With all their allrounders, England could name a 10-man team and still resemble a complete outfit. Here are the candidates for England’s luxury player – their 11th man spot could have a revolving door.
We all love a bit of luxury in our lives but we can’t always afford it. England, however, can.
Their allrounder battery poses an interesting scenario: England’s 11th man could routinely become a horses for courses selection. Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali’s broad skill-sets allow for a luxury player, a rotating man brought in to temporarily fulfil a very specific duty, allowing England to indulge themselves in at least once facet of the game.
Liam Dawson was the surprise pick for England ahead of the 1st Test against South Africa, as England opted for the second spinner – or a No.1 spinner, as they insisted – to take the pressure off Moeen Ali. The Worcestershire allrounder flourished, claiming 10 wickets in the match, but it seems unlikely that a second spinner will be a permanent fixture, especially at home.
England have a top five which includes a keeper. They have two allrounders – one being a spinner capable of five-fers – plus three front-line fast bowlers. They have all bases covered but still have a wildcard – an 11th man – up their sleeve.
Speaking after England’s emphatic victory in the 1st Test against South Africa, England coach Trevor Bayliss said: “The combination we had in this game could play on a lot of wickets … We’re lucky that we have Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Ali who can bat five, six and seven. That allows us to have three other pace bowlers and another spinner. Somewhere along the line, we could throw in someone else in one of those positions, whether it is another batter, another pace bowler if we need one. It just gives us plenty of options.”
Here are the top five options he may be referring to.
The Occupant: Liam Dawson
A pair in the match is not the greatest start to a Test career, although lady luck was not on his side, but Dawson’s bowling was reliable without being spectacular; he was ripping it on day two, proving he’s not just a steady-eddy who bowls darts. The slow left-armer took two scalps in each innings and didn’t look out of place, and took the prized scalp of Hashim Amla in the second innings. Root perhaps viewed him as a steady spin option to eat up some overs, with Ali not relied upon to keep things quiet. The biggest advantage of picking the Hampshire allrounder is seemingly the effect it had on his spin partner, Ali, who thrived with the reduced pressure of being England’s only spin hope. “He wants to be in the team as a batter that bowls a bit so we’ve selected him as a batter and the second spinner,” said Bayliss of Ali, who wasn’t fooling anybody. Dawson may well retain his place for the 2nd Test, and will be looking to prove he’s no mug with the bat either.
The Gilchrist: Jos Buttler
There may never be another Adam Gilchrist, but Jos Buttler is the closest England have. The keeper-batsman could make England’s luxury player vacancy his own. He is a game-changer, an innovator, and would bring further excitement to a ludicrously dynamic middle-lower-order alongside Stokes and Ali. It would also allow Jonny Bairstow to focus on his batting. The red-haired run-machine has been one of England’s most consistent run-scorers over the past year but surely donning the gloves and batting in the top five – especially with England’s top-order often floundering – is not viable in the long-term, even for a tough Yorkshireman. Buttler’s addition would help to future-proof England’s Test team and the prospect of watching a Buttler-Stokes partnership with a license to thrill would be positive for Test cricket.
The Front-Line Leggy: Adil Rashid
Rashid’s 10 Test matches have yielded 38 wickets at an average of 42.78. That’s not horrendous, sure, but those stats are tainted when you learn they came in away series against Bangladesh, India and Pakistan on Bunsen burners. In England, there’s a fear that Rashid lacks the discipline to keep things quiet while giving the seamers a breather, and if two spinners are included you’d want at least one to be a reliable container in the Ashley Giles-mould. While Joe Root picked his former roommate Gary Ballance for the 1st Test, the new England skipper opted for Liam Dawson as second spinner ahead of his other Yorkshire colleague. It’s a shame that Rashid has never quite delivered on his enormous potential; if this Test team does have a piece missing it’s that of a first-rate wrist spinner. What nation isn’t searching for one of those, though?
The Top-Order Bat: Mark Stoneman
England’s top-order has struggled of late. Finding a partner for Alastair Cook has been problematic; Compton, Root, Carberry, Robson, Trott, Lyth, Ali, Hales, Duckett, Hameed and now Jennings have all got a gig. Having premier bat Root at first-drop would be a popular move, but he favours four, while some have questioned Ballance’s ability to bat top-three. Bringing in another opener could be a wise move. It would allow Ballance, who seems to have the backing of both Root and Bayliss, and Bairstow to move down to five and six respectively, reducing the burden on the latter and allowing Root to bat at four. It would lengthen an already prolonged batting line-up, and you’d still have Stokes, Ali, plus three front-line seamers. Stoneman’s eight County Championship games this season have yielded 761 runs at an average of 58.53. He’s been knocking on the door; a pair of half-centuries against South Africa A for the England Lions further advanced his cause. Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed would also provide stiff competition; they both featured in AOC’s top five candidates to open with Alistair Cook.
The Extra Seamer: Chris Woakes
Many would-be selectors would have included Woakes in England’s line-up for the 1st Test if he had been fit. His comeback is unlikely to come before the 3rd Test, but whether he slots in at No.8 ahead of Liam Dawson as England’s luxury option, or makes the core of the side in place of Mark Wood (or through the resting of Stuart Broad or Jimmy Anderson), remains to be seen. If it’s the latter, England’s batting line-up would be boosted. Woakes’ first-class batting average of 36.28 even edges out Dawson’s 33.22, with the Warwickshire allrounder being the superior bowler, even if he is a different animal. Toby-Roland Jones, Jake Ball and Liam Plunkett are also vying for contention but Woakes’ batting prowess – he averages 29 in Test matches, the same as his bowling average – should give him the nod. Four front-line seamers, plus Ben Stokes and a spinner could be considered over-indulgent, but will Stokes’ body allow him to be the all-action allrounder he and England crave in the long-term? Wood’s omission, however, would mean England lack express pace. Of all the options mentioned here, you’d back Woakes to get more game-time than most.
Do you agree with our candidates to fulfil England’s revolving 11th man position?