowling game. The forced break gave bowlers an almost unique opportunity to rest and work on their strength and conditioning. The bottom line is that right now they’re all in good shape.
“The only thing the lockdown has done is provide me with a load of fit fast bowlers,” said Silverwood. “All the guys who came back had a good break. They are refreshed and they shoot. They are very, very motivated to crack. The only thing that impressed me was the shape in which everyone came back. ”
Above all, the three fastest bowlers of those involved in this warm-up match – Mark Wood, Jofra Archer and Olly Stone – are all available, giving the selectors (and for this first test, Stokes should be considered a selector) a intriguing dilemma. Wood, at his best, is hard to miss and claimed nine wickets in the most recent test in England. But the same could be said of Archer, James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Difficult choices are looming.
Team Stokes: Dominic Sibley, Keaton Jennings, Zak Crawley, Jonathan Bairstow, Ben Stokes (c), Ben Foakes, Moeen Ali, Lewis Gregory, Craig Overton, Jack Leach, Olly Stone, James Anderson, Saqib Mahmood.
Team Buttler: Rory Burns, James Bracey, Joe Denly, Dan Lawrence, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (c), Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Dominic Bess, Mark Wood, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Robinson.