England finally got found out at Lords against Pakistan. For all their success under the Bayliss-Farbrace partnership there have been clear, gaping holes that have been papered over by the excellence of others. At least until now. And in general it is the batting that is making hard work of it.
I accept Captain Cook remains at the top of the order. He continues to score the runs although, worryingly, he now consistently fails to convert decent scores into big ones. Ditto Joe Root. England have relied on still a young man already for too long, and when he fails it has a big knock on effect on the team’s performance. Again, like his captain, Root is suddenly failing to turn half centuries into tons.
The second opening spot is still in question. Alex Hales has the shirt and has shown enough to be given a run, at least through this summer, but he has yet convinced. Four and five are most certainly a problem, hightened by the sudden departure of James Taylor from the scene due to his heart condition.
James Vince is highly-regarded and seen, rather like Michael Vaughan was, to be someone who does not necessarily score big runs in county cricket but possesses that something special to make him a test star. So much about him looks good save one, rather important aspect. He is not scoring enough runs. Again, he will have this series against Pakistan to prove himself. Gary Ballance was a strange re-selection after being found out by New Zealand and Australia. True, he showed better application in the second innings at HQ than many of his teammates, but he will need big runs in this series.
The bowling has been much better, especially with the emergence of Chris Woakes on to the test scene. And with Jimmy Anderson returning on Friday for the 2nd test, as well as Ben Stokes, England will look a stronger proposition.
Still, the line up does not look right to me. If I was asked to name the best England X1 when all fit and available this would be my selection:
Cook, Hales, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Ali, Buttler, Woakes, Rashid, Broad, Anderson.
Hales keeps his spot but still needs to prove himself. Vince and Ballance would be out. Bairstow is good enough to bat at 4, Ali is probably better at 6 than 7 or 8, and with Buttler, Woakes, Rashid and Broad at 7, 8, 9 and 10 that is a very long batting line up.
Moreover this is a team with four seamers in Anderson, Broad, Stokes and Woakes, and 2 contrasting spinners in Ali and Rashid.
Ah, but what if England find themselves at 28-3? Do we really want Stokes in early facing a still fairly new ball? It’s not ideal. But then again 28-3 is not ideal in the first place, and as 4 and 5 are not producing for us why not give it a go? With such a strong line up England can afford one or two batters to fail.
So, this is my team. It is exciting, attacking, has 6 bowlers and batting right down to 10. I’d pay good money to watch this lot!