Friday, December 9, 2022

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England call Livingstone for test tour of Pakistan

England have rolled the dice by calling up white ball star Liam Livingstone for his friendly tour of Pakistan.

Livingstone was the prominent name in a 15-man roster for December’s series, along with newcomer Will Jacks and returning duo Keaton Jennings and Ben Duckett.

Jennings and Duckett will both be eyeing the opening slot after Alex Lees was axed, an omission marked by his not being given a central contract this week.

Livingstone has not played first-class cricket in over a year and has increasingly focused on the shorter forms after becoming a mainstay of England’s limited overs side.

But with Moeen Ali being backtracked after his Test retirement, there was a spot open for a hard-hitting spin bowling all-rounder and the selectors decided both he and Jacks fit the profile.

There is no question that the 29-year-old is a gamble. He sat out Lancashire’s entire Championship season, managing just eight games in the previous two campaigns, averaging 11 in 2021 and 18.5 in 2020.

But he has proven himself to be a bombastic player on the biggest stage, clinching his country’s fastest-ever cap with just 42 balls against Pakistan last summer, and his style is likely to match the attacking instincts of captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum.

Livingstone’s bowling is also an attractive option in Pakistan as he can easily switch between off-spin and leg-spin depending on the opponent.

He’s not entirely untested against the red ball on his resume with 62 top-flight games, seven hundreds and one Test call-up in 2018, saying last year, “If they took a punt on me in Tests, I believe I have the skills to perform.

“I’m not the worst player out there and I’ve proven that I can influence a game in all three facets, that I can hit and bowl under pressure.”

Jacks is another beneficiary of Moeen’s decision to put away his English whites for good. The 23-year-old made his T20 debut in Pakistan last month and was named national MVP at the Professional Cricketers’ Association end-of-season awards.

Like Livingstone, he mixes powerful stroke play with a handy bowling option and will provide further support for lone spinner specialist Jack Leach.

Lees’ departure could mean the end of his time at the top, with the left-hander averaging just 23.64 points in 10 appearances this year. Zak Crawley continues to enjoy selector support despite his own modest record.

He has two potential top partners, Jennings – who has scored subcontinental centuries in Mumbai and Galle and was Division One’s top run scorer in 2022 – and Duckett. The latter contested four Tests in 2016 but is now a more consistent performer, winning rave reviews for its efforts at the recent T20s in Karachi and Lahore.

As expected, Stuart Broad is absent from the bowling tackle as his fiancee Mollie King is expecting their first child next month. Durham’s Matthew Potts is a surprising absentee given his excellent returns early in the summer as he won 20 wickets for an average of 28 in five Tests.

England have favored the size and pace of Jamie Overton, who made his debut against New Zealand in June but made more of a splash with the racquet than the ball.

Men’s Cricket Managing Director Rob Key, who led selection, said: “We look forward to traveling through Pakistan as a Test team for the first time since 2005. It will be a historic tour and a convincing series against a good team.

“The selectors picked a squad for the conditions we can expect in Pakistan. There’s a strong mix of youth and experience and players who will adapt well to the types of pitches we’re likely to get in the three-game series.

“I wish the players every success, especially the newcomers and those returning after a certain period of time.”

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