Welcome to this final piece on who should play for England vs West Indies when at full strength, in addition to the Root replacement for the first test.
All seven contributors to Inside edge selected their XI and Root replacement and a combined XI has been generated. So without further ado, lets see who the team picked.
The XI and Root replacement
1 - Rory Burns 7/7
2 - Dom Sibley 7/7
3 - Joe Denly 4/7
4 - Joe Root 7/7
5 - Ben Stokes 7/7
6 - Ollie Pope 7/7
7 - Ben Foakes 6/7
8 - Dom Bess 6/7
9 - Jofra Archer 5/7
10 - Stuart Broad 6/7
11 - Jimmy Anderson 7/7
12 - Zak Crawley 3/7
Inside Edge Cricket
There aren't too many surprises in the combined XI. Good to see Foakes being given the recognition he deserves, and nice to see that I'm not the only romantic that yearns to see Jimmy and Broad open an English summer for the last time. There are a few players who need to make some runs in here, but we can rest easy that we have plenty of talent waiting in the wings, which hasn't always been the case for England.
No real surprises in the joint XI here from the team, with everyone realising the way forward for our Test team. I still ask questions of the selectors who chose Denly over Crawley, but either will do for this series. As I've mentioned in the past, Bess is the only viable spin option as Moeen Ali cannot walk into a team having not been in there for 12 months and Leach was too expensive in the warm up game.
One player that I would consider unlucky not to get a place is Sam Curran. He’s never let the team down when he’s played, man of the series against India 2 summers ago and as a left-arm swing bowler, offers a different dimension to the bowling attack. He can also be a very destructive batsman at the end of the middle order with Jos Buttler, to help add some crucial runs to the total just like he did in SA. While most of the seam bowlers will get a chance to play this summer, I personally felt Curran did enough in SA to solidify his place for the WI tour. Some disagreement in the ranks there….
As for Ben Foakes being selected unanimously over Jos Buttler, again no real questions need to be asked. Foakes has been the standout keeper in England for the past 3 seasons, scored a century on Test debut and is a better batsman than Buttler. It seems as if Jos has been given one last chance with this series to show he is the man to take the gloves going forward. I would say he needs 2 centuries minimum in this series to keep the gloves.
I have no real complaints about our combined side. The only player I didn't vote for in the XI is Ben Foakes, who I readily acknowledge is a very good option as wicket-keeper, but knowing Jos Buttler could be brilliant, meant I did not vote Foakes. The top order is relatively solid, with Rory Burns, Dom Sibley and Joe Denly all deserving of their roles. Denly needs to convert, and Sibley needs to resolve his short ball issue, but they are the correct top three. Zak Crawley is a decent replacement for Joe Root, and is effectively in a shoot-out with Joe Denly for the number three slot. While Dan Lawrence is a good option, giving him one test before Root returns seems pointless to me. His change in style also needs permanent rewards, not just one good Lions tour. Ben Stokes, captain and star of the side at five needs no explanation, nor does the upcoming Ollie Pope, who is a great prospect. Dom Bess is rightly rewarded for his efforts in South Africa with selection, and should have a run in the side.
This brings us to the pace attack, and, in my view, our selection is spot on. While some would argue Mark Wood should play the first test given his excellent winter, his record in England is poor, and although it would be great to see him in the same side as Jofra Archer, it is Archer who rightly is ahead of him, given his exciting form. And while many will claim that Stuart Broad and James Anderson are "past it", or "no good anymore", any suggestion that only one (or neither) should play is nonsense. Broad tormented the Australians last summer, and is always written off; before taking bags of wickets. And given his record as England's GOAT, Anderson should always be given the benefit of the first test, even if age and recent injuries loom over him. Therefore, rightly, both play the first test.
The selection panel was broadly in agreement for most positions in England's first XI of the Test Match summer. The most contentious decision revolved around the numbers three and four in the batting line-up, and the continued faith in Jos Buttler as England's wicketkeeper.
Joe Denly's test career has often been ugly and frustrating. But when opening the innings or batting at number three, England's results have, in general, improved. By soaking up new-ball deliveries, and contributing on average 30 runs an innings, he is doing his job well enough, for now. A more dynamic player than Denly would be required to fill Root's vacant number four position. If Denly is not at three, in my opinion, he should not be in the team.
The panel was unanimous in their selection of Ben Foakes as England's wicketkeeper, apart from myself. A player with as much unquestionable talent as Jos Buttler must be given ample opportunity to prove himself. In his correct position at number seven, Buttler could be an essential component to Joe Root's new-look team. With head coach Chris Silverwood demanding a platform to be built at the top of the order, Buttler should be entering the fray in more advantageous situations, and not mid-collapse as so often has been the case. England now has a longer-than-usual tail, and Jos will be essential in squeezing extra runs from the end of an innings. England plays more Test matches than any other nation, so why not give Buttler another chance within England's new batting mentality? If it works, it could be some of the best Test cricket we will ever see.
Duke and Kookabura
The selection panel has spoken and produced an XI that I back to beat WI this week; a balanced and potent attack should cause a fragile opposition top order some real problems and provide Stokes the opportunity to make a statement in his first match in charge.
The batting largely picked itself and with a couple of intriguing sub-plots namely the Crawley/Denly face off will have observers looking on keenly; weight of runs is king in that fight. This is also a big summer for both openers and Pope and all three should look forward with optimism and no trepidation.
England to win.
An identical team to the one I picked. Very happy with the panel selection. Slightly surprised to see such a high number of selections Jofra Archer received. I was expecting it to be Mark Wood who was given the nod over Archer with his brilliant bowling performance against South Africa fresh in the memory. The only reason I did not select him was that the Ageas Bowl pitch for the intra-squad game did not look as conducive to pace as Old Trafford might. With Archer being less injury prone than Wood I would plan to play Archer in both games and rotate one of Broad and Anderson at Old Trafford. This would likely be Broad as not allowing Jimmy to bowl from his own end in the first match of the summer seems harsh. This could all change depending on how they shape up at the Ageas Bowl this week.
Although Foakes has been picked by the large majority, this will likely be in vein, with Buttler set to start the summer with the gloves after being confirmed as vice-captain for the first test.
All in all, a very strong team selected that I am confident ten out of eleven will play when England are able to pick their strongest side.
All Things Cricket
No surprises here. Ben Foakes being the stand out difference between the likely XI and ours. He's the outstanding glovemen in England and his batting can't be any worse than Bairstow or Butlers in recent times.
Its make or break time for Denly and Crawley. Denly certainly has it in him to crack Test cricket, the time must be now.
The bowling attack largely picks itself. I feel sorry for Leach given it's not his fault he lost his place in South Africa.
All in all a strong side and I expect the West Indies to struggle given their lack of batting expertise.
Thats it. That's your lot from this series. Would you pick anyone different? Would Dan Lawrence make your Root replacement or would Mark Wood be your express bowler? Let us know @InsideEdgeCrick on twitter.
Thank you to all the writers for their contributions to this series and to all you readers that make this worthwhile. Plenty more content coming up with daily reports, reaction and predictions for the summers cricket ahead.
11am tomorrow: it's back.