The morning after the night before in England, the wave of goodwill towards the nation’s footballers one that’s impossible not to get swept up in. But from one unusual experience to another: the cricketers turning out today in Ben Stokes’ Replacements XI.
Of course, it is hardly the fault of any of the players called up that they have been pulled from around the country to Cardiff, up to nine of whom could make their one-day international debuts in the first of these three matches against Pakistan. But it’s still utterly bizarre. Whatever happens, this will be a series remembered for a long time.
Who of the new 18 will be on the teamsheet when the coin is tossed? Absolutely no idea, so let’s not spectulate. It’d be lovely if they were all given at least one chance, so to have made this a fulfulling and worthwhile experience. Take someone like Gloucestershire’s David Payne, now 30 years of age, who last played with Ben Stokes when the pair of them were running around in England’s Under 19s.
He’s one of four players who weren’t in the extended bubble of 55 last June, giving some sense of the rise he’s had, with 25 wickets at 20 so far in the Championship, including 11 at Lord’s in a dominant display against Middlesex. It’s from that county that John Simpson, the 32-year-old gloveman, also gets this unexpected opportunity.
As for Pakistan, Babar Azam’s side look like a model of experience with Mohammad Rizwan one of the in-form players in the world so far in 2021 and a pace attack as good as any going around. However, they have lost mainstay Haris Sohail from the middle order with a hamstring tear confirmed by the PCB this morning. A big omission.
Right, let’s take a beat with the toss about 15 minutes away at Sophia Gardens. Have you… recovered from last night? Tell me your story.