Hosts England are set to include Ollie Pope in their playing XI for the second Test match, at Lord’s, against India, starting Thursday. The sensational 20-year-old youngster has racked up the performances for Surrey in domestic cricket and sees a much-deserved call in such a less time in international cricket.
This comes after the hosts dropped Dawid Malan, who struggled for runs in the first Test at Edgbaston. Uncapped Pope would become the third U-20 player to be handed an England debut in recent times following Sam Curran and Dominic Bess.
Bess showed character against Pakistan but was unlucky to miss out since then. Two-Test old Sam Curran was terrific at Edgbaston and will be part of the potent pace attack once again. Pope will look to come good as he looks confident walking into the Test arena.
Let’s have a look at Pope and his meteoric rise.
Malan’s loss in Pope’s gain
Left-hander Dawid Malan, 30, has averaged only 16.89 in nine Test innings since the 2017-18 Ashes. The middle-order batsman who was handed with the responsibility of making an impact at number 4, couldn’t stand up tall against New Zealand, Pakistan and now against India.
He made low scores of eight and 20 at Edgbaston. Malan was also poor in the field and dropped several chances at the slip cordon. He had dropped Virat Kohli in the first innings and the Indian skipper then went on to smash 149.
In 15 Tests since making his debut against South Africa last summer, Malan amassed only one ton – 140 against Australia in Perth. The southpaw has not found the required rhythm since quite some time. The struggles at home especially has been telling. And now Pope has cashed in on the same.
Runs for the right-hander could delay Malan’s return to the side.
Pope started playing for Surrey last July
Pope made his debut in First Class cricket for Surrey, last year, in July. Since then, Pope has gone on to hit 1012 runs in Division One of County Cricket, averaging a stellar 63.25. He has 684 runs this season itself at an average of 85.50. Prior to that, the Surrey batsman was playing school cricket for Cranleigh.
The rise has been phenomenal. Imagine representing your country two years after playing school cricket. The manner in which he came strong for Surrey is a story in itself. Three hundred for Surrey, this summer, has helped them be on top of the table.
When a youngster comes handy and that too this consistently, hit only speaks volumes.
Pope is a handy middle-order batsman
Pope is generally a lower middle-order batsman and played at number 6 position for Surrey. He is expected to bat at the same position, which could see Jos Buttler moving up. Even former England skipper Michael Vaughan has backed Pope to come at number 6 and show his credentials.
The in-form Surrey player also hit a 50 for England Lions against India A after batting at number 5 last month. Pope had created quite the buzz in County cricket and showed that he deserved a place in international cricket. This, in turn, could give the player a lot of confidence especially while facing top-notch bowlers like Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin.
National selector Ed Smith is in awe of the youngster and feels Pope is cut above the rest. As the team was selected for the 2nd Test, as per the BBC, Ed stated, “Ollie Pope has made an exceptional start to his first-class career. The selection panel believes Ollie’s performances and character suggest he is well suited to international cricket.”
Pope has great First-class credentials
Pope has played 14 First Class games for Surrey and has struck four tons including a 158* against Yorkshire. Interestingly, current England Test skipper Joe Root captained Yorkshire in that match. Pope also played for Surrey which was his debut in the One-Day Cup in 2016. He scored 20 off just 23 deliveries.
The 20-year-old will hope to follow Curran’s footsteps. The left-arm pacer Curran was the best player, for England, in the first Test at Edgbaston. The 20-year-old ran riot and picked 4 wickets in the first innings including a fiery spell where he took 3 important scalps.
His spell put India on the back foot, In the 2nd innings he went on to amass a commanding 63-run knock after England were reeling at 87/7. Those runs made the difference in the end and gave England the cushion to build on.
Thursday will most likely see Pope make his debut and a strong start is crucial for the player to be in the reckoning for the national side as the 2019 Ashes come up.