With Jofra Archer’s inclusion in England’s World Cup squad long considered a formality, it was spinner Liam Dawson who assumed the role of ‘bolter’ as Joe Denly and David Willey saw their dreams dashed.
National selector Ed Smith named England’s final 15 at Lord’s on Tuesday, with three changes from the preliminary group submitted last month.
Off-field transgressions forced Alex Hales’ removal and James Vince’s promotion, Archer’s impressive early outings on the international stage saw him leapfrog Willey, while Dawson was brought in from the cold in place of all-rounder Denly.
The 33-year-old Denly had been included initially as a utility option, capable of stepping into any of the batting slots as well as offering back-up leg-spin. Recent evidence suggests he is not quite up to international standard as a bowler, though, and was used sparingly by captain Eoin Morgan during the recent Pakistan series.
Dawson, meanwhile, won the last of his three caps in October, when he left the Sri Lanka tour with a side strain. But he has impressed during Hampshire’s run to the Royal London One-Day Cup final and is considered a safer bet with the ball.
In the end the balance was tipped by Adil Rashid’s fitness, with Smith revealing the Yorkshireman is managing a niggling shoulder problem that requires injections.
“It was a very difficult decision. There were more players deserving of selection than there were places,” Smith explained at Lord’s, site of the World Cup final.
“It just turned out there had to be two unfortunate players and it falls to the selector to make those phone calls.
Referring to Rashid’s fitness, Smith added: “That’s not the whole explanation (for Dawson), but it’s part of the story. We hope the injection he is having will help him have a full part in the competition. But it’s a question of balance, and it could have gone either way. I felt very strongly going into the meeting that I wanted Eoin Morgan to be comfortable with the final 15.”
While Denly will be sorely frustrated, he is a relative newcomer to the squad himself, unlike Willey.
The left-armer has played in 46 of England’s 88 one-day internationals since the last tournament, and carried drinks at plenty more, but was deemed most dispensable once Archer’s talents became apparent.
“What can I say, I’m absolutely gutted. Still 100 per cent behind the lads. On a positive… still winning at life!!” the Yorkshire all-rounder tweeted a couple of hours after the announcement.
Smith, having been the bearer of both bad and good news, paid tribute to Willey’s stoic reaction after being culled.
“David Willey deserved a place in the England squad but there were more people that deserve it than there were spots in the team,” said Smith.
“He is an outstanding man and he behaved exactly as you expect him to as an outstanding human being.”
Archer, Barbados-born to an English father, only qualified under revised residency rules in March and looks set to be a major factor in the competition.
Smith hailed the paceman’s “special gifts” and the 24-year-old was delighted to get the nod.
“I got a call from Ed yesterday about 6pm. I was driving at the time,” he said.
“I felt the phone vibrate, I answered without looking at it. It is really exciting to be part of a big summer for English cricket.
“I’ve played a lot of cricket, I know how to deal with pressure, crowds, I think I’m ready.”
Any suggestions that Archer’s late arrival on the scene would disrupt the harmony of a winning team dissipated almost immediately and the Sussex bowler already feels at home in the set-up.
“Everyone welcomed me with open arms from the moment I got in,” he said.
“It’s a really good team to be part of, great team, captain, support staff, one of the better teams I’ve played in.”