Who SHOULD play for England?
In his first two active weeks as England skipper, Joe Root has already seen how fast the media can turn on what they see as an underperforming England team and captain. Root, 12 days into his reign, may already look back at the first Test at Lord’s as distant, halcyon days of bliss after the flack his team has copped in the aftermath of his side’s – admittedly dismal – second Test defeat to South Africa at Trent Bridge.
While the criticism has been consistent in its ferocity – former captain Nasser Hussain called England’s cricket “rubbish” and Michael Vaughan said that England might “lack respect” for Test cricket – pundits vary significantly in their views on how England can rectify things.
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In fact, you could field an entirely separate XI of players pundits have tipped to make an appearance for England in the third Test at the Oval.
1. Mark Stoneman
The mostly likely change according to most, particularly in light of Gary Ballance’s injury, and a feature in a host of fans’ hypothetical XIs. Stoneman has certainly enjoyed his move south to Surrey this season and is the second highest-scoring Englishman in Division One, but given that Ballance is the highest, that’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to transfer his success into Test cricket. Not only that, Trevor Bayliss says he’s never seen him play.
2. Haseeb Hameed
Paul Newman’s tip to replace Jennings in the Daily Mail, despite his difficult season for Lancashire this year. He would be a like-for-like replacement for Jennings; both impressed on the India tour and both have struggled for County Championship runs this season.
3. Tom Westley
A popular choice. Westley is fast becoming James Hildreth’s successor as the county fan’s immediate suggestion whenever anyone in England’s middle order is under threat. In fairness to Westley, recent centuries against Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa touring sides suggest he might have what it takes to succeed at the highest level.
4. Dawid Malan
Name-checked by Bayliss in the run-up to the first Test, he’s obviously someone that has impressed the England management. Malan made an impact in his T20 debut earlier this summer, but is unlikely to make a side that’s been criticised for over-exuberant shot selection.
5. Jos Buttler
It’s hard to ignore his talent, but are we just going to keep picking all the one-day players? Is that really going to help when the issue is more about application?
6. Ben Foakes
Championed by the wicket-keeping purists, Foakes is a bit of a cricketing Sergio Busquets – cricket hipsters will argue that you only really notice the absence of a specialist keeper when they’re missing. Boxing Foakes as a keeping specialist would be harsh though, considering his excellent form with the bat for Surrey this season. Given how well Jonny Bairstow has kept so far in the series, his inclusion is an unlikely one at the moment.
7. Adil Rashid
One of Hussain’s England XI, Rashid bowled more overs and took more wickets in last winter’s India tour than any other Englishman and would appear to offer more in the ‘number one spinner’ role that Liam Dawson currently occupies. Despite the wickets though, Rashid went at nearly four an over so new skipper Root might want someone with more control.
8. Toby Roland-Jones
The man who bowled Middlesex to their first County Championship in 26 years is tipped by the likes of Ali Martin in the Guardian to push Mark Wood for his spot in the team for the third Test. He’s been picked in multiple England Test squads without making his debut so far, so will be itching to get the chance to show what he can do at the Oval.
9. Liam Plunkett
In David Lloyd’s England XI, Plunkett would present England with a different option, with his extra pace and bounce. A lack of first-class cricket might count against him though, having predominately played the white-ball stuff in 2017.
10. Mason Crane
The real romantic choice and another member of Bumble’s XI. Whilst his talent was obvious in his two T20 appearances against South Africa, throwing a 20-year-old who averages 42 with the ball in first-class cricket into the Test side might have negative ramifications for his long-term development. He’s definitely one for the future, but maybe not just yet.
11. Jake Ball
Ball has looked good for England in his short international career without setting the world alight and if fit for the third Test, could well push Wood for a place as England’s third seamer.
All the players mentioned by the pundits have their own merits and reasons why they should make the England team for the next Test, but the sheer diversity of opinion among the experts suggests that there aren’t any easy answers for England to rectify their worrying habit in the last 18 months of losing Test matches. But then again, people don’t trust experts any more.
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