It’s second test time. That means another five days (or perhaps just three) of my wife moaning at me for watching TV all day with my mobile phone in hand. Oh the joys of marital ‘bliss’.
Fortunately Edgbaston was worth the earache, and this Lord’s could be a beauty too. After all, two flawed sides is often a recipe for exciting and unpredictable cricket. You can check out a selection of different betting sites for odds but I think England have the momentum and should be slight favourites again, even without “the ginger one”.
As we saw in Birmingham, neither India nor England have reliable batting line-ups. India seem almost entirely reliant on Virat Kohli – even though they have some other decent players on paper – whilst England’s batting has been a mess for years. This has become something of a theme on the blog since about 2013.
So what, exactly, is wrong with England’s line-up? Or perhaps I should rephrase that. What exactly is right with it? Not a whole lot. The only thing we’ve got going for us is Joe Root plus the fact we bat deep – in theory at least.
Alastair Cook doesn’t look the same player; Jonny Bairstow’s test form has faltered since establishing himself in the white ball sides, and every other batsman has yet to prove himself at test level over a period of time. Basically it’s a shit storm.
The other thing that seems weird is the batting order itself. Other than the openers, one could make an argument that every other player is batting in the wrong place. Half of England supporters would prefer to see Joe Root bat 4, but that would leave a gaping hole at 3. So the management have decided that a gaping hole at 4 is marginally preferable.
Then there’s the Jonny conundrum. Is 5 too high for a wicket-keeper? Personally I think it’s one spot too high but beggars can’t be choosers. If England were to move Bairstow down a spot then we’ll have two gaping holes in a row.
The big question going into Lord’s is where England’s new young gun Ollie Pope will bat. Most pundits wrote that he will bat 4 in a straight swap for the deposed Dawid. However, this seems like a big ask to me; therefore I’d much rather he bats down the order.
But where exactly? Six seems like a natural spot for Pope but then where will everyone else go? Surely it should be Jos Buttler, a luxury at 7, who should take responsibility for batting 4. He is the vice captain after all.
With Chris Woakes replacing Ben Stokes, who is facing the music in court this week rather than facing India’s bowlers, there’s suddenly a vacancy at 6 which the precocious Pope should fill. Woakes can then slot in a 7 – a position he’s ideally suited to. Any higher and he might get a nose bleed.
The wildcard in all this, however, could be Moeen Ali. What if Ed Smith springs a surprise and decides to pick two spinners? We shouldn’t forget that Moeen has batting at 4 for England before. In fact, he scored a century in India batting up the order a couple of winters ago.
Mooen is a musical chairs expert so he’ll feel comfortable wherever England bat him. However, because Ed is wedded to Jos Buttler, and I reckon there’s zero chance England will leave out Smith’s new toy Pope, I can’t see a place for Ali in the line-up unless Woakes is omitted.
I’d be interested to know what everyone thinks. Picking a batting order for this game is a tough task. What order would you guys choose?
If it was up to me – and I think we can all thank the Lord that it isn’t – I’d probably go with the following XI: Cook, Jennings, Root, Buttler, Bairstow, Pope, Woakes, Curran, Rashid, Broad, Anderson. This batting order still looks messier than Boris Johnson’s hair on paper, but we are where we are and I can’t see any alternative considering the squad selected.
Written in collaboration with SBR