AI aids England selection as squad for Pakistan series unveiled

Jon Lewis in training with Lauren Bell
Jon Lewis, left, says he first saw the benefits of AI while coaching in the Women's Premier League in India [Getty Images]

England women's head coach Jon Lewis says he is using artificial intelligence to help with marginal selection decisions.

Lewis, who has named his squad for the two white-ball series against Pakistan later this month, says the use of technology in team selection is something which started in franchise cricket but is becoming increasingly common in the international game.

The technology which England use runs match simulations - about 250,000 per team - to try to work out how line-ups might fare against each other.

However, Lewis said he still uses a "people-first approach" to squad selection, with data playing a supportive role.

"What data can do is give you a really objective view of what could happen and what has happened previously. I think it will help with borderline decisions in terms of selection and match-ups.

“I suppose there’s one selection particularly last year, one period of the Ashes, that we targeted as a team. We saw a real strength in Australia and we matched up our strength to that.

“That worked really, really well and it helped us win the T20 series in particular, which got us back in the Ashes.”

England will play three T20s and three one-day internationals against Pakistan, with the first T20 at Edgbaston on 11 May being televised live on BBC Two and iPlayer.

Left-arm spinner Linsey Smith keeps her place in the T20 squad which beat New Zealand in March and April. However, all-rounder Freya Kemp will play only as a batter as England manage her long-standing back injury.

Opener Tammy Beaumont is only selected in the one-day squad, while Sophia Dunkley has been left out completely as she looks to rediscover some form in domestic cricket.

“These two series against Pakistan give us an opportunity to build, develop and ensure we are in the best place come the World Cup in Bangladesh in September," added Lewis, who stressed Beaumont and Dunkley remain in his thoughts for the World Cup.

Fast bowler Mahika Gaur, 18, is unavailable because of A-Levels but should return later in the summer, when New Zealand visit.

There will be Test Match Special commentary of every match of England's summer - men and women - on BBC Sounds, plus live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website.

England T20 squad: Heather Knight (capt; Western Storm), Lauren Bell (Southern Vipers), Maia Bouchier (Southern Vipers), Alice Capsey (South East Stars), Charlie Dean (Southern Vipers), Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder), Lauren Filer (Western Storm), Danielle Gibson (Western Storm), Sarah Glenn (The Blaze), Bess Heath (Northern Diamonds), Amy Jones (Central Sparks), Freya Kemp (Southern Vipers), Nat Sciver-Brunt (The Blaze), Linsey Smith (Southern Vipers), Danielle Wyatt (Southern Vipers).

England ODI squad: Heather Knight (capt; Western Storm), Tammy Beaumont (The Blaze), Lauren Bell (Southern Vipers), Maia Bouchier (Southern Vipers), Alice Capsey (South East Stars), Kate Cross (Thunder), Charlie Dean (Southern Vipers), Sophie Ecclestone (Thunder), Lauren Filer (Western Storm), Sarah Glenn (The Blaze), Amy Jones (Central Sparks), Nat Sciver-Brunt (The Blaze), Danielle Wyatt (Southern Vipers).

'A fascinating revelation' - analysis

by BBC Cricket's Henry Moeran

Detailed analysis of player performance and potential match-ups is nothing new, but using AI for marginal squad selections is a fascinating revelation.

While Jon Lewis was keen to stress the human part of selection will always trump reliance of technology, the fact England can point to the success of AI in helping them win a T20 series is intriguing.

Different coaches will have different approaches, and many will always favour their instinct of player skill and character. Others, though, will be desperate to chase the data – this could be Moneyball 2.0.

A hunch is one thing, but to be able to point to 250,000 simulations to back that up could transform how coaches put together sides.

T20 series v Pakistan fixtures

  • 11 May: 1st Women’s T20 – Edgbaston, 14:30 BST

  • 17 May: 2nd Women’s T20 – Northampton, 18:30 BST

  • 19 May: 3rd Women’s T20 – Headingley, 13:00 BST

ODI series v Pakistan fixtures

  • 23 May: 1st ODI – Derby, 13:00 BST

  • 26 May: 2nd ODI – Taunton, 11:00 BST

  • 29 May: 3rd ODI – Chelmsford, 13:00 BST