How England may look without Ben Stokes

Klaus Nannestad Roar Guru

By Klaus Nannestad, Klaus Nannestad is a Roar Guru

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    It was under 24 hours after releasing their 16-man squad for the Ashes that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) learnt Ben Stokes had been arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.

    The Avon and Somerset police are still investigating the incident and looking for key witnesses, while the ECB have suspended the Test vice-captain indefinitely. They will likely wait for the investigation to conclude before deciding whether further action is necessary.

    But there is little doubt that during this time they have been considering how the side may cope without Stokes, and also who might replace him in the Ashes squad.

    A team will always suffer when they lose a talent like Stokes, who is quite easily the best pace-bowling all-rounder in the game at present. But the role Stokes plays in balancing England’s Test side would make his loss even more problematic.

    Firstly, Stokes’ bowling largely accommodates the other all-rounder in England’s Test side, Moeen Ali. Ali generally plays as England’s frontline spinner, and while he has had a very successful year with the ball, his form is often erratic.

    This makes Stokes’ role as the fourth seamer in the side particularly important, as his duties with the ball are somewhat similar to what Jacques Kallis’ was for South Africa. Kallis also bowled in a team without a consistently effective spinner, and it subsequently became his job to alleviate the other pacers’ workload.

    If the bowling depth Stokes offers is removed, the Australian batsmen will no doubt target Ali even more than they would otherwise. It should also be considered that England’s only other spin option is the young and inexperienced Mason Crane.

    With no genuine pace-bowling all-rounder in contention, England may then look to replace Stokes with a bowler, with Steven Finn, Liam Plunkett, or even Jamie Porter – who claimed the most wickets in county cricket this season – all in contention.

    But with the squad’s lack of spinning depth, they may be more inclined to look to the likes of Jack Leach, Adil Rashid, or Liam Dawson.

    The latter two would also be aided by the contributions they make with the willow, as England’s batting depth will also suffer with the loss of Stokes.

    In fact, in recent years England may have been the Test side with the most batting depth. This was seen in the 2015 Ashes when Ali managed to average 36.62 with the bat despite batting at eight.

    Stokes’ batting skills have been particularly important of late, as Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley and Dawid Malan have all struggled to adapt to Test cricket, with Westley failing to make the Ashes squad altogether, therefore putting pressure on Stokes to consistently contribute.

    England may be able to amend Stokes’ absence by selecting a batsman to replace him. The clear choice would be Liam Livingstone, who matches Stokes’ aggressive style, and has the impressive first-class batting average of 48.75.

    Tom Westley may also be considered for reselection, while Rory Burns and Nick Browne would be in contention after strong seasons domestically.

    Ideally, England would like a player like Paul Collingwood or Ravi Bopara to fill the void. Yet Collingwood is now 41, and will actually go to Australia as part of England’s coaching staff, while Bopara didn’t manage to fully take his chances at Test level, nor recapture the form that got him there.

    While it is debatable who the best player in England’s side is, Stokes is likely both the most important, and the most difficult to replace. The selectors are therefore unlikely to have much of their nails left to chew by the time his future is announced.

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    The Crowd Says (49)

    • October 4th 2017 @ 5:31am
      Gormon Kinchley said | October 4th 2017 @ 5:31am | ! Report

      I think it’s a good thing if Stokes doesn’t come to Australia in the Summer, he’s the personification of ‘at risk of sunburn’.

    • October 4th 2017 @ 8:51am
      jameswm said | October 4th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      Yeah his absence would affect their team big time. 4 options to replace him.

      1. Replace him with a batsman. Improves batting, but bowling struggles. Ali is the reliever for the quicks, so the Aussies will pressure him, as you said. Woakes is far from a world beater, and Anderson has a poor record in Australia. In this case, If I was an Aussie batsman I would play out Broad, and milk Ali for 3.5 an over. No need to really go after him.

      2. Replace him with a bowler. The batting really struggles though, esp with a suspect top 3. Ali moves up to 7, Bairstow to 6. Woakes to 8. But a much longer tail.

      3. Replace him with a wicket keeper. ie Foakes. Bairstow plays as a specialist batsman at 5 or 6. Ali stays at 8. Batting is solid, but bowling suffers, same as 1.

      4. Replace him with another all rounder. The only ones England have are spinning all rounders, and spinners struggle enough in Australia as it is. Is it really worth it? Would you get much from the 5th bowling option? Do they have any good batsmen who bowl decent off spin, like a Head or Maxwell type (though a left arm spinner would be preferable)?

      • Roar Guru

        October 4th 2017 @ 9:54am
        Klaus Nannestad said | October 4th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        Liam Dawson is probably the closest to the last option you mention (a batter who can bowl spin), and is also a left armer. But he is more of an all-rounder than Maxwell and Head. He averages 32 in county cricket, so he would probably bat at eight if he was in the side.

        Dan Lawrence is a batter who can bowl some pretty decent legbreaks. He’s only twenty, but he’s already played 40 games in county cricket and averages in the early forties with the bat. He bowls more in the shorter forms, with pretty impressive stats in the few T20 games he’s played, but he’s certainly handy with the ball. It might a bit too soon for him, but maybe having the option wouldn’t be a bad thing.

      • October 6th 2017 @ 9:37am
        ColinP said | October 6th 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

        problem is that behind cook and root, he’s the 3rd best batsmen in england now, so nothing will strengthen the batting

        • October 6th 2017 @ 9:46am
          ColinP said | October 6th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

          1.cook
          2.rocky
          3.vince
          4.root
          5.ballance
          6.ali
          7.bairstow (i think they will leave bairstow at 7, he’s ridiculously dangerous there)
          8.woakes
          9. overton/ ball or crane depending on wicket and performances in warm ups (ball is best seamer, but overton basically another all-rounder, batting similar quality to james pattinson, but probably dont need it considering woakes could be considered like-for-like for stokes)
          10.broad
          11.anderson

    • Roar Guru

      October 4th 2017 @ 9:50am
      JamesH said | October 4th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

      How about this:

      Cook
      Stoneman
      Root
      Bairstow
      Malan
      Ali
      Foakes
      Woakes
      Broad
      (4th seamer)
      Anderson

      That gives them 7 batsman and 5 bowlers, plus their best keeper.

      Root and Bairstow are their best batsmen so they need to bite the bullet and bat in the top 4 to try to stop these ridiculous top order batting collapses (although obviously I hope that it doesn’t work). It would require Bairstow giving up the gloves but Foakes is a better keeper. By all accounts, he’s also a good batsman who would probably give them more than Vince or Ballance anyway. Ali is good enough to bat at 6 but he and Foakes could potentially swap.

      If/when Stokes returns to the side they can squeeze out either Malan or the 4th seamer. I’d keep Foakes unless he plays poorly and Malan plays well enough to warrant batting at 4, with Bairstow dropping back down to 6.

      Honestly tho, I just want to see Stokes, Foakes and Woakes at 6-8. Stokes needs to change his name to Stoakes in the very near future.

    • Roar Guru

      October 4th 2017 @ 9:57am
      Klaus Nannestad said | October 4th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

      Foakes is certainly a good player. I think if he were Australian he’d have played a few tests by now, and would maybe even be their first choice keeper.

    • October 4th 2017 @ 10:23am
      AGordon said | October 4th 2017 @ 10:23am | ! Report

      Looking at the sides other people have provided, it dawned on me the England side is made up of smoke and mirrors and is all based on mediocrity. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether they try to cover his batting or bowling. who ever they bring in will be mediocre.

      If Stokes is in the side, their batting lineup could go as low as number 8, yet of these guys, two average over 40 and there are at least two are struggling to average 30. In other words, they know their batting is weak so they’ve put in a bunch of average guys on the basis at least one of them will fire per Test. This might work in England, but it failed miserably in India and is likely to fail in Australia.

      The same goes with their bowlers, at least in Australia. Their bowling lineup would be Anderson, Broad, Stokes, Woakes, Ali. This is at best a mediocre attack in Australian conditions. Anderson has struggled out here as has Woakes, Ali has been described by his coach as a “batsman who bowls a bit”, so chances are, he’ll struggle in Australia. This leaves Broad and Stokes to get Australia out 10 times, a big ask.

      Losing Stokes will create a batting and bowling dilemma for sure, but only because they have so many holes to fill and they’re trying to do that with one guy. A Bradman of batting and bowling, Stokes ain’t.

    • October 4th 2017 @ 10:49am
      BurgyGreen said | October 4th 2017 @ 10:49am | ! Report

      Bring in Foakes I reckon and bat Mooen in the top 7. It doesn’t weaken the batting too much because generally Moeen is batting too low at 8. Higher up the order he’ll have time and support to put up solid scores.

      1. Stoneman
      2. Cook
      3. Root
      4. Bairstow
      5. Malan
      6. Moeen
      7. Foakes (wk)
      8. Woakes
      9. Broad
      10. Anderson
      11. Overton

      But it’ll more likely be this:

      1. Stoneman
      2. Cook
      3. Vince
      4. Root
      5. Malan
      6. Moeen
      7. Bairstow (wk)
      8. Woakes
      9. Broad
      10. Anderson
      11. Ball

      • October 4th 2017 @ 1:07pm
        Brian said | October 4th 2017 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

        Pretty much, ATM I’d go
        Cook
        Stoneman
        Vince
        Root
        Bairstow
        Foakes
        Moeen
        Woakes
        Broad
        Anderson
        Overton

        Basically Stokes suspension turns Woakes from a tour member to a starting XI certainty.

        • October 4th 2017 @ 4:18pm
          George said | October 4th 2017 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

          No. Woakes was already first-choice. Ever since his stellar season last home summer.

      • October 6th 2017 @ 6:54am
        Samuel Honywill said | October 6th 2017 @ 6:54am | ! Report

        Overton wouldn’t bat 11 – he consistently provides useful contributions for Somerset and is a much more proficient batsman than either Broad or Anderson. Him at 9 doesn’t weaken the depth of the batting too much.

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