Ben Duckett has been omitted from the England Lions tour of the West Indies next year as the ECB get tough on the off-field antics that has left them defending the professionalism of the Ashes squad.
Duckett was suspended from all remaining fixtures on England Lions’ tour of Australia and given a final written warning over his conduct following reports that he poured a drink over James Anderson in The Avenue nightclub in Perth in the early hours of Friday morning
He was also fined the maximum allowable amount for an England Lions player, around 1500.
Although England regarded the incident as essentially trivial, senior figures were deeply frustrated about the damage done to the team’s reputation.
Suggestions by Trevor Bayliss that England might show that frustration in future selections have certainly been evident in Duckett’s case, as an ECB spokesman confirmed, saying: “Ben Duckett has not been selected as a result of the off-field incident which led to his suspension and fine in Australia.”
Duckett has flown home from Australia with the pronouncement that he intends to learn from his misjudgement. He tweeted: It’s not been an ideal trip for me but plenty to take from it. Can’t wait to get back to friends and family now and move forward.
That there are talented batsmen eager to take his place is emphasised by the inclusion of Sam Northeast, by popular acclaim the most strangely overlooked batsman in the country, who as a result has won senior international recognition for the first time with a place on the England Lions tour of the West Indies next year.
That might delight Jason Gillespie, the new head coach at Sussex, who watched Northeast at close quarters while filling a temporary role last summer as Kent’s bowling coach and who was impressed enough to name him – perhaps with a little Australian mischief in mind – in his England XI for the Ashes.
Before Northeast’s admirers get too excited, it should be added that he has only been called up for the one-day leg of the tour in Antigua, although he also has a case for inclusion as a wild card selection in the subsequent North v South series in Barbados considering the unbeaten 100 in the UAE last year which was a reminder of his worth. Northeast’s leadership qualities were also recognised by Kent in 2016 when they named him as captain in all competitions in succession to Rob Key, a long-serving captain and mentor.
He carries a heavy responsibility at Kent, whose promotion challenge in the Championship again faltered because of a lack of quality pace bowlers – a weakness unremedied after the further departure of Matt Coles to Essex – and who failed to reach Finals Day in the T20 Blast despite one of the most exciting short-form batting line-ups in the country.
It is a job he has thrown himself into with gusto, playing a leading role in selection, recruitment and contracts, but he is a man of independent nature – he has little time, for instance, for the gymnasium culture – and perhaps that has invited scepticism in high places.
After England’s Ashes failure, immediate attention will turn to the three four-day matches that begin the tour. That selection has no surprises. Tom Westley is an absentee as he recovers from a broken finger suffered during the Lions’ time in Australia.
But 10 of the Lions who toured Australia are included, as well as Haseeb Hameed, Ben Foakes, Sam Curran, Mason Crane, Jamie Porter and Toby Roland-Jones.
There are also three new faces in the one-day squad with Northeast also joined by Hampshire all-rounder Liam Dawson and Lancashire leggie Matthew Parkinson, who is currently in Sydney on an ECB Overseas Placement.
They gain preference to two spinners chosen in Australia – Somerset’s slow left-armer Jack Leach and Amir Virdi, the Surrey offspinner.
Keaton Jennings will captain the Lions in both the four-day and one-day series.
Two fast bowlers, Worcestershire’s Josh Tongue and Tom Helm of Middlesex, have been selected despite being affected by injury during the Australia camp. Tongue had a cortisone injection in his ankle this week but is expected to be fit for the four-day section of the trip, and Helm has been selected for the one-day leg only after struggling in Australia with the hamstring problem with which he ended the 2017 county season. Tom Westley was unavailable after having surgery on the finger injury he suffered during the Lions camp in Australia
James Whitaker, the national selector, said: “We have included two members of the Ashes tour squad, Ben Foakes and Mason Crane, for the four-day matches, with the possibility of either or both of them leaving the Lions tour early if they are selected in the England squad for the two Tests in New Zealand in March and April.
“Haseeb Hameed, Jamie Porter and Toby Roland-Jones are all available again after injuries – Jamie and Toby after working exceptionally hard on the ECB’s Pace Programme over the last couple of months.
“Sam Curran missed out on the Lions training camp in Australia but he has also been training hard, under the supervision of Surrey’s strength and conditioning coaches, before going out to play T20 cricket in New Zealand.
England Lions squads:
Entire tour: K Jennings (Lancashire, capt), J Clarke (Worcestershire), L Livingstone (Lancashire), S Curran (Surrey), J Porter (Essex), P Coughlin (Nottinghamshire), S Mahmood (Lancashire), N Gubbins (Middlesex), A Davies (Lancashire, wk).
Red-ball only: H Hameed (Lancashire), D Lawrence (Essex), B Foakes (Surrey, wk), T Roland-Jones (Middlesex), J Leach (Somerset), M Crane (Hampshire), J Tongue (Worcestershire).
White-ball only: S Northeast (Kent), L Dawson (Hampshire), D Bess (Somerset), T Helm (Middlesex), G Garton (Sussex), M Parkinson (Lancashire).
Itinerary: February 5-7: Tour Match, Sabina Park, Jamaica; February 11-14: v West Indies A, Trelawny Multiplex, Jamaica; February 18-21: v West Indies A, Sabina Park, Jamaica; February 26 – March 1: v West Indies A, Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, Antigua; March 4: Tour Match, Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, Antigua; March 6: v West Indies A, Coolidge Cricket Ground, Antigua; March 9: v West Indies A, Coolidge Cricket Ground, Antigua; March 11: v West Indies A, Coolidge Cricket Ground, Antigua. (North-South Series follows in Barbados from March 18-23 – squad to be announced).