Chris Silverwood has said he is braced to deal with any criticism should Craig Overton emerge as the player who replaces the suspended Ollie Robinson in England’s team for the second Test.
Robinson has been stood down from the squad to play New Zealand at Edgbaston in the match starting on Thursday pending the outcome of an investigation into the offensive tweets that emerged during his debut in the Lord’s draw last week.
It leaves a vacancy for a bowling all-rounder at No 8 but while Overton is the most like-for-like candidate at present and has taken 36 wickets at 12 runs apiece for Somerset this season, the 27-year-old has a past indiscretion on his record.
Overton avoided a level-three disciplinary charge for “language that vilifies another person on the basis of race or national origin” in 2015 after he was heard telling Sussex’s Pakistan-born batsman Ashar Zaidi to “go back to your own fucking country” during a match.
The Cricket Discipline Commission decided this was a level-one offence – the lowest of the four – and while it triggered a two-match ban due to accumulated points on his record, this would not have been the case had it been clean.
Asked whether he was ready for the additional attention that would result from picking Overton this week Silverwood, the England head coach, replied: “If Craig plays, we will deal with that when we get there.”
This incident – first revealed by the Guardian – was reported by the umpire Alex Wharf, with Sussex’s Mike Yardy offering supporting evidence having also heard the remark at the non-striker’s end. Overton was withdrawn from the match, although he has always denied making the comment and won four Test caps since.
“I don’t believe I said it,” Overton told Wisden.com last week. “I don’t believe that I’m that sort of character. We’ve had [the Pakistan batsman] Azhar Ali in our [Somerset] changing room and I’m the first one to go up and speak to him and have a chat with him.
“I’m not that sort of person. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, when I was younger, I could be a bit feisty, and I’ve definitely calmed down as a person from then.”
Warwickshire’s Olly Stone is the other unused seamer in the squad while England are clearly giving thought to playing Overton’s county teammate Jack Leach, given their decision to call up fellow spinner Dom Bess as cover on Monday.
A spinner would help the slow over-rate that led to Joe Root’s players being fined 40% of their match fees after the first Test, while Silverwood has defended the side’s tactics after declining to take on a target of 273 in 75 overs on day five.
Silverwood said: “New Zealand made it very difficult. They swung the ball throughout the game and the seam bowlers in particular held their lengths very well. It was very difficult to score.
“We thought that if we could get ourselves in a position we may be able to push the button. Unfortunately we didn’t find ourselves in that position so we had to make sure we saw the game through. I thought Dom Sibley [60 not out from 207 balls] did a great job of doing that, and showed great resilience.”
England’s approach may have been different with Ben Stokes in the side, but the all-rounder is at least on the mend after surgery on a broken finger sustained in April. The 30-year-old is ahead of schedule and there is talk of possible a comeback for Durham’s home game against Yorkshire in the T20 Blast this Friday.
New Zealand meanwhile have confirmed Trent Boult could face England this week as he looks to prove his readiness for the World Test Championship final against India in Southampton that starts on 18 June. The left-armer, who is a first-choice player for the Black Caps with 281 wickets in 71 Tests, arrived in the UK over the weekend after opting for additional family time at home but has now cleared quarantine in time to be available for selection.