Oeen Ali said on Monday the time had come for England to emerge from the Eoin Morgan era. As their historic Pakistan tour kicks off on Tuesday, it doesn’t look like they have much to choose from.
The opener in Karachi is the first of seven T20Is over the next fortnight, England’s first games on Pakistani soil for 17 years and a series which, in an ideal world, would be a lucky break for the coach- Chief Matthew Mott and captain Jos Buttler of Fine- tuned to the T20 World Cup in Australia next month after a poor start to white-ball leadership this summer.
With a confusing maze of injuries and availability issues to navigate, however, fine tuning isn’t exactly on the cards.
Most of those who were Morgan regulars remain intact, but several are either out altogether (Ben Stokes resting, Liam Livingstone and Chris Jordan on the comeback trail) or likely won’t be around until later in the tour after injuries (Mark Wood, Reece Topley, Chris Woakes and Buttler himself).
Jonny Bairstow would have fallen into the former category had it not been for his freak injury, which prompted the recall of Alex Hales, the clearest embodiment of post-Morganism imaginable.
Surrey’s Will Jacks and Middlesex’s Tom Helm are two of the team’s five uncapped players, while Ben Duckett played just one T20I three years ago. However, no member of this group is due to travel to Australia and have been told that only injury could open the door to the World Cup.
Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Sam Curran and substitute skipper Moeen are in Pakistan and are the locks for the opener against Afghanistan in Perth, leaving those who push both a selection dossier and are actually eligible to be selected a rare breed.
Buttler’s injury means at least an opportunity for Hales and Phil Salt, who are effectively in a shootout for a spot at the top of the order. Salt was chosen first in the initial squad and could relieve Buttler of the burden of having to guard as well as captain, but Hales is a supreme figure in franchise cricket and England surely did not take the baggage of his recall to have him carry drinks. .
Harry Brook, meanwhile, will try to give England a reason to move away from their preference for bowlers by balancing the squad, while David Willey hopes they stick with it and could steal a step on absent rivals.