Over the weekend the youthful new selection panel, headed by David Graveney, sat down to perform their first meaningful work of the summer by picking the England squad for the three games. As last year, the shackles of convention have been thrown off to a degree, with some imaginative choices. None more so than Graham Lloyd.
Lloyd did not do himself justice when he played in two one-day internationals against Pakistan last season, but the way he has started this year suggests the selectors are right to give him another chance. Regarded by many as one of the best attacking batsmen in the country, at 27 Lloyd is at last finding some consistency.
It has been a long struggle to break into Lancashire's star-studded batting line-up on a regular basis. With a father who happens to have played for Lancashire and England with considerable success, and who is now the England coach, it is perhaps understandable that Lloyd has taken his time to come into his own.
He toured Australia with England A in 1992-93, scoring two centuries, but the two seasons that followed were disappointing. Last summer, though, his first-class average was touching 50 - not bad for a so-called one- day specialist. "It was my first good season for quite a while, really, and it was much needed," he said.
A run of low scores in this season's Benson and Hedges Cup coincided with Lancashire relinquishing their grip on a trophy they have held for two years, but Lloyd has more than compensated for that. He started with a ferocious assault on Yorkshire in the pre-season Roses friendly, scoring 225; he equalled Lancashire's Sunday League record of 134 against Durham, after a century against them in the Championship; and he hit 81 against Derbyshire in his other Sunday outing.
"It is certainly the best start I have made to a season", he said. "I couldn't have wished for better, although I would have traded a few runs in the friendly game for a few in the B&H."
Born and bred in Accrington, Lloyd learnt his cricket at the local club his father played for, having been sent to a non-cricket playing secondary school. "That's not so unusual because not many comprehensive schools do actually play cricket", he said, "So it's up to all cricketers who go to those schools to go to local clubs to play there. We had two or three games at school, but it was nothing compared to the grammar schools."
Lloyd's commitment to his native county is almost as abiding as his renowned penchant for the greyhounds, but a chip off the old block he is not. Dad is so forthright that the English Cricket Board are to appoint a press officer to help journalists with their enquiries at future press conferences. Lloyd Jnr prefers to let his willow do the talking, but he is happy to explain how things go between father and son.
"They don't go much really, I don't see that much of him. I've only seen him once since he got back from his tour and we spoke on the phone just socially. We talk about other things and a bit of cricket, but I see him as the England coach and not my father.
"To me there's no problem at all, it's how other people perceive it. Every now and then someone will say, 'You'll never be as good as your Dad' or something, but it doesn't bother me and I don't think it bothers him in the slightest. If it does come down to it, favouritism, that does annoy me and it probably annoys him as well."
Despite what Lloyd says, it is hard to ignore the fact that his own form picked up last season, when his father was no longer coach at the club. Could it have been a sense of release? "That might be just a coincidence, there might be more in it, I don't know," he says.
Lloyd is full of praise for his father's successor at Old Trafford, the Australian Dav Whatmore, despite the county's relatively poor start to the season. "He's fitted in really well with us at Lancs. We had a good two weeks over in South Africa getting to know him, and he lets the players play how they feel best to suit them. And in my case that's an attacking sort of game and he's quite happy with it."
Does it irritate him to be labelled a one-day specialist? "It doesn't irritate me. It's nice to be labelled as a specialist at something rather than nothing. My game is probably more suited to one-day cricket than the longer game so I don't mind it at all really."
And goals for this season? "To win a couple of trophies with Lancs again, and it would be nice for the club to do well in the Championship. For me personally it would be to play every game for the county and take anything else that comes along."
Could he possibly mean a place in England's XI at Headingley on Thursday? "Maybe, I really have no idea. At the start of the season I wasn't even thinking about it. It wasn't even up for debate, but I've had a good start to the season so who knows? It was an enjoyable week last time I played for England and it would be nice to play again, but it's out of my hands is that so we'll have to see."Reuse content