England will almost certainly withdraw Dom Bess from the second-string trip to Australia this week following his re-emergence as a Test spinner.
The 22-year-old was due to hook up with England Lions’ eight-match tour down under – which begins on Tuesday when the white-ball specialists fly out from London – but a change in his status and schedule in the past few weeks has triggered a re-think.
Bess was named in both 50-over and first-class elements of the Lions tour before being called up as cover for the series in South Africa last month.
Since when he has leapfrogged the ill Jack Leach and Matt Parkinson, of Lancashire, as the Test team’s first-choice spinner.
With Leach now recuperating at home, and Parkinson struggling for form, Bess took his chance with a maiden five-wicket haul in the innings win over the South Africans in Port Elizabeth, turning in the kind of mature performance to seal a place on March’s two-Test tour of Sri Lanka.
England will hope to persuade Moeen Ali to join him there but with a paucity of other options they will not want to fatigue a player who has become a crucial figure for the remainder of their winter plans.
While the ECB are keen for the next generation of international cricketers to form good experiences in Australia ahead of attempts to win back the Ashes in 2021-22, they will reassess their squad personnel for the tour ahead of the fourth Test at the Wanderers.
Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley are also in the Lions party for the four-day matches against a Cricket Australia XI, Australia A and New South Wales between February 15-March 5 but their participation is also under review. With Rory Burns sidelined, it is likely the England management will want them to have a mental and physical break ahead of setting off for Sri Lanka in the first week of March.
Referring to all three players, the ECB’s performance director Mo Bobat said: ‘At this stage they’re in the squad. Part of the real joined-up communication we have got is that we’re speaking regularly around where they’re at.
‘We will make a call on whether that’s still in their best interests to do that. It might be that it is and they do the lot, it might be that they do a bit of it and head over to Sri Lanka. It might be that they don’t at all. They might have the appetite but we have to think about their workloads if they’re picked for Sri Lanka as well.’
In contrast, Bess’ Somerset team-mate Craig Overton will travel to Australia from Johannesburg after being selected in both Lions squads.