England have announced three changes to the squad for the 2nd test against the West Indies with captain Joe Root returning from paternity leave to replace struggling Joe Denly. While England have chosen to rest record wicket-taker Jimmy Anderson and oft-injured paceman Mark Wood. Surrey's left arm swing bowler Sam Curran and Sussex seamer Ollie Robinson are their replacements.
However, there is no place for Surrey wicket-keeper Ben Foakes, as embattled keeper Jos Buttler keeps the gloves, at least for one more match. Following a string of poor performances by Buttler dating back to the start of 2019, there were calls for the Lancashire man to be replaced by Foakes, a player who holds both a better first-class and test average than the aggressive Buttler, however Ed Smith has stuck with his experiment of trying to mould Jos into a red-ball cricketer. Buttler holds a test average north of 48 at Old Trafford and England coach Chris Silverwood will be hoping that home comforts may kickstart Jos's year.
It comes as some surprise to see Jimmy Anderson being tested at his home ground. The soon to be 38 year old has battled injuries over the last 12 months, but looked fine as he held together the England bowling. Considering he averages 21 with the ball at his home ground, it's another puzzling decision concerning the bowling unit following Stuart Broad's omission from the first test. A game where England failed to bowl the right lengths on a pitch that wasn't offering a great deal, a trait that Broad is renowned for.
Ollie Robinson comes into the squad having taken 236 wickets at a shade over 22 in his 56 game first-class career. He's highly thought of in the England set-up having travelled with the England Lions on their recent tour of Australia. Robinson also impressed during the intra-squad warm up game taking 2 wickets off 9 overs during the first inning, while conceding just 7 runs, an economy rate of 0.77. It may be that England want to give the Sussex man an opportunity, but I would say he's the long shot to make the lineup considering the alternative options.
Chris Woakes may be the man to replace Jimmy Anderson. With a test batting average of 35 and bowling average of 23 in England and Wales, Woakes has always been reliable when it comes to performing on these shores. His batting would extend the lineup and give England a little control with their bowling. If England are looking for something a little different, they may elect to go with the left-arm swing of Sam Curran, a player who has been hit and miss over his England career but who's just finding his feet so early in his career, however his footmarks could offer something for Dom Bess to work with.
Joe Denly's fate was decided during the 1st team as he failed to make a score in either inning, while fellow Kent batsmen Zak Crawley who at 12 years his junior went on to make an assured 76. At just 22 years of age, Crawley has earned an opportunity to secure his place going forward, and while Captain Joe Root said the door wasn't closed for Denly, you can't help but think that with Dan Lawrence and James Bracey impressing, we may have seen the last of Denly in an England shirt.
There is some pressure on the England team heading into the test tomorrow. A loss this week would resign England to their first loss to the West Indies on home soil since 1988, and with many considering this to be a weaker West Indies team than usual, a home series loss isn't the way Chris Silverwood will want to start his home coaching record.
Predicted Starting XI:
Chris Woakes/Sam Curran