Ollie Robinson’s injury blow piles more pressure on Joe Root as England look to kick off new era with second Test series win in West Indies in 54 years
- England’s tour of the West Indies begins with the first Test in Antigua this week
- Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad have been omitted from the tour
- Ollie Robinson has been ruled out of the first Test due to an injury picked up
- Alex Lees is set to make Test debut for England as an opener on Tuesday
England’s new red-ball era kicks off tomorrow with the first Test in a three-match series against West Indies that they hope will stabilise them after their horrific Ashes tour.
But they still have plenty of issues as they seek only their second series win in the Caribbean in 54 years.
Cricket Correspondent Paul Newman assesses England’s options…
England seamer Ollie Robinson will miss the first Test due to an injury problem
England need their new-look attack to hit the ground running, otherwise the controversial absence of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad will haunt them.
So what happens? Ollie Robinson limps out of the warm-up game and will miss at least the first Test. And the fact his injury was a recurrence of the back problem which led to questions about his overall fitness in the last Ashes Test in Hobart does not make life easier.
Robinson is going to have to get fit fast to dispel doubts about his suitability for the demands of Test cricket.
‘Ollie is a talented bowler and has had a great start to his Test career, so naturally he’ll be a big miss,’ said Chris Woakes, the new leader of England’s attack.
‘But it does give someone else who has been waiting in the wings an opportunity to show what they can do at this level. Potentially, it gives someone a chance to make their Test debut.’
Stuart Broad (left) and Jimmy Anderson have surprisingly been omitted from the tour
So, who comes in?
Woakes was referring to Saqib Mahmood and Matt Fisher as potential debutants but the indications yesterday were that Jack Leach is the favourite to come in for Robinson, and Craig Overton forming an unlikely new-ball pairing with Woakes, with Ben Stokes now expected to play at least some role with the ball.
Stokes was going to play as a specialist batter after suffering a side strain in Australia, but his recovery is ahead of schedule. Only if the pitch resembles the green mamba here three years ago, when England were demolished for 187 and 132 on their way to a 10-wicket defeat, will Mahmood play ahead of the spinner.
Groundsman Tony Merrick, the former Kent and Warwickshire fast bowler, is attempting to provide a better batting strip than last time but still with pace.
Saqib Mahmood could make his Test debut for England on Tuesday in Antigua
Matt Fisher is also understood to be in line for a potential Test debut during the series
It is the batting that has consistently let England down over the last year or so, and their ability to put that right here will be the key to this series.
Step forward Alex Lees, who looked solid, compact and orthodox in the warm-up game and will make his debut tomorrow in England’s latest new opening partnership alongside Zak Crawley.
There is also a golden opportunity for Dan Lawrence in his Essex position of four — and he looked in good touch, while still more than a little unorthodox, in making 83 against the West Indies President’s XI last week.
Alex Lees has looked solid and compact in the warm-up game and will make his Test debut
Overton and Lawrence were in the Ashes squad without playing a Test and clearly England are using this tour to discover once and for all whether they will make it as Test cricketers.
Opportunity knocks, too, for Jonny Bairstow at six to finally nail down a place, while this should be the time for Ben Foakes to be handed a long run with the wicketkeeping gloves.
How about the Windies?
Every time that England come to the Caribbean these days, we seem to expect them to win. But with the exception of Michael Vaughan’s 2004 tour, they tend to go home empty-handed.
The home side’s bowling looks stronger than their batting and West Indies were yesterday pondering an all-pace attack led by the familiar figure of Kemar Roach, player of the series last time here with 19 wickets as West Indies won 2-1.
‘We have a very good record against England here and the onus is on us to keep it intact,’ said Roach. ‘Hopefully we can keep our good record going for 100 years!’
England will need to have a few more red-ball resets if that happens!