The first Test of the summer is always a special occasion. Nigh on all of these games take place at the spiritual home of cricket in north London, Lord's. The serene setting with its infamous pavilion and media centre attracts thousands every year to see England kick off the summer. This year's guests are Sri Lanka, a side who can be equally devastating and woeful depending on their mood it seems, and will offer a stern test for this new look England side.
Peter Moores is back as coach and he has rung the changes with his first selection. The heavy and embarrassing displays down under last winter called for changes and yet with them it may just have exposed the weakness in the England side. Whoever was selected in this squad were always going face a battle, largely due to the many changes. When you lose the likes of Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan in quick succession for a host of reasons one can expect a difficult time as three of these can rightly be considered greats of English cricket.
Two areas offer up real concern for Alastair Cook. The first is a baffling lack of spin options. Moeen Ali has been selected as the specialist spinner, if you can call him that. He did take 55 wickets with his brand of off-spin last year, but is it good enough for Test cricket? Mushtaq Ahmed, a wizard of a spinner and England bowling coach thinks not, and I agree. He gets a bit of flight and drift but with Test pitches offering little in the way of turn until the latter stages of a game I cannot see him having much of an impact.
He may well be able to sneak the odd wicket or hold up an end, but that is a very negative approach. Surely the likes of Danny Briggs or Simon Kerrigan were worth a try. Yes Ali adds more firepower with the bat but we need him to take wickets. He will be supported by Joe Root but again he is there as a variation and is no where near the mould of a Swann or even a Monty Panesar.
The other worrying aspect facing this team is the top order and its shortage of runs. Cook will open for sure and he is undoubtedly a world class player. He like many others fell short of their best in Australia but i expect him to bounce back in style. The issue is who joins him at number two and three for the duration of the series.
Sam Robson will be the latest to be given a go at opener, but England have chopped and changed of late. First it was Nick Compton, then Root and finally Michael Carberry. England need to pick someone and stick with them. The constant changing doesn't help anyone.
Robson has been around the county game for a while and has an impressive average of 51. He could well be the answer to England's top order crisis but he comes in with all to prove in his first Test match. If he fails the pressure mounts on the man at three. Many were suggesting Root or Ian Bell will do the job - either man could do it and have done so in the past.
Bhat is needed is a long-term plan. Bell is better suited in the middle order and is needed to act as a buffer between the inexperienced members of the England order. Root all the talent and the right temperament to succeed, but it is Ballance who has been given the nod.
England will face a tough battle to win this series. They have lots of gaps in the team and the new players coming in will have to step up and fill the void left by some England greats. There is plenty of room for a hero to emerge this summer but an awful lots of villains could be made as well.
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