England have named a strong Lions XI to take on India A later this month, with Somerset team-mates Jack Leach and Dom Bess potentially going head-to-head for the Test spinner’s role and Alastair Cook making his first Lions appearance since 2010.
Chris Woakes, who is continuing his rehabilitation from a quad injury suffered during the Test series against Pakistan, Dawid Malan and Sam Curran bring the number of players with full international experience to six.
The Lions will take on India A at New Road in a four-day match starting on July 16, allowing a rare opportunity for members of the Test set-up to gain first-class match practice during a month largely devoted to T20 and the Vitality Blast.
Bess made his England debut against Pakistan in May, after Leach suffered a broken thumb in training. He went wicketless at Lord’s, but impressed with the bat, before taking 3 for 33 in the second innings at Headingley, where England levelled the series.
Bess was England’s third debutant spinner in four Tests. Leach came into the side in Christchurch, replacing Moeen Ali, but has only played four first-class games since; Mason Crane, the Hampshire legspinner, debuted during the Ashes at Sydney but has recently suffered a recurrence of a back stress fracture that will keep him out for the season.
Malan and Cook are included to give them extra practice against the red ball before a demanding five-Test series against India. Essex do not have a Championship match in July, meaning Cook would not have batted in a competitive environment for over a month going into the first Test against India on August 1.
Malan and Woakes, who has missed all of England’s white-ball engagements this summer, will also be able to gain time in the middle the following week, when their teams, Middlesex and Warwickshire, meet in the Championship.
Of the other players to face India A, Surrey’s Rory Burns and Ollie Pope, the 20-year-old who has been in sparkling form in the Championship, win their maiden Lions calls. Both Burns and Nick Gubbins have been mentioned as potential opening partners for Cook, while Essex’s Jamie Porter will also get the chance to push his claims as next in line should a seam-bowling slot open up.
Curran could yet be involved in England’s ODI against India on July 17, which would mean a replacement being called up by the Lions.
England Lions: Alastair Cook, Rory Burns, Nick Gubbins, Dawid Malan, Ollie Pope, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Dom Bess, Matthew Fisher, Jack Leach, Jamie Porter