Welcome to part six of the writing teams picks for the upcoming test series against West Indies. This time; the pacemen:
There are an array of options; the veterans Broad and Anderson; the brutal pace of Wood and Archer, the reliable Woakes to a spread of youngsters such as Sam Curran and Ollie Robinson.
Who will the team pick this time?
Anderson, Broad and Archer
Probably the easiest area of selection for England heading into the series, partially because of the quality of the options, and partially because, given how necessary rotation, and likely injuries are, most English quicks will get a game this summer. However, it is the easiest because of the number of good options. England could pick any three of six or seven; the only concern is who to upset. If I were selector, I would be telling Mark Wood, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran that you're all brilliant, but, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson, with Ben Stokes offering his all-round support will be England's pace attack for the first test. Broad and Anderson are England's GOATs, and Archer is a phenomenal talent. Given the pandemic may yet reduce a planned six tests to one, we need to make the most of every game; therefore playing full strength first up is a must.
While I look forward to seeing the likes of Curran, Wood, Woakes, Saqib Mahmood, Ollie Robinson and Craig Overton play throughout the summer, I take the view that in the first test of a series, you play your very best XI. This means Broad and Anderson have to play, as the best two bowlers of the day. Not only are the continually impressive, but after Anderson's recent injuries it'll be great to see them opening the bowling once more. Jofra Archer joins them, given his raw pace and potential to move and seam the ball, he adds an extra dimension to the attack. He also looked impressive in the inter-squad warm-up during the last few days. With Ben Stokes as reliable support, be to hold an end or swing the new ball, England have a pace attack that should stand them in good stead for the first test.
Duke and Kookabura
Anderson, Broad and Wood
This has been my most difficult selection piece yet as whichever way I looked at it, there were half a dozen cricketers scrapping for one or maybe two places. Enviable job? Not in the least. I took some solace in the certain fact that the congested schedule will force England into some serious rotation and the guys who miss out here will have another chance. Assuming Stokes will want an attack of three Pacers plus himself and a spinner (hopefully the panel have got that conundrum resolved) here is my pace attack.
Like a number of England captains before me, I couldn't say no to 1069 Test wickets and as a result Anderson and Broad will share the new ball. The forecast tends to suggest the best in the business will get some assistance and history has shown that when they do, wickets follow. After a four month layoff (and injury rehab work for Anderson) this pair will have to be managed carefully but if done so, England will reap the rewards again. I had considered Archer to share the new ball with Anderson but given my pick for the third seamer I felt that a recently injury prone 37 year old and two guys who need to be used in short sharp bursts (with injury concerns of their own) would be too much of a gamble and place too heavy a burden on Stokes' bowling.
My first change bowler was a tough call, as I wanted an explosive point of difference bowler over the more steady Curran and Woakes, to exploit the pitch, any leaden footwork or rusty techniques; that man is Mark Wood. Coruscating spells in St Lucia and Johannesburg over the last 12 months and his World Cup efforts have excited many England fans who have longed for such firepower, and yearn to see it deployed sensibly and to devastating effect especially overseas. Since he changed his run up, Wood blew the WI away in St Lucia touching 95mph and torched SA at the Wanderers. Wood's confidence must be surging, now is the time to let him loose. Let any possible psychological blows inflicted in St Lucia bubble to the surface, let him off the leash for four over bursts and let's enjoy the spectacle; fast bowling is intoxicating. If we can get Wood at his best for maybe every other Test match, he will be a fearsome weapon at our disposal; in tandem with Archer on a trampoline (Perth perhaps?) they will be a double act we can all savour. Let's not aim to have him play every game, a 100% fit Wood just 50% of the time will win England Test matches.
The fourth part of the seam attack is captain Stokes who has improved with every passing series with the ball. Wonderful spells against Australia and SA spring to mind and he is exactly the type of character to puff his chest out and lead from the front.
Inside Edge Cricket
Anderson, Broad and Archer
This could be the most difficult decision that England have to make come next Wednesday. The warm-up match hasn't helped separate the herd either, if anything it's clouded the water that little bit more.
You could make a very good argument for a number of bowlers here, but after going backwards and forwards I've settled on the three main bowlers England currently have at their disposal. Jimmy can be near unplayable in English conditions and age hasn't changed that. He looks fit and healthy and he'll want to prove that he's still the king of swing, and top dog in the England ranks. Jimmy gets my #1 spot and gets the new ball to open up the international summer for England. There will come a day where England will need to face life after Jimmy, but today is not that day.
I was so tempted to put Wood in ahead of Broad, the thought of Wood bowling in tandem with Archer is tantalising, however Broad is Mr Reliable and he'll run in hard for you until he's dragged off the pitch. His bowling intelligence and variations make him a valuable asset to England and I just keep rewinding to the summer of 2019 as Warner was left dumbfounded with how to deal with him. It may be the old romantic in me, but I want to see Jimmy and Broad open up the bowling to start an international summer one last time... So I'm sticking with the classic combination.
Finally I've selected Joff, he burst onto the scene and then he dealt with injuries which prevented him from kicking on. He's one of the most exciting talents in world cricket and now he's fully healthy, I think we're about to see the best he has to offer. He offers that express pace, something a little different to Anderson and Broad and it's good to have a true strike bowler in your lineup. He's the man I'm going with to open up the series against the West Indies.
I think there will be a lot of rotation with the bowlers through the series. We'll almost definitely see Wood and Chris Woakes is a superb option in England, not only with the ball but with the bat as well, if England want the tail to wag a little longer, they have a guy in Woakes who can make that happen. We may not see the like of Ollie Robinson or Saqib Mahmood against the West Indies but they've pushed their case during the warmups, same can be said for the Overton brothers as well. England have a lot of options and it's superb to see.
A split decision, but a consistent theme; rapid pace required! Mark Wood and Jofra Archer are the quickest men in England and provide a stark contrast to the greats; Broad and Anderson. Both Wood and Archer have fine records and were key figures in the World Cup win in 2019.
Who do you think should bowl pace for England? Is the tail too long? Let us know @InsideEdgeCrick on twitter.