There is no doubt that the series against Sri Lanka was a success for England.
The series finished in a 2-0 victory for the home side, with the victories being utterly convincing. The team proved that at least in their own conditions, they are almost impossible to beat.
The “King Of Swing” James Anderson and his partner in crime, Stuart Broad, confirmed their mastery on English soil.
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Bigger challenges ahead
Jonny Bairstow was exceptional throughout the series, with his counter-attacking style reminding keen observers of how Australian great Adam Gilchrist used to demolish opponents. Meanwhile, Alastair Cook passed the 10,000 run mark, underlining his own legendary status.
Cook's captaincy skills are also consistently improving, which will be important as England move on to more difficult challenges. Tours to India this winter and the much awaited Ashes series in Australia next winter will provide Cook with his greatest challenges yet.
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Even with all of this positivity surrounding the test squad, there are still 2 glaring weaknesses present in the team.
Possibly the most obvious weakness is the position of the number 3 batsman. This position is arguably the most important because the player sets the tone for the rest of the team.
Over the years, the incumbent of this position has often defined the culture of the whole team. For Australia, Ricky Ponting’s aggressive nature made his team one of the most dominant in history. For Sri Lanka, Kumar Sangakarra’s graceful strokes enabled others to express their talents. For India, Rahul Dravid played a similar role to a great effect.
However, England have not found anyone that consistent since Jonathan Trott in 2013. They have tried Joe Root, Gary Ballance and Nick Compton in that position to no avail. Nick Compton’s recent failure will probably be his last appearance on the international stage, at least for the foreseeable future. Therefore, this leaves the number 3 position open. One player should have filled that void - Ian Bell.
Recalling Bell now would be a controversial decision. He is 34 years old, was dropped for the South Africa series, and is not even setting the County Championship alight this year.
So, why should he be recalled? The most important thing that Bell can offer to the team is his experience all over the world. With more and more youngsters in the squad, it is now even more essential that there are some older guys in the dressing room. Of course, there are already Alastair Cook and Jimmy Anderson, but Bell can be the glue for the batting lineup.
Over the past decade, he has possibly been the most classical batsman that England have had, so they should give him the opportunity to give the team stability and consistency.
Admittedly, this would be a short-term fix given his age, but with big overseas tours coming up, they just have to have players with experience and class. Ian Bell exudes these qualities and should therefore be called back into the team for the Pakistan series.
Another key talking point throughout the Sri Lanka series was the form of Steven Finn. Coming into the series, he had just recovered from an injury, but he was still considered to be an important part of the team.
In the past, brilliant performances against Australia and South Africa away from home further underlined his excellence.
In this most recent series, it's obvious that Finn hasn't been at his best. His pace and overall potency have been down and his confidence is clearly low.
There is talk that when Ben Stokes comes back from injury, Finn will be dropped. However, England must keep Finn in the team to allow him to build his confidence and give great performances once again. His wicket-taking ability cannot be overlooked and he could come back with a vengeance against Pakistan.
So, as England prepare for the Pakistan series, it is important that they take confidence from their recent success, but believe in Bell and Finn to take them to the next level in becoming the number one Test team in the world.
Do Ian Bell and Steven Finn deserve to be in the England Test squad? Have your say in the comments.
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