England have the luxury of being able to experiment on Sunday in Bristol in the final ODI against Sri Lanka opening up the prospect of a debut for Sussex left-arm fast bowler George Garton.
Sri Lanka are so poor at the moment it is difficult to gauge how much England have learned from their five white-ball wins (answer: not much).
Pakistan will provide better competition after this series ends but with one game to go and the series wrapped up already it is the perfect time to blood Garton, who has been in and around the England set up and Lions since the 2017/18 Ashes tour.
Garton was invited to join the squad in Townsville for a week and made such a good impression he was added as official cover for the tour. He missed the 2018 season with a side strain sustained picking up a suitcase off the carousel at Los Angeles Airport, the kind of freakish injury that no amount of workload planning, rest and rotation can protect a player from.
He is quick, and as a left-armer offers that point of difference. England enjoy a bevvy of left armers at the moment with nine wickets shared between Sam Curran and David Willey on Thursday night while Reece Topley and Tymal Mills also remain in contention when fit.
Aged 24, Garton provides potential greater for the future than the others, apart from Curran, and is an established part of the Sussex team in T20 cricket with 33 wickets at an average of just 18 and an economy rate over the past two seasons of only 6.93 – proof he can deliver variations under pressure.
“We’ve seen him play in some of the T20 games, so we’ve seen some of his performances. We know he’s got a bit of pace on him, but he’s also got some good tricks up his sleeve,” said Graham Thorpe, deputising for head coach Chris Silverwood in this series.
“It’s one thing seeing it at a county level, but it’s another thing stepping up and doing it in international matches as well. There’ll be interesting discussions about whether we can get him into the side down at Bristol. Like a lot of the players nowadays, he’s got various slower balls, he’s got a bit of pace and he’s got a decent bouncer on him.”
Thorpe also has the option of giving Tom Banton an opportunity after he was called up to replace Dawid Malan who has left for personal reasons. Banton smashed a 47-ball hundred earlier this week for Somerset but has not really fired and lived up to his potential when picked for England so far, making two fifties in 15 games across the white-ball formats. With Joe Root, Eoin Morgan and Jason Roy all making runs in the series so far, one could be rested to give Banton a chance.
Thorpe has urged Sam Curran to use Ben Stokes as a role model as he tries to establish himself as an all-rounder across three formats. Curran starred with the ball on his home ground on Thursday night, taking his maiden five-wicket haul in List A cricket to follow his player of the series award after lighting up the T20s against Sri Lanka.
Curran is a well-established IPL player, opening the bowling, and at times the batting too for the Chennai Super Kings but the strength of England’s white-ball teams has limited international opportunities. He has played more than double the amount of Test matches for England than he has 50-over games but the need to regenerate before the next World Cup in 2023, which will be played in India where Curran already has lots of experience of conditions, is starting to become more pressing.
“His T20 cricket has progressed really well and establishing himself as a 50-over player for us as well is a really important part of it,” siad Thorpe. “He’s got to try and be in the mix as well for Test cricket. It sounds like quite a lot of cricket. As you know with someone like Ben Stokes the amount of work and fitness levels that are required for that is huge.
“So I think ultimately the challenge for Sam to be a multi-format cricketer is delivering that consistency time and time again. But we know we’ve got a very exciting cricketer with us and we just have to keep encouraging him to improve and keep getting better all the time.”