LWOC Debate: England’s XI For First South Africa Test

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After months of thrilling ODI and T20 cricket, England will soon return to the Test arena looking to make amends for their 4-0 winter series drubbing in India. There is a new captain in Joe Root, who will be looking to start his reign as skipper with a fast start. There are still several questions as to who will start in the first Test against South Africa, however, and we asked five of LastWordOnCricket’s writers to come up with their teams and the reasons behind their selections.

Matt Roller

1. Alastair Cook
2. Keaton Jennings
3. Mark Stoneman
4. Joe Root (c)
5. Jonny Bairstow (wk)
6. Ben Stokes
7. Moeen Ali
8. Toby Roland-Jones
9. Stuart Broad
10. Mark Wood
11. James Anderson

At the top of the order, there’s no space for Haseeb Hameed, who, either through county bowlers having worked him out, or a lack of judgment outside the off stump following his increased 50-over appearances, has averaged just 20 in the County Championship, failing to reach 50 even once. That means that Keaton Jennings should keep his spot at the top of the order, with former Durham team-mate Mark Stoneman slotting in at three following an impressive run for the Lions and Surrey. The middle-order picks itself, with Jos Buttler’s lack of red-ball appearances and indifferent form over the past few months counting against him.

With Chris Woakes injured, Toby Roland-Jones deserves to come in for his debut on his home ground, and Mark Wood is the sort of luxury bowler that a six-man attack allows. The seam quintet allows for Wood and Stokes in particular to bowl short, aggressive spells, while the old guard of Anderson and Broad look more to their nagging fourth-stump line.

Sean Wilson

1. Alastair Cook
2. Mark Stoneman
3. Keaton Jennings
4. Joe Root (c)
5. Jonny Bairstow
6. Ben Stokes
7. Ben Foakes (wk)
8. Stuart Broad
9. Mark Wood
10. James Anderson
11. Jack Leach

Mark Stoneman has been in outstanding form since his move down south to Surrey, with 862 runs to his name already this season, averaging an impressive 57.46 with three hundreds. Haseeb Hameed needs to go away and find some form before coming back into the side, leaving the chance open to Stoneman. Keaton Jennings will retain his place but at No.3 and therefore offer more protection for the star man Joe Root at No.4. Jonny Bairstow is one of the best players in the country and is more than capable of batting in the top five.

Ben Foakes is arguably the form wicket-keeper at the moment and him moving behind the stumps would take the workload off Bairstow, who could focus on his batting. England need a specialist spinner and have done for a long time now. Moeen Ali is a very useful cricketer but Jack Leach would add more control and certainly be more of a wicket taking threat to take the pressure off the seamers – something that has not been around in this England side since the days of Graeme Swann.

Sean Brown

  1. Alastair Cook
  2. Keaton Jennings
  3. Tom Westley
  4. Joe Root (c)
  5. Jonny Bairstow (wk)
  6. Ben Stokes
  7. Moeen Ali
  8. Toby Roland-Jones
  9. Stuart Broad
  10. Mark Wood
  11. James Anderson

 

Tom Westley has been ignored for far too long and has put his ridiculous ‘Division Two’ status to bed with an average of 53.11 so far this season. Mark Stoneman has been a solid player for a number of years now but three left-handers in the top four could play into Vernon Philander’s hands. Hameed isn’t quite ‘unselectable’ yet but it will do him no favours to pick the youngster. Keaton Jennings showed enough against India to make it at the international level and his impressive second-innings record could prove vital. Jonny Bairstow has done nothing wrong with bat or gloves for 18 months now and Ben Stokes shouldn’t be moved from number six. Five seamers may seem a tad excessive but Roland-Jones, and later Chris Woakes, can provide cover given the recent injury records of Anderson, Broad, Wood, and Stokes. England could easily be a seamer or two down for three/four days of a Test.

Garry White

  1. Alastair Cook
  2. Sam Robson
  3. Keaton Jennings
  4. Joe Root (c)
  5. Gary Ballance
  6. Jonny Bairstow (wk)
  7. Ben Stokes
  8. Moeen Ali
  9. Stuart Broad
  10. Mark Wood
  11. James Anderson

I have opted to recall Sam Robson from the wilderness to open with Alastair Cook. With a couple more years of experience under his belt and after making a strong start to the domestic season, now is absolutely the right time to pick him. With Haseeb Hameed struggling for runs it makes sense to select a player that is in form. This is a golden opportunity for Robson to hit the ground running.

Keaton Jennings had a decent winter, with a century on debut, and I expect him to perform solidly at three. More controversially, I’m recalling Gary Ballance. After a terrible and largely superfluous winter, he has started the season with a glut of runs. If the Championship is to have any relevance then a batsman averaging 102 in the top division must be in contention.

There are no surprises in the seam attack. Jake Ball is injured but I would have picked Mark Wood in front of him anyway. With a hectic summer schedule ahead I would also expect Liam Plunkett and, subject to fitness, Chris Woakes and Jake Ball to be involved at some point. There should also be an opportunity for Steve Finn or Toby Roland-Jones. Moeen Ali scrapes into my team but he needs to show that he is more than just a really good number eight.

Arjun Bhardwaj

  1. Alastair Cook
  2. Haseeb Hameed
  3. Gary Ballance
  4. Joe Root (c)
  5. Jonny Bairstow (wk)
  6. Ben Stokes
  7. Jos Buttler (wk)
  8. Adil Rashid
  9. Stuart Broad
  10. Mark Wood
  11. James Anderson

Former captain Alastair Cook has been in sublime form in the County Championship this year, already scoring several centuries for Essex. I’d like to see Hameed return to the side after his disappointing injury during the tour of India. The youngster displayed a huge amount of fight and determination, something which no other opener has shown recently. However, his poor recent run of form may be a concern to the selectors. Another player who is scoring runs freely this season is Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance. This would be a slightly controversial inclusion, as he’s already been dropped from the England side twice, but you have to pick your best players.

In terms of the bowling, Adil Rashid should get the nod ahead of Moeen Ali. Rashid has been a far more threatening and consistent performer, had an excellent Champions Trophy and can bat as well as Ali too. Joe Root would be able to fill in with some part time off spin if needed. The seam attack is rather uncontroversial, with veterans Broad and Anderson set to lead the attack once again.

 

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