Updated: Feb 20
With the return of the international cricket summer less than a month away, it seems the right time to look towards the next crop of England players, especially in the Test side. We've all grown accustomed to Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad opening the bowling on a summer's morning at Lord's for the majority of the last 2 decades, but unfortunately they won't be around for good. Is Joe Denly really England's long term option at number 3? Will one of Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler or Ben Foakes make a decisive grab for the gloves? What might England's Test side look like for the next Ashes Tour?
England Test Team for 2021/22 Ashes Tour
For the first time in a long time, the top order in the Test team might actually be an area of strength for England. Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley proved they can handle the bright lights of Test Cricket on the most recent tour to South Africa off the back of just 1 season of County Championship cricket. Denly has been a nice stop-gap at number three, with numerous other batsmen tried and failed (Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow to name but a few), but he has never really looked like a settled Test batsman. With Rory Burns recovering from his ankle injury, England may look to just move Crawley down one spot to replace Denly. Crawley is young and exciting, and whilst he has little experience, the only way to gain it is to play. With Joe Root leading the side at number 4, his preferred position, the top order looks settled. How many times have we said that in the last 5 years?
The middle order promises firepower, class and excitement. No-one needs reminding of what Ben Stokes can do when he's in the mood. Ollie Pope's return to the side in SA showed how much he has grown since being thrusted in at number 3 against India in 2018, and whilst many people have touted him for a permanent move up the order in the not too distant future, number 6 suits him just fine. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? The gloves are still up for grabs as Jonny Bairstow seems to have lost his place, Jos Buttler is struggling for form with the red ball and Ben Foakes can count himself very unlucky to not have won more caps. Foakes in my view just edges it as the others are more important to the white-ball sides and will be required to blast England to hopeful glory in the 2021 T20 World Cup, which leaves Foakes free to nail down the Test spot at number 7. Sam Curran takes the 2nd all rounder slot at number 8 and with his exuberant batting style and left-arm swing bowling, he offers something different to the attack. A batting average of over 27 and 37 Test wickets at just 22 years old leaves most of us wondering how good can he become?
Finally the bowlers, and the spin slot is a straight shoot-out between the two Somerset spinners, Jack Leach and Dom Bess. Both can make very good cases due to their ability to hold an end, attack and look to take wickets, whilst still hold some batting talent in there as well. There could be cases where both are needed or none are required, but there is very little to choose between them. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood take the fast bowler's positions, looking to follow on from Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad as England's opening bowlers. With both of them comfortably able to bowl at 95mph+ and swing the ball, not many opening batsmen will be looking forward to facing these two. While Archer still has a lot to learn about bowling in different conditions, his short international career has shown that he has the potential to adapt quickly to new circumstances, which puts him in good stead to become a force in the Test team for the foreseeable future.