Lancashire teenager poised to make history
Lancashire youngster Haseeb Hameed is expected to be one of the solutions when England deliver their verdict on the fiendish logic problem complicating squad selections to tour Bangladesh.
Hameed has been widely touted as Test captain Alastair Cook’s ninth new opening partner since Andrew Strauss’ retirement four years ago.
If selected in a likely 17-man squad on Friday morning, and then to play in the first Test in Chittagong on October 20, 19-year-old Hameed, capped this week by his county, would become England’s youngest-ever opening batsman.
His anticipated promotion, after just 18 first-class matches but more than 1,000 runs this summer alone, would be merely one response to all manner of variables which have been thrown at the selectors.
Their job became still more taxing last weekend, when the latest googly was delivered by confirmation that not just one-day international captain Eoin Morgan but also opening batsman Alex Hales were not prepared to travel to Bangladesh because of security concerns.
Their absence from an otherwise settled ODI squad means musings on who might replace them in the 50-over top four suddenly became more urgent - and no less imponderable.
England’s schedule, moving straight on without warm-up after three ODIs and then two Tests in Bangladesh to five Tests in India, has made the selectors’ task just that little bit tricker.
It is perhaps not surprising therefore that, contrary to initial indications, they will not pick a squad for India yet.
In the two touring parties they do select, it will be a feat to cover all bases - including the right man to open too with Jason Roy, in the record-breaking Hales’ ODI absence, which third or possibly fourth spinner to add to the Test squad and how to solve not just Morgan’s limited-overs unavailability but a vacancy at number four in the Test line-up too after James Vince’s poor summer.
Alongside Hameed, the most likely call-ups are for left-arm spinner Liam Dawson - possibly in both squads - Jos Buttler’s return to the Test reckoning as wicketkeeping cover but also to increase options in the middle order and ODI recognition at least for Ben Duckett’s prolific run-making across the formats with Northamptonshire and England Lions.
Others, inevitably, have been mentioned and may easily find themselves involved.
Uncapped Somerset left-arm orthodox Jack Leach is a distinct possibility - especially in such a big Test squad - as a fourth spinner in conditions which will necessitate plenty of resources.
Keaton Jennings’ form this summer, like Duckett’s, is mighty hard to ignore - and England may find room for him too, a move which would provide flexibility at the top of the Test order should it all prove too much at this stage for Hameed.
At the other end of the age scale, recalls for veterans Ian Bell and Gareth Batty are marginally left-field but feasible if England are minded to add a little extra nous for a tour which is sure to prove a challenge on and off the field.
It was mooted over the past month that ever-present pair Moeen Ali and Joe Root may take a short, well-earned rest from the ODI series.
That remains a possibility. But in Morgan and Hales’ absence, without Root and Moeen, England would suddenly have to deal with a chasm of experience in a white-ball team preparing for next summer’s Champions Trophy campaign on home soil.
Moeen in particular, England’s utility player across all formats, may discover there is no time for a rest after all - because a move back up the order, in the 50-over team as in the Test line-up at the start of last winter, is one method of covering Hales’ temporary unavailability.