New writer Isaac Rawcliffe has some thoughts on England’s squad for the 1st Test against India. What do you make of the names selected?
England have announced a 17 man squad for the first Test against India and there are some notable exclusions as well as one very notable inclusion. The squad reads as follows: Joe Root (capt), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood. Lots of familiar faces there and lots to dissect in terms of a potential starting XI.
The main talking point is a return to the Test squad for Jonny Bairstow for what feels like the millionth time. It was thought by fans and pundits that Bairstow’s final chance had come against India earlier in the year in which it looked like he could have registered more ducks than runs. However, it appears that the selectors have placed their faith in him once again.
Since 2018, Bairstow has scored 1,110 runs in Test cricket from 47 innings at an average of 24.70 with 2 centuries. These numbers show that he has had more than an adequate chance to prove himself as a quality first choice option in the middle order but has failed to deliver substantial results.
The sorry looking figures in Test cricket are explained if you look at his ODI stats in the same timeframe: 2,506 runs from 53 innings at an average of 47.30 with 9 centuries. Surely the selectors have to accept the fact that Bairstow has sacrificed his Test technique and skillset in order to become one of the best white ball players in the world?
The selectors have said that he’s been chosen as the backup wicketkeeper given Foakes’ injury, but there are plenty of other options lying about the county circuit currently who could fill the role such as Ben Cox, Alex Davies and John Simpson to name a few.
One also has to feel sorry for 24 year old James Bracey. He has plied his trade as a pure batsman at number 3 with brilliant results for Gloucestershire in the last few years, but was drafted into the most recent England series against New Zealand as the primary gloveman and batting at 7. As expected, the returns were pretty miserable for Bracey, failing to reach double figures with the bat and having a torrid time behind the stumps. It was atrocious man management from England which will surely damage a highly promising red ball prospect. And now he has been shunned in favour of another Bairstow lifeline.
Looking at the rest of the squad, it’s good to see Haseeb Hameed back given all he’s gone through since his debut as a 19 year old back in 2016. It’s unlikely that Hameed will displace either of Sibley or Burns at the very top of the order, but there could be an opportunity at number 3 given Zak Crawley’s struggles in the New Zealand series and a desperate need for some stability in that number 3 spot. We don’t want Joe Root walking into bat in the 5th over again.
Hameed made a century for the County Select Squad against a virtually full strength Indian bowling attack at Durham this week. This was hugely encouraging and it surely bolstered his chances of a stunning return to the Test side even further.
In the bowling department, it was somewhat disappointing to see Matt Parkinson overlooked for the Test squad given his great first class stats and the fact he looked in great rhythm in the One Day and T20 series. His bowling will translate well to the Test game as well: he spins the ball more than any England spinner in the last 20 years and gives the ball such tremendous flight and dip that he would surely be a nightmare for most batsman to face, particularly later on in a match.
England have instead gone with Dom Bess who has been bowling better for Yorkshire than he did for England back in the winter. Bess does give the option of batting depth as opposed to Parkinson, but it is hard to see where he outperforms him with the ball in hand. Ultimately, Jack Leach should be the first choice spinner and thankfully has been included, but it would have been nice to see the selectors put more faith in Parkinson in the red ball game.
Overall, the squad hasn’t raised too many eyebrows – only the return of Bairstow and the exclusion of Chris Woakes due to injury – but it will be interesting to see who makes the starting XI come the morning of the first Test. There will be a tussle between Hameed and Crawley for the number 3 spot, and also between Sam Curran and Ollie Robinson for the third seamer option at number 8.
Possible XI: Burns, Sibley, Crawley/Hameed, Root (c), Stokes, Pope, Buttler (wk), Robinson/Curran, Leach, Broad, Anderson
You can read more of Isaac’s work Blood, Sweat & Spears.