England will name an unusually large Test squad of 17 to tour Bangladesh on Friday morning, indicating just how many positions are under threat and how many players are pushing for inclusion.
Alastair Cook will certainly need another new opening partner after Alex Hales withdrew from consideration on security grounds, while the identity of the backup wicket keeper and third spinner is up for debate.
Here, we attempt to fill in those blanks by predicting what the touring party will be:
The Certainties – Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Adil Rashid, Steven Finn
There are few surprises here. Along with the absent Hales these 10 players formed the bulk of England’s Test squads over the course of the summer. James Vince is widely expected to lose his place from that group, while seamers Jake Ball and Toby Roland-Jones played one Test combined.
The Old Faces – Gary Ballance, Jos Buttler, Mark Wood, Ian Bell
Ballance didn’t cover himself in glory against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, but he didn’t fail as badly as Vince either so should be handed a spot on the plane.
Buttler has been spoken of as a possible specialist batsmen by the Three Lions selection panel and would double as the backup wicket keeper too. Meanwhile Wood should make a red-ball return after bowling with impressive pace in the ODI-leg of the summer. We’ve discussed the merits of including Bell as a backup here.
The Fresh Blood – Haseeb Hameed, Ollie Rayner, Liam Dawson
Hameed has jumped to the front of the openers’ queue after an impressive County Championship campaign with Lancashire.
The 19-year-old has played less than 20 first-class matches in his career, but has impressed with the kind of even temperament required to succeed at the top of the order.
There are a number of candidates to support Ali and Rashid as the spinning options in Bangladesh. Gareth Batty, Jack Leach and Zafar Ansari all appear in the frame, but we’ve sung Rayner’s praises before, while Dawson has broken into the one-day set-up.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.