The first test match of the English summer starts on Thursday. Anticipation is in the air. The Lord’s groundstaff are making their final preparations, the MCC staff are polishing their champagne glasses, and somewhere underneath the stands Alastair Cook is hurried cramming Mike Brearley’s The Art of Captaincy (or at least I hope he is).
As a fan I’m eagerly awaiting the announcement of the England XI. Picking the right squad (or what was the right squad in my eyes) was only half the job. The most important thing now is to pick the right team.
The final composition of England’s XI will tell us an awful lot about Peter Moores’ new regime. Can we look forward to a bright new dawn in which the team plays aggressive cricket, or will it be more of Flower’s dull as dust conservatism?
The situation can be summarised thus: if Liam Plunkett gets the nod ahead of Chris Woakes on the morning of the match then things might well be different moving forward.
If Woakes plays, and Plunkett is either sent back to Yorkshire or told to carry drinks for five days, I’ll probably cry. It would be an terribly negative selection with no logical rationale whatsoever.
England would not be picking their best attack. They will be sacrificing the fastest bowler at their disposal in order to bolster a lower middle-order that already looks incredibly strong: either Broad or Jordan would be batting at ten!
Essentially, rather than looking to take twenty wickets and building a side that might unsettle the Aussies next year, Woakes’ selection would remain faithful to Flower’s failed strategy of keeping things tight, waiting for the opposition batsmen to make mistakes, and worrying whether the top and middle-order can do their jobs properly.
If Woakes plays ahead of Plunkett it will be a defeatist approach that represents continuity and cowardice. All talk of a new era would immediately become hollow and misleading.
What’s more, it will become even harder to summon any enthusiasm for the Moores / Cook axis than it was beforehand.
For the sake of England fans’ sanity, and the fragile reputation of our new (old) coach, Liam Plunkett must play at Lord’s.