(Photo: Action Images)
By Harvey Burgess
After collapsing from 100-0 to 164 all out in the second innings of the defeat to Bangladesh, there have understandably been a number of calls to make changes to the XI before next week’s first Test against India. Here we run through the options available to the selectors, who must surely be tempted to make some ruthless decisions, considering how poorly England played yesterday afternoon after tea.
Bring in Haseeb Hameed
The 19-year-old Lancashire opener has been tipped to make his debut in Rajkot next week in what would be a real baptism of fire into Test cricket. Before yesterday, the decision to replace Ben Duckett with Hameed would have been a no-brainer, however Northamptonshire left-hander scored an impressive 56 on his way to a 100-run partnership with the captain Alastair Cook. His aggressive and captivating half-century may have saved his place in the side after three rather disappointing innings beforehand.
The opportunity is perfect, therefore, to drop the struggling Gary Ballance, bring in Hameed as an opener and play Duckett at his preferred position of number four batsman. Ballance scored a grand total of 24 runs across all four innings in the two Test series, and it is surely now time for somebody else to stake their claim in the side. This is the option I would most likely opt for, thereby giving Duckett a chance to impress in his favoured spot. However, England’s vice-captain in limited overs cricket, Jos Buttler, is also waiting in the wings for his chance to shine.
Bring in Jos Buttler
In what would be a more straight-forward swap, Buttler could take Balance’s place in the XI and move down to number five, with Moeen Ali coming in as fourth batsman. The 26-year-old averages 30 in his 15 Tests to date and it is high time he is given another chance, with his last appearance coming over a year ago against Pakistan in the UAE. The Lancashire wicketkeeper-batsman performed well in the ODIs in Dhaka, scoring 57 and 63, and would surely be an upgrade to the desperately out-of-form Ballance.
Bring in Stuart Broad
Stuart Broad will return to the XI in place of Steven Finn after being rested in the second Test. Finn bowled a measly ten overs in total in the match without a wicket to show for it. The tall pace bowler also registered a pair against Bangladesh and so didn’t quite grasp his opportunity with both hands to say the least. Broad will add venom, consistency and most importantly wickets back to the England bowling attack, which does not feature the injured James Anderson, who has been ruled out of the first Test in Rajkot.
Bring back Gareth Batty
Batty was replaced by youngster Zafar Ansari for the second Test and the left-arm spinner performed little better than his elder Surrey colleague had done in the first match. Ansari perhaps felt the pressure on his debut with just 13 runs scored and two wickets taken on a spin-friendly pitch. However, it is likely that Ansari will retain his place – if England decide to go with three spinners – and will be given the chance to improve on his first outing. Batty is no spring chicken at 39 years of age and there is little point in playing him for the five-Test series against India when he has barely any time on his side and little chance to improve his game. Ansari is 15 years younger and would undoubtedly benefit from playing on spinners’ wickets in the subcontinent and from simply being part of the starting XI.
As you can see, there are several options open to Trevor Bayliss and the rest of the selectors, and we shall see in just over a week’s time what changes they will have made to the side.
My England XI: Cook, Hameed, Root, Duckett, Ali, Stokes, Bairstow, Woakes, Rashid, Broad, Ansari.