Joe Root (Captain)
Ben Foakes (Wicketkeeper)
Sam Billings (Wicketkeeper)
Young opening batsmen Zak Crawley and Dominic Sibley merit retaining their places at the top of the order. At number three and despite drying up somewhat with the bat, Joe Denly is a good fielder and useful leg-spin bowling option. I’ve therefore resisted the temptation to recall Keaton Jennings. It seems likely that in reality Jennings will be recalled. Yes he has scored hundreds in Asia but he’s also had quite a few failures. He’s a useful part-time bowler but not a spinner and Ollie Pope is equally adept in the short leg position. I’ve named experienced England Lions player Dan Lawrence in the squad because as well as being a competent batsman, he’s a useful spin-bowling option.
In the middle order, captain Joe Root, who deserves credit for his leadership in recent times, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope pick themselves. The time has come however to omit both Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow. Ben Foakes has performed well in Sri Lanka before and deserves an opportunity to own the wicketkeeping gloves. Sam Billings is a bit of a wildcard but he’s a good player of spin and if selected would, unlike his limited overs opportunities, be able to contruct an innings. As oppose to selecting Buttler or Bairstow as backup, having somebody fresh to the Test environment would be good and could be the making of Billings. We’ve seen recently how illness and injury can present opportunities for reserve players. He and Lawrence both provide good top/middle order cover.
On the spin front, Dom Bess fully merits retention having displayed both control and wicket taking ability in South Africa. I’m also backing Matthew Parkinson to get some warm-up games under his belt and press for selection. It’s been a frustrating winter for him having been usurped by Bess but he provides the leg-spin to compliment Bess’ off-spin. If Jack Leach isn’t fit then slow-left-armer Liam Dawson is a dependable alternative to help England cover all angles of spin. There really aren’t many other left-arm options available to England. Off-spinner Amar Virdi will benefit from being around the first team squad. If Moeen Ali isn’t up for it then England shouldn’t go begging him.
Messrs Anderson, Broad and Archer may as well be rested to ease injury niggles. It makes sense to go with the all round abilities of Chris Woakes and Sam Curran to help yield as many runs as possible. A right-arm/left-arm contrast in the attack is also maintained. Craig Overton can hit the deck hard for a few overs if required as can Wood. Wood has performed superbly in South Africa so could be used to bowl a few overs at the beginning of the innings. Like Overton he can bat too but it may also be worth resting him rather than him being primarily just a fielder in a spin dominated environment.
What are your thoughts? Should some of the senior players be retained? Do England have any other spin bowling options?