TELFORD VICE in London
TOM Westley will make his England debut at No. 3 in the third test against South Africa at The Oval next Thursday — not least, it seems, because he bats right-handed.
Westley will replace Gary Ballance, who had a finger broken by Morne Morkel in the second test at Trent Bridge, where South Africa won by 340 runs inside four days on Monday.
England won the first test at Lord’s by 211 runs, and also in four days.
Essex batsman Westley has scored 478 runs, among them two centuries, at 53.11 in the championship this season, and he made an unbeaten 106 for the England Lions against South Africa A in Worcester last month.
Those are decent numbers, but a significant factor in Westley’s favour would seem to be that he bats from the right side of the crease in a team that sent seven left-handers to the wicket at Trent Bridge.
That theory gained currency with the non-selection of Mark Stoneman, who was also in the running for The Oval.
Stoneman is enjoying a demonstrably better season than Westley, having scored 761 runs — 283 more than Westley, albeit in two more innings — with three centuries, and he averages 58.53.
But, unhappily for Stoneman, he bats left-handed.
Perhaps he should take up the matter with the UK government’s Equality and Human Rights commission.
The South Africans would be forgiven for chuckling into their sleeves about England’s hand-wringing over the small stuff while ignoring what’s important.
It’s so obvious it hurts that England need a solid No. 3 who is able to stamp his authority on the innings, and to hell with which way round he bats.
Just as obvious is that left-arm spinner Liam Dawson is a passenger — or at least a designated driver — for ability-rich, confidence-poor off-spinner Moeen Ali. But there Dawson is in the squad for The Oval.
England-born, South Africa-schooled Dawid Malan is in the 13 in case England opt for an extra batsman.
He shouldn’t get his hopes up: he bats left-handed.
England squad: Joe Root (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Liam Dawson, Keaton Jennings, Dawid Malan, Toby Roland-Jones, Ben Stokes, Tom Westley, Mark Wood.