Before their defence of the 50-over World Cup gets under way in India next month comes a glimpse into the crystal ball for England, with an inexperienced side led by Zak Crawley playing the first of three one-day internationals against Ireland on Wednesday.
Joe Root has requested a one-off outing at Headingley in a bid to find his touch before take-off but this is the second string, featuring four uncapped players in Sam Hain, Jamie Smith, George Scrimshaw and Tom Hartley. The question now is whether this next generation will be Star Trek or Saved By The Bell as regards rebooting the franchise.
Even as a stand-in for Jos Buttler, Crawley’s ascent to the captaincy is noteworthy, coming at the end of a summer in which his Ashes performances saw a new level reached. After the World Cup comes a white-ball tour of the Caribbean in December, a trip which may well see the rookies deployed again and the 25-year-old asked to lead.
Could Crawley be a contender for one of the top jobs one day? As well as pondering his long-term transition into the 50-over side, this appears to be something England are keen to explore. The captaincy CV at senior level currently reads two T20 Blast games and two Championship fixtures for Kent in 2021, with three wins and one defeat in the former.
“It’s nice to be thought of but it’s not been on my mind,” said Crawley a day out from the first match, his side having been forced indoors for training due to inclement weather. “I like to think [my style] will be similar to my batting, looking to be positive and react from there.
England (possible): Will Jacks, Phil Salt (wk), Joe Root, Zak Crawley (c), Ben Duckett, Sam Hain, Rehan Ahmed, Brydon Carse, Tom Hartley, Luke Wood, Matthew Potts
Ireland (possible): Paul Stirling (c), Andy Balbirnie, Curtis Campher, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker (wk), George Dockrell, Andy McBrine, Mark Adair, Barry McCarthy, Craig Young, Josh Little
“I remember Shane Warne once saying you should always think like a captain when you’re playing and I’ve done that since I was a kid. It’s great to have Rooty for the first game, I’ll lean on him a bit. And if anyone has forgotten how good he is, that’s their fault. He’s just using this match to find some rhythm. He’s a big rhythm player.”
Along with the focus on Root, out of sorts against New Zealand, this slightly low-key end to the summer may have relevance for the Test tour of India early next year. Lancashire’s Hartley is a left-armer who meets the management’s belief of needing spinners who drive the ball into the pitch, while Rehan Ahmed furthers his international experience.
For Ireland, technically ending a tour that began with that one-off Test at Lords in June, this is being viewed as the first steps towards the next World Cup after missing out this year. The tournament’s expected expansion from 10 teams to 14 in four years’ time is a boon, even if their stand-in captain, Paul Stirling, warned against complacency here.
Stirling said: “We need to make sure we’re one of those 14 teams. We played some good 50-over cricket in the last cycle but at the wrong time – halfway between World Cups. We have to work out how to peak at the right time, even if that’s looking as far ahead as 2027.”