The three main changes you can always make to the England Test team

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Joe Root (via Channel 5)

When a Test squad’s due to be announced, everyone normally has a default XI in mind and then we all make swaps according to our own prejudices.

Typically, everyone wants to make between one and three changes.

Change No 1 is when you replace the rubbish batsman you hate with the rubbish batsman you like because “X has had his chance” and “it’s time Y was given a chance”.

Change No 2 is when you replace the accurate seam bowler with the faster bowler who leaks runs because the attack is “too one-paced.” Either that or you do the exact opposite because the former has a better bowling average or something.

Change No 3 is when you replace the spinner-who-can-bat with the spinner-who-can’t-bat because the latter’s a better bowler – or you do the reverse because actually he isn’t.

Maybe you get into all-rounders and ‘the balance of the side’ and all that, but generally only if the side’s already pretty settled because otherwise there are too many knock-on effects and you can’t hold it all in your head after your third pint.

The problem is that it strikes us that we currently have no real idea what the default England Test XI is. You need a default so that you’ve got something to work from.

We think it’s probably this:

  1. Alastair Cook
  2. Keaton Jennings
  3. Joe Root
  4. Dawid Malan
  5. Jonny Bairstow
  6. Ben Stokes
  7. Jos Buttler
  8. Stuart Broad
  9. Mark Wood
  10. Jack Leach
  11. James Anderson

Except that this XI has never played together and Stuart Broad 2.0 is at number eight – a batting position that only really made sense before he top-edged a Varun Aaron bouncer into his own face.

Three of them didn’t play in England’s most recent Test match and there’s a chance that three won’t play in this one. Mark Wood is injured; Jack Leach isn’t long back from injury and is hardly established anyway; while Dawid Malan is apparently vulnerable if England play a second spinner.

Or maybe they’ll pick semi-all-rounder Sam Curran again. In place of whom, we don’t know, but whoever it is, that feels like it would precipitate further changes as a consequence.

This is a basically just a rambling way of saying that the England Test team is a bit unsettled. We’ll know when it’s settled again when we’re back to the three standard changes listed above.


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  1. One man is the king of this as he sort of manages to fit in all three.

    England have very few players that average 40 when batting at 4 or 5 for England. If they can find one looking at the stats over the past few years, that guy should probably play instead of Malan.

    Is Leach a good enough bowler to get in ahead of a simliar bowler that can bat?

    With this Saharan weather, do you need a 4th mid-80s bowler like Scurran or a not-fully-fit Woakes? Better off having a second spinner, especially if they can bat.

    The only solution is to make a couple of changes to that team above.

    M. Ali

    A team that bats down to numeber 9, two world class seamers, Stokes to back them up, then a spinner that is good at buying wickets in Test cricket, a spinner that is the most economical in ODI cricket and a part time spinner in the middle order.

    1. Surprise, everyone – they have gone for the spinner who can bat and the 4th seamer who cannot bat!

      I can’t spake!

      1. Meanwhile, the good spinner who isn’t very good right now and can’t bat much, and the other spinner who isn’t the best but can bat a bit, will train with the squad.

        With a FC average of 6.06 and 261 runs from 61 matches, J Porter has real potential as a test #11. I am very excited about this and hope he plays.

    2. Sounds like you’re calling for a recall of either Bell or Collingwood. I approve of this.

  2. I find it hard to believe that Woakes isn’t settled in the side, at least a bit. Missed a couple with injury but he’s fine.

    Think you’re right about the top seven. I’m happy that Buttler appears to have public support, but the other standard opinion you missed is to change the keeper and let such-and-such play as a batsman.

  3. Adil Rashid is the Ish Sodhi of test cricket. Yes they are both wrist spinners, but they also both get the public clamouring for a recall before returning to much hype in test cricket only to prove mediocre.

    Plus, they both have been in painstaking rear guards.

    I’m being a bit harsh in Rashid here. He should have been selected in 2017 instead of Liam Dawson.

    I’m not being harsh on Ish Sodhi, though.

    1. It’s a fair point that. Rashid has never really been given the backing he needs to make a real fist of Test cricket I think it’s fair to say. However, I think the difference in bowling spin in one day cricket and bowling spin in Test cricket is enormous and is frequently underestimated. I’m struggling to think of many that have made a proper success of both forms in the last 5 years?

      Aus – Lyon in Tests, literally anybody else in ODIs
      Eng – Moeen “doing a job” in both along with 13 (Thirteen) other spinners in Test cricket
      Ind – Ashwin and Jadeja in Tests, both OK in ODIs but now nowehere near the team
      NZ – the aforementioned Sodhi, Santner quite similar to Moeen
      Pak – Yasir Shah great in Tests, awful in ODIs
      SA – Imran Tahir, see Sodhi, Ish. Keshav Maharaj, see Lyon, Nathan
      WI – Convincing them to even play Test cricket is hard enough, but Narine and Badree have been dreadful whenever they’ve played.

      SL and Bangladesh seem to have the right plan, just pick every spinner available all the time.

  4. With Bhuvi and Bumrah out, ours is not a very good Test side. Neither is England’s, I might as well think of a 1-3 loss, home conditions. I’d be delighted if this team could achieve anything more.

    1. It’s a bit sad. A lot of talk going into this series is how India’s pace attack is finally good enough to challenge England’s, and then they’re down their best pacer in English conditions and another great option. Also Mohammed Shami being out of form isn’t really compensated for by Umesh Yadav being in.

      I want England to win, of course I do; but I want them to win against the best Indian team. I’d have taken Bumrah as fair trade for Wood, but Bhuvi’s a big loss.

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