WI vs Eng, 2nd Test, Barbados



Lancashire quick will become cap No.702 after being inked in for maiden appearance

Saqib Mahmood will be handed England cap No.702 on Wednesday morning, after being locked in for his Test debut at Bridgetown in the second Test against West Indies.

Mahmood, 25, was named in England’s XI a day in advance of the match, although his involvement had been on the cards since midway through last week’s drawn Test in Antigua, when England’s fastest bowler, Mark Wood, suffered “acute pain” in a right elbow injury that may yet rule him out for next week’s final Test in Grenada too.

In a more surprising development, Ollie Robinson has also been omitted, despite appearing to have recovered well from a back spasm that caused him to miss the opening match of the series.

Although he returned to the nets this week, a step that had been described as “pretty positive” by Paul Collingwood, the interim coach, England have chosen to hold Robinson back with the series finale looming large on March 24. Seeing as he was hampered by the same problem in the final Ashes Test in Hobart, the management feel that the flare-up has come too recently to risk a repeat in Barbados.

Chris Woakes and Craig Overton, who struggled as a new-ball pairing in Antigua, will once again complete the attack alongside Jack Leach and Ben Stokes.

For Mahmood, however, the opportunity is one to relish, having been spoken about as a potential Test cricketer ever since bursting onto the scene with Lancashire in 2019. He made his T20I debut in New Zealand that winter, but made his most telling mark to date in last summer’s belated call-up for the ODI series against Pakistan, when he was named Player of the Series for his haul of nine wickets at 13.66 in a 3-0 series win.

“He’s a great option to have up our sleeve,” Root said. “He’s very mature for a guy who hasn’t played a huge amount of international cricket. He has a real understanding of how he wants to operate.”

Although he does not bowl 90mph as consistently as Wood, Mahmood is the quickest of the remaining options in England’s squad, while his proven ability to bowl reserve swing is likely to come in handy on a surface that Kraigg Brathwaite, West Indies’ captain, said was similar in appearance to the strip used in Antigua last week.

“He’s been very impressive, he’s got a slightly different trajectory and will give us a point of difference,” Root added. “He’s done that when he’s played in other formats, he clearly has good control, especially if the ball moves with reverse swing.”

His selection means that England will be fielding debutants in each of the first two Tests, following Alex Lees‘ maiden appearance in Antigua. Lees did not enjoy the same success as many batters in the match, making scores of 6 and 4 in his two innings. But Root – who himself made a second-innings century – backed him to come good.

“I think the challenge for any new player coming into the team is to not make any drastic changes,” Root said. “I think being strong on what you know serves you well for such a long period of time.

“One of the most challenging things about batting at the top of the order, albeit I only did it for a limited amount of time in Test cricket, is the amount of time you’ve got to think on your dismissals.

“It is so easy to overthink and over analyse. So it’s about just making sure you are absolutely clear about how you want to go and play and being as ready for it and as assured as you can be.”


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