England have confirmed Andy Flower will coach the Lions squad for their upcoming triangular series against Sri Lanka A and New Zealand A, reports Sky Sports.
The former first team coach had been plying his trade coaching at a local level since his departure from the national side. Flower had little choice but to step down following his side’s 5-0 Ashes whitewash and a high-profile falling-out with Kevin Pietersen, but he has taken little time in returning to the ECB.
It will be looked on by many as something of a strange appointment. Few young or up-and-coming players excelled during his original tenure.
However, the black mark that has been applied to his name more generally is unfair. Admittedly, the end of his reign saw the commencement of England’s rapid downward turn, but his replacement Peter Moores has been unable to buck that trend.
Flower will come up against some familiar faces in Middlesex’s Steven Finn, whose domestic form had even seen him tipped for a recall to the senior squad. However, Moores is keen to give the fast bowler more time to overcome difficulties with his action. A stint with the Lions represents an invaluable opportunity to prove himself.
Essex’s Ravi Bopara and Yorkshire’s wicket-keeper batsman Jonny Bairstow are also set to feature, once again with similar aspirations at breaking into the first team. With England trailing 1-0 in the series against India, that has become a very real possibility.
One eye on the first team
A strong performance from Bopara could nudge national selectors into giving him another chance in the Test side, as part of a batting order that has little to lose.
Meanwhile, Bairstow has work to do to oust Jos Buttler as England’s preferred back-up behind the stumps. It is not all that long since England captain Alistair Cook insisted Buttler was not ready for Test cricket, but his hand has been forced to some extent by Matt Prior’s indefinite departure.
That said, Buttler is not immovable, and Bairstow is still very much in the reckoning.
Northants’ David Willey has earned his first call-up, perhaps more in recognition of his performances last season than this. The all-rounder was one of the Steelbacks’ stars as they lifted the T20 Cup in 2013, but like his team mates, has struggled to replicate those performances this season.
Nonetheless, much of the limelight will be on Flower, as he takes charge of the 13-man squad in the hope for some positive attention.
Lions squad in full: Taylor (c), Bairstow, Bopara, Finn, Parry, Gurney, Hales, C. Overton, R. Patel, Willey, J. Roy, T. Smith, J. Vince