Michael Atherton believes England faces a “50-50 call” between Saqib Mahmood and Craig Overton for the final spot in the bowling attack in the third Test against India. Mark Wood’s shoulder injury has ruled him out of the game which starts at Emerald Headingley on Wednesday, with Lancashire quick Mahmood and Somerset seamer Overton seemingly vying to replace him as England look to level the five-match series at 1-1 after losing the second Test at Lord’s.
England headed into the fifth day at Lord’s as favorites to take a 1-0 lead in the series but was then rocked by an unbroken ninth-wicket stand of 89 between India tailenders Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah before they were skittled in 51.5 overs having been set 272 to win in 60 overs.
“For some time England has been building up these pace reserves and at one point you had Jofra Archer, Olly Stone, and Wood. “Now you have none of those, although it looks like Wood’s injury is not too serious so let’s hope he is back for the fourth Test at The Kia Oval from September 2.” England has tinkered with a batting line-up rolled for 120 on the final day of the second Test, with the recalled Dawid Malan to bat at No 3 and Haseeb Hameed to open alongside Rory Burns following the dropping of Dom Sibley in both innings.
Malan, 33, scored 724 runs in 15 Tests between July 2017 and August 2018, including an Ashes century in Perth, at an average just below 28. The left-hander has played just one first-class inning so far this season – but that was a score of 199 for Yorkshire against Sussex at Headingley.
Former England captain Atherton said: “I think they may go Overton but I think I would probably go Mahmood. “Overton offers a bit with the bat and is a good slip fielder while Mahmood looked good in that one-day series to win over Pakistan so it’s kind of a 50-50 call. “You could also pick Mahmood and then have the choice between Sam Curran and Overton as all-rounders. Michael Atherton would pick Saqib Mahmood for the third Test against India after seamer impressed in ODI series win over Pakistan; former England captain says Dawid Malan’s recall is “sensible” and gives hosts experience
Atherton said. “I think Malan is a sensible pick. He is a pretty experienced guy who knows his game. “He has had moderate success in his 15 Tests but has scored a Test hundred in Australia, which marks you out as a pretty decent player. “He is a tough nut and I think [captain Joe] Root just wants someone who is a bit more experienced. “It would have been difficult to pluck a young kid out of the county game given we have had no first-class cricket for the last six weeks or so.”
Atherton says that result will “bruise” England and that the continued absence of some key players has weakened their side – but believes they can still battle back in the series. “England were bruised after Lord’s but if you look back at the two games we have had so far, they have been very competitive,” said the Cricketing expert.
“Who knows which way the first Test would have gone if not for the rain and for long periods of the Lord’s Test they were in control. They will have some confidence but it will take some coming back from after that heavy defeat “They are missing Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Archer, Wood, Stuart Broad – all guys that are first-choice or there and thereabouts so it’s a weakened England side