No sooner has a dose of World Cup clarity been delivered than England offer up a glimpse into the unknown that lies beyond.
Even with the late replacement of Jason Roy with Harry Brook, the XV confirmed yesterday for the tournament in India has an ageing feel, skipper Jos Buttler stopping only just shy of labelling his team a Dad’s Army.
The group that Buttler leads features just three players younger than 29, and several one-day retirements are expected at the tournament’s end. Others will be phased out more gradually, and the team that goes to South Africa for the subsequent World Cup four years from now will look markedly different.
And so to Headingley tomorrow and the start of a three-match series against Ireland in which members of the next generation and some who, in less successful eras, would probably be part of this one, get their chance to impress.
Fourteen of the World Cup group are resting before flying to India next week, the exception being Joe Root, who will play on his home ground tomorrow at his own request, having felt short of form against New Zealand this month.
In the batting ranks, Zak Crawley captains an England side for the first time, a hint at the regard in which he is held with an eye to a possible Test vacancy somewhere down the line, while vice-captain Ben Duckett, Phil Salt and Will Jacks have all been flirting on the fringes of the white-ball side for some time.
Salt, in fact, has done more than that, winning the T20 World Cup last year, while the run given to Jacks as opener in the recent T20 series against New Zealand suggests he is in line for a key role in the defence of that title in the USA and Caribbean next year.
Among the bowlers, injuries to Josh Tongue and John Turner have thwarted plans to run the rule over the country’s express pace depth, but Brydon Carse impressed against New Zealand, while any involvement for young spinner Rehan Ahmed tends to set pulses racing.
Surrey wicketkeeper-batter Jamie Smith is perhaps the most exciting of the uncapped contingent, the 23-year-old touted for Test honours before long and one of four probable debutants, along with Sam Main, George Scrimshaw and late call-up Tom Hartley.
For Ireland, too, this is an opportunity. Frustrated at missing out on World Cup qualification, Andrew Balbirnie’s side are a well-oiled white-ball outfit who will expect to put up more resistance than in their Test showing at Lord’s this summer. Balbirnie will return to the top of the order to partner Paul Stirling, with Curtis Campher promoted to No3.