Following the naming of a 12-man England squad for the first Test against Pakistan at Lord's, Richard Mann gives his take on the selections of Jos Buttler and Dom Bess.
Ed Smith has begun his tenure as national selector by springing a couple of surprises in the squad named for next week's Test and will know that they need to pay immediate dividends following a disastrous winter Down Under for Joe Root's side.
James Vince has been given the axe, despite scoring a double hundred for Hampshire in the last round of County Championship fixtures and a winter’s hard toil facing the likes of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Trent Boult.
Vince made a composed 76 in his last England appearance against New Zealand in Christchurch and will feel hard done by having shown enough promise in his 13-Test career to suggest he has what it takes to succeed at the highest level.
Ultimately, the selectors have decided that an average of 24.90, with no hundreds, isn’t good enough for a number-three batsman and this surely spells the end for Vince.
In his place comes Jos Buttler, another gifted cricketer who has had a couple of cracks at Test cricket already.
The first came as a wicket-keeper batsman and the early indications were that he might develop into a fine gloveman who could prove a destructive batsman at number seven.
A slump in form and an irresistible case made by Jonny Bairstow saw Buttler dropped but he returned to the side as a batsman only for the final three games of England’s 4-0 defeat in India in 2016/2017.
Buttler averaged 38.50 in that series, with a top score of 76, and has been in such fabulous form for IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals in recent weeks that Smith and his fellow selectors have felt compelled to roll the dice with the Lancashire man again.
Bairstow will continue behind the stumps so Buttler will bat at seven once more, the hope being that England can build solidly from the top to allow the likes of Bairstow, Stokes and Buttler to make hay when the opposition bowlers have already clocked up plenty of overs.
It does seem a selection of luxury and with Root now forced to move up to number three to accommodate the move - and Bairstow’s own workload increasing - the stakes are high for Smith and coach Trevor Bayliss.
Bayliss has long been a huge admirer of Buttler and while Smith has been the man to front up to the media in the last 24 hours, this selection looks every inch a Trevor Bayliss pick.
While the Buttler hunch has drawn a few raised eyebrows, the selection of Dom Bess is even more of a surprise.
England have made a point of trying to protect young spinners since Simon Kerrigan was torn to pieces by Shane Watson on his debut at the Oval in 2013, and had seemingly identified Mason Crane as the long-term solution to their slow bowling issues.
However, injury has kept him on the sidelines since New Zealand and his replacement, Jack Leach, also finds himself out of action haven broken his thumb while playing for Somerset.
In a twist of fate, fellow Taunton twirler Bess is the man to benefit from Leach’s absence though only one wicket in two County Championship appearances so far this season is hardly the ideal preparation to make your Test debut at Lord’s.
Nevertheless, Bess does boasts an impressive first-class record to date, his 63 wickets coming at an average of 22.49.
He is clearly a young man whom England believe has a bright future and whether he makes the final eleven or not next week, Bayliss and co clearly want to introduce Bess to the set-up as soon as possible.
There is a possibility England could field a five-man seam attack at Lord’s with Mark Wood and Chris Woakes supporting James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes.
However, more warm weather might make the inclusion of a spinner a necessity and that would leave Wood and Woakes fighting for the final bowling spot.
Wood is the incumbent having replaced Woakes in New Zealand and he bowled with great heart in that nail-biting draw in the final Test of the series.
He did appear a notch below top speed, though, and a spring spent carrying the drinks in the IPL is hardly ideal preparation for a five-day Test Match.
Woakes is another to have been busy in India over the past few weeks and although his excellent batting is always a massive tick next to his name, his tour Down Under was a forgettable one and England might feel his skills are too similar to those offered by Anderson and Broad.
There is no doubt he remains a potent threat in home conditions but Root has spoken about the want to develop a more balanced attack, one which can prosper both home and away, and Wood’s extra pace might be the way to go for now.