Tom Hartley set for World Cup squad despite never playing T20 for England

Tom Hartley celebrates an England wicket
Tom Hartley performed impressively in his maiden Test series - Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Tom Hartley is poised to be included in England’s squad for the Twenty20 World Cup in June, despite not making a single appearance in the format to date.

The Lancashire left-arm spinner has not yet made his international T20 debut but performed impressively in his maiden Test series, taking 22 wickets at an average of 36.13 in the five Tests in India. He also played two one-day internationals against Ireland last year.

While Adil Rashid remains England’s first choice, Hartley is in competition with Rehan Ahmed for the status of second spinner, with spin likely to play a crucial role in the World Cup. After a fine ODI series in the Caribbean in December, Ahmed fared less well in the T20 series, conceding 10.9 an over.

Though England have been happy to play Ahmed and Rashid together as a leg-spinning pair, Hartley would offer variety as a left-arm orthodox spinner. Conditions in West Indies mean that all three specialist spinners could well be included in England’s squad.

Rehan Ahmed and Adil Rashid celebrate an England wicket
Rehan Ahmed (front left) and Adil Rashid (front right) have played together in T20s - AFP/Randy Brooks

Left-arm spinners have enjoyed notable success in T20 cricket in the Caribbean in recent years. England’s group fixtures for the tournament will be played in Barbados and Antigua, with St Lucia and Barbados their allocated venues for the Super Eight stage, if they qualify. Both Antigua and St Lucia are known to assist spin. Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago, the venues for the two semi-finals, are particularly conducive venues for spin bowling.

The likelihood of pitches being used for multiple games during the World Cup also boasts the case for selecting a specialist finger spinner such as Hartley. While leg spin is invaluable on flatter pitches, finger spin – which tends to be more accurate and quicker – can be even more effective on used wickets. During the final match of England’s T20 series in West Indies in Trinidad last year, Akeal Hosein and Gudakesh Motie, West Indies’ left-arm spinners, returned combined figures of 5-44 from eight overs to lead the hosts to a series victory. Ahmed’s figures were a disappointing 0-36 from four overs.

Hartley has a solid record in his domestic T20 career, averaging 26.5 in his 82 games with an economy rate of 8.5. He contributed several useful lower-order cameos in the Test series in India, with his batting prowess making him an attractive all-round option. The news that Nathan Lyon’s stint with Lancashire has been cut to seven County Championship games, from the original 14, means that Hartley should have more first-class bowling this summer than previously feared.

The deadline for all 20 competing nations in the T20 World Cup to name their 15-man squads is May 1, before England’s next T20 international. England then have a four-match T20 series at home against Pakistan, beginning on May 22, before their T20 World Cup defence begins against Scotland in Barbados on June 4.

Jos Buttler and Matthew Mott, England’s white-ball captain and head coach, combined to lead the side to victory in the 2022 T20 World Cup, after defeating Pakistan in the final at Melbourne. But England won just three out of nine games in the ODI World Cup in India last year.

In an interview with Telegraph Sport last week, England’s managing director Rob Key outlined his determination that the side would trust in a new generation.

“We now have to get back with this team to the stage where they see the opportunity again of getting some new blood so we blend younger players with older players,” he said.