England’s summer of test cricket begins on June 12 at the ‘home of cricket’ Lords, against Sri Lanka. Alistair Cook’s men will face Sri Lanka in two test matches before taking on the might of India in five.
However, exactly whom will be Alastair Cook’s men is still in doubt. England selectors are due to announce the squad on June 5 exactly a week before the first test.
Following their woeful whitewash at the hands of the Aussie’s, selectors and supporters alike will be hoping for a new and successful beginning. A number of players who experienced the horrors of the winter will retain their places and will also be keen to set the world to rights, however there are a number of key area’s which will need to be decided.
Who will stay?
Alastair Cook, despite a poor tour with the bat remains as captain and will lead the side for the foreseeable future under new coach Peter Moores. Balance, Bell and Root will all likely keep their place, even if it is unsure of their positions in the order. Wicketkeeper Matt Prior has had fitness doubts, yet will feel confident of retaining his place also. In the bowling department, pace would appear to be the preferred option as Anderson and Broad, along with the Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes who made a positive impact in Australia, all look very likely to be named in the 12-man squad for the Lords test on June 12.
What needs to be decided?
England’s top order suffered with the shock departure of Johnathan Trott following the first test in Brisbane, and has not since recovered. England’s dreadful winter also saw the end of another established player in Graeme Swann, who announced his retirement from international cricket, leaving them a world class spinner short in the Bowling department. There would also appear to be an opening in the bowling department following poor performances from Rankin, Tremlett and Bresnan whilst on tour.
Who will fill the gaps at the top?
Joe Root remains an option for opening the innings, nevertheless a number of opening batsmen around the country will be eager to hear their name announced. The most eager of all will be the 24-year-old Middlesex opener Sam Robson. Robson has made a fantastic start to the LV County Championship scoring 517 runs at an average of over 50. The Sydney-born batsmen whose mother is from Nottingham also scored two centuries in the England Lions tour of Australia, and has impressed selectors.
Another option would be the in-form Yorkshire opener Adam Lyth, who earlier this week smashed 230 against Northamptonshire. Lyth who is 26-years-old has only ever represented England at under-19’s, however, it would not be a surprise if he were selected. Other batsmen up for discussion would be re-calls in the shape of Michael Carberry and Nick Compton, who have both proven to be solid and reliable opening batsmen in first-class cricket, if not quite made the grade yet in test cricket.
Another consideration will be the involvement of Eoin Morgan. Morgan has played 23 test matches for England, and scored two centuries, however did not make the squad for the winter tour.
A hint that Morgan may be part of the England test set up came earlier in 2014 when he turned down the chance to play in the IPL to concentrate on his performances for Middlesex, in what would appear to be preparation for England’s seven test matches this summer. Morgan’s place may well depend on where Joe Root is set to bat in the order.
The bowling department
Without a world class spinner in the ranks the England selectors may look to opt for a four-man pace attack, and find spin in the form of a middle order all-rounder. If England do in fact choose to go into the first test with a four-man pace attack they may look towards the likes of Moeen Ali or Samit Patel.
Both players have represented England in the limited overs format, whilst Patel has made five test match appearances. Nottinghamshire all-rounder Samit Patel would appear to be the most likely choice, and has impressed so far this year hitting two 100’s and four 50’s. As well as Patel’s impressive performances with the bat he has also picked up nine wickets.
Worcestershire’s Moeen Ali may be an option, is considered in high regard and has shown great potential. Ali’s stats however, do not match up to those of Patel and questions would be raised as to the level of competition between that of Division One cricket where Patel plies his trade, and Division Two where Ali has impressed. An outside shout for this spot could be Scott Borthwick. The 24-year-old made his test debut in Sydney against Australia, but appears to be more of a future prospect in selector’s thoughts.
In the pace department Chris Tremlett and Steven Finn appeared to fell out of favour with selectors, opening the door to some fresh blood. At this stage of the domestic season, names in the running would often include Tim Bresnan and Graeme Onions, however this year Chris Jordan appears to be the man in everyone’s thoughts, following his explosive introduction to the England limited overs set up. The Sussex pace-man has impressed on the international stage not only with ball and bat, but also his attitude and confidence at the highest level.
Other bowlers in with a chance are Liam Plunkett and Boyd Rankin, who would both come into the side as aggressive wicket taking options. Plunkett who has played nine tests for England and taken 23 wickets, has not played test cricket since 2005. In 2014 so far however, the 29-year-old has taken 24 wickets in just 7 matches and has propelled Yorkshire to second place in Division one of the LV County Championship. Rankin on the other hand failed to impress during the winter ashes tour and would be a somewhat surprise re-call to the squad despite his recent improvement in form.
When the England test squad is announced on June 5 there will be the possibility of a number of surprises and potential debuts, as well as a new look and shape. The most likely line up I believe will be as follows, in batting order:
Alistair Cook (captain), Sam Robson, Ian Bell, Gary Ballance, Joe Root, Samit Patel, Matt Prior (wkt), Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad, Chris Jordan, James Anderson, Eoin Morgan (12th-man).
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