As the sun sets on an impressive ODI series victory, England must now focus on their biggest challenge. The hard work, with the winter ahead in India in mind, starts now.
Although the make up of the side will change somewhat for the upcoming test matches, a number of the squad will, no doubt, be riding high, and taking plenty of confidence into the two match series.
Ben Stokes notched his first ODI ton in the opening game of the three match series, and showed his worth once again on Wednesday, guiding England to a series win with a composed and sensible knock of 47* (48).
Another Ben, this time in the form of Ben Duckett, also made two valuable contributions. The classy left-hander hit 60 in the first game, before an impressive 63 in the series finale helped steer the tourists to victory, showing he’s more than ready for the challenge ahead should he be called upon.
Unfortunately for Duckett, I don’t see a place in the test side for him, with Haseeb Hameed the more likely favourite to open alongside Alistair Cook when the series gets underway next week.
One man who I do hope will make the side, though, is stand-in ODI captain, Jos Buttler. He’s just come off the back of a brilliant series win, and even showed a side of him many had never seen before. His confidence is sure to be sky high- what’s the harm in giving him another chance?
With that said, here’s my Test XI for the opening game in Chittagong, Tuesday 20th October:
1. Alistair Cook (Captain)
What more really needs to be said? He’s England’s run machine at the top the order, and one of the best when it comes to the subcontinent. His epic innings of 263 in the UAE against Pakistan, lasting a mammoth 836 minutes, is testament to that.
Cook’s temperament is going to play a huge part in how England perform this winter against both Bangladesh and India, especially with a new opening partner for the Bangladesh tests at least.
2. Haseeb Hameed
Alex Hales’ decision not to tour Bangladesh may well cost him his test place for the foreseeable future, and it’s opened a door for Haseeb Hameed. Lancashire’s young star hit 1198 runs at an average of 49.92 in Division 1 of the County Championship last year, and has rightly been recognised for his rapid rise.
A more traditional and defensive minded player- a rarity in the era of ‘smash n grab’ T20 cricket- Hameed will be just the right person to compliment Cook, providing even more stability and plenty of composure at the top of the England order. All the best English players start young, and this case is no different. Ben Duckett can feel unlucky to miss out.
3. Joe Root
England’s best player, arguably across all formats, and his inclusion speaks for itself. Second only to Steve Smith in the ICC Player Rankings in Test matches, Root has cemented his place in the England setup, and it is paramount that he has a good winter if England are to succeed.
A Yorkshire favourite, Root will be looking to take back his number 1 status, whilst continuing the good form he showed last time out in the subcontinent against Pakistan. It’s not ideal that he missed the ODI series, but he’ll be able to find his feet quickly.
4. Moeen Ali
After an indifferent summer, it’s a case of James Vince out, and Moeen Ali promoted up the order. So often we see Ali playing like a bowler when he bats down the order with the tail at 8, but he has so much more to offer with the bat in hand. A genuine, classy left-hander, I see no reason why he can’t hack it at number 4.
If he can cut out some of his loose shots that lead to his soft dismissals, which we see a bit too often, Moeen could really thrive up the order. Moving Ali from 8 also gives England more bowling options- they could potentially bringing in a third spinner, something that wouldn’t be a bad idea with how much the pitches are likely to turn.
5. Jonny Bairstow (WK)
Bairstow could have easily batted at 4 himself, but I prefer the balance of the team with him at 5, breaking up Ali and my number 6, coincidentally another left-hander. Another absolute gun player for England who has been scoring runs for fun in the recent past. His red ball record is exceptional, and he provides a great option in the middle order with his more traditional, textbook style of play. Compare that with some of the players around him, and he becomes even more important to the side.
You never know when you might need someone to dig in, and Bairstow will be well up for the challenge. His keeping has come on leaps and bounds since he first entered the set-up, and even though there are still some questions surrounding his concentration and consistency, he’s still behind the sticks in my side.
6. Ben Stokes
This side has a number of match winners and players who can turn a game on its head in a session, and Stokes certainly falls under that category. He’s coming into the series with good form from the ODI’s, and finally looks to be fully fit and able to charge in again with the ball.
A vital part of this England side because of his supreme ability with both disciplines, as well as being a remarkable fielder, Stokes has shown he’s ready to step up for his team when it matters. He’s not afraid to lead his side in the heat of battle, and there’s sure to be plenty more confrontation if the ODI’s were anything to go by.
7. Jos Buttler
Perhaps a surprise pick, but as I already said, I really think Buttler deserves another chance. Whilst you might cast your mind back and remember the torrid time he had with the red ball against Pakistan, there’s no doubt in my mind that England’s white ball king has rediscovered his form. Much like Stokes, Buttler could do some real damage in the middle order against the old ball, especially when the Bangladesh bowlers are tiring.
It could be a toss up between Gary Ballance, who would probably bat at 5, and Jos Buttler, who I have at 7, for who starts the first test. Let’s just put it this way- if I’m a Bangladeshi and I can choose one of them to bowl at, I’d choose Ballance every time. It’s a matter of time with Ballance, where as Buttler could change the game in an hour. You might eventually get him out, but he could have scored a quick 60. He could keep, but I think Bairstow has that locked down, despite Buttler’s good work in the shorter formats. Has to play.
8. Chris Woakes
It’s a luxury with this England side, having someone as talented as Woakes strolling to the crease at 8. The Warwickshire all rounder has really come to the forefront in the last year, so much so that he looks one of the most accomplished players in the set-up. It’s as if he’s been doing it for years. He’s by no means a mug with the bat, and could play some important innings batting at 8.
However, it’s with the ball where he’s excelled. You’d imagine he’ll be opening up with Stuart Broad with the omission of James Anderson through injury, and that in itself is testament to how far he’s come. Although the pitches may not offer a great deal to the fast bowlers, apart from with the new ball, Woakes is good enough- with his variations and consistency- to make something happen from nothing.
9. Adil Rashid
The second spinner in the side, and again, a more than capable batsman. Rashid still bowls the odd bad ball (don’t we all as spinners), but his wicket taking ability is second to none. His recent record in white ball cricket has shown just that, picking up crucial wickets in difficult periods, helping his country to win a number of games in the process.
Whether he can translate that from and consistency into the red ball game is another matter, but the pitches will offer plenty to work with from a leg spinner’s point of view. If he’s there or thereabouts, he’ll get his just reward, eventually. Although his last test appearance was a disappointing one in November 2015, where he only took 1 wicket in the match vs Pakistan, Rashid still offers a great attacking threat for England.
10. Stuart Broad
In the absence of James Anderson, England’s bowling attack is now in the capable hands of Stuart Broad. Now leading the attack, the current team’s most experienced bowler is going to have a huge say in how the series plays out. Some of his opening spells in the not too recent past have been almost beyond belief, and Broad will need to make the most of the new ball in Bangladesh before it, and he too, tires.
Even though it’s likely that the spinners will do the bulk of the bowling, Broad has a habit of picking up wickets when England most need them, so he still has a vital part to play. It’s a lot of responsibility opening up without your usual partner, but Broad is well up to the challenge, and will need to be in order to guide Stokes and Woakes through some inevitably tricky periods.
11. Gareth Batty
I’m not going to lie. When I first saw his name in the squad, I was confused. However, the more I’ve thought about, the better the decision actually seems. Don’t get me wrong, I would have preferred to have seen Somerset’s Jack Leach rewarded for a great season and take the third spinner’s spot, but Batty could prove just as effective.
Although his last test was, actually against Bangladesh, in 2005, the Surrey off-spinner is still a fierce competitor, and should fit right in with the current crop of English players. Batty would be my front line spinner, bowling in tandem with the leg-spin of Adil Rashid, whilst Moeen Ali would play a more supporting role with the ball. The option of the three spinners should ease the pressure on the rest of the attack, and whilst, in truth, it’s a bit of a backwards pick from the selectors, it could work wonders.
Any feedback is much appreciated.
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