England call up Liam Livingstone for Test tour of Pakistan

Livingstone is the eye-catching name in a 15-man squad for the series in December

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England have rolled the dice by calling up white-ball star Liam Livingstone for their Test match tour of Pakistan.

Livingstone was the eye-catching name in a 15-man squad for the series in December, joined by fellow newcomer Will Jacks and the returning duo of Keaton Jennings and Ben Duckett.

Jennings and Duckett will both be eyeing the opening slot after Alex Lees was axed, an omission flagged by his failure to earn a central contract this week.

Livingstone has not played first-class cricket in over a year, increasingly focusing his efforts on the shorter forms after becoming a mainstay of England’s limited-overs side.

But, with Moeen Ali backtracking on his Test retirement, there was a vacancy for a big-hitting, spin-bowling all-rounder and the selectors have decided both he and Jacks fit the profile.

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There is no doubt that the 29-year-old represents a gamble. He sat out Lancashire’s entire championship season and managed just eight games in the two previous campaigns, averaging 11 in 2021 and 18.5 in 2020.

But he has proved a bombastic player on the biggest stage, smashing his country’s fastest ever international century in just 42 balls against Pakistan last summer and his style is likely to chime with the attacking instincts of captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum.

Livingstone’s bowling is also an attractive option in Pakistan, given his ability to switch easily between off-spin and leg-spin depending on the opponent.

He is not entirely untested against the red ball, with 62 first-class games, seven hundreds and a Test call-up back in 2018 on his CV, and said last year: “If they did take a punt on me in Tests, I believe I have the skills to perform.

“I’m not the worst player out there and I’ve proved I can affect a game in all three facets, that I can bat and bowl under pressure.”

Jacks is another beneficiary of Moeen’s decision to pack away his England whites for good. The 23-year-old made his T20 debut in Pakistan last month and was named as domestic MVP at the Professional Cricketers’ Association end-of-season awards.

Like Livingstone, he mixes powerful stroke play with a handy bowling option and will provide further back-up for the solitary specialist spinner Jack Leach.

Lees’ omission could spell the end of his time at the top, with the left-hander averaging just 23.64 from 10 appearances this year. Zak Crawley continues to enjoy the selectors’ backing despite his own modest record.

He has two potential top-order partners, Jennings – who has scored sub-continental centuries in Mumbai and Galle and was Division One’s top run-scorer in 2022 – and Duckett. The latter played four Tests in 2016 but is a more consistent performer now and won glowing reviews for his efforts in the recent T20s in Karachi and Lahore.

As expected, Stuart Broad is absent from the bowling attack, with his fiancee Mollie King expecting their first child next month. Durham’s Matthew Potts is a more surprising absentee given his excellent returns at the start of the summer, when he claimed 20 wickets in five Tests at an average of 28.

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England have preferred the height and pace of Jamie Overton, who debuted against New Zealand in June but made a bigger splash with the bat than the ball.

Managing director of men’s cricket Rob Key, who chaired selection, said: “We are looking forward to touring Pakistan as a Test team for the first time since 2005. It will be an historic tour and a compelling series against a good side.

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“The selectors have picked a squad for the conditions we can expect in Pakistan. There is a strong blend of youth and experience and players who will adapt well to the types of pitches we are likely to get across the three-match series.

“I wish the players every success, especially those new to the squad and those returning after a period of time away.”

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