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Athers' England assessment

10 August 2017 National Sport

Cricket Expert & Columnist

England have earmarked Crane for Australia, says Athers

Last Updated: 10/08/17 7:07pm

Hampshire spinner Mason Crane says he did not expect to be named in England’s Test squad to face West Indies at Edgbaston

The Surrey player, who joined the Oval club from Durham over the winter, has been rewarded for some fine form domestically, .

Stoneman will replace former Durham team-mate Keaton Jennings, who has been dropped after averaging just 15.87 in the 3-1 Test series win over South Africa, the country of his birth.

Leg-spinner Mason Crane – who played two T20Is against South Africa this summer, bagging the wicket of AB de Villiers in his second – could also make his Test bow having come in for Hampshire colleague Liam Dawson.

Chris Woakes is also included, having overcome a side strain, and will put pressure on Toby Roland-Jones for a seam spot as England begin a three-Test series against Jason Holder’s Windies.

But what does Sky Sports’ MICHAEL ATHERTON make of the squad?

Ben Stokes believes Keaton Jennings still has an England future despite a poor run of form

ATHERS on… Stoneman for Jennings

“There is no surprise that Stoneman comes in for Jennings, who has had a rough old ride on sporty pitches that have done a bit against a very good South Africa bowling attack.

“England probably feel he needs a bit of time to get rhythm and form back in county cricket and Stoneman is the in-form opener. No one has nailed down that spot and he is the latest to get a go.

“I see a lot of England’s batsmen and many look very manufactured, stiff, stilted and coached, but when I’ve seen Stoneman he looks a more natural player than many England have picked in recent times – he looks fluent and will be an attractive player to watch if he gets going.

Mark Stoneman has scored three Championship tons for Surrey this season

Mark Stoneman has scored three Championship tons for Surrey this season

Mark Stoneman has scored three Championship tons for Surrey this season

“I don’t envy him starting with a day-night Test – West Indies, I think, will be less powerful then South Africa, but the ball will nip around under the lights.

“He will come in feeling in good nick and what an opportunity it is – if all goes well for him in the three Tests he will be on a plane to Australia.”

ATHERS on… Crane’s call-up

“Clearly England have moved on from Adil Rashid in red-ball cricket for whatever reason – he took 30 wickets in India and Bangladesh over the winter, so I have some sympathy for him.

“Crane impressed down under for New South Wales [in the Sheffield Shield] and while I don’t think he will play at Edgbaston, they are looking at him for the winter for the second spinner’s berth.

“It is a wholly different game for a spin bowler bowling in T20 cricket as opposed to Tests – you can have men back on the fence in T20 when you are not expected to win the game on turning pitch.

Watch how Mason Crane reacted after dismissing De Villiers in a T20I in Cardiff

“He has taken only 16 wickets in Championship cricket this term but a lot of that cricket is played at the start of the year and the end of the year, so it is very difficult for a young spinner in England.

“I see Dawson’s Test role being limited going forward, if I’m honest, given England have moved to Crane and given that they have found a balance to the side that works for them.

“If you go to the subcontinent you need two spinners and maybe three in the squad, so at that stage maybe Dawson will come back in but I can’t see him playing too much Test cricket in England.”

Watch the day-night Test between England and West Indies from 1pm on Thursday, August 17 on Sky Sports Cricket (channel 404).

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