Jofra Archer back in frame as England coach Chris Silverwood deals with selection headache for deciding Test against West Indies
Archer was removed from the squad on the eve of the second Test after it emerged he had breached the bio-security protocols with an unauthorised trip to Hove and spent the next five days in his on-site hotel room at Emirates Old Trafford.
His only exemptions were solitary fitness and training sessions but, after twice testing negative, he has been re-admitted to an inner sanctum that contains a host of fast bowlers desperate to play.
Archer will be eager to have his name in the spotlight for the right reasons, but head coach Chris Silverwood and captain Joe Root also have James Anderson and Mark Wood fully fit after rests.
Add in Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran, who all played important supporting roles to Ben Stokes’ man-of-the-match display last time out – and a thorny decision awaits.
Archer received a written warning and a fine of around £15,000 for his lapse in judgement, but is due to enter the debate with a clean slate.
“Yes, I think he does. He’ll integrate back into the squad as usual,” said Silverwood.
“He’s done his five days and got his tests back which is great and he’ll integrate back into the squad. Jofra has been looked after and I’ll think he’ll be pretty glad to get back in amongst us to be honest.”
Since his debut last summer Archer has never missed out on cricketing grounds, while Broad will consider his point made after he responded to being left out of the first Test with match figures of 6-108. Throw in the most prolific seamer in Test history, Anderson, and you might have the line-up.
That would mean no place for the only left-armer (Curran), the fastest bowler of the bunch (Wood) or the man branded by Root as ‘Mr Dependable’ (Woakes), but Silverwood knows it will be hard on whoever misses out.
“It’s never easy, and you’re always going to get push back, but you try to be as honest as possible,” he said.
“They are good conversations, a great headache to have. When you’re leaving out world-class players, from my point of view it’s a very good place for English cricket to be.”
One player whose place does not appear to be up for grabs in a must-win match is Stokes, who has leapfrogged Windies captain Jason Holder as the world’s No 1 all-rounder on the back of his staggering all-round returns in the series.
With 343 runs at 114.33 and nine wickets at 16.33 he has emerged from lockdown a cut above the rest and Silverwood could only muster a half-hearted suggestion that he may need to manage his workload.
“We want him out there as much as we can – everyone can see how good he is. But you know what, we’re going to consider it,” he said.
“The stats don’t lie. He’s passing milestones, he’s making records for himself, which is great. He’s on the crest of a wave at the moment so we’ve got to make sure he stays there and support him the best we can.”
Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali starred as England’s two World Cup winners outshone the rookies in the first intra-squad match at the Ageas Bowl ahead of the ODI series against Ireland.
The pair may have been overlooked from the Test set-up but proved their enduring white-ball class, Bairstow first of all muscling his way to 127 from 88 balls, a boundary-laden innings with 16 fours and seven sixes.
His departure paved the way for Moeen, who celebrated being named Eoin Morgan’s deputy for the series with a barnstorming 85 from only 45 deliveries.
Neither Sam Hain nor Liam Livingstone were able to make substantial contributions despite batting twice for ‘Team Moeen’ against ‘Team Morgan’, who were beaten in the 40-over affair by 100 runs.