Ollie Pope will make his England debut batting at the number four position for the second Test against India at Lord’s, captain Joe Root announced Wednesday.
The 20-year-old Surrey rising star is a direct replacement for Middlesex left-hander Dawid Malan, dropped after two low scores in England’s 31-run win in the first Test at Edgbaston last week.
Uncapped Essex paceman Jamie Porter has been omitted from a 13-man squad, with England yet to decide whether Chris Woakes or spinner Moeen Ali will replace all-rounder Ben Stokes, who misses out due to his ongoing court case.
“We’ve got a 12. Jamie Porter is the unlucky one to miss out,” Root told a pre-match press conference at Lord’s on Wednesday.
“With the surface as it is, having looked at it today, we’re going to leave it another 24 hours and then make a decision in the morning.
“Ollie will come in and bat at four. He’s obviously batted at six for Surrey this season — but having seen him play a little bit, and the way his game is set up, I think it’s very much transferable to bat at number four in Test cricket.”
Root, who will be batting in the pivotal number three position, added: “I know that might be seen as quite a big jump. But he’s obviously an exciting talent and, with the guys around him, I think he fits nicely into that position in our team.”
– ‘Mature’ –
Pope only made his first-class debut in March last year and has been called into the Test squad on the back of a mere 15 matches, while he has never batted in the top five in County Championship cricket.
Yet this season has seen Pope make 684 runs for Championship leaders Surrey at an average of 85.5, including three centuries.
“He’s very mature for a young man,” said Root.
“I can see that he thinks about the game a lot and has a very good understanding of where he’s at within his own game — which is a really good sign in a young man, coming into this environment. I hope that will stand him in really good stead.”
And having seen one 20-year-old from Surrey in Sam Curran star with both bat and ball at Edgbaston, Root said he hoped Pope would have the confidence to play his own game at Lord’s.
“I think he’s performed exceptionally well this season in County Championship cricket,” Root said.
“He’s played some very important knocks under pressure for Surrey, and he’s got a very good all-round game.
“I’m looking forward to him, more than anything, just going out there and being himself — and playing exactly as he has done throughout this summer.”
– ‘Good enough, old enough’ –
England have often been wary of picking young players but new national selector Ed Smith has overseen what Root termed some “bold decisions” since taking charge this season.
“If you’re good enough, you’re old enough,” said Root.
“These guys, Sam and Ollie, have come in because they have done some special things for Surrey in their recent past.
“A lot of the selections of late have been quite bold on occasions. We’re not shy of being a little bit brave and doing things slightly differently. It’s worked out for us so far.”
Meanwhile India captain Virat Kohli welcomed Pope to the world stage by saying: “It is going to be a big occasion for him. I am happy for him, as a cricketer, I understand how important it is.
“I I will tell him to enjoy the occasion, and not get too many runs,” Kohli jokingly added