My England team for the first test.
So in under a week England will begin the first of two tests against Sri Lanka in Galle. There are a few things to note, Galle is probably the most seam friendly of all the Sri Lankan grounds and the Sri Lankan seamers have been holding their attack together in recent times so we could see some more seam friendly decks. Not only this but the batting is slight in the squad and there will be a reliance on the abilities of England's all rounders. This is also the Xi I would choose, not the one I think will be chosen by the selectors.
Xi is fairly standard and full of the names you would expect.
The openers in a way chose themselves. Sibley needs to improve against spin and Crawley is a natural to open, they also have shown signs of a good partnership previously in South Africa. This winter will be huge for the Warwickshire opener to cement his pot at the top of the order and once again prove he can mix it with the best of them. We have to remember that no matter the scores Sibley should play every test this winter and especially these 2 in Sri Lanka as they are in a way a warm up for the real test against Ashwin in India. Crawley is just the golden boy and starts regardless, any complaints? Nope, ok then let's move on.
Lawrence comes in at 3 as not only is he a good player of spin, with his iron wrists, but he is also a pro active batsmen which is so important given the conditions and especially if Sibley falls early as it wouldn’t allow Sri Lanka to get on top. Lawrence would be making his debut although it doesn’t feel like it due to him being around for a few years now. Lawrence is a wonderful player and in the absence of Stokes is given his starting birth in test cricket. His off spin can also come in handy if needs be and if he does play i would expect him to bowl a few overs.
The middle order is where the majority of England's runs should come from, especially given with all three of the middle order batsmen being adept players of spin. I went for Buttler at 5 even though I would usually have him at 7 with the gloves as I wasn't going to choose Bairstow as I don't believe he should have toured and I wanted 6 batsmen leaving only Foakes who I would rather have the gloves if he is in the side. The skipper has shown good signs in the warm up game (i think we can all admit we’ve watched those highlights at least 30 times) and if he begins to show the form of his run a ball hundred from England's last tour then they stand in good stead. Root will most likely chip in with a few overs with not only the set up but the skipper himself seemingly gain more confidence in his spinning abilities which he used to good effect last winter in South Africa. As a result of this Root comes in at number 4. Buttler was great last time out against Sri Lanka often helping dig England out of a hole during the middle overs. His ability to work spin is invaluable and his array of shots could prove pivotal during the series. Jos is the most senior batsmen in the side after Root and is also the Vice-captain and I believe that he will relish this opportunity and show us all just how good he can be.
Foakes was player of the series against last time out in the subcontinent and is taking the gloves. Foakes is a well established domestic batsmen and if it wasn’t for Jos Buttlers upturn in form i would expect him to be the mainstay keeper in the side. Foakes’ record speaks for itself and the amount of admiration he has garnered from both inside and outside England lays testament to that. A wizard with the gloves he’s the best choice given the conditions and will make sure to take those half chances. Foakes is admittedly keeping Bairstow out of the side due to his superior keeping and better batting at test level.
At number 7 is when it gets a bit funky. Sam Curran is a good enough batsmen to bat in the top 7 and a good enough bowler to be first change or if the wicket calls for a third spinner take the new ball. Curran is a cricketer I rate very highly and admire a lot. His explosive batting, especially against spin, can help England push their totals to be even bigger, I also feel Curran is a better bat than Woakes and that was in all honesty the deciding factor when it came down to choosing between the 2. Curran also will exploit any swing that is there but in the 2 years since England's last trip he has developed a lot of slower balls and cutters that can be used to exploit the surfaces they may play on. In all honesty Currans inclusion speaks for itself and if Woakes was picked i wouldn’t complain either. Anyone who has followed the England team recently will know that he hasn’t let them down and has contributed to many a successful victory. The most recent being removing the ever steady Peter Malan in the 2nd innings at Cape Town.
Number 8 I've gone for Bess. Bess is a shoe in for the side. His bowling is good enough and will reap the benefits of the conditions. Bess has revamped his test career after a successful trip to a spin camp last winter in which he impressed Sri Lankan legend Rangana Herath. Bess has moved his seam to a far better angle and has shown he can develop drift and spin but just not regularly. Bess also has the matter of being exceptional in the field and a good enough batsmen for the number 8 position. He chips in with handy runs which will be beneficial given how light England's batting depth is on this trip. Bess will be able to bowl the hard middle overs and do a good enough job for England alongside Leach in what will prove to be a pivotal winter in the early stages of his development as an international cricketer.
Number 9 is Leach. Leach, much like Bess, was an obvious pick for the side. He is probably England's best out and out spinner and shone last time out against Sri Lanka claiming his maiden 5 for. Leach’s main weapon is his accuracy which makes him a useful spinner to have in a side but his drift, turn and bounce are also useful weapons he has in his armory. His batting may not be as handy as his ex Somerset counterpart but his forward defense is solid as all hell. Leach should arguably be England's first choice spinner and could well cement his place with a solid winter. Leach will be pivotal to any success England are to have with him being the senior spinner in the side and being the more defensive option. Although Jack, drop the short sleeves, thanks.
Number 10 I opted for Stuart Broad. Broad is arguably England's most important bowler. A consistent threat with the new ball, banging away at a good line and length whilst being able to adapt to the situation and conditions accordingly on top of bowling the best he ever has: yeah Stuart plays. Broad has revolutionised himself, in almost complete secrecy, over the past 18-24 months and it can most likely be traced back to the 2019 Ashes when Jimmy got injured. This led Stuart to become England's fulcrum, the senior bowler and boy did he deliver. He has been sensational ever since and will look to carry on that from into the winter. Of course he is taking the new ball but, much like Curran, he has the bag of tricks to be effective throughout the innings. Oh and he’s remembered how to bat again (although Rabada making Broad trap his bat behind his pad may well be my favourite dismissal of all time).
The final piece of the puzzle is Warwickshire's Olly Stone. I was very tempted to pick Mark Wood or even Chris Woakes and shove everyone down a place, but the romanticism of Olly Stone and my personal admiration and love for the Bears quickly led me to decide otherwise. When i say this i mean it, a fully fit fully raring Olly Stone can win England an Ashes series, guys he’s that good. Stone is an international quality bowler and if not for Injuries he would no doubt be a mainstay in the side. It says a lot when you imagine that an England attack of Stone, Robinson and Archer is still a potentially world class one and is most likely England's 4th choice attack (more on this in my Just How Good are England series https://www.therunoutblog.co.uk/post/just-how-good-are-england). Yet I digress. In Sri Lanka Stone is a safe pick, able to offer something different in the middle overs and at the start of the match, he’s just a good bowler who can operate throughout most phases of play. He can take the new ball or be the first change; it doesn’t really matter. His history with injuries as well as the lack of seam that England will use allow him to operate in shorter sharper bursts, which is perfect for a bowler of his ability.
An honorable mention must be made to Matt, should be in the BBL, Parkinson who if the pitch looks like a raging turner would be in at number 11 for a debut.
So there we have it by my side for the first test. Do you agree/disagree? Let me know @therunoutblog1 on Twitter!