The early postponement of the Indian Premier League has prompted various reactions from cricket fans around the world.
The happiest of those will be from England fans, with this meaning that most of their squad will be available for the two-match Test series against New Zealand. England are a side with a lot of question marks at the moment, emphasized by their 3-1 thrashing in India. Here is how they should line up for the Test series at Lord’s.
Note: Ben Stokes will not be included, as he will miss the series as a result of an injury.
Openers: Rory Burns and Dom Sibley
After a tough series in India, Burns will be delighted to be back in his favoured English conditions. A much better player of seam than spin, and left-arm seam in particular, his match-up with Neil Wagner will be enticing to watch (Trent Boult will miss the New Zealand series). Sibley also struggled in England’s six subcontinental Test matches, but had a brilliant knock of 87 in the first match against India.
He has a good record in English conditions too, with a century against West Indies coming in his most recent home knock. It will be important for these two to be able to spend considerable time at the crease in order to give their explosive middle-order something to work with.
3 and 4: Zak Crawley and Joe Root (c)
Crawley is another player who didn’t have the best tour in Sri Lanka and India, but his talent is undeniable. Even in the absolute snake pit of a Test match pitch that was Ahmedabad in the third Test, he managed to score a half-century.
Unlike his top three, captain Joe Root had a great tour of Southern Asia. He scored two double-centuries and was just 14 runs short of a third. His play as an experienced batsman will be vital for England.
5 and 6: Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler (wk)
Ollie Pope is another extremely talented young English batsman. Prior to the India series, he averaged 40 in international cricket, and he recently scored 131 in county cricket.
Buttler gets the nod over Ben Foakes with the gloves due to English conditions. Foakes is much more suited to subcontinental conditions. Buttler is in good red-ball form, averaging over 46 this year.
7 and 8: Sam Curran and Chris Woakes
The absence of Ben Stokes for this series means England’s batting will have to be slightly weakened in order to bring in a fourth pacer. Sam Curran is more than a useful batsman, however, with three Test half-centuries in his young career. He also bowls brilliantly in English conditions for an all-rounder, with 23 wickets in just 173 overs.
Dan Lawrence has promise, but the all-rounder must be preferred here. Chris Woakes should be one of the first names on the team sheet for any Test matches in England. He averages over 35 with the bat and has taken 87 wickets in 24 home Tests. His ability to swing the duke ball away from the right-hander will make for a great match-up with Kane Williamson.
9, 10, 11: Jack Leach, Stuart Broad, and James Anderson
There is an argument to play Moeen Ali as the lone spinner, given his ability as a batter too, but his inability to contain an end in English conditions, (3.8 economy in England) makes it nearly impossible to favour him to Leach. His economy is much closer to 3 an over, and has shown the ability to take wickets.
The last two fast bowler slots go to the due of Broad and Anderson. It is extremely tough to leave out the express pace offered by Jofra Archer, but Broad and Anderson must play. Their record in England, and with the duke ball, speaks for itself.
Honourable mentions: Jofra Archer, Dan Lawrence, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Foakes, Mark Wood
The biggest argument here is to include Archer in place of either Curran or Woakes. However, that raises major batting concerns, as Archer would have to bat at number 8.
Lawrence must be left out in favour for the all-rounder, and Ali is not good enough in English conditions to be a frontline spinner. Bairstow is badly out of form in red-ball cricket, and needs to be dropped, while Foakes is not a viable option in England.
Mark Wood is a quality pace option, but is behind Broad, Anderson, and Archer in the pecking order.