Pope, a 20-year-old who has played just 15 first-class matches, has been in excellent form for Surrey in the County Championship this season scoring 684 runs at an average of 85.50, including three centuries. He also recently made an unbeaten half-century against India A for England Lions.
If he plays, Pope will become, aged 20 years and 219 days, the fifth man aged 20 or under to make his Test debut for England in the last couple of years. Haseeb Hameed (19 years and 297 days), Sam Curran (19 years, 363 days), Dom Bess (20 years, 306 days) and Mason Crane (20 years, 320 days) are the others.
“Ollie Pope has made an exceptional start to his first-class career,” Ed Smith, the national nelector, said. “He has reached a 1,000 first class runs in just 15 matches and is the first division’s stand-out batsman this season with 684 runs at 85. The selection panel believe that Ollie’s performances and character suggest he is well suited to international cricket.”
Malan has endured a tough few weeks in the England team. As well as failing to reach 30 in any of the three Tests he has played this summer, he has proved somewhat unreliable in the slip cordon and dropped what could have been a match-defining chance offered by Virat Kohli in the first innings at Edgbaston. Kohli, on 21 at the time, went on to make 149.
Malan looked to have made a breakthrough in Test cricket when making a maiden century in Perth. But since that Test, he has reached 30 only twice in 12 innings. Aged 30, with a Test average of 27.84 after 15 Tests (and just 20.23 in eight home Tests), this may well prove to be the end of Malan’s career.
“Dawid Malan drops out of the squad for Lord’s. Dawid has not found his best rhythm this season, and it may be that his game is better suited to overseas conditions,” Smith said.
Pope has been preferred to numerous other batsmen including Worcestershire’s Joe Clarke. While Clarke has also enjoyed a decent county season – with three centuries, 621 runs and an average of 44.35 – he struggled against spin bowling on England Lions’ tour of the Caribbean over the winter. With spin expected to play an increasingly prominent role in the series, that counted against him.
Both Pope and Clarke have the advantage, in this instance at least, of being right-handed. As such, they would appear to be better equipped to negate the threat of R Ashwin, the India offspinner. Ashwin takes his Test wickets at an average below 20 against left-handers and above 30 against right-handers. England had seven left-handers in their line-up at Edgbaston and Ashwin claimed seven wickets in the match.
Chris Woakes also returns to the squad in place of Ben Stokes, who faces his court hearing in Bristol this week, while Moeen Ali remains in the squad as a second spin option. The uncapped Essex seamer, Jamie Porter, also retains his place in the squad.
It remains possible that, in the unlikely event his court case should be adjourned for any reason early in the week, Stokes could be added to the squad. Woakes has played a couple of T20 matches since he was deemed unready to be named in the squad in the first Test. He has also had some long spells in the nets with a red ball.
“Ben Stokes is unavailable, but Chris Woakes, with some extra matches and practices under his belt, can now return to the England squad after injury,” Smith said.
Realistically, England have to decide whether to play two spinners at Lord’s, where they expect the pitch to be dry, and if they do so, whether Moeen should play instead of a batsman (Pope) or instead of the fourth seamer (who is probably Woakes). Either way, the loss of Stokes is significant.