Sri Lanka A v England Lions, 1st Test, Kandy February 11, 2014

England's future goes on display

25

Lions aim to lift English cricket

As the majority of English cricket supporters mourn the loss of Kevin Pietersen - the stages of grief are all there: denial, anger, depression - a group of players who are actually available for the national side are about to begin perhaps the most important series of their careers.

The England development programme that has the England Lions at its summit was devised as the most efficient way to produce Test cricketers. Now it is under its greatest scrutiny as England are forced to delve deeper into their reserve stocks than ever before.

The Lions' performances in Sri Lanka, where a three four-day match series begins against Sri Lanka A on Wednesday, will of course provide only part of the evidence for Test selection in June but a strong showing in alien conditions will be a significant start.

English cricket needs cheering up from the debacle down under and this squad can provide a tonic of encouragement that the Test side can be rebuilt. The selectors need some good news too. Pietersen has been cast aside for a new generation and a new band of Test cricketers needs to be forthcoming to justify their decision. The quicker a new team is assembled the better for the management.

This tour has become the most significant Lions trip ever undertaken. England need potentially six new players for June. Some of them are in Sri Lanka.

It's a strong group. Moeen Ali is in England's World T20 squad. Scott Borthwick was with England in Australia. Four others have international experience and Sam Robson is in many observers future Test side already. The new generation is already out there, not waiting to be discovered by an ECB sleuth.

Borthwick is the latest in a line of, hitherto unsuccessful, legspinners England have tried. A Test-class leggie is a luxury few sides in the history of the game have enjoyed and Borthwick has been greedily lined up to become England's. He will find assistance in Pallekele, the venue for the opening match of this tour, and a return similar to the 4 for 25 in the first innings of the second warm-up match will turn giddy those clamouring for England's resurgence. But while a dose of excitement is no bad thing in the current climate, Borthwick needs time. In the second innings of the same match he produced 0 for 54 in 10 overs.

It is a cautionary tale that can be labelled to many of this squad. Simon Kerrigan - another candidate to succeed Graeme Swann who has been tearing up the County Championship - endured an horrendous Test debut. Jonny Bairstow - slayer of South Africa at Lord's two summers ago - struggled to provide consistent performances at international level. Chris Woakes - leading English allrounder in county cricket last season - has been exposed with ball in hand.

An asterisk can be placed against many names and they will hope to begin to scrub such doubts away here. The England team is a not so much a closed shop now but welcoming to all comers. Woakes, captain for this tour, was perfectly entitled to provide a vague answer when asked for five or six names that will be the future of England.

"We've got a good team with some experience that have played international cricket before and there's some guys that haven't played much for the Lions," Woakes said. "It's hard to single out individuals at this moment in time, but come the end of the tour, I might be able to give you a few names. It's difficult to name individuals that I can say are going to be in that Test squad come June."

Two warm-up matches in more humid Colombo have been stern preparation for the airier Kandy. They were also the first chances for Woakes to assume control of his group - his first experience of captaincy since age group cricket.

"It's been a new challenge," Woakes said. "I haven't done a great deal of it before. I'm enjoying it so far. Sometimes it's difficult when you come into these teams, it's difficult to stamp you're authority because you're here for five weeks. But we feel like we've come together as a team really well. And it will be a test in these games on the field, making decisions I don't usually make. I'm excited about it and I think I've taken the challenge up well so far."

The Lions will face a younger Sri Lankan side of whom only two have considerable international experience: Dhammika Prasad and the captain, Upul Tharanga, a veteran of 171 ODIs and 15 Tests - the last of which came in December 2007.

"This is a very important series for both sides," Tharanga said. "We have lots of youngsters. There are about nine players from the Sri Lanka A team playing with national team now and we've got most of the youngsters. Because of that, I think this is a great opportunity for all these young cricketers."

Naturally, the Sri Lankans will pose a spin threat and will include three spinners in their side. Kandy is on the verge of a drought but the outfield in Pallekele remains lush, suggesting there is enough moisture in the wicket to calm nightmares of facing a raging turner. England's seamers would certainly appreciate it too.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • SirViv1973 on February 12, 2014, 13:22 GMT

    @JG, I wasn't having a go at Onions, I guess if I was trying to have a go at anyone it was the selectors. A few months ago he wasn't deemed good enough but due to the struggles in Aus he might be now. I don't want to keep going on about the KP situation but Whitaker has gone on record as saying Eng are looking at younger options & Onions is only a yr younger than KP. Woakes may have only played 1 test but he has played plenty of white ball cricket for Eng & IMO he looks short of international class. He reminds me of the bits n pieces type players we saw play test cricket for Eng in the 90s. Thankfully Stokes looks a far better prospect with bat & ball. Our seam bowling resources in general are weak, Mills, Overton & Topley are all talented but probably wont be ready for another year or 2 by which time Anderson will probably be gone, which leaves us looking in the short term at Jordan, Rankin, Bresnan & Onions for the 3rd seamer spot which dosen't feel me with much confidence.

  • PeerieTrow on February 12, 2014, 9:34 GMT

    I'm with you there, CodandChips. There needs to be a balance between home grown, still-slightly-raw talent and the experienced campaigners, but I haven't understood the logic behind some of the recent signings which bring nothing of specific value IMHO. I'm not against cross-county transfers per se; in fairness, Carbs could be considered in the other county's reject bracket, as could Gower and Crawley in the past, but all three were/are class acts from a different mould. I never was a Dominic fan, though. I'm concerned we're grasping at straws in an attempt to get out of the second division and not quite getting it right. This is where I feel that your approach to the test team also applies, but there is an element that doesn't appear to have the patience to set the process in motion and let it happen.

  • CodandChips on February 12, 2014, 7:19 GMT

    @Chomolungma good points raised but dont forget KP's averages in all formats is higher than everybody else's, despite him being in decline.

    As a Hants fan, what's your opinion on all the new signings. Personally I'm not a fan on signing lots of other counties' rejects.

    @JB633 surely some kolpaks weaken the game. Some are excellent players therefore strengthen it, but others are only there as cheaper labour imo.

  • jb633 on February 12, 2014, 0:03 GMT

    Moen Ali is easily the most talented up and coming cricketer we have. I need to have a look at him against searing pace to make a full evaluation of where he is up to be we must look to get him involved as much as possible. Anyone that can strike the ball like him with that minium fuss cannot be discounted easily.

  • jb633 on February 11, 2014, 23:58 GMT

    It is so bleak looking at this side we are churning out. Just been listening to George Dobell describing how English cricket is back where it was n the 90's. i must agree with him and feel a real sense of bad things to come when I look at our young players and how soft first class cricket is at the moment. We have lost 3 of our big guns and we just look a shambles with little coming through development sides. Why were we so complacent in letting the first class cricket decay over the last 3 years? Kolpak players were a great thing for the game in this country. Yes it brought sneers from Indian and Aussie fans but who actually cares. It made it harder for young players and therefore toughened the game up. The standard of younger players we are seeing at the moment is simply dreadful. Our spin department is non existent and the young batsmen are average at best. i blame this predominantly on the softening of the county game due to the regulations outlawing kolpak cricketers.

  • PeerieTrow on February 11, 2014, 23:14 GMT

    You've outed me CodandChips, yes I am a Hants member, so don't get me started on Bates being put to the sword. JV building an innings with those elegant ground shots is a joy to watch; classy enough to be a left hander, but there you go, he does it the wrong way round.

    KP? No, for me his occasional big scores serve only to hide the flaws statistically.

    Rebuilding the test team? - spot on.

    I wouldn't have kept KP for the WCups. If he went big, fine, but can that be relied upon? If he was out second ball trying to score a six over extra, where are we then? - on the plane home. Replace him with a +40s average who consistently plays to his average, let Morgan bat where he wants and give him his head.

  • JG2704 on February 11, 2014, 21:55 GMT

    @SirViv1973 on (February 11, 2014, 18:50 GMT) On what basis is selecting Onions a desperate move? The guy has a similar test average to all the 1st choice seamers we have and has been the most consistent domestic bowler for years. In his last test he did little wrong compiling figures of 4-88 in the 1 inns and had the best ER of our bowlers. Re him being so low down in the pecking order - could it not be that the selectors have got it wrong? I seemed to remember us having this debate pre the last Ashes series , but I guess you still disagree with me that they got the selections wrong despite the stats? Woakes has had one test batting in 2 inns and bowling in one. He scored 25 and 17 not out (so averages 42 with the bat) and while his bowling wasn't that impressive I felt he improved as the game went on and in that inns his figures were no worse than Broad's

  • CodandChips on February 11, 2014, 19:13 GMT

    (continued)

    because youngsters will have potential to become proper test players. We should take advantage of this time to prepare for the ashes in 1&1/2 years. No disrespect to SriLanka and India, but I would not mind sacrificing series against them if it guarenteed prolonged success in the future.

    Take football as an example. England will not win the world cup, so why not use it as experimentation of the talented youngsters in the country, such as Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse and Ross Barkley.

  • CodandChips on February 11, 2014, 19:10 GMT

    @Chomolungma The reason I chose Vince at 4/5 is mainly because he has yet to really establish himself in F/C cricket, in division 2, although had an excellent end to the season. His issue is that he has marooned himself in div 2 by extending his contract while we have signed many other counties' rejects at the expense of our own young talent eg Wheater over Bates.

    I like Vince as a white-ball opener. He scores quickly without slogging- he plays proper shots. And although Carberry may have got all the plaudits for his FLT20 season, 150 vs Lancs, and awesome 2012 YB40, Vince has often appeared the better player. He strikes the ball cleanly and doesn't slog.

    On KP, is your position because you might be a Hants fan? Personally I'd have kept KP in white-ball cricket for the 2 world cups, but removed him from tests. In tests I see now as the perfect time to rebuild, and to give youngsters such as Taylor instead of decling players such as KP, even if they are less talented at the moment

  • SirViv1973 on February 11, 2014, 18:50 GMT

    Going back to Onions seems a desperate move. We were a seamer short all last summer & he couldn't get a game & there were 7 (if you include Stokes) seamers picked ahead of him for ashes tour & the surfaces in SRL won't suit him either. It's difficult to see any of the bowlers in the Lions squad coming in to the test side & doing well. We've already seen the likes of Woakes & Plunkett at Int level & both have been found wanting. Harris dosen't really have to pace to be effective on anything other than a green seamer. Mills may prove to be test class but it's too early, he needs to stay fit & get overs under his belt at FC level. There is a lot of excitement about him & he may prove a huge asset for Eng in the future but the truth is he is a complete novice with only 32 FC wickets @ a modest ave. As for the batsman. I would like to see Moen given a chance & Taylor probably deserves a run in the side, but apart from that our cupboard is pretty bare.

  • SirViv1973 on February 12, 2014, 13:22 GMT

    @JG, I wasn't having a go at Onions, I guess if I was trying to have a go at anyone it was the selectors. A few months ago he wasn't deemed good enough but due to the struggles in Aus he might be now. I don't want to keep going on about the KP situation but Whitaker has gone on record as saying Eng are looking at younger options & Onions is only a yr younger than KP. Woakes may have only played 1 test but he has played plenty of white ball cricket for Eng & IMO he looks short of international class. He reminds me of the bits n pieces type players we saw play test cricket for Eng in the 90s. Thankfully Stokes looks a far better prospect with bat & ball. Our seam bowling resources in general are weak, Mills, Overton & Topley are all talented but probably wont be ready for another year or 2 by which time Anderson will probably be gone, which leaves us looking in the short term at Jordan, Rankin, Bresnan & Onions for the 3rd seamer spot which dosen't feel me with much confidence.

  • PeerieTrow on February 12, 2014, 9:34 GMT

    I'm with you there, CodandChips. There needs to be a balance between home grown, still-slightly-raw talent and the experienced campaigners, but I haven't understood the logic behind some of the recent signings which bring nothing of specific value IMHO. I'm not against cross-county transfers per se; in fairness, Carbs could be considered in the other county's reject bracket, as could Gower and Crawley in the past, but all three were/are class acts from a different mould. I never was a Dominic fan, though. I'm concerned we're grasping at straws in an attempt to get out of the second division and not quite getting it right. This is where I feel that your approach to the test team also applies, but there is an element that doesn't appear to have the patience to set the process in motion and let it happen.

  • CodandChips on February 12, 2014, 7:19 GMT

    @Chomolungma good points raised but dont forget KP's averages in all formats is higher than everybody else's, despite him being in decline.

    As a Hants fan, what's your opinion on all the new signings. Personally I'm not a fan on signing lots of other counties' rejects.

    @JB633 surely some kolpaks weaken the game. Some are excellent players therefore strengthen it, but others are only there as cheaper labour imo.

  • jb633 on February 12, 2014, 0:03 GMT

    Moen Ali is easily the most talented up and coming cricketer we have. I need to have a look at him against searing pace to make a full evaluation of where he is up to be we must look to get him involved as much as possible. Anyone that can strike the ball like him with that minium fuss cannot be discounted easily.

  • jb633 on February 11, 2014, 23:58 GMT

    It is so bleak looking at this side we are churning out. Just been listening to George Dobell describing how English cricket is back where it was n the 90's. i must agree with him and feel a real sense of bad things to come when I look at our young players and how soft first class cricket is at the moment. We have lost 3 of our big guns and we just look a shambles with little coming through development sides. Why were we so complacent in letting the first class cricket decay over the last 3 years? Kolpak players were a great thing for the game in this country. Yes it brought sneers from Indian and Aussie fans but who actually cares. It made it harder for young players and therefore toughened the game up. The standard of younger players we are seeing at the moment is simply dreadful. Our spin department is non existent and the young batsmen are average at best. i blame this predominantly on the softening of the county game due to the regulations outlawing kolpak cricketers.

  • PeerieTrow on February 11, 2014, 23:14 GMT

    You've outed me CodandChips, yes I am a Hants member, so don't get me started on Bates being put to the sword. JV building an innings with those elegant ground shots is a joy to watch; classy enough to be a left hander, but there you go, he does it the wrong way round.

    KP? No, for me his occasional big scores serve only to hide the flaws statistically.

    Rebuilding the test team? - spot on.

    I wouldn't have kept KP for the WCups. If he went big, fine, but can that be relied upon? If he was out second ball trying to score a six over extra, where are we then? - on the plane home. Replace him with a +40s average who consistently plays to his average, let Morgan bat where he wants and give him his head.

  • JG2704 on February 11, 2014, 21:55 GMT

    @SirViv1973 on (February 11, 2014, 18:50 GMT) On what basis is selecting Onions a desperate move? The guy has a similar test average to all the 1st choice seamers we have and has been the most consistent domestic bowler for years. In his last test he did little wrong compiling figures of 4-88 in the 1 inns and had the best ER of our bowlers. Re him being so low down in the pecking order - could it not be that the selectors have got it wrong? I seemed to remember us having this debate pre the last Ashes series , but I guess you still disagree with me that they got the selections wrong despite the stats? Woakes has had one test batting in 2 inns and bowling in one. He scored 25 and 17 not out (so averages 42 with the bat) and while his bowling wasn't that impressive I felt he improved as the game went on and in that inns his figures were no worse than Broad's

  • CodandChips on February 11, 2014, 19:13 GMT

    (continued)

    because youngsters will have potential to become proper test players. We should take advantage of this time to prepare for the ashes in 1&1/2 years. No disrespect to SriLanka and India, but I would not mind sacrificing series against them if it guarenteed prolonged success in the future.

    Take football as an example. England will not win the world cup, so why not use it as experimentation of the talented youngsters in the country, such as Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse and Ross Barkley.

  • CodandChips on February 11, 2014, 19:10 GMT

    @Chomolungma The reason I chose Vince at 4/5 is mainly because he has yet to really establish himself in F/C cricket, in division 2, although had an excellent end to the season. His issue is that he has marooned himself in div 2 by extending his contract while we have signed many other counties' rejects at the expense of our own young talent eg Wheater over Bates.

    I like Vince as a white-ball opener. He scores quickly without slogging- he plays proper shots. And although Carberry may have got all the plaudits for his FLT20 season, 150 vs Lancs, and awesome 2012 YB40, Vince has often appeared the better player. He strikes the ball cleanly and doesn't slog.

    On KP, is your position because you might be a Hants fan? Personally I'd have kept KP in white-ball cricket for the 2 world cups, but removed him from tests. In tests I see now as the perfect time to rebuild, and to give youngsters such as Taylor instead of decling players such as KP, even if they are less talented at the moment

  • SirViv1973 on February 11, 2014, 18:50 GMT

    Going back to Onions seems a desperate move. We were a seamer short all last summer & he couldn't get a game & there were 7 (if you include Stokes) seamers picked ahead of him for ashes tour & the surfaces in SRL won't suit him either. It's difficult to see any of the bowlers in the Lions squad coming in to the test side & doing well. We've already seen the likes of Woakes & Plunkett at Int level & both have been found wanting. Harris dosen't really have to pace to be effective on anything other than a green seamer. Mills may prove to be test class but it's too early, he needs to stay fit & get overs under his belt at FC level. There is a lot of excitement about him & he may prove a huge asset for Eng in the future but the truth is he is a complete novice with only 32 FC wickets @ a modest ave. As for the batsman. I would like to see Moen given a chance & Taylor probably deserves a run in the side, but apart from that our cupboard is pretty bare.

  • Udendra on February 11, 2014, 18:13 GMT

    Pallekele is not a spin-friendly wicket normally. Would like to see what the curator offers.

  • CricketCoachDB on February 11, 2014, 18:08 GMT

    @TurningSquare Chopra shouldn't be anywhere near the squad? Based on what? He is along with Compton the most consistent English opener in CCD1. Along with Taylor he was the only batsman to do well on the Lions tour of Australia last year He has played domestically in Sri Lanka and dominated. This highlights his versatility: he is proven in all conditions. Lees is promising but has had one season; Vince has had one good season-in Division 2-and he doesn't open in FC. You could argue your opinion is that Chopra isn't the best choice, but "nowhere near this squad"?!? Your avin a laff, mate! If you ask me, the only reason for that is assertion is if you think he should be in the Test side. And if that's your view...I agree!

  • Murnau on February 11, 2014, 17:50 GMT

    Jordan might make my team for the home Tests, but he struggled to back up his opening spell in ODIs, and I just wonder if that will be a problem for him in Tests. High eighties first spell, low eighties second.

  • PeerieTrow on February 11, 2014, 17:43 GMT

    Generally a good article, but, "the majority of English cricket supporters mourn the loss of Kevin Pietersen"; really? Well I fell comfortable with my position in the minority in that case.

    Hmmmm, I'd have put JV at #3 in whites CodandChips, but can't disagree with your contention that he's a white ball opener.

  • Herath-UK on February 11, 2014, 17:32 GMT

    This series is important to the Lankans as to England as they will be the visitors in the spring coming with high hopes with a team who has done very well recently in Tests against Pak & BD. However there are few spots up for grabbing so hope them taking this series seriously to fill those gaps.

  • CodandChips on February 11, 2014, 17:27 GMT

    Finally, I reckon Joe Root will need resting at the start of the summer. Therefore it becomes an interesting tour for Lees, Chopra, Robson and Ali. Root has been playing pretty much non-stop since the CLT20 2012. Unlike most England players, he actually played for his county.

    Considering the amount of Ashes casualties, this is a huge tour. With Swann, Finn and KP gone, Trott and Prior probably gone, and Rankin, Tremlett and Bresnan deservedly gone, there are many places up for grabs come this summer.

  • CodandChips on February 11, 2014, 17:24 GMT

    Borthwick I see as more a bits and pieces allrounder than a genuine bowler. I think England are reading too much into the Durham pitch- why else would they select Borthwick as a front-line bowler and not select Onions.

    Hopefully Mills can show what he's got and get into the Essex team.

    James Harris is interesting- this time last year he was in the ODI squad.

    The teams I listed were for the first test of the summer. I'd actually make a change to the reserve/Lions team- Plunkett in for the injured Willey.

    Woakes as a captain is interesting, but I suppose he has international experience. Certainly wouldn't have come up with that myself. I like him as ab allrounder. He's improved his batting nicely, perhaps at the expense of his bowling. But he could still be more than useful to the England side as a batsman who can bowl many tidy overs, and perhaps nick a wicket or 2. Don't forget, he bowls at Edgbaston half the time, traditionally seamer's graveyard. Woakes if Stokes needs resting.

  • on February 11, 2014, 16:47 GMT

    I like Mills...seen him bowl with some real heat in the past up at 94mph. Like actually nearly all of these players but I still think that without Pietersen, the England side is in real trouble. Root will need to go back to open it is true. Morgan will need to come back in as well and James Taylor deserves another crack at this. Prior needs to return and Anderson and Broad and Stokes will need help....and to be honest, Borthwick did look capable, just nervous. And then there's Finn. To me, he needs to play and I fully back him to do a Mitchell Johnson and go away for a bit, work it out and come back three times more deadly than before. If anything, the ECB need to get the axe out and start giving their people the chop.

  • CodandChips on February 11, 2014, 16:11 GMT

    Come on the youngsters. Especially James Taylor. Hopefully Kerrigan can recover from the Oval test disaster.

    James Vince as a potential white ball opener and red ball 4 or 5 in the future.

    Haven't seen any of Foakes- is he a decent keeper and batsman? Is he getting any opportunities at Essex behind Foster? Bairstow ought to be left to settle in county cricket. His England career batting and keeping have been hugely disappointing. He'd benefit from a season of regular cricket with Yorkshire.

    Test team for 1st test: 1.Cook 2.Root 3.Bell 4.Taylor 5.Ali 6.Stokes 7.Davies 8.Broad 9.Jordan 10.Anderson 11.Kerrigan

    Reserve team: 1.Robson (when he qualifies?) 2.Lees 3.Ballance 4.Vince 5.Woakes 6.Borthwick 7.Prior 8.Willey (if fit) 9.Onions 10.Rayner 11.Finn (if ready- if not risk Mills/Topley)

    No Morgan, Rankin, Bresnan, Tremlett, Tredwell, Bairstow, Trott

  • EnglishSaint on February 11, 2014, 13:51 GMT

    I really believe that a Lions team with Finn and Jordan would beat the current test team.

    Ali Lees Taylor Vince Bairstow Foakes Woakes Borthwick Jordan Kerrigan Finn

    And would have Robson for Lees !!!!

  • pragmatist on February 11, 2014, 13:44 GMT

    I would love to see James Vince push on. He's got it all, and looks fabulous too. In my view he's most like Bell or Vaughan. England seem to be quite patient with him, on the basis that his time will come. Could that time be this summer?

  • Murnau on February 11, 2014, 13:37 GMT

    Chopra, Robson, Taylor, Vince, Moeen, Bairstow, Woakes, Borthwick, Plunkett, Onions, Kerrigan.

    Of the ones to step up, probably Taylor, Robson, Woakes and Kerrigan are most likely.

    My team for the home series against Sri Lanka:

    Cook, Carberry, Root, Bell, Taylor, Stokes, Woakes, Prior, Broad, Kerrigan, Anderson.

  • on February 11, 2014, 13:17 GMT

    Welcome to LION island boys. Sri Lankans are the true lions on all counts. Not three stretched lions standing on top of each other for fear of seeing proper Lions.

    Enjoy the games in SL. We are a very hospitable nation and we are not hostile like Indians, Bangaladesh and Aussies.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on February 11, 2014, 12:45 GMT

    Yes, a decent squad indeed that contains some fresh new faces amongst the veteran fringers. Good luck to them all. I do still feel that cricket has a nasty habit of 'labelling' certain players too early; the likes of Woakes will have to pull off something really special to get back in the reckoning - especially now that Stokes has probably done enough to secure a spot for some time. Kerrigan has been doing well in the warm-ups, and hopefully has the confidence to shake off that "horrendous Test debut". Onions and Plunkett are by no means new to this situation and (hopefully) know what they need to do; in the case of the latter, I would prefer he concentrate mostly on his bowling and let that be his calling card. If I had to pick out two 'newbie' players to watch out for, I'll go for Moeen Ali and James Harris.

  • TurningSquare on February 11, 2014, 12:24 GMT

    Varun Chopra & Ollie Rayner should not be near this squad. The playing team should be:

    Lees Vince Taylor Bairstow Ali Foakes Woakes Borthwick Plunkett Kerrigan Mills

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • TurningSquare on February 11, 2014, 12:24 GMT

    Varun Chopra & Ollie Rayner should not be near this squad. The playing team should be:

    Lees Vince Taylor Bairstow Ali Foakes Woakes Borthwick Plunkett Kerrigan Mills

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on February 11, 2014, 12:45 GMT

    Yes, a decent squad indeed that contains some fresh new faces amongst the veteran fringers. Good luck to them all. I do still feel that cricket has a nasty habit of 'labelling' certain players too early; the likes of Woakes will have to pull off something really special to get back in the reckoning - especially now that Stokes has probably done enough to secure a spot for some time. Kerrigan has been doing well in the warm-ups, and hopefully has the confidence to shake off that "horrendous Test debut". Onions and Plunkett are by no means new to this situation and (hopefully) know what they need to do; in the case of the latter, I would prefer he concentrate mostly on his bowling and let that be his calling card. If I had to pick out two 'newbie' players to watch out for, I'll go for Moeen Ali and James Harris.

  • on February 11, 2014, 13:17 GMT

    Welcome to LION island boys. Sri Lankans are the true lions on all counts. Not three stretched lions standing on top of each other for fear of seeing proper Lions.

    Enjoy the games in SL. We are a very hospitable nation and we are not hostile like Indians, Bangaladesh and Aussies.

  • Murnau on February 11, 2014, 13:37 GMT

    Chopra, Robson, Taylor, Vince, Moeen, Bairstow, Woakes, Borthwick, Plunkett, Onions, Kerrigan.

    Of the ones to step up, probably Taylor, Robson, Woakes and Kerrigan are most likely.

    My team for the home series against Sri Lanka:

    Cook, Carberry, Root, Bell, Taylor, Stokes, Woakes, Prior, Broad, Kerrigan, Anderson.

  • pragmatist on February 11, 2014, 13:44 GMT

    I would love to see James Vince push on. He's got it all, and looks fabulous too. In my view he's most like Bell or Vaughan. England seem to be quite patient with him, on the basis that his time will come. Could that time be this summer?

  • EnglishSaint on February 11, 2014, 13:51 GMT

    I really believe that a Lions team with Finn and Jordan would beat the current test team.

    Ali Lees Taylor Vince Bairstow Foakes Woakes Borthwick Jordan Kerrigan Finn

    And would have Robson for Lees !!!!

  • CodandChips on February 11, 2014, 16:11 GMT

    Come on the youngsters. Especially James Taylor. Hopefully Kerrigan can recover from the Oval test disaster.

    James Vince as a potential white ball opener and red ball 4 or 5 in the future.

    Haven't seen any of Foakes- is he a decent keeper and batsman? Is he getting any opportunities at Essex behind Foster? Bairstow ought to be left to settle in county cricket. His England career batting and keeping have been hugely disappointing. He'd benefit from a season of regular cricket with Yorkshire.

    Test team for 1st test: 1.Cook 2.Root 3.Bell 4.Taylor 5.Ali 6.Stokes 7.Davies 8.Broad 9.Jordan 10.Anderson 11.Kerrigan

    Reserve team: 1.Robson (when he qualifies?) 2.Lees 3.Ballance 4.Vince 5.Woakes 6.Borthwick 7.Prior 8.Willey (if fit) 9.Onions 10.Rayner 11.Finn (if ready- if not risk Mills/Topley)

    No Morgan, Rankin, Bresnan, Tremlett, Tredwell, Bairstow, Trott

  • on February 11, 2014, 16:47 GMT

    I like Mills...seen him bowl with some real heat in the past up at 94mph. Like actually nearly all of these players but I still think that without Pietersen, the England side is in real trouble. Root will need to go back to open it is true. Morgan will need to come back in as well and James Taylor deserves another crack at this. Prior needs to return and Anderson and Broad and Stokes will need help....and to be honest, Borthwick did look capable, just nervous. And then there's Finn. To me, he needs to play and I fully back him to do a Mitchell Johnson and go away for a bit, work it out and come back three times more deadly than before. If anything, the ECB need to get the axe out and start giving their people the chop.

  • CodandChips on February 11, 2014, 17:24 GMT

    Borthwick I see as more a bits and pieces allrounder than a genuine bowler. I think England are reading too much into the Durham pitch- why else would they select Borthwick as a front-line bowler and not select Onions.

    Hopefully Mills can show what he's got and get into the Essex team.

    James Harris is interesting- this time last year he was in the ODI squad.

    The teams I listed were for the first test of the summer. I'd actually make a change to the reserve/Lions team- Plunkett in for the injured Willey.

    Woakes as a captain is interesting, but I suppose he has international experience. Certainly wouldn't have come up with that myself. I like him as ab allrounder. He's improved his batting nicely, perhaps at the expense of his bowling. But he could still be more than useful to the England side as a batsman who can bowl many tidy overs, and perhaps nick a wicket or 2. Don't forget, he bowls at Edgbaston half the time, traditionally seamer's graveyard. Woakes if Stokes needs resting.

  • CodandChips on February 11, 2014, 17:27 GMT

    Finally, I reckon Joe Root will need resting at the start of the summer. Therefore it becomes an interesting tour for Lees, Chopra, Robson and Ali. Root has been playing pretty much non-stop since the CLT20 2012. Unlike most England players, he actually played for his county.

    Considering the amount of Ashes casualties, this is a huge tour. With Swann, Finn and KP gone, Trott and Prior probably gone, and Rankin, Tremlett and Bresnan deservedly gone, there are many places up for grabs come this summer.