Bairstow In? Buttler Up? England’s XI For Kandy

It’s time for a bold statement. It doesn’t particularly matter what specific XI England pick at Kandy nor the order they bat in. We will win the match (weather permitting) and go on to win the series comfortably.

And now for the caveat: England will win comfortably unless Sri Lanka improve big time. The problem for the hosts is that I can’t see this happening. They’re in complete disarray. Herath has retired, Chandimal is injured and will miss the rest of the series, and Dananjaya has been reported for a suspect action.

Personally I was hoping the latter would play as he looked completely innocuous in Galle. If you’re going to bowl illegally you might as well get some advantage from it. Oooops. Did i just write that if you’re going to break the rules you might as well break them big time? I guess I did. A certain Pakistani off-spinner would be proud of me.

Anyway, just because England are going to win by something like an innings and five hundred runs doesn’t mean we can’t while away the pre-match hours by speculating what team Bayliss and Co are going to field. After all, this kind of thing matters. How England set up in this match will probably be a sign of things to come – if not necessarily in the Ashes then certainly in the West Indies.

The big talking point, of course, is the fitness of Jonny Bairstow. If he plays then he’ll almost certainly play as a specialist batsman as Ben Foakes should (and will in my opinion) retain his spot after his heroics in the first test. There was some talk of Jonny replacing Foakes but I just don’t see how this can be good management. If you jettison players after man of the match performances then it sends out all the wrong signals.

Had Jonny been in excellent form last summer, or belonged to the Adam Gilchrist ‘all time great’ bracket, then we might be having a rather different conversation at this point. The cold hard truth, however, is that Jonny has struggled at times in recent tests; therefore it’s probably his turn to wait patiently on the sidelines.

Although I feel sorry for Jonny, especially as I think his test form has been adversely affected by his white ball success, there’s little room for sentiment in international cricket – unless your name is Sachin Tendulkar, Alastair Cook, or someone else who is so loved by ordinary supporters and the media that special rules apply. Bairstow, alas, doesn’t enjoy the same luxury.

There has been some talk that Bairstow could play as a specialist opener ahead of Rory Burns. In fact, I heard Simon Hughes advocate this rather, erm, radical proposal on social media. I’m afraid I just can’t agree with this. Burns didn’t look entirely convincing against the spinners at Galle but it was his first test match. What’s more he was run out in the second innings. Dropping him would be about as fair as a 16 year old losing his hair – which is exactly what happened to me. And I can tell you that it’s very unfair! I have no idea why I brought that up but hey, it’s my blog, so it’s my rules. Capisce?!

The other big news is that Jos Buttler is likely to bat 3 at Kandy. I find this bizarre but no more bizarre than asking Moeen to do it. Or indeed picking Denly in the squad as a 3 but then jettisoning the plan after a couple of failures in the rather surreal and somewhat meaningless warm-up games.

Can Jos be a success at 3? In my opinion no. Not long-term. He might be a horse-for-the-course in Sri Lanka, thus allowing the management and selectors to kick the can down the road for a bit, but I don’t think he has the game to bat 3.

Having said that, at least I’m glad that Jos is finally moving up the order into a specialist batting spot – something I’ve championed for a while. The concept of picking a specialist batter at 7 last summer was as absurd as excluding me from the school first XI photo for arriving slightly late at the shoot. Thanks for that Roger Tolchard. I haven’t forgotten that you regarded mild tardiness as more important than my 400 runs at an average of 30 (the second most in the side). And yes this is still my blog, so I continue to reserve the right to bore you all with irrelevant bitter anecdotes. Double capisce?!!

Last but not least there’s also been  talk of replacing Adil Rashid with a seamer. Again I find this bizarre but take solace in the fact that the England cricket team isn’t meant to make sense. They’re probably just trolling us anyway at this point. It’s amusing to think that Rashid was a shoo-in last summer when conditions hardly suited him (and he wasn’t likely to bowl much). And yet now we’re in Sri Lanka, and he bowled some peaches in Galle, he’s suddenly surplus to requirements? In the immortal words of Doctor Evil, “riiiiiight”.

The other thing I find utterly perplexing is that apparently Chris Woakes, rather than Stuart Broad, is the bowler most likely to replace Rashid. Why? Because England really like Woakes’s batting.

Now I must admit that I really like Woakes’ batting too. He’s orthodox, composed, organised and quite talented. But since when should batting ability matter when the cricketer in question is likely to bat at 10 (or 9 if they nonsensically move Sam Curran down the order)? Just pick the best bowler for heaven sake!

I know Ed Smith’s philosophy is to pick “the best all-round cricketers” with little regard for specialists, but preferring Woakes at 10 over a bloke with over 400 test wickets is just crazy. It’s as crazy as …. ok I’ll spare you another tail of personal anguish this time.

James Morgan

2018-11-12T17:46:08+00:00November 12th, 2018|SL v Eng 2018, Test Cricket|32 Comments


  1. muffin November 12, 2018 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    I thought that it was Woakes’s surname that might have got him the place – rather like the England football team where Matty could pass to Platty, and Platty to Fatty (sorry Paul Gascoigne!)

  2. Simon H November 12, 2018 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    More “you couldn’t make this shit up” from the wonderful world of cricket governance:


    • Jackie Litherland November 13, 2018 at 8:02 am - Reply

      Corruption moves into the top places. How dreadful.

  3. Cricketcricketcricket November 12, 2018 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    Tbf we have no top 3 and a middle order of dashers so we simply need more dashers and bowling is an after thought.. almost like they are packing the team with bits and pieces players like white ball

  4. Mark November 12, 2018 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    If we are going to win this series so easily (and we certainly should) why not build a team which can also win other series. That means finding a permanent top 3. For me one of those places has to go to bairstow because foakes has to play as keeper after his batting performance on top of zero extras conceded. Bairstow is no doubt our second best bat so first drop makes sense. Buttler is never a test match 3 but could do a job at 5. Stokes 6 foakes 7. Ali at 8 and pick the other bowlers depending on conditions. Simple.

  5. JC November 12, 2018 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    I dont understand all this nonsense about Root not wanting to bat at 3 – he batted at 4 in the last test and was in one ball after the number 3 batsman, Ali, when he was out 1st ball. I presume it must be psychological. The lack of runs from the top order over the recent years has meant our number 4 has come to the wicket a lot earlier than usual anyway – tell Root he’s batting at 3 rather than make Ali or anyone else for that matter the fall guy

  6. Sophie November 12, 2018 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    I’m sorry about your school photo.

    • James Morgan November 12, 2018 at 7:55 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sophie 🙂 It’s nice to know that TFT readers stand with me.

      • AndyB November 12, 2018 at 9:20 pm - Reply

        It can be worse James. I got dropped for bowling a beamer at the Head of PE in the annual staff v school match. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been intentional.

  7. AndyB November 12, 2018 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    Unusual to have so many different comments to make on one very entertaining blog!

    Firstly, choosing Woakes may be because he is the better bowler compared to Broad. Broad has not been a consistent threat for a long time even if he can turn it on when up for it. Unless Woakes is given the new ball overseas we will never know what he can do. Mind you, I would have him in over Curran every day of the week. I suppose he could bat at 3, it is no more ludicrous than some suggestions.

    Secondly, I can see the sense in Mr Ed’s thinking on Buttler at 3. He will be facing the most innocuous attack for a long time and that will enable him to cement his place to the greater glory of Mr Ed. Of course, it will all end in tears when he faces a decent test seamer but…..

    And finally; it seems a bit harsh to accuse Sri Lanka of not taking maximum advantage of a spinner with a dodgy action. After all, this is the nation of Murali, who Darrell Hair called quite correctly and got abused for doing so despite the tests proving him right. Of course, they then changed the rule to make him legal but….

  8. Chris Hurst November 12, 2018 at 9:53 pm - Reply

    I’ll see if I can dig a copy of the photo out for you James! I’m sure in this modern age we can address that clutch in the space time continuum.

  9. Chris Hurst November 12, 2018 at 9:54 pm - Reply

    Glitch, glitch. You can never find a proof reader / editor when you need one

    • James Morgan November 13, 2018 at 1:14 pm - Reply

      I wondered if anyone from school would read this! 🙂

      I was just kidding really, although it does bug me slightly that I missed the photo. I really loved everyone in that team, recall we had a great spirit, and the results weren’t bad either after the struggles the previous year.

      A little bit more irrelevant background. I was late because there was a school leavers party the night before near Hereford (all above board). The car got a flat tire on the way back so everyone was late, although nobody else was involved with the photo. Syd Hill (house master) explained this to Tolchard but he still decided to keep me out of the photo for whatever reason. I know Syd thought this was harsh. I guess Rog and I never really hit it off because I didn’t run well between the wickets, couldn’t field to save my life, and missed the odd net session to play golf with Peachey!

  10. Marc Evans November 12, 2018 at 11:02 pm - Reply

    If the Kandy conditions are anything like Galle I don’t see the batting order matters too much, except that I would like to see an end to poor old Moin being the sacrificial lamb at 3. If you’re going to play Bairstow, and I can’t see him being left out, why not stick him up there as he’ll most likely be facing spin from the off anyway. Hopefully Foakes will be retained, so giving Bairstow that extra responsibility may sharpen his wits.
    Personally I’d like to see Root man up and bat there for this tour if you’re not going to play Denly. I can’t see either side scoring big so Root’s contributions are not going to be as crucial as usual, there being so many of our team who can make enough useful contributions to get us up around the 300 mark which should be enough.
    Don’t see this preoccupation with Broad, despite his 400 wickets. Woakes would be my pick every time out there. He’s got a better cricket brain and I feel is more likely to chip in with useful wickets than the enigmatic and one dimensional Broad. Personally I wouldn’t have taken him on this tour atall.
    I don’t see this tour as more than a one off and certainly not as a build for the future exercise. There’s no point jumping on the bandwagon and having a go at selection when it’s not been announced yet. Maybe I’m wrong here, but I was under the impression ‘Funky Ed’ was not on the selection committee for tours abroad. I’m sure the senior players and those who’ve toured here before will be consulted about selection. They’re not stupid and obviously want to win this one to clinch the series.

  11. David Deakin November 12, 2018 at 11:43 pm - Reply

    It is crazy to ask Buttler to bat at no 3 but no more crazy than asking Moeen to bat at no 3 Furthermore, I wouldn’t bat Bairstow at 3 as his shortcomings as a batsman will be brutally exposed. As I said in an earlier entry, Ollie Pope should go back to Surrey next season and demand that they bat him at no 3 and then hopefully. at next year’s Ashes, we will have Ollie Pope at no 3.

  12. jennyah46 November 13, 2018 at 3:34 am - Reply

    Joe Buttler would be out of place and wasted at 3. His role is to destroy the opposition further down the line, when hopefully the score will allow him to be himself. Stokes has been digging himself in lately and is a much better bet.

  13. Steve November 13, 2018 at 4:38 am - Reply

    Jennings, Burns, Bairstow, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Foakes, Ali, Curran, Rashid, Anderson….SORTED!

  14. Hamish November 13, 2018 at 6:05 am - Reply

    If they want to go with 3 spinners again, it’s a harsh call but I would drop Curran for Bairstow and play Bairstow at 3, moving Mo down to 7.

    It has to come down to a straight choice between Stokes and Curran because they can’t fit them both into the side with a 3 spinner attack and I thought Stokes’ performance in 2nd innings both with bat and ball looked like he was getting back to the Stokes of old. If he’s batting 5, I don’t think there’s an issue with him opening the bowling as he’s not likely to bowl more than about 4 overs before the spinners come on – thought his spell on day 4 was excellent. Again, harsh on Curran, but at the moment he’s there as a bowling all-rounder and I don’t think either his bowling or batting are as effective as Stokes.

    If they want an extra seamer, then it’s Broad for Rashid for me.

    Then the only question is whether Bairstow can make runs at 3.If he’s relieved of the gloves, will he tighten his technique enough to make it as a test batsman?

    Jennings, Burns, Bairstow, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Ali, Foakes, Rashid / Broad, Leach, Anderson

  15. Doug M November 13, 2018 at 7:36 am - Reply

    You know it doesn’t really matter if Joe Bloggs bats at 3 in this one eyed series. Apart from the weather it’s more like playing a second 11 team. But in saying that you have to build for the future soon, if Denley is in the squad he’s the obvious no 3 choice, and Root must bat 4, I don’t care what anyone says. That’s where he is best not 3. It doesn’t work. To me Broad is past his sell by date and Woakes, if fit, should play. Also Stone could play, not ideal pitches for him, but why take him otherwise? At least it would avoid flogging Anderson to bits in the searing heat. Never should have gone on the tour, if you call it that.

  16. Jackie Litherland November 13, 2018 at 8:52 am - Reply

    We don’t have enough Test batsmen in this side due to the overriding logic employed for a while that succeeding in the one day game is the right pathway for a Test batsman. The status of the Test batsman has fallen. This is related to the downgrading of Test cricket in the drive to win the World Cup and the money into The Hundred. Also Bayliss was brought in as a one day specialist. That’s why we have so many all rounders without any Test technique. It’s also been the ethos in County cricket. It’s really extraordinary that even Sky commentators talk about opening Test batsmen “in their shell” at the start of a game because they aren’t batting at 4 an over (Ian Ward). Built-in impatience like built-in obsolescence. We’re losing the rhythms of the longer game. Hence that ridiculous start to the First Test. Joe Root saying we are going to come out positively etc. I felt sorry for Rory Burns who went after everything and was given the wrong mindset. Joe has to captain by his own judgement not by a team mantra. As for Bairstow he has been hiding behind the gloves. He should be given the No 3 spot and ask him to take on the responsibility or he should bat at 4 and move Root up to 3. Ideally their techniques fit that order better. Root is pandered to by the management because he’s their only world class batsman. But he’s perfectly capable of batting there unlike a no 4 like KP who didn’t have the technique to come in in the first over. I can’t think that it’s good for Joe to make the side fit around his preference. The team should come first for the captain as well as the rest. Also England should get rid of selection based on cronies and County mates. The nadir came when Ballance was selected to go to Australia because Root declared he wanted his best mate. Ballance never played. Denly was selected by Ed Smith on the premise that he had a hint of class and they had played together! All sorts of narratives were dreamt up that his batting had improved although his 2018 FC average was 34, even below his career av of 36. These are abuses of power even though not at the Colin Graves level. So far Denly hasn’t played, like Ballance a victim of self serving arrogance. But it isn’t right that Test selection is the plaything of the powerful which probably explains why Burns had to wait so long for his chance. There is a conundrum about Bairstow because he’s been out of form but he should play as a specialist batsman and backed because his record with the bat deserves it.

  17. Colin November 13, 2018 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Another excellent article James. As regards who bats at 3, or anywhere else for that matter, there’s far too much tinkering going on, in my opinion. Admittedly, some players have lost form but constant chopping and changing isn’t a good strategy for the long term

  18. James Morgan November 13, 2018 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    So England name an unchanged team with Jonny left out. Probably the right decision for now imho. The interesting news, however, is that Ben Stokes is going to bat 3 instead of Buttler. I’m torn on this one as Stokes has the better technique but he also has the heavier workload due to his bowling responsibilities. Do the management want to hide Buttler down the order?

    • Nigel November 13, 2018 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      Between them Moeen and Stokes will have batted every position except number 2.

    • Hamish November 13, 2018 at 1:57 pm - Reply

      Who’s best suited to play 3 – I would say Stokes because he’s more technically correct. In the summer he really tried to dig in when England were in the mire but went away from his natural game too much.

      Will he bowl very much? Not sure it’s an issue here. In England he’s probably going to be a 4th seamer so think he’ll be OK.

    • Marc Evans November 14, 2018 at 2:40 am - Reply

      I said don’t jump the gun and criticise selection until it’s confirmed.
      There’s no funkiness about this line up, it’s the common sense one given the conditions. Good to see Moin taken out of the spotlight and Bairstow not rushed back. Stokes at 3 seems a logical choice to me as his bowling is unlikely to involve a heavy workload with 3 spinners retained. How many overs did he bowl in Galle? Butler doesn’t have a much more effective technique against the new ball than Moin. It’s the old adage of don’t mess with a winning side. Thos tour is clearly not a build for the future exercise, it’s a one off. We’re not going to find an Ashes number 3 out here.

  19. Comte November 13, 2018 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    We have a number of so-called middle order ‘plunderers'(assuming they manage to lay bat on ball) but a shortage of early order guys who can hang around when the going gets tough. As and until this issue is addressed and resolved I refuse to acknowledge that we have a decent balanced Test team.

  20. Doug M November 13, 2018 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    Trouble with Stokes at 3 is that he could be in second ball so in fact is a opener, which test no 3’s have to be. Really we have a heap of middle order ODI type hitters, but no one who can seem to bat in the top order or indeed has the right mindset to do so.

  21. Cricketcricketcricket November 13, 2018 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    Loving the comments saying how good this team is.. how balanced etc,, Jesus.. we literally have a six/seven going in at 3 !! And still no decent proven openers

    Let alone Curran is a bits and pieces player rather than one of the best bowlers

    To much white ball ‘all rounder’ or ‘offer with the bat’..

    • Marc Evans November 14, 2018 at 2:47 am - Reply

      Nobody’s ever said how good or well balanced this team is. What blog are you reading? We’re just saying given the players to choose from it seems like a decent selection, lacking any customary ‘funkyness’.

  22. Cricketcricketcricket November 13, 2018 at 11:23 pm - Reply

    Anyone watching the women’s stuff??

    • Marc Evans November 14, 2018 at 2:58 am - Reply

      Don’t have normal Sky but Virgin are showing it live on the Sky ‘mix’ channel.
      Have watched some, but can’t say it’s riveting cricket. It’s still all a bit like watching your local team at the weekend. I know it’s not PC, but I don’t think the standards in Cricket, Soccer or Rugby warrant the media coverage it’s getting yet. I know the TV cash will help development, but is it good entertainment, not really.
      Would the same coverage be offered to Minor Counties cricket, not a chance.

      • Cricketcricketcricket November 15, 2018 at 8:05 am - Reply

        Agree on the quality but.. it’s nice to see a different style of play. The problem with the men’s game is that it’s all becoming the same.. wack bang whollop

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