England news June 4, 2014

England Test squad chance to reinvent

The announcement of who will be preparing for the Lord's Test should be the most fascinating in a long time with plenty of spaces to fill
61

At the height of England's success under Andy Flower the announcement of Test squads became a pretty mundane affair. Except for the occasional retirement or injury there was rarely much conjecture over the names that would be revealed.

The situation now is much different. The squad that James Whitaker will name on Wednesday morning - the first time Whitaker has named a Test party since taking over from Geoff Miller as national selector - has just four certainties that would be included by anyone asked for a squad: Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad and James Anderson.

Those four are the senior core of the England team now. The names that will go alongside them have been much-debated during the opening weeks of an intriguing domestic season. Arguably, not since Duncan Fletcher took over with England rock bottom of the Test rankings in 1999 has there been such room for reinvention.

So far, when it has come to the limited-overs formats, the selectors have hardly ripped up the script: the only new cap this season has been left-armer Harry Gurney. But the Test side could feature four new faces - not since 1993, against Australia at Trent Bridge, have England handed out four debuts in the same Tests - and is very likely to have three.

It is probably worth a reminder of the last Test XI which took the field, on January 3 in Sydney, which also included three debutants: Cook, Carberry, Bell, Pietersen, Ballance, Stokes, Bairstow, Broad, Borthwick, Anderson, Rankin.

Two are ruled out straightaway, for different reasons: Kevin Pietersen's ejection and Boyd Rankin's physical and mental problems which began during the Ashes, although it is heartening to see him back for Warwickshire. Scott Borthwick, too, is unlikely to be considered despite his recent double hundred.

Being the man in possession of the keeping gloves, Jonny Bairstow can feel rightly aggrieved if Matt Prior is unfit and he still loses his spot. There is a feeling that a calculated gamble will be taken on Prior if he does not report any reaction in his Achilles problem following his Championship outing against Nottinghamshire where he kept for 172 overs. It would be a significant risk, but it has been made clear how desperate the management are to have Prior back.

If his problems persist, or recur, then his alternative will give an insight into whether England are feeling pragmatic or brave. There has been growing support for James Foster, 34 years old, to fill the role. One of the outstanding glovemen in the county game he would not let anyone down - and is a better batsman than often given credit for - but to include Jos Buttler (notwithstanding his dozy Mankading) would show an embracing of youth, adventure and dynamism. It would also energise the public, so long as they accept the occasional fumble with the gloves as he has only kept in 21 of his 51 first-class matches.

Still with plenty of places to fill, Chris Jordan will be included and there should be space for one more fast bowler. Liam Plunkett, consistently quick and aggressive for Yorkshire this season, is in with a very good chance. Steven Finn is not yet ready for a return.

Spin bowling? This is tricky. Worthy specialists are in short supply, especially as Monty Panesar appears to have waylaid his watch. Moeen Ali has been tipped from before the season began and although he only has six wickets in the Championship the indications, particularly leaving him out of the one-day side to play red-ball cricket, are that he will take on the tweaking role in an all-round capacity. But for the record, the leading England-qualified spinner this season is Kent's Adam Riley (26 wickets) followed by Dean Cosker and Panesar (23 apiece).

One of the shining lights in England's previous Test side was Ben Stokes, who claimed a five-wicket haul in Sydney to go alongside his Perth century. Since then he has had a few problems, notably with a locker, and may pay the price for his delayed start to the season but he is clearly made for Test cricket. His inclusion, alongside Moeen, would also open the possibility of a keeper batting at No. 8.

The batting around Cook and Bell is likely to include the Yorkshire pair of Joe Root (who was dropped for Sydney) and Gary Ballance, who began the Championship season in prolific style, although was tentative outside off stump in the one-day series. Eoin Morgan could squeeze past Ballance if the selectors move aside from pure statistics. If the conditions and opposition are considered when Championship runs are scored, Samit Patel should also be very close to a recall. Hampshire's James Vince has kicked on this season, too.

Finally, having gone in reverse order, there is an opening partner for Cook to find. Michael Carberry's recall for the limited-overs squads showed he had not been discarded, Adam Lyth has hit rich form, but averaged 31 last season, and Daryl Mitchell is second to Lyth in run-scoring with an average of 108.85 albeit in Division Two. But Sam Robson has felt like the anointed one to try and form a long-term opening combination for the first time since Andrew Strauss retired.

But whoever is included, it really should be an announcement worth listening to.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ragav999 on June 5, 2014, 15:06 GMT

    What a turnover of personnel caused by Mitchell Johnson! To think that the English fans were hoping for his selection at the beginning of the Ashes in Australia. The resurgence of Mitchell Johnson is one for the history books.

  • dummy4fb on June 5, 2014, 14:53 GMT

    What did Root do in Austrlia to find a place in the Team. He is ill groomed to play at any number. He should improve his batting abilities. Why ECB you play safe. I have seen from DeXter's time' we see mediocre players in England side excepting Ian Botham Robin Smith Marcus Trescothick etc. How long will you go on with Anderson Bell etc till they drop down. Find new players and bring back the glory days. I am always a staunch supporter of England.....

  • dummy4fb on June 5, 2014, 14:33 GMT

    ECB.Why cant you try some new players. Why Compton is left out. He is a much better player. He plays very patiently and he should hv been an auto choice for Aus. but you people goofed up. You pick some WK who can do batting. Johny Bairstow is not all upto the mark as a Batsman. Why KP cant be brought into the side. Look for some young fast bowlers/spinners and groom them. Also induct some new batsmen does not matter if you lose to Sri Lanka and others. Your focus should be to beat Aus after the thrashing in all 5 tests. Dont you want to redeem yourselves. Please publish this and not knock off from the comments column. Tks.

  • espncricinfomobile on June 5, 2014, 11:44 GMT

    England seem to have made some bold and necessary culling in Bairstow, Borthwick, Panesar and less convincingly the luckless Carberry. Pleased for Ali and hope he can marry application to undoubted flair. Agree with previous comments re Bairstows' innings against SA but one swallow doesn't make a summer.

    I guess Woakes will disappear again fairly quickly assuming Stokes stops punching things. Taylor seems out of all contention for now but I back him to quietly go about his business and feel he still has a future for England especially given the enormous pressure there will be on Root and Robson

    Butler should breathe a sigh of relief as should the England bowlers.

    Anyway what do I know. I just hope all those picked do justice to their skills and England can rebuild and play attractive, winning cricket.

    NB

    Has anyone noticed that we don't have a spinner? Small oversight I know but perhaps someone should let the selectors know?

  • yorkshire-86 on June 5, 2014, 9:14 GMT

    Nice to see them go back to proven failures like Ali, Woakes, Plunkett...

  • dummy4fb on June 5, 2014, 8:54 GMT

    A few more foreign players would not make any difference to the England set up would it?. We do not have home grown players to play for England. What is wrong with the ECB management. What is wrong with Compton, Hales and so many other excellent players who should be given a chance to represent their motherland.

  • CodandChips on June 5, 2014, 8:33 GMT

    No mention in the article on many mentions in these comments for Taylor or Kerrigan. A shame but I know neither will get picked.

    Also nobody has picked Carberry. I wouldn't but it wouldn't surprise me if he plays. Please don't pick any Hampshire players. Carberry is out of his depth. Vince isn't ready yet. Moreover both of them would be of much greater importance to Hampshire than they would be to England. If you're gonna pick any Hampshire players pick WHeater and Gatting, as they can't seem to get dropped.

    Hants T20 team: 1.Vince 2.Carberry 3.Adams 4.Shah 5.Maxwell 6.Smith 7.Coles 8.Wood 9.Bates 10.Abbott 11.Briggs

    @JG2704 who'd you pick for tests?

  • RednWhiteArmy on June 5, 2014, 8:28 GMT

    Side should be 1 Cook (c) 2 Compton/Robson 3 Bell 4 Ballance 5 Morgan 6 Moeen Ali 7 Stokes 8 Buttler (wk) 9 Broad 10 Anderson 11 4th seamer/2nd spinner

  • Patchmaster on June 5, 2014, 7:54 GMT

    Only the ENG management would be 'desperate' to have Prior back. Sure. he's been a class player, in the past, but lets face it, his body language and his actual scores in the last five test series and all the warm games and all the one dayers in AUS, do not warrant picking him - so why oh why are they desperate to have him back ? He's nearing the end of his career, so NOW is the chance to blood someone new in and give them a really good run. C'mon ENG management - show some guts and decent decision making - for once !

  • Patchmaster on June 5, 2014, 7:50 GMT

    Robson and Hales would be a better opening partnership........

  • No featured comments at the moment.