England Lions fly out to Jamaica today with their captain Keaton Jennings urging the squad to kick on from the experiences they gained in Australia before Christmas.
Jennings is leading the Lions for a second consecutive winter, and this time his fellow travellers include two members of England’s Ashes squad – Ben Foakes and Mason Crane – as well as Liam Livingstone, a third player who will be aiming to make an impression before joining the Test tour of New Zealand.
Haseeb Hameed, Jamie Porter and Toby Roland-Jones are all itching to get back into competitive action after injury, while the remaining nine members of the squad for a three-match series against West Indies A share Jennings’ determination to build on the work they did in the red-ball training camp in Brisbane.
“The focus in Australia was on training and practice, with the bonus of a three-day game against Queensland and a T20 series against Perth Scorchers,” said Jennings, who is aiming to stake his claim for an England recall this winter.
“Now we switch to a focus on playing matches, with the three Tests against West Indies A followed by a one-day series.
“It was similar last winter, with our training camp in Dubai and Abu Dhabi before Christmas and then the great experience of touring Sri Lanka. England go there next winter so for any of the Lions guys who have managed to force their way in, they will have a first-hand experience of playing in places like Kandy and Dambulla.
“West Indies will be a different culture for us all to experience, and it’s an exciting prospect to be playing at Sabina Park in Kingston, where we’ve got our warm-up match next week as well as the second Test. Then we head to Antigua, and after that for those of us lucky enough to be in the North-South Series as well, we play at the Kensington Oval in Barbados.
“I expect the atmosphere to be similar to last year. You get put under pressure both by the opposition and our own coaches. You have to be able to adapt to unknown opposition in different conditions. And you’re wearing the England shirt and kit, which is always an honour and raises the stakes.
“There’s also the element of trying to impress the coaches and selectors who will be out there – and if you look at our squad, there are a few guys who will be vying for different positions. But we will also be trying our utmost to win the series.”
Three Lions preparing for New Zealand…
Mason Crane – made his Test debut in Sydney, but this is a first Lions tour for the 20-year-old Hampshire leg-spinner, who spent last winter on an ECB Overseas Placement. Could form a potent spin attack with the Somerset pair of Jack Leach and Dominic Bess.
Ben Foakes – a Lions veteran who received his first senior England call for the Ashes tour, and made a positive impression with his batting, wicketkeeping and attitude. He will relish the opportunity to play some competitive cricket before resuming his role as Jonny Bairstow’s deputy in New Zealand.
Liam Livingstone – the newly-appointed Lancashire captain who then received a call into England’s squad for the Test tour of New Zealand. Hard-hitting Cumbrian, who also possesses the rare ability to switch from leg-spin to off-spin, excelled with the Lions in Sri Lanka last winter, and will relish the chance to link up again with Andy Flower.
…and three hoping to force an England recall
Haseeb Hameed – this will be the first competitive cricket of the winter for the young Lancashire opener, who suffered an untimely finger injury late in the 2017 season, just when he was hinting at a return to the prolific 2016 form which earned him a trip to India and an England debut.
Keaton Jennings – impressed everyone as Lions captain last winter, either side of scoring a century on his Test debut for England in Mumbai after Hameed had suffered a first finger injury. That dream start gave way to tough reality against the South Africans last summer, but Jennings is determined to battle back.
Toby Roland-Jones – another player who must have watched the Ashes with huge frustration, having made such a positive impression with 17 wickets in his first four Tests last summer, only to suffer a back injury that was as cruelly-timed for England as for him. Now the tall Middlesex seamer is raring to go after working through the winter on the ECB Pace Programme – and determined to regain his place this summer, or maybe even earlier. His excellent performances for the Lions in Sri Lanka last winter were important in earning him a long-awaited England chance, so he will hope lightning strikes twice in the Caribbean.
England Lions squads
For whole tour
Keaton Jennings (Lancashire, capt)
Joe Clarke (Worcestershire)
Dan Lawrence (Essex)
George Garton (Sussex)
Jamie Porter (Essex)
Paul Coughlin (Nottinghamshire)
Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire)
Nick Gubbins (Middlesex)
Alex Davies (Lancashire, wk)
Dominic Bess (Somerset)
Haseeb Hameed (Lancashire)
Liam Livingstone (Lancashire)
Ben Foakes (Surrey, wk)
Toby Roland-Jones (Middlesex)
Jack Leach (Somerset)
Mason Crane (Hampshire)
Sam Northeast (Kent)
Liam Dawson (Hampshire)
Tom Helm (Middlesex)
Sam Curran (Surrey)
Matt Parkinson (Lancashire)
5-7 February: Tour match – Sabina Park, Jamaica
11-14 February – v West Indies A: Trelawny Multiplex, Jamaica
18-21 February – v West Indies A: Sabina Park, Jamaica
26 February - 1 March – v West Indies A: Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, Antigua
4 March: Tour match – Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, Antigua
6 March – v West Indies A: Coolidge Cricket Ground, Antigua
9 March – v West Indies A: Coolidge Cricket Ground, Antigua
11 March – v West Indies A: Coolidge Cricket Ground, Antigua
Tom Barber (Middlesex)
Zak Chappell (Leicestershire)
George Scrimshaw (Worcestershire)
Paul Walter (Essex)
Reece Topley (Hampshire)
Jamie Overton (Somerset)
Jamie Porter (Essex) – preparing to depart for West Indies with Lions on 31 January
Tom Helm (Middlesex) – preparing to join Lions in West Indies in February
3-5, 8-10, 15-17 January: Performance Centre, Loughborough
25 January – 9 February: Warm weather training camp, Potchefstroom
27 February – 3 March: Warm weather training camp, Desert Springs