England Given Selection Headache by Quicks

Day two of England's inter-squad warm-up match was a bowling day, and, with good performances by Team Buttler's quicks all round, it made selection for the first test match much harder for Ed Smith. Ollie Robinson was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with figures of 2-7 in 9 overs, with Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes all taking wickets as well. Stuart Broad was unlucky not to pick up a scalp, and Dom Bess, Matt Parkinson and Amar Virdi all bowled well as they pushed to be England's spinner.


Having declared overnight, Team Buttler would have been pleased with their start with the ball, even if they took no wickets in the first hour. Opening the bowling, Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad got lots of early swing, with Keaton Jennings nearly bowled by an inside edge; he played and missed regularly, with opening partner Dom Sibley lucky not to be given lbw off Broad as well. Sibley was also dropped down the legside off Broad, as Jos Buttler struggled to get across to take the catch. However, he was not as lucky next time, as, with the penultimate ball of the 16th over, he managed to glove one off Jofra Archer, and Buttler held the catch, leaving Team Stokes 30/1.


This area is an issue for SIbley, who fell thrice to the ploy in South Africa (and today), in the first innings of the third test and both innings of the fourth test, once caught at leg gully, once by the wicket-keeper, and once by midwicket. As he gets inside the line of the short delivery, he is vulnerable to flicking the ball to a legside fielder, and needs to work on either leaving it, or attacking it with more force to reduce the chances of this dismissal, which, given the pace and bounce of the West Indian attack, he will be susceptible to this summer. My Inside Edge Cricket colleague Rob Rush argues he should practice more against Archer and Mark Wood in the nets to fight against his nerves, and to ensure he resolves the definite issue in his technique.


If I was asked how Jennings would get out, I would have said easily removed by the new ball. I would not have presumed that he would fall to Dom Bess, given the left-handed opener has two test centuries in the subcontinent. However, it was Bess who got his wicket, as Jennings prodded forward with hard hands, and was caught at slip by Rory Burns. It was an impressive start from Bess, who found drift, spin and bounce for his early breakthrough.


This meant Zak Crawley was joined by Jonny Bairstow, both fighting for slots in the side. Crawley looked poor early on, on the back foot against Wood and loose versus the impressive Ollie Robinson. His difficulties continued into the afternoon session, as Archer examined his technique with impressive bowling. Bairstow, sporting a new trigger movement that has him cover his stumps, was also beaten regularly by Archer. It looked as though Crawley would be the man to go, playing lots of drives and having an edge not carry to the cordon, However, it was Bairstow who finally went, with a loose drive only finding a thin edge from the first ball of Wood's return to the attack. This was a very poor shot from Bairstow, who, with his new trigger movement and a bit of patience could have made a score and put pressure on the selectors to consider him again. It was not to be though, and his fall brought Ben Stokes to the crease.


Crawley, joined by Stokes, accelerated to a partnership of 33 in eight overs, with Stokes especially dismissive of Bess. However, the momentum swung back to Team Buttler, as Crawley got a good delivery from Woakes, which, on a perfect line just nibbled away to draw the edge. as the Kent batsmen fell for 43. While an odd knock, combining early struggles with some nice boundaries, whether Crawley has done enough to bat at three remains to be seen, with both him and Joe Denly doing well, but not yet getting their name on the team sheet.


With Woakes bowling, Stokes was joined by Foakes. The keeper edged his fourth ball and it fell just short of second slip. However, it was Stokes who got the attention, as after hitting Bess for a six and a four, turned his focus to Matt Parkinson's leg-spin. He nicked a googly wide of slip, and reverse-swept another for four in an exciting first over. A few overs later he prodded at Parkinson, looking uncomfortable, before a long hop was cut for four. It was becoming an engrossing battle, with Stokes hitting hard but Parkinson beating him, and it reached an emphatic conclusion at the first ball of the 54th over. Stokes looked to advance to a leg break, but couldn't quite reach it as it drifted, pitched, and ripped inwards, beating his flick to leg, leaving Buttler to take the balls off. Parkinson had his man.


After Moeen Ali and Foakes nurdled the spinners after tea, it was the returning Broad (supported by Robinson) who caused problems. A ball after Foakes had edged one through a vacant second slip, Broad bowled a beauty that Foakes would have done well to get bat on. Next over, it was Robinson who get a deserved wicket, breaking the 27 run partnership. Ali was caught on the back foot, although the back of a length delivery may have just pitched outside leg stump or been a bit high. After just three balls, Robinson had another, with Lewis Gregory walking forward and falling to get bat on a delivery angling in, as it hit his back pad and he was also adjudged lbw, ending an odd Gregory innings, dismissed for a four ball duck, with Robinson having bowled a double wicket maiden.


A few overs later, the return of Jofra Archer ended the resistance of Foakes, as the keeper tamely pulled a bouncer to mid-on. It was an odd shot, with Foakes seemingly unsure as to whether to try and control the shot or just belt it. In the end, he was stuck with neither, and fell for 38.


Following the drinks break after Foakes' fall, Wood was brought on to bowl with Archer, as Team Buttler attempted to eliminate the tail quickly. However, blocking hero Jack Leach, along with Craig Overton provided good resistance. As the new ball became available, it was Amar Virdi and Dom Bess who bowled in tandem. Bess broke the near hour-long partnership, with Overton pushing at a full delivery in front of his body, as Buttler took the catch. As close approached, Leach took some boundaries off him, with Buttler having failed to stump him off Virdi a few overs before. Going for a big drive, Leach edged through slip, before the innings ended as Saqib Mahmood pulled a shorter Virdi delivery down to an outfielder. This ended Team Stokes' innings on 233 all out, with the day ending there as well.


While the day belonged to England's bowlers, there is some cause for concern. Along with Sibley's short ball problem, Buttler performed poorly with the gloves. While his stumping of Stokes was good, the early drop of Sibley, a missed stumping of Leach, and some spillages against the quicks further question his ability as England's number one choice as wicket-keeper, argues Rob Rush, who wouldn't be too shocked if Foakes takes the gloves in the first test. While Buttler will likely play being vice-captain, he may not be right as keeper.


In other news, Sam Curran took no part in proceedings today having been ill overnight. He isolated in his hotel room and was tested for Covid-19, with the result expected tomorrow. While the lack of live-stream sound is frustrating for us, player feedback means the ECB and Sky Sports are considering adding crowd noise ahead of the test series, according to reports in The Times. England will also join with the West Indies in wearing the Black Lives Matter logo on the shirts in the upcoming test series; with the ECB also confirming the third test will be the Ruth Strauss Foundation test, to raise awareness of non-smoking lung cancer and raise money for families suffering bereavement.


Tomorrow at 5, see who our writers picked as quick bowlers for the upcoming tests, continuing our selection series. Read the previous piece on spinners here.


For the game's scorecard, follow this link: https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/19497/scorecard/1225813/team-stokes-vs-team-buttler-warm-up-west-indies-in-england-2020


And to see tomorrow's live stream, look out for the link on @englandcricket's twitter

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