Westley named in England Lions team for Afghanistan match


Tom Westley will make his first appearance of the England Lions winter, in the four-day match against Afghanistan which starts in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Westley was the only member of the 16-strong party not to have played in the one-day series, but head coach Andy Flower confirmed he will definitely play against Afghanistan after naming him in a 13-man squad.

“We have a couple of fitness concerns – Liam Livingstone was unable to come to the stadium in Abu Dhabi with us for practice because of illness, and Ollie Rayner has a sore knee,” said Flower.

“I know Tom will be looking for a strong performance in his first competitive chance of this section of our winter programme.

“We’ve combined red-ball and white-ball training in our time in Dubai, and to have this first-class game against Afghanistan is a good opportunity for the guys to show what they can do – and also for James Whitaker, the National Selector, to see them doing exactly that.

“We’re expecting Afghanistan to be competitive. They play an aggressive brand of cricket, they’re a proud young cricket nation, and they’ve got a really good cricket story. So we’re all really looking forward to this match.”

For Afghanistan, the match is both historic – because they have never played any England team in a first-class fixture – and also valuable, as they prepare for an Intercontinental Cup fixture against rivals Ireland next March.

They have named a 16-man squad led by Asghar Stanikzai and including several other players with considerable experience, notably Mohammad Nabi, Samiullah Shenwari and wicketkeeper Afsar Zazai. But there are also a handful of teenagers such as Rashid Khan, a legspinner who has been playing in the Bangladesh Premier League, plus Ihsanullah and Karim Janat, who were members of their ICC Under-19 World Cup squad earlier this year.

The Lions players return home on Sunday night – with Flower and several other coaches staying to work with the Young Lions squad, who arrived in Dubai at the weekend and have started their training camp at the ICC Academy.

Flower will keep a close eye on Essex young bowler Aaron Beard who linked up with the Young Lions over the weekend in Dubai.