With the announcement of the winter tour party to Australia announced at 1500 today i thought i’d pre-empt the selectors with a squad of my own.
AJ Strauss (31 tests)
ME Trescothick (76 Tests)
A Cook (9 Tests)
I Bell (18 Tests)
P Collingwood (15 Tests)
K Pietersen (18 Tests)
E Joyce (uncapped)
No surprises in my selections here, Tres’ definately has to go to Australia if he feels up to it, he is one of the most destructive openers in the world, has over 5,000 Test runs, scoring 1,000+ in each of the last three years for England, to top it all he is the safest pair of hands England have at 1st slip. If he doesn’t make it I would have Cook opening with Strauss, which will be an obdurate but effective partnership. Allowing for all the above batsmen to be available, then Colly and Joyce are the men to miss out, unless we play the extra batsman and Read drops to eight in which case Colly is the man in possession and deserves his place. The main talking point (apart from Tres’ mental state) is Ian Bell’s place, having looked out of his depth against the Aussies last time he has shown this summer that his early talent was no fluke and his extra maturity and run heavy summer mean a very different Ian Bell will face McGrath and co this winter.
CMW Read (13 Tests)
G Jones (31 Tests)
Perhaps the most hotly debated position in the England XI, the percieved wisdom is that Jones is the better batsman, there is no doubt that Read is the better gloveman, perhaps even the most talented pure Wicketkeeper in Test cricket. I would back Read to play at least the first three tests he deserves a fair crack at the Aussies, and as we saw against Pakistan on the way to his maiden test fifty he has a talent for unorthodox play and will be a positive lower order force while sheparding the tail. If as I suspect England try six batsmen plus Flintoff then Read has to play, he is the only one with the skill to stand up to a quick bowler, take the vital stumping and prevent the ludicrous amount of Extras Jones can concede when not on form.
A Flintoff (62 Tests)
No contest, the best all rounder in world cricket and also my pick as Captain, as long as he realises that he can’t rely on himself to do everything. An inspiration, who the Aussies fear perhaps more than any other player.
S Harmison (45 Tests)
M Hoggard (58 Tests)
M Panesar (10 Tests)
J Anderson (13 Tests)
S Broad (Uncapped)
A Giles (52 Tests)
Harmison and Hoggard have to play, they put pressure on the Aussies last time and are vital to England’s defence of the Ashes. Harmy will especially enjoy the bouncy quick wickets down under, as long as he controls his homesickness he could be the ‘man’ this winter. Monty Panesar also has to play ahead of Giles, while Giles is a better allround cricketer he doesn’t offer the variety or menace of Monty’s spin. Hayden, Ponting et al have already said they want to take the game to Monty, a sure indicator that they respect his ability, he could also be another star performer. My other picks are James Anderson and Stuart Broad, Anderson has has a rough time with injury, providing he comes through his fitness tests and performs well in the warm ups he will be the extra bowler, he will be keen to show that he deserves to be part of the set up for a long time. Broad is the future; already described as like the young McGrath but better, I don’t expect him to play unless we are ravaged by injury or are 3-0 up with 2 to play (if only!) but there is no doubting his talent, this tour will be good for him as a player and as a person – getting used to long periods away from home is perhaps the biggest test for a touring cricketer and he will come back for next summer a more complete player ready for his first cap.
Ashley Giles could be a feature as long as he stays injury free, but the King of Spain is behind Monty in the pecking order and beyond injury or horrific loss of form i can’t see him playing a test (unless Duncan Fletcher wields the axe mid tour….)
On standby in Perth -
R Key, S Mahmood, N Compton, L Plunkett, R Bopara
My reserve tourists are a mixed bunch, Rob Key is talented but has lost ground, he is batting cover with Tres’ particularly in mind. Mahmood is an enigma, fast and accurate or fast and hit all over the place, not quite good enough for me the Aussies will certainly go after him, one for the next tour. Plunkett likewise, good cover for our frontline attack, behing Mahmood in the pecking order, another one for the future. With our array of batsmen i don’t expect either of my final choices to feature, Bopara is prodigiously talented and deserves to be part of the set up and Compton has been in fine form this season, is young and is my wildcard, maybe if he continues his current form the selectors may take notice soon, his batting is stylish but will perhaps be part of the 2009 vintage rather than todays.
Finally this will be a very close series, with for me the Aussies slight favourites, however if England’s best side turns up and plays well we will win. Perhaps the Australian’s undoing will be their age, as we saw in 2005, their bowlers cannot manage a full 5 test series and perhaps the bowling as in 2005 will be where th series is won and lost. England to win 2-1. Feel free to tell me i’m wrong….