Which England player should carry the drinks in Sri Lanka?

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Galle International Cricket Ground (CC licensed by Adaptor Plug via Flickr)

It’s standard practice before a Test series for the media and fans to try and work out what the teams are going to be. However, there are so many possible permutations of this current England squad that this is a task best added to your list of jobs marked: “Too big and time-consuming – ignore and hope that things sort themselves out (and maybe also consider moving house to leave the problem for somebody else)”

The raw ingredients

The problem is that England have full- and part-time finger spinners, wrist spinners and seam bowlers and most of them can bat. They could actually pick ten legitimate bowling options and still bat down to number eight.

No, seriously.

  1. Joe Denly
  2. Moeen Ali
  3. Joe Root
  4. Ben Stokes
  5. Jos Buttler
  6. Sam Curran
  7. Chris Woakes
  8. Adil Rashid
  9. Stuart Broad
  10. Jimmy Anderson
  11. Jack Leach

Maybe just do that. Bit harsh on Rory Burns and some of the others but it saves thinking – and what is life about if not the tactical avoidance of thought?

An alternative approach

Or, we could just try and work out who shouldn’t play. By adopting the horror film/musical chairs approach and picking people off one-by-one, we should eventually arrive at the 11 England cricketers who theoretically offer the most in Sri Lankan conditions.

But let’s not go that far. Let’s just pick out one guy, because actually, if you’ve ever been to Sri Lanka, you’ll know that the one guy carrying the drinks has the most important job of all.

The candidates

Well it’s everyone in the squad, so let’s try and trim that down for a start.

The non-candidates

These guys are definitely playing. Surely. Aren’t they?

  1. Joe Root
  2. Moeen Ali
  3. Ben Stokes
  4. Jos Buttler
  5. Adil Rashid
  6. James Anderson

Weird that Anderson switched from Jimmy to James from our first numbered list to this second one, but hopefully nothing else strikes you as being monumentally weird and you agree that none of these six people are the absolute out-and-out least useful in England’s squad.

We’re also going to throw in Rory Burns because surely he gets a game. Jonny Bairstow is also a non-candidate because despite Joe Root making unfortunate references to his having made “good strides in the last week or so” he actually still has a knackered ankle so we don’t want him doing any walking unless he’s being correctly supervised by at least nine doctors.

So who’s left?

We’re left with:

  1. Stuart Broad
  2. Sam Curran
  3. Joe Denly
  4. Ben Foakes
  5. Keaton Jennings
  6. Jack Leach
  7. Ollie Pope
  8. Olly Stone (Ollie versus Olly is the new Graham versus Graeme)
  9. Chris Woakes

Christ this is hard. We thought it’d be fewer than that.

Okay, Ben Foakes is England’s best wicketkeeper, so we reckon he has a genuine case for selection because if you’re the best at anything, that’s got to be useful (plus he’s a good batsman).

This one’s controversial, but we’re also going to rule out Keaton Jennings. We know that the official England rules are that there are no rules when it comes to choosing opening batsmen in Sri Lanka, but he is theoretically ‘the man in possession’ and he once scored a Test hundred in India, which is actually a pretty admirable thing to have achieved.

Jack Leach is the only man whose reputation entirely hangs on his ability to bowl finger spin, so he could well get a game.

Olly Stone is the only fast bowler, so he could play.

Who are we left with now? It’s hard to keep track

We’re now down to:

  1. Stuart Broad
  2. Sam Curran
  3. Joe Denly
  4. Ollie Pope
  5. Chris Woakes

Joe Denly took four wickets in a T20 international bowling leg-spin the other day. That’s exactly the kind of thing that gets an England batsman selected for an overseas Test match.

Sam Curran is a left-armer and therefore offers ‘variety’ and can also bat, so they might use him to wad out the seam bowling. We have no real confidence that he’ll take any wickets (he took 0-33 off eight in the warm-up) but he could definitely get a game.

Chris Woakes doesn’t offer diversity, but he would also wad out the seam bowling without lengthening the tail, so we reckon he too could get a game.

Broad or Pope?

Don’t know. It honestly doesn’t seem like either of them has much of a claim to a Test spot. We guess Broad is most likely to play, simply because he’s Stuart Broad – yet no-one seems confident that his right-arm fast-medium would bring wickets that couldn’t otherwise be secured via Anderson or Woakes’ right-arm fast-medium.

At the same time, Pope is England’s only generic batsman, so it kind of feels like he could play on that basis. He’s not an all-rounder or a semi-all-rounder or an opener or a captain. Surely every team has to pick at least one of those players?

The final verdict

We’re going with Broad. Stuart Broad should carry the drinks in Sri Lanka. We also have a hunch that Broad could bring an innovative new angle to the job of drinks carrier and we’re intrigued to see what that would be.


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  1. I can’t agree that in a side almost completely wraxed by a lack of definite players, one of the best and most experienced players England have ever had is carrying the drinks in your conclusion.

    It’s easy to overthink. Maybe we just pick the best players?

    1. Picking the best English players, based on most metrics, tends to end up with an attack of four right-arm fast-medium bowlers. That team then tends to get slaughtered in the subcontinent, or Australia, or anywhere else that isn’t England.

      Given that Broad is an rfm, can’t bat any more, and isn’t Jimmy Anderson, he seems like exactly the sort of player who should be carrying the drinks and exactly the sort of player the team management will keep picking until the series is already lost.

      1. I’m picking two: Broad and Anderson

        Most people are picking Woakes ahead of Broad even though Woakes’ home/away disparity is much more extreme.

      2. No Stokes? I think the Woakes thing is that he’s equally rfm but can bat. He should really be there as a replacement for Stokes.

        I’m going Anderson SCurran Moe Rashid Leach Stokes. Broad as replacement for Anderson, Stone for Curran, Woakes for Stokes if needs be. If one of the spinners goes off (because, say, he hasn’t had any preparation time) at least there are two other ‘proper’ spinners to pick up the slack.

      3. Aggers has been suggesting Woakes should open the batting for a while. I can never tell whether or not he’s joking.

      4. Who knows. You can certainly argue it. He has decent technique. So does Ben Stokes.

        It’s one of those games that’s fun to play – picking out the leftfield solution to England’s opening problems – but the truth is that these guys already have plenty of jobs and opening is a pretty hardcore specialist occupation.

  2. What’s happened to the front page? I don’t like it! I mean, it won’t have overly much effect on my browsing, but it’s different so I don’t like it!

    1. We’re often writing longer pieces these days and it struck us that this meant a lot of scrolling for anyone who was just browsing through what had gone on the site recently.

  3. How do you decide if you are an Ollie or an Olly? They are both named Oliver. I have never thought about this before, but it’s really irritated me.

  4. Can they not fly Sam Billings out to do the job? Surely a job this important requires the level of experience and specialist knowledge that only he has.

  5. The most important issue is that this series could finally see the Foakes-Woakes-Stokes combination we’ve been anticipating for so long.

    Test match teams featuring rhyming players. Discuss.

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