London (AFP) – Fast bowler Jake Ball is set to make his England debut against Pakistan at Lord’s on Thursday after captain Alastair Cook confirmed his place in the side a day before the start of the first Test.
Ball was in the squad for all three Tests without playing during England’s preceding 2-0 series win (with one draw).
But Ball has now been included after James Anderson, England’s all-time leading wicket-taker, was ruled out of the first of this four-Test series with a shoulder injury.
“Jake will make his debut,” Cook told reporters at Lord’s on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately Jimmy has missed out but it’s a great opportunity for Jake,” the opening batsman added.
The 25-year-old Ball has edged out fellow uncapped seamer Toby Roland-Jones, who was hoping to make his Test debut on his Middlesex home ground, from an original 12-man squad.
Ball came into England contention after a breakthrough 2015 season which saw him take 67 wickets across all formats for Nottinghamshire.
He followed that up with a dramatic start to the current English campaign, which has so far seen Ball take 37 first-class wickets at an average of just 22.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes, he’s had a great year with Notts and looks a fine bowler,” said Cook.
“He’s got wicket-taking balls in him, the ability to get good players out on flat wickets, and he puts the ball in good areas with good pace.”
Cook added that Ball would open the attack alongside his Nottinghamshire team-mate Stuart Broad.
Anderson suffered a stress fracture to his right shoulder blade during the Sri Lanka series.
The 33-year-old bowled in the nets as did all-rounder Ben Stokes who is also nearing a return to full fitness after playing for Durham as a batsman only after recent knee surgery.
– Risk –
But with the second Test starting at Lancashire swing specialist Anderson’s Old Trafford home ground a week on Friday, the selectors were wary of taking a chance on him at Lord’s.
“He’s not (bowling) quite at full pace, and I think the risk of going into five-day Test match with that injury, an injury that not too many people have had, just had a bit of a doubt about it,” said Cook.
“I think the selectors decided that there are three other games, and he should be fit for Old Trafford.
“They were concerned that if he did have one of those stints at Lord’s, on a flat wicket, he could be bowling 30-odd overs and we are not quite sure how his shoulder will stand up to that.”
The build-up to this match has been dominated by the expected return to Test cricket of Pakistan paceman Mohammad Amir on the ground where six years ago he took part in an infamous spot-fixing scandal by deliberately bowling no-balls.
Amir, now 24, received a five-year ban from cricket for his part in the affair but Cook once more insisted he had no qualms about playing against the left-arm quick.
“I’ve said all along I don’t think match fixers should be allowed to play but at the time he was given his punishment, he’s served it so he’s entitled to come back. He’s served his time,” said Cook.
“It’s the big story about this Test match, but I thought the way both sides played in the UAE (in 2015) that the spirit between us was different to in the past, and I hope we can carry that on and talk about the cricket.”
England: Alastair Cook (capt), Alex Hales, Joe Root, James Vince, Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Jake Ball