England will be hoping to avenge their 3-2 series defeat to Sri Lanka with a convincing performance in the upcoming Tests, but have work to do to improve on their long-standing problems in ODIs.
Head coach Peter Moores’ winless streak in limited overs internationals continued, with the Sri Lanka defeat following two losses against New Zealand and a 5-0 thrashing in India, all of which took place in his first spell in charge.
Unfortunately, little seems to have changed within the side he inherited from Andy Flower, but despite the side’s struggles, Moores will be hoping his troops can turn things around in the Test series, starting at Lord’s on June 12.
ECB selectors have called up three uncapped players in Chris Jordan, Moeen Ali, and Sam Robson. Robson is perhaps the biggest surprise, having earned his chance after some outstanding performances for Middlesex in the County Championship. Jordan, however, has cemented himself as the head of England’s bowling attack during the ODIs, and Ali was widely tipped for selection, largely down to the fact that he is one of very few capable spinners in English cricket.
It remains to be seen, of course, how quickly such inexperienced players adapt, and in reality, England are still heavily reliant on older faces.
Despite lacking match practice with Sussex, Matt Prior has been recalled, to the disappointment of Jos Buttler fans throughout the country. Just as he was at Lord’s after hitting 121 off 74 balls, Buttler was once again centre of attention in the final ODI at Edgbaston due to his controversial run-out, and that will have done Prior no favours.
Former Three Lions captain Michael Vaughan has openly hit out at Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara for failing to call Jos Buttler back after the somewhat unsporting dismissal, even though it was technically within the rules of the game. One unforeseen consequence, though, is that Buttler’s popularity among England fans has soared even more, and while the storm will give the Test series an added edge, there will now be huge pressure on Prior’s shoulders not to make any slip-ups.
Gary Ballance may also be seen as something of an experimental choice, as this will be his first real shot at Test cricket. The Yorkshireman entered a demoralised England side for the last winter Ashes Test, but this is undoubtedly a far better opportunity for him to show he is capable at the highest level.
Overall, the question must be raised whether this is a side capable of beating the likes of Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. Eoin Morgan had promised to give the side’s long-suffering fans something to smile about, but he will play no part, nor will Ben Stokes, who is now at least a regular in the one-day side. Yorkshire’s Liam Plunkett, on the other hand, has returned to the Test side for the first time in seven years.
Having played in front of a disappointing crowd in the last game at Edgbaston, ticket sales have picked up for the Test series, largely in the hope that there will be some improvement. It will certainly be a new-look England, but it must be said that in ODIs, experimentation frankly has not worked.
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