England have delayed their planned squad announcement for the Test series against New Zealand after captain Joe Root was too ill to take part in selection, but James Vince and Mark Stoneman both appear to have earned a reprieve.
Root was hospitalised by a virus on the final morning of the Ashes series, briefly returning to the ground to bat before retiring at lunch following recurring symptoms, and he was still feeling the effects yesterday.
This meant he was unable to discuss squad matters with head coach Trevor Bayliss and the other selectors, forcing a 24-hour delay to the announcement, which will now take place at 10pm tonight UK time.
However, Bayliss offered his own take on the side that will take on the Black Caps in a two-match series next month and there was a heavy nod that Vince and Stoneman would hold their positions in the top three.
The pair started promisingly Down Under, but failed to make adequate contributions in the 4-0 defeat, averaging in the mid-twenties and mustering just four half-centuries between them in 18 innings.
“It gets down to when is the time to move on and personally I think people like Stoneman and Vince probably get another couple of games to show us what they’ve got,” said Bayliss.
“I think at times during this series, against what is probably close to the best bowling attack in the world in their home conditions, they have shown they can play a bit.
“I don’t know whether it was the pressure and the longevity of the five Test matches pretty close to each other or whether there was a fatigue and they dropped off in the last couple of games. But I think they have done enough without anyone really pushing them from behind and they probably deserve another opportunity.”
Vince’s apparent lifeline means the likeliest Ashes scapegoat, though England would doubtless blanch at that description, is a player who took no active part in the series.
Having failed to win selection for any of the five Tests, Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance may well find himself usurped by a younger challenger as the spare batsman in the squad.
Among the uncapped options in the recent Lions squad, Joe Clarke, Dan Lawrence and Liam Livingstone all have admirers and it is likely at least one will make the trip.
“Is there someone there?,” continued Bayliss. “There are three or four good young batters in that Lions group that at some stage I’m sure will get their opportunity, but we have to work out exactly when the time is right to blood them and give them experience.
“We have had preliminary discussions, but we’re waiting to sit down with selectors until Joe is back on his feet. It is a possibility.”