Five Questions ahead of the England India series.
At the beginning of next month, England will start their five-match series against India, the world's current number 2 ranked Test side. Many questions will be asked of the team during the series, but before then I decided to sit down and ask what are the five most important questions England will have answered across the 5 games?
Who takes the number 3 spot?
England have a few options for number 3 and it’s a spot they need to be nailed down ahead of the winter. Dawid Malan is a solid option and if he makes the starting Xi at Trent Bridge it will be thoroughly deserved. Tom Abell is sadly injured but still could make some of the games later in the summer, whilst Haseeb Hameed has been recalled to the side and the choice of 3 openers up top would make a lot of sense ahead of an Ashes tour. Or England might give Zak Crawley another chance and stick with him heading into the Ashes due to his superb record against high pace and especially short-pitched bowling. Regardless of whom it is that occupies the number 3 spot it quite simply has to be filled by the same man for all 5 games as right now England cannot afford to be chopping and changing the starting Xi across this series as we saw what happened last time.
Is Joe Root ever going to be the same?
Joe Root is an exceptional player of spin and overall he is one of the greats of the modern game (I mean the man will almost certainly become England's all-time leading run-scorer across formats). However, Root's recent game against pace is a real worry for England with him often looking uncomfortable and glued to the crease. India had him on ice skates when Siraj was hooping it around corners whilst Boult and Wagner were all over him at Edgbaston. Converting is always the primary issue for the captain but this time around he may not even be able to get the starts he so often throws away. Against one of the best pace attacks in the world, which also include tremendous depth, England needs their skipper to refind his dancing shoes and start scoring runs when it matters most.
Broad and Anderson one last bow?
Against New Zealand, Broad and Anderson played both games and were comfortably out-bowled as a pair. At Lords, Robinson and Wood were the superior bowlers by far with the former being the real difference-maker in the England side, whilst at Edgbaston, no bowler made an impact of any significance. It is the eldest of England's two statesmen that worries me the most with him looking continually passive in both his line and length- the idea of preserving runs and building pressure is good and all but when you just hang it way outside of you don’t challenge the batter at all. Naturally, they will both take 20 wickets this series but on the off chance that they don’t, is it time for England to begin to look elsewhere?
6 batters or 5 bowlers?
England has a peculiar situation on their hands called Ollie Pope. Pope is a domestic beast and has talent flowing out of his body the same way Sepp Blatter had watches flowing from his pockets; there’s something just not right about it. Pope hasn’t clicked for England yet and in the event that he fails again vs India England will have to stick or twist. Sticking means England will maintain the traditional test match balance of 6 top-order batters and a keeper. If they twist it isn’t unfeasible that England goes for only the 5 top batters and a keeper with 5 bowlers (7-11 plus Stokes) and with the excellent form of Chris Woakes and Ollie Robinson this may be the only way to get them all in the same team.
Are England really prepared?
The most obvious question will be- have England done enough for the Ashes? Flat wickets are being prepared, and England needs to learn to bat time and take 20 wickets on less forgiving surfaces. India will propose a tough challenge, arguably harder than Australia will pose on a purely cricketing basis, and England needs to make sure they come out victorious to have a good run of momentum and self-belief ahead of the mammoth winter.
So there we have it! My five questions England need to be asking ahead of the series vs India this summer. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know on Twitter @ therunoutblog1.