England will name their first overseas Test touring party in 18 months at 11.45am on Wednesday, with Jonathan Trott tipped to return to the squad for the three-match series against West Indies that starts on 13 April.
Alastair Cook, who prepares for the tour with a four-day match for MCC against Yorkshire in Abu Dhabi starting on Sunday, will hope to be furnished with a full-strength side as he seeks to reassert his authority as captain after being unceremoniously removed from the one-day job before Christmas. England’s last Test trip to the Caribbean ended in a 1-0 defeat, a repeat of which would be disastrous for the team management.
To that end, the return of Trott – as opposed to another South African-born right-hander pushing for a recall recently – provides vital experience to a side low on confidence following their group stage exit from the World Cup. It it easy to forget, given the winter of 50-over misery, that their previous outing in white flannels was a 3-1 series victory over India last summer.
Trott has not been part of the senior side since leaving the 2013-14 Ashes in Australia – England’s last Test outing overseas – with a stress-related illness. His first comeback for Warwickshire at the start of last season was aborted after three games but the 33-year-old returned in June, scoring five hundreds in the second half of the summer before hitting an unbeaten double-century while captaining the Lions in South Africa in January.
The spin department provides the greatest concern for England, with Moeen Ali set to be taken to the Caribbean despite an abdominal strain ruling him out of the two-day warm-up matches in St Kitts, starting on 6 April. Cook and the head coach Peter Moores are banking on an intensive treatment programme ensuring Moeen is ready for the first Test in Antigua the following week, with James Tredwell poised to deputise despite losing his four-day berth at Kent to Adam Riley last summer.
England’s next Test debutant will sport the number of the beast – 666 – on his shirt, with the uncapped duo of the Durham fast bowler Mark Wood and the Yorkshire leg-spinning all-rounder Adil Rashid known to be in the selectors’ thoughts before Tuesday’s meeting. Wood’s inclusion will depend on whether Chris Woakes, with a five-week recuperation period, is risked following a stress reaction to his left foot. Liam Plunkett, another Lions tourist, could also get the call, having impressed on his return last summer with 19 wickets in four Tests before a season-ending ankle injury.
The opener Sam Robson, who scored a maiden Test century against Sri Lanka last May but struggled outside off stump in the win over India, will hope to have seen off competition from Yorkshire’s title-winning opening duo of Adam Lyth and Alex Lees. Trott, however, could challenge him for his place in the team.
Possible England squad Alastair Cook (capt), Sam Robson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Moeen Ali, Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper), Jonny Bairstow (wicketkeeper), James Tredwell, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood/Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid
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