Ben Foakes believes the Kia Oval is the ideal location for England Lions to play Monday’s final of the A-team Tri-Series against India.
Foakes admits he is biased, as playing on his home ground has allowed him to stay at home over the weekend, and to use his usual locker in the Surrey dressing room at practice today.
But after group matches in Derby, Leicester and Northampton, both Mark Ramprakash’s Lions and Rahul Dravid’s tourists are relishing the opportunity to decide the series at one of the great international venues of world cricket.
And Foakes hopes that head groundsman Lee Fortis might also oblige with a pitch that suits the Lions seamers more than has traditionally been expected.
“We’ve had great hospitality at all the grounds in this series, but for me this is perfect – especially for a final against a very good India side,” said the 25-year-old, who will be making his 17th List A appearance for the Lions – and having claimed a total of 17 catches and three stumpings in the previous 16, needs two more dismissals to equal the record set by his former Surrey team-mate Steve Davies.
“It’s a nice set-up for me, and it’s a great place to play cricket.
“We’ve been playing good cricket in the series so far. We should expect to do well in this sort of series in England, and in three of the four games we’ve had good wins.”
The exception was their second meeting with the Indians at the Fischer County Ground in Leicester, where the Indians gave the Lions a lesson in how to play on a slow turner.
“That was more like playing in Mumbai,” Foakes grinned. “It definitely didn’t suit us. I’m pretty sure it will be different here.
“This year the pitches have changed a bit, and we’ve played on wickets that have been a bit greener, and have offered a bit more for the seamers. It looks like there’s a bit of grass on this one.”
Foakes admits he has had some mixed feelings over the last two weeks, missing out on the consecutive Championship wins at Guildford and Scarborough that have taken Surrey clear at the top of the Division One table.
But after his selection for England’s Ashes tour party confirmed that he is closer than ever to a Test debut, he has been determined to maintain the standards he has set over several years with the Lions.
“I was gutted to miss the last two Championship games with the team going so well,” he confirmed. “I’m desperate to play my part later in the season.
“But playing for the Lions is always a great opportunity, because it shows the selectors think you are pushing for England selection.
“In the one-day stuff it’s pretty blocked up in terms of keepers, so for me progressing I’d see more opportunity in red ball – although that’s pretty blocked up as well! I’ve just got to keep scoring runs, and keeping well, and working hard, in whatever format, red-ball or white-ball – the selectors have shown it doesn’t matter what you’re scoring runs in, they’ll still notice.”
Foakes wasn’t the only member of the Lions set-up who enjoyed returning to familiar surroundings in the home dressing room at the Kia Oval today. Ramprakash and Saqlain Mushtaq, who has been working with the Lions spinners throughout the series, also have a host of happy memories from their years with Surrey – and Saqlain took the chance for a long chat with Amar Virdi when he called into the ground.
The Lions will be selecting from the same 13-man squad, including Worcestershire’s Ed Barnard and Warwickshire’s Henry Brookes, who were called up last week.
Liam Dawson missed practice yesterday after sharing in Hampshire’s triumph in the Royal London One-Day Cup final on Saturday, but Reece Topley bowled in the nets and will be keen to take out his frustration after his exclusion from Hampshire’s Lord’s XI, despite taking four cheap wickets in the Lions’ last win against West Indies A in Northampton.
Yorkshire opener Tom Kohler-Cadmore also missed practice because of illness, but Ramprakash is hopeful he will be fit to resume his partnership with Nick Gubbins.
India have lost two members of their squad to the senior team who are preparing for Tuesday’s Vitality IT20 in Manchester – Chennai seamerDeepak Chahar and Mumbai’s spinning all-rounder Krunal Pandya.
Lions (from): Mullaney (Notts, captain), Foakes (Surrey, wk), Gubbins (Middlesex), Kohler-Cadmore (Yorkshire), Hain (Warwickshire), Livingstone (Lancashire), Dawson (Hampshire), Barnard (Worcestershire), Fisher (Yorkshire), Topley (Hampshire), Parkinson (Lancashire), Helm (Middlesex), Brookes (Warwickshire).