Mark Stoneman is set to make his England debut in next week’s day-night first Test against Windies at Edgbaston, after being included in a 13-man squad announced on Thursday (August 10) from which Keaton Jennings was dropped.
Jennings, the struggling Durham opener, averaged only 15.87 in eight innings during England’s recent 3-1 series win over his native South Africa, which concluded with a 177-run victory in the fourth Test at Old Trafford on Monday.
Now Surrey batsman Stoneman, a former Durham team-mate of Jennings, is in line to become Alastair Cook’s 12th opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss, the former captain, in 2012.
Stoneman, 30, has scored 1,000 runs in first-class cricket this season, including a highest score of 197, while averaging 58.82 with three centuries. By replacing Jennings, Stoneman will form another all-left-handed combination at the top of England’s order with Cook.
Meanwhile Hampshire leg-spinner Mason Crane has been called into a Test squad for the first time, having also impressed in England’s first-class County Championship this season.
“The selectors would like to offer their congratulations to Mark Stoneman and Mason Crane who thoroughly deserve their opportunity in the squad,” said James Whitaker, the England selector, in an England and Wales Cricket Board statement.
The former England batsman had some words of consolation for Jennings, saying: “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.”
Sheer weight of runs appears to have seen Stoneman force his way in ahead of Haseeb Hameed, who made his Test debut in India last year but has managed just one first-class score of more than fifty so far this season. Dawid Malan, the middle-order batsman, has been retained, with the selectors resisting the temptation to recall the in-form Alex Hales.
Aug 17-21: England v Windies, 1st Test, Edgbaston
Aug 25-29: England v Windies, 2nd Test, Headingley
Sep 07-11: England v Windies, 3rd Test, Lord’s
“The realisation that there are a lot of good players around made me aware that I had to keep on putting in performances week-in, week-out,” said Stoneman. “First and foremost I want to get into the England team and stay there. You can never look too far ahead, but I will try to treasure every moment of involvement.”
Stoneman also had some words of sympathy for former county colleague Jennings. “Keats is a top guy and we have spent a long time working together,” he added. “He has come up against a fantastic attack in the last few Tests and I will be calling him to wish him all the best.”
Chris Woakes, the fit again pace-bowling allrounder, replaces Steven Finn in a squad for a match on his Warwickshire home ground that will be the first day-night Test ever staged in England.
Woakes, who could be in a straight contest with Toby Roland-Jones for the position of third seamer, has fully recovered from a side strain sustained during the Champions Trophy in June that forced him to miss most of the season. But he made a return to the County Championship earlier this week, where he took five wickets in the match and scored 53 in the second innings as Warwickshire beat Middlesex at Lord’s.
“He was impressive in his return game at Lord’s this week and if selected in the final line-up, he will be relishing the prospect of playing on his home ground,” said Whitaker of Woakes.
The West Indies campaign will see Joe Root, in conjunction with coach Trevior Bayliss, looking to carry on from where he left off after his first Test series as England captain ended in a resounding victory.
With England not, as yet, resting James Anderson and Stuart Broad, the two senior pacemen could now gain some floodlit Test experience ahead of the Ashes day/nighter in Adelaide in December. The three-match campaign against Windies, which also features fixtures at Headingley and Lord’s, is England’s last Test series before they travel to Australia.
“On behalf of the selectors, I would like to wish Joe Root, Trevor Bayliss and all the squad the very best for what will be an exciting series against West Indies,” said Whitaker.
England squad for the first Test: Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley, Joe Root (capt), Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Toby Roland-Jones, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Chris Woakes, Mason Crane.