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England selector Ed Smith must show imagination with Pakistan selection and bring back Jos Buttler


It would not auger well for new national selector Ed Smith to set out his vision at Lord’s on Tuesday for a brighter future by sticking with all the players who failed to win a single Test in seven attempts this winter. 

The time has come to be bold. The time has come to bring Jos Buttler back into Test cricket. 

There are strong cricketing arguments for England giving one more chance in an opening two-Test series against Pakistan to two batsmen in Mark Stoneman and James Vince who both scored half-centuries in their last Test innings.

And the last thing England need under their new selectorial regime is a return to the bad old days of chopping and changing all too quickly at the expense of the continuity that took them to the top of the world rankings.

England Selector Ed Smith Must Show Imagination With Pakistan Selection And bring Back Jos Buttler

England should bring Jos Buttler (above) back into the Test fold at the expense of James Vince

Yet the most damning statistic of the many England will sift through in their desire to make more use of data and analytics in selection – and how Peter Moores must smile wryly at that – is that the under-pressure pair do not have a Test century between them in 40 attempts. It is simply not good enough.

Vince may have hit a double hundred for Hampshire against Somerset on Monday but he has only three half-centuries in his 13 Tests and averages just 24.90 which should be a long enough opportunity to impress at the highest level.

Sportsmail revealed on Saturday England are considering Nick Gubbins in place of Stoneman and even though there are concerns the Middlesex opener is not yet as proficient against spin as seam, he should now be given the summer to prove himself as Alastair Cook’s latest partner ahead of Keaton Jennings.

But the biggest statement Smith, who will pick the team along with coach Trevor Bayliss and outgoing selectors Angus Fraser and Mick Newell, could make is to bring back the most gifted of all England’s cricketers in Vince’s place.

England are just not good enough now in Test cricket to afford themselves the luxury of ignoring Buttler even though his 18th and last Test appearance at Chennai 18 months ago ended with him failing to fully justify his huge talent.

Buttler has been in fine form in the IPL and should be given free rein to bat at No 7 - England Selector Ed Smith Must Show Imagination With Pakistan Selection And bring Back Jos Buttler

Buttler has been in fine form in the IPL and should be given free rein to bat at No 7 - England Selector Ed Smith Must Show Imagination With Pakistan Selection And bring Back Jos Buttler

Buttler has been in fine form in the IPL and should be given free rein to bat at No 7

Vince has not made enough of his extended opportunity to impress in the Test arena  - England Selector Ed Smith Must Show Imagination With Pakistan Selection And bring Back Jos Buttler

Vince has not made enough of his extended opportunity to impress in the Test arena  - England Selector Ed Smith Must Show Imagination With Pakistan Selection And bring Back Jos Buttler

Vince has not made enough of his extended opportunity to impress in the Test arena 

There will be those who splutter that Buttler simply has not played enough red-ball cricket to justify his selection now but the days when players would warm up for Tests with a long spell in the County Championship have gone.

The Indian Premier League is as far away from a Test at Lord’s in May as it is possible to be but Buttler has been in scintillating form in making five brilliant half-centuries in his last five innings for the Rajasthan Royals.

Now he should be told that he should approach each Test innings as he would if the ball were white rather than red – which doesn’t necessarily meaning teeing off from the start – and be given a free rein at seven for England. 

This is not to say England’s one-day keeper should be given the Test gloves now. And nor should Smith and company give a debut now to Ben Foakes, as Sportsmail revealed on Sunday they are also considering, however classical a keeper and impressive batsman the Surrey man is.

Fact is, Jonny Bairstow is one of the few England Test players who is performing at a world-class level in his dual role with bat and as a keeper and it would be foolhardy to disrupt him now by taking the gloves from him.

Bairstow did not miss a chance during a long winter and firmly believes that the hard work he has put in to turn himself into a keeper of genuine Test ability also frees him up to give his best with the bat.

England are considering handing a Test debut to Surrey wicketkeeper Ben Foakes - England Selector Ed Smith Must Show Imagination With Pakistan Selection And bring Back Jos Buttler

England are considering handing a Test debut to Surrey wicketkeeper Ben Foakes - England Selector Ed Smith Must Show Imagination With Pakistan Selection And bring Back Jos Buttler

England are considering handing a Test debut to Surrey wicketkeeper Ben Foakes

However, it would be foolish for the selectors to take the gloves away from  Jonny Bairstow - England Selector Ed Smith Must Show Imagination With Pakistan Selection And bring Back Jos Buttler

However, it would be foolish for the selectors to take the gloves away from  Jonny Bairstow - England Selector Ed Smith Must Show Imagination With Pakistan Selection And bring Back Jos Buttler

However, it would be foolish for the selectors to take the gloves away from Jonny Bairstow

NEWMAN’S CHOICE TO FACE PAKISTAN AT LORD’S 

Cook, Gubbins, Root (captain), Malan, Bairstow (keeper), Stokes, Buttler, Moeen, Woakes, Broad, Anderson.

Foakes is clearly a natural keeper and his time will come but the fact he missed two stumpings at the Oval on Sunday shows he is no James Foster yet.

It is one of the anomalies of the domestic game that for all the dearth of top-quality fast and spin bowlers, England are blessed with a plethora of batsman-keepers who could play international cricket.

As well as Bairstow, Buttler and Foakes, England have Sam Billings while two of the best young batting prospects in the game in Joe Clarke and Ollie Pope are both keepers too. There is no shortage of candidates but Bairstow has done nothing to lose the gloves even though he should still bat higher in the order.

There is not too much wrong, at least not yet, with England’s home Test cricket and Smith’s biggest challenge will be arresting the away form that has seen them, remarkably, without a win in 13 overseas matches.

Ed Smith, right, must show nerve and imagination with his first England Test selection - England Selector Ed Smith Must Show Imagination With Pakistan Selection And bring Back Jos Buttler

Ed Smith, right, must show nerve and imagination with his first England Test selection - England Selector Ed Smith Must Show Imagination With Pakistan Selection And bring Back Jos Buttler

Ed Smith, right, must show nerve and imagination with his first England Test selection

To that end, England need to be giving their best spinners as much experience as possible and the broken thumb that ruled Jack Leach out is a cruel blow along with the stress fracture of the back that forced Mason Crane home from the tour of New Zealand. Without them the spinning cupboard is bare.

England then should invite the fast bowler they consider the best bet for overseas pitches now – maybe Olly Stone or Josh Tongue – and the next best young spinning prospect in Amar Virdi to join them as non-squad members at Lord’s next week to start bedding them in.

Smith was a controversial choice by Andrew Strauss as national selector ahead of the outstanding candidate in Andy Flower who knows all about the next generation of cricketers and, for that matter, analytics.

Now he has to start proving immediately he is the right man for the job by showing nerve and imagination. Specifically he must bring in Buttler.



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