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WITH Jofra Archer’s inclusion in England’s World Cup squad long considered a formality, it was spinner Liam Dawson who assumed the role of “bolter” as Joe Denly and David Willey saw their tournament dreams dashed.
National selector Ed Smith named England’s final 15 at Lord’s yesterday, with three changes from the preliminary group submitted last month.
Off-field transgressions forced Alex Hales’s removal and James Vince’s promotion, Archer’s impressive early outings on the international stage saw him leapfrog Willey, while Dawson was brought in from the cold in place of all-rounder Denly.
The 33-year-old Denly had been included initially as a utility option, capable of stepping into any of the batting slots and as well offering a back-up leg-spin option. Recent evidence suggests he is not quite up to international standard as a bowler, though, and was used sparingly by captain Eoin Morgan during the recent Pakistan series.
Dawson has not featured since October, when he left the Sri Lanka tour with a side strain, but has impressed during Hampshire’s run to the One-Day Cup final and is considered a safer bet with the ball.
The balance was potentially tipped by Adil Rashid’s fitness, with Smith revealing the side’s premier spinner has a minor injury, placing a greater emphasis on having a reliable stand-in at hand.
“It was a very difficult situation we were in as a panel. We had more players than we were allowed,” said Smith.
“First of all, it’s a balance decision, it could go either way but secondly, Adil Rashid has a little shoulder niggle.
“He’ll be fine, we hope he’ll play a full and complete part in the tournament, but it’s a factor in the Liam Dawson decision.
“You could say actually the strategic priority here is if one of those two main spinners is injured or if there’s a problem, we’ve got someone whose primary focus in his professional career has been his bowling. And that’s the route we’ve gone down with Liam Dawson.”
Archer, Barbados-born to an English father, only qualified under revised residency rules in March and looks set to be a major factor in the competition.
Hailed as an “outstanding talent” by Smith, the 24-year-old paceman was delighted to get the nod.
“I got a call from Ed yesterday about 6pm. I was driving at the time,” he said.
“I felt the phone vibrate, I answered without looking at it. It is really exciting to be part of a big summer for English cricket.
“I’ve played a lot of cricket, I know how to deal with pressure, crowds, I think I’m ready.”
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