Former England coach David Lloyd believes national selector Ed Smith could throw a “wild card” into England’s Test squad to face Sri Lanka.
Smith has not shied away from bold decisions since taking the reins earlier this year, the latest being a call for uncapped Warwickshire paceman Olly Stone, who has been been included in the party for next month’s one-day tour of the island.
Friday will see the Test group revealed and, while Stone could also find himself in the frame for red-ball duties, Lloyd has not ruled out something even more eye-catching.
“Ed seems to be a bit radical. I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes up with an absolute wild card,” he told Press Association Sport.
“It could be something like Bob Willis in 1971, when Bob was in and out of the team at Surrey and nobody really knew him.
“He’ll look at players who are suited to that part of the world – horses for courses we’d call it, but I’m sure he wouldn’t.”
One of the most pressing issues to be settled is the make-up of England’s opening partnership following the retirement of Alastair Cook.
The country’s record run-scorer leaves a yawning gap at the top of the order and his most recent partner, Keaton Jennings, is hanging to his own place by a thread.
Although uncapped, Surrey’s prolific Rory Burns looks certain to travel, and has the backing of ‘Bumble’.
Lloyd, speaking on behalf of Test sponsors Specsavers, said: “That will be the type of selection that would interest Ed Smith, he’s in form, he knows his game. If you look at county cricket he’s been the consistent one for several years. He’s not a punt, he’s earned it.
“I think Jennings will go too and be absolutely fine. It’s been a tough summer, for him, for the Indian openers and for Cook too. It’s not a time for chopping and changing.”
There has also been questions around England’s long-tenured seam duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad and whether or not they might be rested in unhelpful sub-continental conditions.
Anderson is eager to travel, with a hard-earned reputation for building scoreboard pressure even on docile pitches, but Broad is more vulnerable despite having the support of captain Joe Root.
“What they’ll be looking for is a young, tall bowler with pace and reverse swing,” said Lloyd.
“Jamie Overton is one, Stone is another. We saw in Australia last winter that four or five samey right-arm pace bowlers wasn’t working.”
Spin, will of course, be even more important at venues like Colombo, Galle and Pallekelle, but Lloyd sees a simple solution with Dom Bess the odd man out in a three-strong selection.
“I think the spinners are absolutely nailed on. You take three and they’re Jack Leach, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali. It’s that simple, don’t look any further.”