My Xi for the 4th test
Wow how long ago it felt since Jimmy Anderson delivered that super over (without a cloud in the sky) and Joe Root toyed with India to deliver a supreme double. Well since then England have failed to post 1 plus 200 score and come crashing back down to earth. To be quite honest they have nothing to lose going into this final game. There’s not a lot to say except England need runs and they need them now. With that in mind and working on the basis this surface will turn like there’s no tomorrow let's get into it.
Ben Foakes (wk)
Jimmy Anderson/Stuart Broad
Well for this game Johnny Bairstow is gone. Bairstows average against spin is phenomenal and he is often supreme against the turning ball. However Bairstow's dismissal was, for me, enough to warrant him being dropped. For a player of his standing, calibre, ability and experience to sweep Axar Patel and then push hard at one outside off when the ball is sliding on is just disgraceful. Bairstow has to go and to be quite honest this should be the last time we see him in England whites. Even the harshest Bairstow advocates surely would struggle to justify his inclusion in this game.
So Burns comes into the side displacing Bairstow with Crawley dropping down one. To be perfectly honest Burns should never have been dropped. For god’s sake he’s a left hander against Ashwin on bunsens, it’s not about technique or his backlift it’s as simple as Ashwin is the best bowler to left handers there has ever been. Burns has nearly 10,000 first class runs and 2 test hundreds; he will come good. Yes he’s quirky but so what no one was complaining when he racked up 300+ runs in the 2019 summer. Sibley stays at the opening slot as, despite some low scores, he had looked far more comfortable against spin in the recent games. Crawley moves down to number 3 and I do feel this is his best position in this England lineup. A fluent half century in the last game was assisted by some half volleys but also some beautiful strokes and he will be desperate to back it up in this game.
The middle order (4-7) remains the same. Root and Stokes are England's two best bats and similar to Burns it should be no surprise that Stokes is struggling against Ashwin. Well if we’re all honest will we be surprised if Stokes ‘does a Stokes’ in the 4th test? No he’s overdue a performance and I do feel he will cash in. Root fired in the first game and looked comfortable in the 3rd (we won’t talk about the inbetween) until he got an umpire's call. The skipper already has a bucket ton of runs this year and he’ll be desperate to get some more to his name. Pope stays at 6 despite some poor form for a few reasons. To start with he’s a tremendous young batsmen recovering from injury he’s allowed a few low scores (think Root 2013/14 Ashes). Secondly Pope is so valuable at short leg and he offers a great deal to the side when placed under the lid as he is so mobile and agile he is able to get balls others can’t reach to either save runs or get wickets. Ben Foakes is Ben Foakes. It's as simple as that.
England needs 2 spinners, it's as simple as that. Off course then when I was selecting my bowling attack the romantic in me was tempted to select one of Parkinson or Virdi and had Woakes been in the squad one would have been tempted. Woakes has been sent home and sadly that leaves England's tail far too long and it can easily be exposed. So Bess comes back into the fold and to be honest i have no gripes if this happens. Bess was exhausted and needed a rest, he’s a strong character and I have no doubt he could bounce back and deliver in a big way in the next game. Leach retains his spot as England's first choice spinner and should conditions call for it I would be tempted to give him the new ball. Leach has been superb this winter and he has made himself undroppable; the confidence Root has in the spectacled spinner is clear to see (Root himself is a bowling option but the pressure it puts on his back means he has to be a 3rd choice) and it is reaping rewards with root almost spinning England to victory.
Wood has to play as he is a genuine quick but he can also take the pitch out of the equation. He is also a great exponent of reverse swing and can bowl those match defining spells. In a low scoring game or even on a flat one Wood is the sort of bowler you need in your side. His 8 over spell in Sri Lanka showed exactly what Wood can offer to the side in pure pace and aggression no matter the circumstances. Then purely depending on one of the two seniors starts there is surely no complaints about either?
So what do you think? Do you agree? Let me know on Twitter @therunoutblog1.