This is probably the weirdest England squad we can remember. It’s not quite a B-team, but nor is it a real A-Team. It’s a 2010 cinematic rehash A-Team.
Some of the names are about as familiar as that of Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson as well (the guy who was passed off as B.A. in that film). Lewis Gregory has a good record, but quite a low profile for someone just picked for England, while Zafar Ansari is best known for being a Cambridge type who once bowled Kevin Pietersen. We think we missed the bit where Ansari thrust himself into the limelight and demanded inclusion, but he did celebrate his call-up by getting himself run out off the fifth ball of Surrey’s innings today, which certainly hints that he’s got the right stuff to be an England one-day cricketer.
Most of the other additions are the players you were reading about as being potential miracle solutions back when everyone had an opinion about how rubbish England were: Sam Billings, Jason Roy, James Vince and David Willey. It’s certainly a bold, dynamic squad. A crowd-pleasing one. Or at least it is at the announcement stage.
Just three of England’s World Cup squad have been retained – James Taylor, Alex Hales and Steven Finn – and two of those are recent additions who appear rather more at home in the ‘brave new world’ circle on the Venn diagram. Set against this backdrop, Tim Bresnan suddenly appears the most leftfield pick of all.
England’s Incredible World Cup of Unparalleled Shod is just one of the reasons why there are so many surprise inclusions. There’s also the fact that it’s a one-off match scheduled when England’s Test cricketers have been playing in a match on the other side of the planet just three days before. It’s tempting to suggest that Ireland being the opposition might play a part too, but that’s probably not true. The last flicker of complacency was surely extinguished back in Australia.
England’s captain, Eoin Morgan, is missing the match to play in the IPL. It’s tempting to wonder whether this agreement has prevented him from being dropped. The Irishman seems to have benefited from extended media and public goodwill of late simply through his ability to avoid being Alastair Cook. The moral of the story is that if you’re going to be an ineffectual captain who doesn’t score runs, at least be an ineffectual captain who doesn’t score runs who bats aggressively.