The importance of Mark Wood to England’s hopes of winning a first 50-over global tournament looks set to be underlined when the squads for the forthcoming series against Ireland and South Africa, and the Champions Trophy in June, are named on Tuesday morning.
Wood, whose additional pace gives him a marked point of difference over potential rivals, is back bowling for Durham this season following a third ankle operation during the winter and, having reported no ill-effects, is expected to receive his first call-up since winning the last of his 11 one-day caps against Pakistan last summer.
The 27-year-old’s wicket-taking threat in the middle overs and David Willey’s return from a shoulder injury to resume new-ball duties could mean Steven Finn missing out on the squad for the Champions Trophy starting against Bangladesh at the Oval on 1 June. Jake Ball, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Liam Plunkett are the other seam options for the captain, Eoin Morgan.
While Wood’s fitness record is not great – he reported a tight groin after Durham’s four-day draw at Gloucestershire on Monday – England can make changes up until 24 May and from there alterations are still possible provided they are in response to injury and approved by the ICC’s event technical committee; in past tournaments it has been accommodating.
“Woody is one of these guys that, when he is up, he is seriously up,” the Durham captain and occasional England fielding coach, Paul Collingwood, told the Guardian. “There aren’t many quicker bowlers than him in the world but he has great skills too. He will have to be managed. You won’t use him day in and day out. But he gives you an x-factor and something different from what we’ve had for some time. He’s a huge asset for any team.”
Collingwood remains the sole England captain to lift a global trophy – the World Twenty20 in 2010 – and on the subject of their status as Champions Trophy favourites he added: “It’s pressure they will have to get used to because anyone who has watched them in the last two years knows they have a real chance of winning a world tournament. In the past it’s been hope but there is genuine belief now around the country we could do something special. There are not many teams with that power in the batting line-up – we tick a lot of boxes. It’s a great opportunity to gain some confidence for the World Cup in 2019.”
With Stokes, Woakes and Jos Buttler all skipping the two-match one-day series with Ireland on 5 and 7 May and to remain playing in the Indian Premier League, two batsmen who have struggled to crack what is a competitive line-up, Sam Billings and Jonny Bairstow, will surely get the chance to play at Bristol and Lord’s.
Which of them keeps wicket remains to be seen, although Billings – not Test gloveman Bairstow – was touted as next in line by Paul Farbrace, England’s assistant coach, during the tour to the Caribbean in March. Having previously been expected to name 12 for Ireland’s first visit, England will expand this to 14 as Plunkett returns from a calf problem that has curtailed his start to the season with Yorkshire. Lancashire’s in-form Liam Livingstone or Ben Duckett could also come into the setup for experience.
From there, and with the IPL trio back, England will face South Africa in three one-day internationals, starting in Headingley on 24 May, that lead into the Champions Trophy. The Twenty20 series against South Africa that follows the tournament, and the one-dayers against West Indies in September, are more likely to admit experimentation with fringe players when rest is given to Test mainstays.
England squad for Ireland series (possible)
Hales, Roy, Root, Morgan (c), Billings, Bairstow, Moeen, Plunkett, Rashid, Willey, Wood, Ball, Finn, Livingstone
England squad for South Africa series and Champions Trophy (possible)
Hales, Roy, Root, Morgan (c), Buttler, Stokes, Moeen, Woakes, Rashid, Plunkett, Wood, Billings, Bairstow, Ball, Willey