Uncapped pair Simon Kerrigan and Chris Woakes are the surprise call-ups to England’s squad for the final Ashes Test – but a double debut is a long shot at the Kia Oval.
Maiden Tests are a relative rarity in the very successful and regimental Andy Flower era, and not since Michael Carberry and Steven Finn began their careers against Bangladesh in Chittagong in March 2010 has there been more than one debutant in the same match.
Circumstances are slightly skewed this week, however, and England’s selectors have left nothing to chance by naming a belt-and-braces squad of 14.
The obvious reading is that second spinner Kerrigan and bowling all-rounder Woakes are in the mix purely, on this valedictory occasion with the Ashes already won for a third successive time, for the experience of rubbing shoulders with an established guard.
Chris Tremlett, one of two seam-bowling additions alongside Finn to the team which made it 3-0 at Chester-le-Street, is an obvious choice to return on his home ground in place of the injured Tim Bresnan.
Kerrigan and Woakes’ inclusion is nonetheless intriguing, and leaves room for plenty of second-guessing as to England’s always closely-guarded motives.
Is there a case for a second spinner, for example, at a venue which has occasionally accommodated that tactic for its traditional August Test?
In terms of Woakes, his all-rounder skills also present an option with England having not had the all-rounder luxury since Andrew Flintoff was forced into early retirement by injury with wicketkeeper Matt Prior’s outstanding batting ability balancing the side since.
In Woakes, the medium-term hope must be he may be good enough to bat at number seven.
In the immediate, though, there are two obvious counter-arguments to that.
The first is that Prior’s form has been unusually and worryingly modest with the bat this summer, and England’s batting would therefore look vulnerable with Woakes in for Jonny Bairstow.
The second is that it would be harsh – and out of character by England’s management - to sacrifice Bairstow at number six, as he tries to establish himself as part of their Plan A for the winter.
Meanwhile, England national selector Geoff Miller admits to having concerns about Bresnan’s well-being in time to be named next month in the squad to travel to Australia for the Ashes return down under.
Yorkshire’s Bresnan has a stress fracture of the back that will keep him out for the rest of the season.
Miller said: “Tim Bresnan has made valuable contributions with both bat and ball during the series, and I would like to wish him all the very best in his recovery from his back injury.
“The focus for Bresnan now will be the tour of Australia later this year, while this Test will provide an opportunity for another another member of this squad to make equally vital contributions. “