The predictable returns of fit-again James Anderson, for his home Test at Old Trafford, and Ben Stokes were confirmed yesterday in a 14-man squad also containing an extra spinner in Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid.
The surprise, after losing the first match of four to Pakistan by 75 runs at Lord’s, was that none of the vanquished made way.
Incumbent seamers Steven Finn and Jake Ball, the latter after just one cap, appeared vulnerable.
Likewise, middle-order pair Gary Ballance and James Vince might have wondered if they would get another chance in Manchester.
England’s selectors have, however, chosen to sacrifice no one and travel north with both Rashid – yet to play a home Test – and Moeen Ali vying for the spinner’s spot, or conceivably to play alongside one another if conditions dictate.
After leg-spinner Yasir Shah bowled Pakistan to victory at Lord’s, it is unlikely a pitch still more to his liking will be served up on Friday.
But coach Trevor Bayliss gives credence to the notion of England returning fire with two spinners of their own this summer.
“I’ve always thought of playing two spinners (at home), at some stage,” he said.
The extra element of Rashid’s leg-spin may yet be a temptation. “[Pakistan] have three left-arm pace bowlers, who created rough outside the off stump for Moeen,” Bayliss added.
“So looking ahead, if we did happen to have two spinners, they could both play an important part for us. They have just the one left-hander in their top order, with the ball spinning into the right-handers.
“It’s definitely a possibility.
“Getting the ball spinning away from the bat might make it a little more difficult.”
In three Tests against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates last winter, Rashid had mixed results.
“We’ve had a couple of guys playing over the last 12 months or so who are deemed the best spinners in England,” said Bayliss.
“We’ve got to make do with what we’ve got.”
More important than having weapons to fire back, he believes, is that England’s batsmen combat the threat from Yasir better than at their first attempt.
“Our batters have to play their spin a lot better,” added Bayliss.
“Especially in the first innings, I felt we gifted him a few wickets with shots I’m sure the boys would like to replay. The disappointment showing on the boys’ faces in the changing-room says a lot. I’m sure they will be determined to come out in the next Test and get that right.”
Yasir has shot to the top of the International Cricket Council rankings, deposing Anderson, on the back of his 10-wicket match haul – which included eight either bowled or lbw as England failed to come to terms with his well-directed variations.
“Putting it into practice under pressure in a Test match can sometimes be difficult, and you do make mistakes,” said Bayliss.
“But I hope these guys can be quick learners and play a lot better in the second Test.”
In his maiden Test summer, Vince’s second-innings 42 is his highest score to date.
“Most of the innings he’s played, I think he has looked very good while he has been there,” said England’s Australian coach.
“The way he goes about it – personally, I think it would be an injustice if he doesn’t make it.”
Vince’s strokeplay is pleasing on the eye, but Bayliss added: “In the end, it will be the number of runs that determines his longevity in the team.
“I’m sure he is starting to feel the pressure. He’d like to be scoring more runs. Ask anyone who has been in that situation, it is a difficult thing to go out and play your natural game.
“He has some work to do.”
Chris Woakes – who took 11-102 at Lord’s – and Alastair Cook’s opening partner Alex Hales are, according to Bayliss, evidence that sticking with new players is often a rewarding policy.
“If you think they are good enough and they believe they are, a lot of times they will come good.
“That’s not 100 per cent of the time... but I like to think that [Vince] will play more cricket for England.”
Anderson’s absence from the squad for the first Test was controversial – amid reports of a difference of opinion between team management and fellow selectors.
Bayliss and captain Cook were understood to be in favour of Anderson’s return, only for a majority decision to take no chances with his recovery from a stress fracture of the shoulder blade.
Bayliss, however, has insisted he was satisfied with discussions – and the marginal call made before Lord’s.
“I’m quite happy with the process that took place,” he said. “It was deemed that he needed to prove his fitness in a match, and that was the decision that was made. I suppose, if a player is coming back from injury, it’s better that he breaks down in a county match than in a Test match.”