Tuesday 13 September 2016 19:39, UK
Following the news that Alex Hales has decided to rule himself out of the forthcoming tour to Bangladesh due to security concerns, the England selectors are again tasked with finding a new opening partner for Alastair Cook.
After a disappointing series against Pakistan, Hales' place in the XI was far from assured even before he opted to pull out of the tour.
The 27-year-old Nottinghamshire batsman hit just one fifty and averaged only 18.12 in four Tests against the world No 1 side and now faces joining the likes of Sam Robson, Adam Lyth, Nick Compton and even Joe Root on the list of players unable to fill the void left by Andrew Strauss at the top of the order.
Lancashire's Haseeb Hameed looks to be the favourite to take Hales' spot after a highly impressive season in the County Championship, his first in the top flight. The 19-year-old has scored more than 1,000 runs at an average of 53.76 in first-class cricket this summer with four centuries and seven fifties to his name.
However, while there is little doubt about his talent, there may be some concern over whether a Test call-up would be too much, too soon. Hameed certainly seems to have the temperament for Test cricket, batting with great patience, but, if selected, he will have to prove that he can avoid getting bogged down against top international bowling attacks.
If the selectors were to go by numbers alone then Durham opener Keaton Jennings would be hard to ignore. The South African-born left-hander qualified to play for England earlier this summer and has amassed almost 1,500 runs in Division One at more than 68.
Jennings is also a man in form, hitting a double century against Surrey this week - the seventh time he has reached three figures this season - having scored an unbeaten 171 against Nottinghamshire at the end of August.
Another left-hander worthy of consideration is Nick Gubbins, whose runs have been crucial in Middlesex's bid to be crowned county champions. At just 22, Gubbins is another player with time on his side, but a stellar season, in which he has made three centuries and eight half-centuries, will not have gone unnoticed.
His opening partner at Middlesex, Robson, was tipped for a Test recall earlier in the summer but Gubbins' record of over 1,000 runs and an average touching 60 this term compares favourably to his team-mates'.
Ben Duckett is expected to be among England's squad in Bangladesh for the white-ball segment of the tour and the 21-year-old is also an option in the longer format.
The Northamptonshire star has helped himself to over 1,200 first class runs this season, scoring four centuries and averaging over 60. However, that his runs have come in Division Two may work against Duckett, with Kent's Daniel Bell-Drummond and Nick Browne of Essex in the same situation.