The ECB has announced final squads for the inaugural North v South series next March, with Mark Wood, Steven Finn and James Vince among those given opportunities to press their claims for England selection in the three 50-over matches.
Wood is currently working back to fitness after a third ankle operation in the space of 12 months, having briefly impressed in an England shirt during the ODI series with Pakistan at the end of the summer. His ability to operate at 90mph could make him a key weapon when England challenge for the Champions Trophy next June.
Paul Farbrace, England’s assistant coach, said they were hopeful Wood could also be fit for the ODI tour to West Indies in February.
“There is a chance he may make the West Indies squad,” Farbrace said. “But for someone like Finny, who has missed out on his place in one-day cricket in recent series, it’s a great opportunity for him to show what he can do and get himself into the one-day side. There’s others – [Dawid] Malan, [Sam] Northeast, people who have been very successful in county cricket who perhaps haven’t had the opportunity, this is a great chance for them.”
Vince played all three ODIs on the recent tour of Bangladesh but was dropped from the squad to tour India next month, while Finn’s last limited-overs appearance came in 2015. Vince will captain the South XI and Keaton Jennings will lead the North. Four members of each squad have already been selected via the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s MVP ranking system.
Jennings and Ben Duckett, who both made senior England debuts this winter, are joined by Liam Dawson, Tim Bresnan and Harry Gurney as the other capped players involved. Two young legspinners, in Mason Crane and Josh Poysden, have also been included in the 13-man squads.
“For all the players selected, the North versus South series is a platform to make an impression,” England’s national selector, James Whitaker, said. “As Andrew Strauss said when he introduced the series before the start of the 2016 season, we see it as an important addition to our selection process in 50-over cricket, ahead of the two major global events we are staging over the next three summers – the Champions Trophy next year and the World Cup in 2019.
“With the calibre of the squads we have selected, we are confident there will be an intense and high-quality level of competition that allows us to assess players who are currently just outside the England squad, and their ability to perform at that higher level.”
Farbrace will coach the South side while England’s bowling coach, Ottis Gibson, will take charge of the North. Both were involved in selection, while Trevor Bayliss, England’s head coach, will attend the matches.
“The key thing is to give people outside of the current one-day set-up the opportunity to place for England,” Farbrace said. “With an eye on the 2019 World Cup in England, we’re trying to make sure that white-ball cricket has the same importance as red-ball cricket. It’s a brilliant opportunity for players in county cricket who otherwise wouldn’t have been selected.
What we’re saying is, the Lions is one route and county cricket is certainly another route. When people come through the Lions, you know they’ve come through a grounding between county cricket and international cricket, but also there are people capable of coming directly from county cricket. There are some very good county players… So you want the routes to be varied, not just one line into the England team.”
Eight members of the Lions squad announced earlier this week for the one-day series against Sri Lanka A in March have been included – Jennings, Joe Clarke, Liam Livingstone, Poysden, Tom Alsop, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Ben Foakes and Tom Curran – while a number of promising players outside the performance programmes, such as Sam Hain, Jack Leaning and Richard Gleeson have also earned call-ups.
The squads will gather in Dubai ahead of warm-up matches on March 15. The three-match North v South series will then take place in Dubai, on March 17 and 19, and Abu Dhabi, on March 21.
North squad: Keaton Jennings (Durham, capt), Ben Duckett (Northamptonshire*), Sam Hain (Warwickshire), Joe Clarke (Worcestershire), Liam Livingstone (Lancashire), Jack Leaning (Yorkshire), Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire*), Josh Poysden (Warwickshire), Graeme White (Northamptonshire*), Mark Wood (Durham), Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire), Richard Gleeson (Northamptonshire), Harry Gurney (Nottinghamshire*)
South squad: James Vince (Hampshire, capt), Daniel Bell-Drummond (Kent), Tom Alsop (Hampshire), Dawid Malan (Middlesex), Sam Northeast (Kent), Liam Dawson (Hampshire*), Ben Foakes (Surrey), Tom Curran (Surrey), Lewis Gregory (Somerset*), Tim Groenewald (Somerset*), Matt Coles (Kent*), Steven Finn (Middlesex), Mason Crane (Hampshire)
*PCA MVP rankings selection
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