England Test XI

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Please ignore any previous suggestions for England’s Test XI. Like any good selector, I’m prone to the odd wave change though of course some will criticise England’s selectors for not changing the side but now the selectors themselves are changing!

Here’s my England Test XI for the start of the summer. This does of course highlight the fact that I’m not picking a team based on the first few weeks of the First Class season.

Opening Batsmen

Haseeb Hameed and Ben Duckett

I genuinely think that the defensive/offensive contrast of messrs Hameed and Duckett could blossom for England. That’s not to say that I don’t think Hameed is capable of attacking when necessary and Duckett can’t survive when he has too. Yes I’ve criticised England for not preparing properly for New Zealand and Duckett is currently injured but he can be England’s David Warner. He has the ability to make big hundreds. He struggled in Asia but in home conditions against subcontinental opposition is the perfect scenario in which to just let him at ’em!

Number Three

Moeen Ali/Liam Livingstone

This is a tough one because I’ve always wanted Moeen to have a run in his domestic role but such has been his ineptitude recently that Livingstone is pushing his case. Both offer something with the ball to support my number one spinner (We’ll come to him later) but it’s for batting alone that we need to select a number three, though Livingstone is a bloody good fielder. Both are attacking batsman and could help England really get themselves ahead of the game by the time Joe Root comes to the crease. Joe Clarke and Daniel-Bell Drummond will be waiting in the wings should Mo and Livingstone fail to deliver.

Middle order

Joe Root and Dawid Malan

Move them back to four and five for goodness sake!

Root doesn’t want to bat at three and Malan has delivered at five so I just don’t understand the logic of moving them each up a position. Based on the XI that I’ve selected, I’m sticking with Root as skipper. If the top three can perform as I believe they can then the burden and pressure on Root will be eased. The captain can come out and play, enjoy himself and not just have to look to survive. With Hameed, Duckett and Moeen/Livingstone up top, Root can come to the crease with the score more 100-2 not 20-2, sometimes at least.

Malan performed well in Australia but must now back it up. I’m very content with him staying at five. I guess that it’s the easiest place in the order for a specialist batsman but he’s earned that right. There’s still enough to come after him for him to be able to make big scores.

Late Middle Order

Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes

A fully fit and focused Stokes at six helps England immensely with bat and ball. Now is the time for him to deliver some Flintoffesque performances.

Jonny Bairstow has been efficient behind the stumps and if he can transfer his ODI batting to the Test side, not that he’s been performing that badly in Tests, then England are in for a treat.

The higher Chris Woakes bats the more England will get from him. Like Moeen, it’s about mentality and if you bat higher and closer to your domestic position then you’re more likely to bat appropriately. In England against India and Pakistan should be the sort of summer that Woakes enjoys with the ball.

Opening Bowlers

Ben Coad/Mark Footitt and James Anderson

James Anderson can and should still lead the line for England. His skill coupled with his current fitness mean that there’s no need to rush to replace him. I’ve dropped Stuart Broad. He could be recalled based on domestic form and rotating of the pacers. He could also very likely be in my ODI and possibly T20I side but I’d start the summer without him in the Test XI.

I see Ben Coad as a Josh Hazlewood type bowler. I mean this in the sense that he can go a little under the radar when batsman are worrying about Mitchell Starc, James Anderson or have been with Ryan Sidebottom at Yorkshire. I’m sure that lots of people would campaign for others. In fact Toby Roland-Jones would be mighty close and probably come into the equation during the summer.

I’ve campaigned for Footitt before. The variety of a left-armer in the attack would be welcomed by Joe Root. I’d just leave Sam Curran for now, probably introduce him in ODIs. I don’t see Footitt playing every Test or taking hundreds of wickets but as an occasional option to turn to from time to time, he could be invaluable. Yes he would leak a few runs but that can be tolerated if Anderson and Woakes etc are keeping it tidy and Footitt can deliver three or four unplayable wicket taking deliveries to see off opposition batsmen. Craig Overton is a little unlucky to miss out but would also be considered for ODIs. I don’t see Mark Wood as our saviour.

Spin Bowling

Jack Leach

He’s earned it, had more than just one good season now, returned from technical changes and should be provided the entire summer to take the rough with the smooth. There’s enough batting to not be concerned about that. So he took some tap in Australia on tour but so did Nathan Lyon. If anything, Leach’s main threat may come from his Somerset teammate Dom Bess but come trips to the subcontinent or West Indies, pairing the two of them together is the same applied logic as Dele Alli playing behind Harry Kane for England’s football team… although that’s a poor comparison because I’m hinting that Alli hasn’t really performed recently (Start a football blog Paul!).

There it is:

Hameed, Duckett, Mo/LL?, Root (C), Malan, Stokes, Bairstow (W), Woakes (VC), Coad/Footitt, Anderson, Leach

I’m certain that many people will scoff at the notion of players such as Duckett, Coad and Footitt being anywhere near the England team but I don’t want this new selection panel to sit on fences. They need to make big and brave calls. I believe the selectors should be seen more than they are. I mean that rather than television and newspaper reporters interviewing the coach it should be the selectors, the one at the top at least, that are interviewed. They should be very open and honest about players, those in the team and those that are not and players should be able to deal with what the selectors say in public.

That’s my team and I’d stick and run with it for the summer, only rotating one pacer every Test or two which I think is necessary.

Now let’s all watch Mark Stoneman score a century and Moeen Ali, Craig Overton and Stuart Broad each score fifties and take a five-for in the second Test in New Zealand!

Telegraph Fantasy Cricket: CC/ODC 2018 – Because it’s Never too Early!

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It’s never too early to start planning any fantasy team. Preparation is key. The English county cricket season will commence in April, so it’s important to have by then identified some possible composites of your side.

Assuming that the format will remain the same, that’s one amalgamated competition for First Class and List A cricket with a completely separate one for the T20 blast, I’m going to focus on potential selections for the four-day and 50-over formats for the time being.

Here are my key tips to remember when selecting a team:

  1. Don’t select players that will be on international duty.
  2. Select players that will play in both forms of the game.
  3. Select batsman that bowl and bowlers that bat.
  4. Don’t pick the same players as everybody else.
  5. Identify potential gems amongst the ‘hardly picked by anyone’ players.

Let’s start with batting. Re: tip one, there’s absolutely no point selecting Joe Root, Mark Stoneman or Jonny Bairstow. They’ll be representing the national team.

England discard Tom Westley could be a shrewd shout. He’ll be keen to push for a recall to the England side, though I think it’ll likely be a vain push. The Essex man is a decent operator in both formats and occasionally contributes some reasonable off-spin.

Another England reject worth a possible punt could be Keaton Jennings. He’s relocated from Durham to Lancashire, opens the batting in both forms of the game and made regular contributions with the ball when at Durham. Whether or not Alastair Cook remains in the England side could of course determine if KJ is a smart selection. It is worth noting that both players I’ve mentioned so far could find themselves representing England Lions and missing a game or two because of such. That’s why in this game, it’s the county pros who you need to select.

Somerset’s James Hildreth is a decent shout, a little more productive in one-day cricket than some people realise and if he can perform to his potential in the four-day matches then he’ll contribute plenty of runs. Worcestershire’s Joe Clarke is a good call but again he’ll be knocking on the door of the England team. Clarke may be listed as a wicketkeeper. Northamptonshire’s Ben Duckett will likely be listed as a batsman but does keep wicket from time to time. He’s well and truly fallen out of favour with England and could contribute significant scores at a decent strike rate (There’s points for that!).

Following his move to Warwickshire, Dominic Sibley is definitely a player worth considering. He’s keen to prove to Surrey that he should’ve been a regular fixture in their team. He’s a destructive batsman in one-day cricket but has the ability to make big scores in the longer format. Don’t forget that he can provide more than useful part-time spin too!

In the all-rounder stakes, Nottinghamshire’s Samit Patel (Clearly no longer required by England) is possibly an essential selection. Re: tips four and five, it’s important to not just select the same team as everybody else. You need to identify the ‘hardly picked by anyone’ players that will make the difference. You do however need some reliable core players in your team. Having Harry Kane isn’t going to win you fantasy football but not having him will guarantee that you don’t win. Patel bats, bowls and plays both formats. He’ll be as hungry as ever to demonstrate to the England hierarchy that he merits further opportunities so may well deserve a spot in your XI.

Hampshire’s Gareth Berg is no spring chicken and not the most fashionable name on the county scene but with the ball, he’s a consistent wicket-taker as well as being in the habit of contributing useful lower order runs. He’s one of those players that will pass a number of fantasy players by, so sneaking him into your team, he could well prove an asset.

On the bowling front, Sussex’s Jofra Archer isn’t qualified to play for England yet. Last year he was listed as a bowler but could potentially be listed as an all-rounder this year. Either way, he falls into the Patel category of being an almost necessary selection.

Jake Ball? No seriously, I’m serious. He’s surely fallen down the pecking order at international level and the opportunity to play regularly at domestic level could well be what he needs. If he can perform like he did to first earn international recognition then he could be worth a pick. Brett Hutton has departed Ball’s Nottinghamshire side and headed to Northamptonshire. He’s another of these potentially underrated players who could now prosper in a new environment where he’ll hope for extra responsibility. Re: tip three, it’s great to find players that offer something with bat and ball but essentially you do need to select players that will, if they’re a batsman, score runs and if they’re a bowler, take wickets… duhhh!

I could go on and maybe I’ll do a follow-up post consisting of some more names. I’ll probably end up selecting a team that contains none of the above players whatsoever but as a starting point for planting the seeds of fantasy cricket team selection, this is just the beginning.