England are set to hand an international debut to 20-year-old leg-spinner Mason Crane – with a view to a possible first Test cap later in the summer.
Crane, who comes with a stamp of approval from his hero Shane Warne, will play at his home ground – Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl – in the first of three Twenty20 internationals against South Africa.
England are understood to be willing to pitch him into the Test series against West Indies in September.
Mason Crane looks set to receive his first England call-up in the upcoming Twenty20 series
The 20-year-old spin bowler will come in against South Africa at Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl
With an Ashes tour to follow, the stakes could hardly be higher for a young man whose combative approach to one of the hardest skills in the game has caught the eye of the selectors.
‘He’s still very young but we want to see what he’s about,’ said England captain Eoin Morgan.
‘And we’ll find out: he’s going to come up against AB de Villiers.
‘Brendon McCullum played for Middlesex against Hampshire last year and got hold of Mason a couple of times, but he had tricks to come back, and the captain stuck with him. That impressed me.’
Crane, who also made a good impression during the 50-over North v South series in the UAE earlier this year, fell in love with leg-spin after watching Warne on TV during the 2005 Ashes.
And in March he claimed five wickets during a one-off appearance in Australia’s first-class Sheffield Shield for New South Wales against South Australia – later earning a ribbing from Hampshire team-mates when he described the awarding of his NSW cap as the proudest moment of his career.
The Hampshire spinner has impressed selectors and could get a Test call-up later in the year
England captain Eoin Morgan says he ‘want to see what Crane is about’ in upcoming matches
Crane is likely to be the only fresh face in the series opener against a South African side resting several big names ahead of next month’s four-Test series.
But, with England keen to take a look at new talent ahead of the next World Twenty20 in three years’ time, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Tom Curran and Craig Overton are all likely to win their first caps at Taunton on Friday or Cardiff on Sunday.
The sight of England’s former one-day captain Adam Hollioake helping out at training was a reminder that they remain keen to involve former players as well.
Morgan’s team are barely a week on from their disappointing exit in the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy at the hands of Pakistan, but the captain insisted the swift turnaround was no bad thing.
‘I think it helps that you can go straight back into it,’ he said. ‘To get back on the horse is a good thing for everybody.’
Crane’s hero is Australia legend Shane Warne, who he watched on TV during the 2005 Ashes
Jason Roy is set to return to the side following his omission from the Pakistan game last week
That includes opener Jason Roy, who will open with Alex Hales after being omitted for the Pakistan game following a poor run of 50-over form.
Meanwhile, Morgan is keen to replicate the intensity of knockout cricket by taking part in more tri-series events between global tournaments.
England play a three-way Twenty20 series against Australia and New Zealand early next year, and he will lobby for another to be introduced next summer – possibly involving Australia and India.