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Part One (of 16)

by Justin Rourke

This week’s First Test is the first part of a 13-test year, and a total of 16 tests across 14 months that will define this generation of England Test Cricketers.

The first 5 tests are away in India. Victory would be a fitting crowing glory for Stokes, Root, Bairstow, Anderson and Wood.

The opening Test will be shorn of two superstars in Virat and Harry Brook. My thoughts are with them and their families, whatever the issue it can’t be good and I hope both families are able to manage the difficult time and their requests for privacy are adhered to.

The loss of Brook may crystalise how England approach selection for the first match. I suspect that the plan will be to play 2 seam bowlers and two spinners with Root as the 5th bowler. The space vacated by Brook makes the recall of Foakes easier as keeper, and this has several positive knock on effects.

Foakes is the best keeper in England and possibly the world, that does not mean he won’t miss a chance, but he will take more than most and also has the ability to create chances others simply would not even be able to. The positive impact this has on bowlers and the whole team during a long hot day in the field is huge.

Ollie Pope is our best catcher close to the bat, again a skill that will be vital with the majority of the overs bowled likely to be spin.

All of which frees Jonny Bairstow up to bat at no5. He will be vital to replace Brook in terms of impetus from no5. The fact that he won’t be physically drained from keeping is good and even better he won’t have the mental fatigue of keeping and being bombarded by all the armchair keepers.

The remainder of the XI seems pretty straightforward. Crawley and Duckett will open. Both play spin well and field well, they will set the tempo. Root slots in at no4 and the skipper at no6.

Anderson, Wood, Leach and Rehan Ahmed will be the four bowlers. It might be a risk picking the two most experienced seamers in the first test, but I am not sure they will bowl that many overs. Of the options we have, they are the two best equipped to bowl in these conditions. Atkinson has lots of potential and Robinson I don’t fancy in India. Similarly Leach and Rehan have to lead the spin department with Root in support.

There has been some discussion about any other spin bowling options/the idea of 5 bowlers. Whilst Bairstow or Pope could keep and bat in the top 6 there is no ‘allrounder’ good enough to bat at no7.

The one man who could potentially bowl some additional off spin is Dan Lawrence, I thought he was unlucky to be left out of the original party, but who do you leave out of the XI? Maybe it’s the incredibly unlucky Foakes with Lawrence coming in at no5 and Jonny retaining the gloves.

My XI: Crawley, Duckett, Pope, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Foakes, Ahmed, Wood, Leach, Anderson. 

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