Welcome to this; the seventh part of this series looking at who should play for England in the upcoming series against the West Indies.
Plenty of considerations given the warm up match. With Joe Root to miss the first test to attend the birth of his child; the team select their Root replacement.
Rob Rush, Josh Salter and Cricket thoughts give their thoughts
With Joe Root missing from the first test lineup, the only real option for England to go with is to minimise the loss of his experience. 88 Tests, with around 40 of them as captain is almost impossible to replace, but they can make up for some of that missing experience by picking Joe Denly at 4. The Kent veteran seems a nail-on to be selected at 4 for the opening Test, and it makes sense. At 34 years old, with over 210 first class matches and an average of 34, it makes sense for him to just slide down 1 spot and maintain some much-needed experience in a very new-look England top order, with Burns, Sibley and Crawley only having 25 Test matches combined and with Crawley and Sibley having only 1 season of County Championship cricket under their belt. With the potential for West Indies to target the body with their short-pitched, vicious bowling, a calm and wise head in Denly is what is needed for the first game.
While Denly seems to be in a straight shootout with his clubmate Crawley for the number 3 slot for the rest of the series, there is space for both of them in the first game. Once Root returns, I would prefer Crawley to have that spot, but for now, Denly at 4 is the most logical option. For the first game of the summer, play your best XI possible, and Denly makes the best XI, just.
When considering who should replace Joe Root in England’s middle order, I was surprised by my unconscious bias towards established players, and reluctance to give youth a chance. Initially, as a one-off replacement for Root, I deemed Jonny Bairstow to be an adequate replacement.
I believe Bairstow is one of the most talented players in England. His bullish attitude to force himself into the ODI team is a testament to his determination. However, this head-strong mentality led Bairstow to persist with a technique which led to him being bowled on an inordinate amount of occasions. I was encouraged by his slight shift in stance and guard during the warm-up match. This illustrates Bairstow has finally acknowledged his fallibility to straight, in swinging deliveries. Despite this, a rash drive to Mark Wood cut off what was promising to be a good innings. He now needs runs for Yorkshire in 4-day cricket to reassert his claim to a place in England’s team. When this will happen in the currently disrupted season is unclear.
My selection as Root’s replacement is Zak Crawley. As England’s reserve opener, it may seem unhelpful for him to play a game in the middle order. Had this Test been held in India or Australia, I may have agreed. But in English conditions, when the Duke ball swings for the majority of its 80-over usage, batting at 4 requires similar principles and techniques to opening the batting. We must remember Root himself began his first-class career as an opener.
I was initially sceptical of Crawley’s selection, based on his modest first-class batting average. In South Africa, he displayed a solid technique which led to improved scores throughout the series. Batting against the raw pace of the West Indies pace battery will be an invaluable experience for future trips to Australia. His height will encourage bowlers to bowl short and target his body and long limbs. If we are serious about Crawley opening for England in the future, he needs to face these challenges now.
To replace the skipper in the England side for the first test match of this very strange summer, is Zak Crawley. Without his England career starting brilliantly Crawley remains the man in possession, therefore, would rightfully feel hard done by if he was to miss out. I would continue to bat him where he feels most comfortable which I believe he said in an interview was as high up the order as possible. To accommodate this, I plan to bat Denly at four with Crawley batting three. Denly and Crawley both could really do with a score and if Denly were to fail while Crawley flourished it may be Crawley stays for the duration of the series. I wouldn’t do this personally as feel Denly should bat three after the first test.
The question still remains as to how confident Crawley will be against the quicker bowlers with a number in the West Indies ranks. He was seemingly uneasy against the pace of Archer and Wood and will likely be targeted if weakness is sensed.
To replace the skipper in the England side for the first test match of this very strange summer is Zak Crawley. Without his England career starting brilliantly Crawley remains the man in possession, therefore, would rightfully feel hard done by if he was to miss out. I would continue to bat him where he feels most comfortable which I believe he said in an interview was as high up the order as possible. To accommodate this, I plan to bat Denly at four with Crawley batting three. Denly and Crawley both could really do with a score and if Denly were to fail while Crawley flourished it may be Crawley stays for the duration of the series. I wouldn’t do this personally as feel Denly should bat three after the first test.
So there we have it. Two votes for Zak Crawley and one for Joe Denly. No rocking of the apple cart here and in line with what sees to be in line given the 13 man squad announced.
Next up is the final piece in this series. The team have all picked their XI and is being combined into an XI plus Root replacement to face the West Indies. Everyone will have their say. Stay tuned!