England ring the changes for historic Edgbaston Test

August 11, 2017

England's side for the historic day-night Test match against the West Indies at Edgbaston next week is set to feature at least one debutant as the selectors have shaken up the squad after the series victory at Old Trafford.

Although England defeated the side ranked second in the ICC Test team rankings 3-1, concerns have remained about the batting and with opener Keaton Jennings failing to make a half century in his eight innings, he has been replaced by former Durham team-mate Mark Stoneman. The 30-year-old has averaged 57 in the Specsavers County Championship with three centuries this season, a record bettered only by team-mate Kumar Sangakkara. 

He will be the 12th opening partner Alastair Cook has had since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012 as the selectors continue their search for solutions to a problem position. Another candidate, Lancashire youngster Haseeb Hameed, returned to form this week with 77 not out against Hampshire, but that was his first half century of the season and his target now will be to ensure he starts hitting hundreds to book his place on the Ashes tour.

However, national selector James Whitaker still had some encouraging words for Jennings. He said: "Keaton Jennings will return to Durham and will look to recapture the form that earned him selection in the first place. I am sure he will find his confidence and look to score runs in the remaining matches of this season."

While Stoneman is lined up to play, it remains to be seen if a second spinner will be required in conditions where the ball may swing a lot in twilight under the lights. However, by replacing left-arm finger spinner Liam Dawson with 20-year-old Hampshire colleague Mason Crane, the selectors may have signalled a clear intention to get a leg spinner into the Ashes squad. 

Crane spent much of last winter playing grade cricket down under with great success, and he played one match for New South Wales, becoming their first overseas player in 32 years. He made his International T20 debut for England against South Africa earlier this summer and his inclusion suggests the selectors believe he offers a better option than Adil Rashid, who had been a fixture in the England white ball teams of recent years but suffered along with the rest of the English spinners against India's batsmen last winter.  

The other change to the squad has been the return of Chris Woakes, who has recovered from the side strain he suffered in England's opening ICC Champions Trophy match in June. His inclusion comes at the expense of Steven Finn, who had been the back-up bowler in case of an injury to one of the other seamers. 

If Warwickshire man Woakes does get to play on his home ground, he will further strengthen a lower order that is easily the strongest in Test cricket, and has often bailed the team out after some poor performances by the top order. A return for Woakes could mean Toby Roland-Jones making way, despite the strong start made by the Middlesex man in his first two Tests. 

England will be hot favourites to beat a West Indies side that has not won a Test in England since 2000, although that win came at Edgbaston.

Image: Getty, from Keith Prowse subscription

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