Who replaces Alastair Cook? What’s the best spin combination? How do you inject pace?
National selector Ed Smith and his panel have plenty to mull over before naming their England squad for this winter’s three-Test tour in Sri Lanka.
Ahead of Friday’s announcement, Sky Sports Cricket pundits David Lloyd, Rob Key, Bob Willis and Nasser Hussain have picked the players they think can build on England’s 4-1 series win over India…
Don’t be surprised if Ed Smith comes up with a wild card in the squad. Personally, I’d pick Alex Davies; I’ve seen a lot of him at Lancashire and think he’s an international player in the making. He’s brave, feisty and he plays spin well.
I’m fine with Keaton Jennings staying at the top of the order; he’s a good player of spin. It has been so difficult for the opening batters this summer, so difficult, and I genuinely think he can play. If county cricket is the yardstick, I’ve seen this guy score runs impressively this year.
Rory Burns, by sheer weight of runs, is nailed on and I’m comfortable with Moeen Ali batting at three in Asia. Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Sam Curran pick themselves as do Ali and the two other spinners, Adil Rashid and Jack Leach.
We’ve learnt a lesson from Australia last winter that we can’t play seamers who are all 84mph bowlers, so that’s where Ollie Stone and James Overton come in. If you need to rest either Stuart Broad or James Anderson tactically – let me stress, tactically – then so be it. Depending on the pitch you might have to play three spinners if it’s a raging, ragging bunsen!
Bumble’s 16-man squad: Jennings, Burns, Ali, Root, Buttler, Stokes, Bairstow, Pope, Davies, S Curran, Broad, Anderson, Rashid, Stone, J Overton, Leach.
From what we’ve seen so far, Jason Roy isn’t overawed by international cricket and I’d hand him his Test debut in Sri Lanka; he’s a wildcard pick but I’d go with someone who has already played special innings for England, all be it in 50-over cricket. Burns gets a go by dint of scoring so many runs – it would be wrong not to pick him and he deserves his opportunity. Bairstow and Root are our best three and four, whichever way round you put them, and at no stage would I have Bairstow keeping.
Rashid will get better the more he plays so I’d start the first Test with him; the way that he bowled in the final Test against India, in particular the way he bowled KL Rahul, puts him ahead of Leach – so you’ve got one holding spinner in Moeen Ali and an improving Rashid stays in the team.
You also have to keep an eye on the future and I thought the selectors were right to pick Ollie Pope, even if he was batting in a different position. He has the potential to be a 10-year-plus international cricketer. Just by being picked in the summer, he’s the next cab off the rank.
Rob’s 16-man squad: Roy, Burns, Bairstow, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Ali, S Curran, Rashid, Broad, Anderson, Leach, Stone, Pope, Denly, Woakes.
Ian Bell’s return seems a no-brainer to me – he’s been in super touch this summer and averaged nearly 40 on the 2014 tour. He’s hungry to play Test cricket again and at 36 – the same age as Anderson – adds experience without being over the hill.
You have to ask what county cricket is for if Burns doesn’t get picked this time – the Surrey opener has consistently churned out the runs and deserves a shot. Keaton Jennings has been propping up the bar in the last-chance saloon for too long now and would be very fortunate to get on the plane.
Rashid remains a luxury at Test level but should thrive if given the chance, but I’d go with Ali and Leach as my starting spinners.
Bob’s 16-man squad: Burns, Bell, Ali, Root, Buttler, Stokes, Bairstow, S Curran, Leach, Broad, Anderson, Pope, Woakes, Rashid, Stone, Roy.
Learning from last winter’s Ashes, I would only take two out of Anderson, Broad and Chris Woakes. If it’s X-factor you’re after then I would take Olly Stone, who has pace and the right skiddy trajectory; he targets the stumps a lot and is capable of reversing it.
I’d also take Jamie Overton for more pace, so if Broad and Anderson say they don’t want to be rested then you’ve got to go with them, which is harsh on Woakes – but his record away from home isn’t great.
You cannot fault what Rory Burns has done in county cricket, scoring runs year-after-year, and I’d open with him and James Vince ahead of Joe Denly.
Vince hasn’t finished the season in great form but somewhere in there is an international player. England clearly think so, picking him in the squad for the fourth Test at the Ageas Bowl, and he got runs in New Zealand, the last time he played. For more from Nasser click here.
Nasser’s 16-man squad: Burns, Vince, Ali, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Buttler, Pope, S Curran, Rashid, Leach, Anderson, Broad, Stone, Overton, Denly
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Watch England’s tour of Sri Lanka – featuring five ODIs, one Twenty20, and three Test matches – live on Sky Sports Cricket from October. Here’s all you need to know.