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England: where they stand at the start of 2024

by Robin Stephenson

England find themselves now in India, following a bitterly disappointing first half of their winter campaign. The World Cup, which they entered as defending champions, sadly served to emphasise that England’s approach, hoping that players could carry their 20 over form into the 50 over version, was misplaced, and a wholesale overhaul of the team is required. The dearth of 50 over cricket has been discussed in detail in many places, and the need for it to be seen as relevant in a world of multiple 20 over domestic tournaments has filled many column inches.

England quickly returned to action in the Caribbean, only to find themselves beaten in both 50 and 20 over series by an understrength West Indies side, the only real positive being Phil Salt confirming his status as a 20 over batsman of considerable pedigree. The approach surely has to be to give talented young players more opportunities, although the upcoming 20 over world cup may result in one last rodeo for the post 2015 generation.

The England test side, meanwhile, find themselves in India at the start of an immensely challenging 5 match series. India are always a formidable team at home, and their record is intimidating to see the least. England also have lost Harry Brook for potentially the whole five match series for personal reasons, which seems likely to mean Bairstow slotting in at 5 as a specialist batsman, and Ben Foakes batting at 7.

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In Indian conditions having the best wicketkeeper is seen as essential, and Foakes’s glovework is perhaps the best of any English keeper since Jack Russell. He was harshly dropped imho for Bairstow in the Ashes when the latter wasn’t fully fit, and his poor glovework mas a major factor in England losing the first two tests. A return to a specialist batting role will hopefully help, although his form was poor on the last Indian tour three years ago.

The pitches are predicted to turn from the first day. England’s only experienced spinner is Jack Leach, himself coming back from a stress fracture of the back, and to make his first game back a test match against India is either sadism or a huge vote of confidence, dependent upon your viewpoint. England’s other three spinners, Rehan Ahmed, Shoaib Bashir and Tom Hartley, are all extremely raw. As a Lancashire fan I really cannot say that I think Hartley at the current time is a test bowler, and think Liam Dawson would have been a better choice, as he can bat as well. That said, I wish them well.

For England to win, the batting will have to fire and Bazball will face its sternest challenge yet. Dan Lawrence has been called up as Brook’s replacement, and he is a fine player of spin which will help, although I sympathise with the England A players out in India already. It raises the question of what purpose having a second XI out in india and acclimatised if none of them are deemed worth picking when an injury arises. Josh Bohannon, as the leading run scorer in division 1 last year and who scored a 100 in the first England Lions “test” might well of expected a call. He is however an adhesive player, and it seems likely that his game might not fit in with the Bazball model. It might be remembered however how well Messers Cook and Trott did on the 2012-2013 tour.

Anyway, the first test of 2024 is almost upon us. Jimmy Anderson is still going strong approaching 42, and Joe Root is our second spinner. Roll on Thursday.

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