The remaining blissful moments of the 2019 World Cup final have well and truly extinguished. England knew it was going to be next to impossible to reach the emotional high of the Lord’s final again. But just 10 days after that scarcely believable final against New Zealand, they were asked to wear the Test whites and play Ireland in a one-off Test at the ‘home of cricket’ again.
While it was a one-off Test, it opened up old wounds and brought the England team back down to earth as far as red-ball cricket is concerned. The Three Lions had, to a degree, put Test cricket on the back burner in pursuit of 50-over glory. No wonder they were bowled out for 58 by New Zealand last year, 77 by West Indies this year and 85 by the Irish.
It is this frailty in batting that is likely to be the main concern for the Englishmen when they take on a fighting-fit Australia in the first Test in Birmingham on August 1.
For reference, this is England’s squad for the first Test: Joe Root (c), Rory Burns, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Olly Stone.
BEEF UP BATTING
England’s 14-member squad for the opening Test is thin on batting. Whatever combination they go with, Australia’s hungry pace attack will be lining up to have a go at them. England have decided to continue with the unimpressive Rory Burns and Joe Denly. With Jason Roy just one Test old, there is going to be a sense of dread hanging over the England dressing room even if they get a 100-run stand.
In case Burns, Denly and Roy are a part of the playing XI, then that would mean Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler coming in at No6 and No7. That leaves space for just four bowlers and if one of them is a spinner – Moeen Ali in this case – then the hosts can only pick three seamers.
SEAMERS SQUEEZED OUT
Whatever line-up England go with, some in-form seamers are most likely to be benched. If James Anderson is 100 per cent fit, then he is a first-choice selection. But the two remaining spots for quicks – provided Moeen is selected – will see a ‘fight to the bench’ between Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran and Olly Stone.
If that happens, it would be terribly unfair. It was England’s seam bowling trio of Broad (seven wickets), Curran (three wickets) and Woakes (six wickets) who won the Test against Ireland with the ball and then the bat. From 239-7 in the second innings, the trio took England’s total to 303 and set a target of 181, which was ultimately enough for a win. Those three seamers cleaned up the batsmen’s mess and chances are at least one of them might miss the next Test.
England seem to have accepted the fragility of their batting line-up as part of their immediate future. Unfortunately, the blokes who have done their jobs well will have to be the fall guys.
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