Liam Dawson has been called into England’s World Cup squad at the expense of Joe Denly, while David Willey is expected to be the unlucky seamer to make way for the inclusion of Jofra Archer, as England’s selectors ring the changes in their final 15-man line-up ahead of the tournament’s opening fixture, against South Africa at The Oval on May 30.
James Vince has also been named in the 15 as a straight swap for Alex Hales, who was deselected earlier this month after failing two tests for recreational drugs, making a total of three changes from the provisional 15 that was named ahead of the ODI series against Ireland and Pakistan this month.
Dawson’s inclusion completes a remarkable return to prominence for a player who has not been in the England frame since the ODI tour of Sri Lanka prior to Christmas. A side strain suffered on that trip opened the door for Denly, who marked his first England appearance for almost ten years with a four-wicket haul in a one-off T20I.
However, having been earmarked as England’s spin-bowling reserve allrounder for the World Cup, Denly failed to cement his place during the Ireland and Pakistan series. He bowled just 11 overs in three matches – in which his solitary wicket came from a leg-side stumping – while his innings of 17 from 21 balls in England’s three-wicket win at Trent Bridge last week was not enough to convince the selectors that he has the batting prowess to balance his purported credentials as an allrounder.
Dawson, meanwhile, has been in impressive form for Hampshire in this season’s Royal London Cup. He has claimed 18 wickets at 20.33 en route to the final against Somerset at Lord’s this week, and he has also made 274 runs at 45.66, including a century against Middlesex at The Oval.
Dawson’s potential inclusion in England’s plans had been telegraphed earlier in the month, when the coach Trevor Bayliss hinted that he might be included in the squad for the latter stages of the Pakistan series. Though that didn’t come to pass, it was clear that he and England’s captain, Eoin Morgan, were at odds with the chief selector, Ed Smith, a strong advocate of Denly’s credentials.
Bayliss ultimately conceded that the casting vote in the event of a selection disagreement would come down to the captain, Morgan, who had dropped a strong hint as to Denly’s lack of suitability for the back-up spin role by bowling him for a solitary over – containing three full-tosses – in the third ODI at Bristol.
Archer, meanwhile, is set to complete a stunning rise through England’s ranks, having only received the opportunity to qualify for the World Cup when the ECB changed their residency rules from seven years to three late last year.
Having made his name on the T20 franchise circuit, Archer showcased his value to England as a 90mph new-ball bowler in a sharp four-over spell in the rain-ruined first ODI against Pakistan at The Oval, then combined well with Mark Wood on a batsman-friendly surface at Trent Bridge the following week.
His anticipated inclusion is cruel luck on Willey, who seemed to have risen to the challenge posed to his place in the squad with an impressive showing in the second ODI at the Ageas Bowl, where he showcased his death-bowling credentials to close out a tight 12-run win.
However, he was less impressive at other moments of the series – not least in being taken for 86 runs in ten overs at Bristol, and appears to have suffered, ultimately, from the lack of fallibility from his rivals for selection. Tom Curran impressed with bat and ball at various stages of the campaign, while Chris Woakes reaffirmed his status with a decisive five-wicket haul at Headingley.
Liam Plunkett, meanwhile, remains England’s most prolific seamer since the 2015 World Cup, and the selectors are loath to go into the World Cup without his experience. And Mark Wood, despite his injury concerns, was touching 90mph in his first spell of the summer alongside Archer at Trent Bridge.
Bayliss, who will stand down at England coach after the Ashes later this summer, said: “I hadn’t seen [Archer] play live before but he’s certainly lived up to expectations. He’s got good control, good pace and he can bowl in all the three phases of the match.
“It’s been a hectic last six months but the guys have come through and I fully expect them to play well,” he added. “For any team, knock-out cricket is when the most pressure is. Our first job is to get through and qualify for the semi-finals. Get to a semi and anything is possible.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket
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