Welcome to a new series here at Inside edge. We will be picking our XII individually and collectively over the next series of articles. We have broken the team down into 7 parts:
Three different contributors from the writing team will give their opinion on who they believe should be picked in each section of the team.
Starting with openers; Samuel Bruning, Rob Rush and myself; All things cricket will be giving our thoughts on who should face the new ball.
In Rory Burns and Dom Sibley, England have their opening partnership for the first test. Both possess ugly techniques but strong mental games, and combined with their mass county runs and a test hundred against strong bowling attacks, they have the talent to be England's opening pair for years to come. I would go as far as to say that, no matter their form, they should open for all of the planned six tests this summer, so management has a larger sample to judge them on ahead of the tour to India in early 2021.
The only doubt in this policy is how harsh it is on young Zak Crawley. The Kent opener performed admirably in South Africa after Burns' injury, and while he didn't score the runs to cement his place, neither does he deserve to lose out. However, while he won't be opening due to the talent of Burns and Sibley, he may find a way into the side at 3 or 4 in the likely event Joe Root misses a test for the birth of his second child.
Rory Burns and Dom Sibley
How many times have we complained about England not having a settled opening partnership? Too many, is the short answer. For ages the selectors have struggled to find someone to partner Sir Alistair Cook at the top of the order, with no fewer than 15 people tried at the opener spot alongside Cook, but finally, it seems like the answers have arrived.
Rory Burns has shown during his international career that he can make it. A century in his first Ashes match and an average of almost 34 in 15 Test matches goes to show that he can be the opener that England need. Although his technique is very quirky, it works for him and the only currency for a batsman is runs. Burns has passed the 1000 run mark for Surrey in each of the past 4 seasons, proving that his technique works for him. For me, he is almost guaranteed to be picked.
As for the second opening berth, Dom Sibley has proven that he is not only a guy for the future, but someone who can fill that role very nicely for several years to come, just like Cook did when he arrived on the international scene. While Sibley had a rocky start to his career in New Zealand last winter, he put that behind him in South Africa earlier this year with a collection of assured displays, including his first Test ton in only his 4th Test match. With his ability to bat for long periods of time and not get frustrated by not scoring as quickly as other people around him, this makes him the best bet for the other opener slot.
The only other potential opener is Zak Crawley, but many have touted him as a no.3 in the future, and with Sibley and Burns having slightly more enhanced credentials as openers, Crawley just misses out. If one of Burns or Sibley was to get injured, then Crawley would be the first choice to replace them, but if everyone is fit and well, Rory Burns and Dom Sibley are my openers.
All things cricket
Burns and Sibley are shoe ins for me. Burns had a tricky start to his England career, but a century in the Ashes , an average of 61.33 in New Zealand and a half century in the first game of the South Africa series before injury. He's as close to nailed into position since Alastair Cooks retirement.
Sibley had a torrid time in New Zealand but flourished in South Africa, a commanding century and an average of 54 across that series. He's got to play.
Zak Crawley played well in South Africa but with county average of 31.95, he's not ready for opening the batting full time. Plenty of time on his side though.
No real surprises to be had here, the two stand out opening batsmen of the last few years in the County Championship get the nod. Will the rest of the writing team agree? We'll find out in the XII selected as the final article in this series.
Next up; who bats 3 for England