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Saqib Mahmood set for competitive return on England Lions tour of Sri Lanka

Following a stress fracture in his back that prevented him from playing in the 2022 home international campaign, Saqib Mahmood will return to competitive action during the white-ball portion of the England Lions’ trip of Sri Lanka in February.

Mahmood, 25, made an impression during England’s early 2022 tour of the Caribbean, when he made his Test debut and took six wickets at a strike rate of 22.83 in two matches. He hasn’t featured, though, since Lancashire’s lone County Championship game against Gloucestershire in May.

His fellow fast Brydon Carse, who is also in the white-ball squad after suffering a toe injury during the ODI series against South Africa last summer, was also a part of the speed bowling rehab programme in the UAE in October.

One of the four players selected for both the red- and white-ball legs is Yorkshire’s fast bowler Matt Fisher, who made his Test debut in March with Mahmood in Barbados. Both 16-man teams are led by Somerset skipper Tom Abell, left-arm spinner Tom Hartley of Lancashire, and prolific Essex seamer Sam Cook.

Alex Lees, who opened alongside Zak Crawley throughout the 2022 domestic summer but was substituted for Ben Duckett for the most recent tour to Pakistan, and Haseeb Hameed, who scored a century for the Lions against the senior team in the UAE in October after being released following the most recent Ashes tour in 2021–2022 are the other two capped players in the Test squad.

The 28 players in the Lions party include three members of the Under-19 team that advanced to the World Cup final in Antigua last year, and several of the potential candidates for England are scheduled to compete at the SA20 and ILT20 tournaments in the upcoming months.

In the group that assisted, James Rew, Tom Prest, and Jacob Bethell all played major roles. Rehan Ahmed’s remarkable Test debut in Karachi last month was made possible in large part by the team that included Jacob Bethell, Tom Prest, and James Rew.

Ahmed is not a part of the Lions lineup, although Matt Critchley of Essex and Mason Crane of Hampshire are both legspinners. In addition to continuing their grade-level cricket in Australia, Bethell and Rew will re-join the Under-19s team for this month’s two Youth Tests in that country before joining the Lions ODI team.

“This is a really exciting chance to expose players to the trials of playing A-team cricket in the sub-continent, which will be wonderful for their development,” said ECB Performance Director Mo Bobat. “The series also gives us a chance to watch the players in advance of the World Cup this year and the Test series in India next winter.

“Each player’s unique programme has been carefully considered while choosing the squads. In order to comprehend the players’ best interests as we plan their development potential, we carefully collaborated with the counties. Occasionally, this involves allowing players to participate in domestic franchise cricket.

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