England are preparing to unveil their provisional World Cup squad at Lord’s on Wednesday and will finally declare their hand on wildcard pick Jofra Archer.
National selector Ed Smith will name an initial group of 15 for the tournament on home soil, alongside an expanded squad of 17 for the preceding series against Pakistan, with the newly-qualified Archer set for his maiden call-up.
The Barbados-born paceman – an eye-catching 90mph bowler and a star of the Twenty20 franchise circuit – was already guaranteed an audition versus Pakistan but the temptation to draft him immediately for both squads has also built a head of steam.
Even so, World Cup rules allow teams to make alterations up until May 22, the earlier deadline essentially serving marketing needs rather than sporting ones, meaning Smith’s pronouncement is not yet final.
Should Archer be included in the 15 but fare poorly in his early outings he could be unceremoniously ditched at the last minute, a fate that awaits someone else if the Sussex player is held in reserve at first and excels from the off.
Tom Curran and David Willey appear to be the seamers most likely to feel the heat, though the latter’s status as a left-arm option and the most consistent swinger of the Kookaburra ball may tip the scales in any head to head.
Willey and Mark Wood are among those to have publicly pondered the potential of disruption in what has been a settled limited-overs squad and new-ball bowler Chris Woakes entered the fray on Tuesday, telling BBC Sport: “It (Archer’s World Cup selection) probably wouldn’t be fair, morally, but at the same time it’s the nature of international sport.”
Speaking to Press Association Sport at the launch of #OneDay4Children, a tournament-long initiative by the ICC and UNICEF, Woakes stressed the importance of taking nothing for granted now there is added competition.
“I’m sure there’s a few questions being thrown around by the selectors, a few names here and there, but I’d imagine the 15 is not too far off what you’d expect. Whether that changes or not in due course we don’t know.
“It’s important for everyone to put some performances in to really cement their place in the squad. Whenever you’ve got an opportunity to perform for England you have to take it because there’s always someone knocking on your door who wants your position. Realistically there could be 17 or 18 players who could make the cut so it’s probably not the time to rest on your laurels.
“I want to be part of the XI, play that opening World Cup game and be a big part of the campaign.”
“This tournament, being at home, is a great opportunity to do something beyond our wildest dreams and I’d love to be a part of that.”
Outside of the fast bowling ranks discussions will have been unusually straightforward with seven batsman inked in, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid the frontline spinners and Joe Denly seemingly in possession as the squad’s utility man.
The likes of Chris Jordan and Sam Billings lead the pack hoping for a chance in the Pakistan series, followed by Sam Curran and Liam Dawson, while a standalone one-day international against Ireland on May 3 could also offer opportunities with IPL players Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Ali likely to be rested.
Woakes expects a tough challenge from five-time winners and defending champions Australia, who have been revitalised by an upturn in results as well as the comebacks of banned duo Steve Smith and David Warner.
“It’s no surprise they are back in the squad after their bans, I certainly expected it,” said Woakes.
“They make Australia a better team and that’s why they’ve been included. They’re going to be competitive after wins against India and Pakistan and they are a world-class team who always bring their best to the World Cup.”
England’s provisional World Cup squad (possible): E Morgan (c), J Roy, J Bairstow, J Root, J Buttler (wkt), B Stokes, A Hales, J Denly, M Ali, C Woakes, J Archer, L Plunkett, A Rashid, D Willey, M Wood.
:: There will be #OneDay4Children activity throughout all 48 matches of the event, peaking with a day of celebration during the England v India game on 30 June at Edgbaston.