Who needs Jim, Gus and Mick when you’ve got cricket bloggers eh? Picking Ashes winning sides is as easy as pie for us keyboard warriors. You just need good batsmen, a balanced attack that covers all bases and, erm, a bit of luck. The kind of luck that unexpectedly kept Starc, Hazlewood, and Cummins on the park for the last two months.
Australia will be a hard team to beat in England in 2019, especially if they can keep their pacemen fit again, therefore it’s essential for England to fight fire with fire. And that means blooding some new bowlers with pace and aggression, as well as the usual guys capable of exploiting the English facilities. Oh, and we’ll need a decent spinner too!
Thankfully Australia’s batsmen (unless they find some new talent) will be somewhat more vulnerable when they come to England. The likes of Bancroft, Khawaja, Handscomb, the Marshes, and even Steve Smith himself, might find it trickier when the ball’s moving around. Consequently England should, in theory, have the edge in the batting department – so long as they pick the right players.
With that in mind, I’m going to do the selectors’ job for them by picking an XI that will surely triumph whatever pitches are prepared. And I didn’t even need to be a full time director of cricket at a county to do so.
1. Alastair Cook- Of course he’ll still be playing. He’s made of iron you fool.
2. Haseeb Hameed – Gets the nod over Nick Gubbins because I’d prefer and right/left hand combination at the top. Huge potential with the ability to dig in for long periods.
3. Joe Root – I’m not comfortable with the alternatives at three, but I am (finally) feeling more confident about the alternatives at four and five; therefore it’s time for Joe to move up.
4. Dawid Malan – If Malan kicks on he can be a reassuring presence at 4. Think of him as a cross between Gower and Thorpe … no pressure, Dawid.
5. Liam Livingstone – Leaving out Joe Clarke hurt, as I think he’s a bit special, but there’s something irresistibly pugnacious about Livingstone. He’s a bit more mature than Clarke too, and a leader in the making.
6. Ben Stokes – one assumes that Ben Solo will be at his very peak next year … unless he’s in trouble for something else. Provides the X-factor we so badly lacked this winter.
7. Jonny Bairstow – He’s too good to bat at 7 but I’m loving the right-hand, left-hand, right-hand, left-hand variety in this middle-order. Just watch Starc’s radar go haywire.
8. Dom Bess – He’s the all-rounder to replace Moeen Ali. The crucial difference is that Bess’s bowling has more potential than his batting. He’s a proper spinner in the making.
9. Olly Stone – You wanted some pace and aggression? Well Stone has it in spades. His recent injury problem (knee) concerns me less than Tom Helm’s stress fractures. He was superb for England U19 a few years back and he’s the quickest and best fast bowling prospect we’ve got.
10. Josh Tongue – You wanted some pace and aggression? Well have some more! Tongue will still be very young next summer but he’s an extremely good prospect and I hope he can develop quickly. When he fills out he’ll be a handful.
11. Jimmy Anderson – Think of him as Mr Miyagi, gently nurturing Stone and Tongue while quietly whispering “break the batsman’s arm” into their ear.
So there you have it. A tantalising fusion of youth and experience. The batting is built around five experienced campaigners in Cook, Root, Malan, Stokes and Bairstow. The two youngsters, Lawrence and Livingstone, provide patience and gusto respectively. It’s an exciting line-up that isn’t particularly high-risk either.
The bowling also has a mix of experience, guile and aggression. Anderson and Stokes provide experience and swing, whilst the two tearaway quicks will bowl short sharp spells like Pat Cummins. However, if conditions are typically English, and the pitch has a hint of green, then one of the young tyros can make way for Jamie Porter, Sam Curran, or Toby Roland Jones. If the surface is dry, then one could make way for Mason Crane.
So what do you think? Personally I think there’s no way Australia win a single test. We’re going to win 5-0 at a canter, end a few Australian careers, and the whole team will be knighted. What could possible go wrong?