England’s men’s white-ball teams return to action, and international cricket returns to an administratively shambolic South Africa, at the end of this month. There are selection decisions on both sides well worth talking about – and so, in part one of two, we assess the changes to Eoin Morgan’s England squads since the summer series.
It is some indication of England’s white-ball batting depth that someone with Livingstone’s ability has only played two internationals, and none for over three years.
He has played a starring role in domestic T20 tournaments in England, Pakistan and Australia with his power, invention and useful part-time leg-breaks.
He will have to settle for a role in the middle order, but should he get the chance he could well give England’s coaches and selectors yet another welcome headache.
The life of Benjamin Andrew Stokes is certainly not a dull one. This year alone he has captained England for the first time, discovered a talent for opening the batting in elite T20 cricket, and had to deal with his father suffering serious health complications.
Given the demands on him as a cricketer and as a human being, it is perhaps only right that England have given Stokes the ODI leg of this tour off.
With the international treadmill about to start up again and more bubbles to deal with, sensitive handling will be vital for ensuring the long-term health of England’s cricketers – particularly ones who have to be told to stop training so hard.
The Somerset all-rounder and sometime England Lions captain has yet to make much of an impact in his admittedly limited chances in England’s T20I team.
With Stokes and Sam Curran both rested from the 50 over format, there is however a possible role for someone with Gregory’s hitting power and accurate seam bowling in South Africa.
Whether he will be a long-term option is another question, and with the next T20 and 50 over World Cups both in India he is vulnerable to being left out for an additional spin option.
It is a genuine good news story to see Topley back in international cricket. We could fill this section with a list of his injuries, but suffice to say that the towering left-armer has been through it and then some.
He was encouraging rather than spectacular this summer against Ireland, but with a place in both the ODI and T20I squads, he will have ample opportunity to stake his claim.
Particular points of interest will be his yorker, potentially deadly with his 6’ 7” frame, and any swing he is able to generate.
Another injury-hit fast bowler, and we mean fast, Warwickshire’s Stone has been so often sidelined due to the sheer physical ridiculousness of propelling a cricket ball that quickly.
Well, there was also an instance of rank bad luck. But for now at least, the man who England desperately want to be a part of their Ashes plans is fit.
With Jofra Archer rested from the ODI squad, Stone could form a pace partnership with Mark Wood, and if both are close to their best that is a mouthwatering prospect.
The 26 year old seamer formed a good partnership with Steven Finn in an otherwise disappointing Blast campaign for Middlesex, and his good work has not gone unnoticed.
He has become a regular part of England Lions squads, and was part of England’s training group and intra-squad game ahead of the white-ball summer.
This is his first call-up to a senior squad, and while at this stage he is likely along for the experience, he is most certainly on England’s radar for future international honours.
Ashes tours can break England players, and it looked for a while as though that might have happened to giant Nottinghamshire seamer Ball.
He toiled fruitlessly in the opening Test of the 2017/18 tour, and the next summer lost his place in England’s white-ball teams and picked up a season-ending injury.
But he has returned in style, topping the T20 Blast wicket-taking charts as Nottinghamshire won the title, and if the pitches have any bounce to them at all will certainly be no fun to face in the nets.
The prodigiously talented Somerset opener has yet to transfer his domestic form to the international stage, shoehorned as he has been in the middle order.
Still only 21 and with only three full professional seasons under his belt, there’s no doubt that time is on the side of a man who makes reverse sweeping look as easy as breathing.
His maiden IPL season was a bit of a non-event, and his involvement in this year’s Big Bash is uncertain. But opening for England come the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia remains a realistic prospect.
Much is made, rightly, of Root’s starring role in England’s run to the final of the last T20 World Cup.
But, it must also be noted that, albeit in a limited sample of 12 games, his T20I record in the four years since that tournament is underwhelming, with a strike rate of barely over a run a ball and only two scores at over 8 RPO.
Head selector Ed Smith has hinted that Root is unlikely to play the T20I leg of England’s post-Christmas tour to India, and that being the case, another tilt at T20 World Cup glory seems unlikely for the Test captain.
The sacrificial opener. The sacrificial no.3. The batter who bowled himself out of the World Cup squad. The focus of a baffling yet endearing social media fan club.
He did fill a hole for a time in England’s Test top order, and his role in the Stokes-led Miracle of Headingley should not be overlooked. But he has always felt like a square peg in England’s white-ball team of round holes.
And now, with more batters to pick from than ever, Denly has lost his England contract, and his place in the squad, probably for the last time.
Of all of David Willey’s many ODI exclusions, this one may gall even more than missing the World Cup.
When Archer and, most pertinently, fellow left-arm all-rounder Curran are rested, and Willey cannot find a place despite a superb display in the ODI series against Ireland, he may wonder as to his long-term future.
It is understandable that his destructive batting has been underused given the strength of England’s top order. But given England’s struggles to take Powerplay wickets, a proven new-ball wicket-taker like Willey could have been a useful asset.
The Lancashire fast bowler is certainly still someone England have high hopes for given his retention of a Pace Bowling Development Contract, and like Banton he has plenty of career ahead of him.
It would be a shame to see Saqib react to his expensive outings in England colours thus far by sacrificing his aggressive instincts.
But the skill of knowing not just what to do but when to do it is vital, even for the very fastest, and we must hope that Saqib will demonstrate that whenever his next England chance comes along.
Another Lancastrian with impressive performances in the English county setup, Parkinson is perhaps the only person in England who was hoping Adil Rashid’s shoulder didn’t improve.
Had England’s premier legspinner not been fit, Parkinson would almost certainly have been his replacement. And come India, it’s not beyond the realms that the two could team up.
The first challenge for Parkinson will be to still generate turn and flight while bowling a bit quicker through the air. The variations and game-smarts will come – for legspinners especially, the idea that ‘T20 is a young man’s game’ is demonstrably false.
Part Two, looking at South Africa under the leadership of Quinton de Kock, drops next week!
When are the games and how do I watch?
You can watch every ball of the tour on Sky Sports, listen on TalkSport, or listen ad-free on Guerilla Cricket:
• Friday 27 November: 1st T20I, Newlands, Cape Town;
Match starts 4pm UK time, 6pm SA time
• Sunday 29 November: 2nd T20I, Boland Park, Paarl;
Match starts 12:30pm UK time, 2:30pm SA time
• Tuesday 1 December: 3rd T20I, Newlands, Cape Town;
Match starts 4pm UK time, 6pm SA time
• Friday 4 December: 1st ODI, Newlands, Cape Town
Match starts 11am UK time, 1pm SA time
• Sunday 6 December: 2nd ODI, Boland Park, Paarl
Match starts 8am UK time, 10am SA time
• Wednesday 9 December: 1st ODI, Newlands, Cape Town
Match starts 11am UK time, 1pm SA time