The King is dead; Long live the King!
Tomorrow at Lords Joe Root will lead England out for the first time. A new dawn. A new era. South Africa, albeit without De Villiers and Du Plessis, will be strong opposition. Looking back at recent history it’s fair to say South Africa have been our bogey side at home. They have, after all, been responsible for the departure of not one but three recent England captains - Andrew Strauss resigned after defeat to South Africa in 2012 and Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussain before that. They certainly enjoy touring England!
Joe Root couldn’t have been given a tougher first assignment. Maybe it makes sense why Cook handed over the baton when he did! But, a new dawn, a new era and there’s a lot to be excited about. I’m interested in the approach Root will take. I think we’ll be a more attacking side and at times more aggressive, but I hope that when we are under the cosh Root can bring adaptability to our game and have players ‘reign in’ when needed. Being attacking is great, but in Test cricket we need to have that adaptability. Positive, attacking cricket, needs a foundation.
I’m pleased that it sounds like Root will push himself back down to number 4 in the order. While I get why Bayliss wants his best batsman at three, I think we get the best from Root at 4 and it makes our middle order so much stronger. Debate will no doubt rage about Ballance’s recall at three. I can hear Midnight now. You can’t argue with his performances this season for Yorkshire and it’s hard to say he doesn’t deserve the opportunity. However, there is a marked difference from Division 1 bowlers in the first division of the Championship and batting in the top three against the best pace bowlers in the world. I hope I’m proved wrong, but I’d rather have seen Jennings cement the number 3 position, especially given Hameed’s long-term promise as Cook’s opener. Let Jennings make that position his own and bring Surrey’s Mark Stoneman in to open – he deserves the opportunity after an excellent start to his career at Surrey.
On the bowling front, I’m pleased it looks like Liam Dawson will get the nod. Five seamers are not needed at Lords, Dawson brings variety to the attack and will give Root many options. I also like Dawson’s character, he’s no nonsense.
The big plus for me though? Mark Wood. Having Wood back in the side is exciting. This guy can be our match winner this winter down under. He will allow us to fight fire with fire. But, I’m intrigued to see what the selectors do when Woakes is back fit. Anderson, Broad, Stokes, Woakes and Wood. Choose four from those five, now there’s an interesting challenge. And that’s what is exciting! Our battery of quicks is growing.
We’ve had a fun start to the season with all the ODI and T20 cricket, but for me, I love it when the Tests start. This South Africa series will be a good gauge of where we are for this winter. We mustn’t distract ourselves from what is happening down under now. They may all be ‘unemployed’, but trust me come November they will be ready and prepared and focused on reclaiming those Ashes. We must be ready and this series against South Africa is the perfect preparation.
Rooty, we are all behind you. The King is dead; long live the king!