3 May 2016

England Cricket vs Sri Lanka

So, after Ben Stokes's appalling final over at the World T20, we can get back to #ProperCricket, and that means Test Matches. There is an odd question as to how and why the One Day side can score more runs in 50 overs than the Test side can before being bowled out, but let's keep going and plough on with who to pick for the first test of the summer against Sri Lanka.

OPENERS

In Nasser Hussain's own words, "Cook has his redemption", and so keeps his place in the starting XI. But yet again, England are looking for an opener to partner him. My choice - and don't laugh - is Michael Carberry. Outscored only by Kevin Pietersen and Ben Stokes in the Ashes in 2013-14, he has performed well in the Championship so far, and if you're good enough, you're young enough. Look at Chris Rogers or Adam Voges, who both debuted for Australia well into their 30s. And as the wickets here won't have tennis ball bounce, he's my pick for the second opening spot. If England want someone else they could try Alex Hales or Nick Compton again. Zafar Ansari, if he plays, could open. If they want another debutant they may try Alex Lees, but I wouldn't hedge my bets.

1 Alastair Cook (c)
2 Michael Carberry

FAST BOWLERS

The reason I've gone for this category next is because there's a debate as to how many pace bowlers you pick, irrespective of the all-rounder Ben Stokes, who gets in the time regardless. Stuart Broad obviously is in, James Anderson too (although I'm worried he may now be starting to get a bit old). Mark Wood is out injured, so this thankfully removes the conundrum of whether to play him or Steven Finn, but the question now is whether Liam Plunkett and/or David Willey get a go in the team. Plunkett's in decent form for Yorkshire, but Willey isn't, and so the choice now is whether to play Finn, Plunkett, or both. I think Plunkett misses out, but if more pace is needed, then he could come in. But for now...

6 Ben Stokes
9 Stuart Broad
10 Steven Finn
11 James Anderson

WICKET KEEPER

No real argument here. Names such as Ben Foakes are being thrown around, but the vote has to go to...

7 Johnny Bairstow (wk)

SPIN BOWLER(S)

One or two? Or even three? Of course, three went on the tour to the UAE (including the ageing Samit Patel) but I wouldn't be surprised to see England play two, because of the need to prepare for a tour of India in the winter. But for the first test, sticking with Moeen Ali would be the safest bet. But I would quite like to see Adil Rashid and Zafar Ansari given a go later on in the summer.

8 Moeen Ali

MIDDLE ORDER BATSMEN

That leaves three spots available for the middle order. Of course, Joe Root gets one of them, so who gets the other two? Kevin Pietersen is injured, so that rules him out. Steve Davies is out of form, so that rules him out. James Taylor has been forced to retire, so that rules him out. All of a sudden you're quite thin on the ground. In South Africa over the winter Alex Hales went in at #2 and Nick Compton at #3. They're now both candidates, although I'm not convinced by the latter. Does Ian Bell merit re-inclusion? It would be difficult to go back to Bell in place of Hales or the person whose case for inclusion I am convinced by - Jason Roy, who keeps going from strength to strength in all formats. He has been a tad impetuous for Surrey in the Championship but he is averaging over 40 this season, and I can't argue with that. Alex Hales retains a spot in the England lineup, but for me he gets shunted down to #3. Roy in at #5, Root at #4.

3 Alex Hales
4 Joe Root
5 Jason Roy

FINAL LINEUP


1 Alastair Cook (c)
2 Michael Carberry
3 Alex Hales
4 Joe Root
5 Jason Roy
6 Ben Stokes
7 Johnny Bairstow (wk)
8 Moeen Ali
9 Stuart Broad
10 Steven Finn
11 James Anderson

Players on the fringe of the squad and could play later in the summer (incorporated into the main team):

2 Alex Lees
3 Nick Compton
4 Ian Bell
5 Jos Buttler
6 Zafar Ansari
7 Ben Foakes (wk)
8 Adil Rashid
9 David Willey
10 Liam Plunkett
11 Mark Wood

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