Who’s our best XI for the Pakistan series?

The trees and tinsel are going up, shop windows are bedecked with gift ideas, and across the nation a swathe of bottoms and photocopiers are readying themselves for the office party. So naturally, at this time of year, one’s thoughts turn to – the Pakistan v England test series in the New Year.

By the time it gets underway in Dubai on 17th January, nearly five months will have elapsed since England last played test cricket – an unusually long time in this modern age of hectic schedules. And with all our first choice players expected to be fit and available, the selectors will have some tricky decisions on their hands before they announce the squad this coming Friday.

It’s not often we find ourselves in this kind of position – with almost an embarrassment of riches, and at least thirteen players who genuinely deserve to be in the side. Compare that with the likes of Australia, who for the last two years have been searching down the back of the sofa for anyone remotely good enough. Or India against us last summer, who when ravaged by poor form and injuries looked likely at one stage to give my mum a call up.

So let’s discuss what our best XI would actually be, starting with the batting. Jonathan Trott is available again, and given his stature and achievements last winter, can hardly be left out. But who makes way for him?

Cook, Bell and KP’s places are beyond doubt, and Strauss is the captain. So that leaves Morgan and Bopara. Neither have really silenced their critics, but the Irishman did just enough against India – and his ability against spin will be useful in the Gulf – while Bopara remains as convincing as an Ed Balls deficit reduction plan.

So assuming Bopara’s omitted, who bats where? Against India, Bell batted at three and produced some of the best innings of his life. Would it really be effective to drop him down to five again? Trott is hardly best suited to the middle order, however. Maybe KP should drop down a place to five, with Bell above him at four. Or does that end up with everyone batting in the wrong position?

The bowling is an even thornier dilemma. Anderson and Broad are cast iron, but Tremlett is now fit again and Bresnan (who should have recovered in time from his shoulder operation) was superb against India? Who loses out?

My hunch is that Bresnan’s variation and stamina could be crucial in the likely conditions of Dubai and Abu Dhabi – with low, dead pitches and searing heat. Will Tremlett get enough bounce to be effective?

England have never played test cricket in the Gulf, so we don’t really know quite what to expect. Instinct tells us though that two spinners ought to be the sensible strategy. If so, who should be the second twirler?

Adil Rashid has been groomed for years for just this role, but seems to have regressed over the last couple of seasons. Scott Borthwick is well regarded by management and in with a good shout. But my own preference is to recall Monty Panesar. After an excellent county season for Sussex his confidence has returned – and he certainly has the experience.

So if we play two spinners, does that mean that both Bresnan and Tremlett make way? I think you can see where this is going: with Matt Prior now such an effective batsman and our tail-end batting generally strong, should we field just five batsmen, allowing room for the five bowlers we may need in those conditions?

And if so, which batsman is dropped? Morgan? We’re right back at square one, and we haven’t even talked about Steven Finn yet. I told you this was tricky!


Maxie Allen


  • The bottom line is this: who is more likely to contribute more. Morgan or Panesar?

    Against Pakistan, I think a 2nd spinner is more valuable. Prior is more than capable of batting at 6, and ironically most people would agree that he’s a better batsman than any of the likely candidates to bat 6 – so why muck about, eh?!

    However, I think it would be prudent to pick Bresnan if we weaken the batting. He is a decent player capable of making half centuries at 7, much like wicket keepers used to do before the emergence of guys like Gilchrist/Dhoni. Bresnan is certainly no worse at batting than the likes of Healey and Jack Russell, who both averaged in the mid-20s in test cricket. It’s a real shame for Finn though. Finn was our best bowler in the recent ODIs in India, and he is getting quicker every year. Perhaps he should play ahead of Monty? … oh hang on, I’ve gone cross-eyed!

    My XI: Strauss, Cook, Trott, Bell, KP (at 5! a natural position for a player of his type), Prior, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson, Finn / Monty.

    Tremlett is the man to miss out because, as Maxie says, the pitches won’t offer much bounce against Pakistan I imagine. The above XI has plenty of batting and plenty of bowling, It has real balance.

  • Pakistan’s batting has been a bit ropey, do we really need five bowlers to get 20 wickets? Personally I doubt it.

    Chances are Broad will have his standard back spasm so Tremlett or Finn will hav some part to play, whichever one looks best in the nets I suppose.


copywriter copywriting