Reprieve openers and conduct a middle-order Hunger Games until the matches matter

Guerilla Cricket’s writers were asked to narrow the England 15 down to the XI they’d like to see step out to face New Zealand at Lord’s on June 2. In the second of the series Jack Hope (host of The Cricket Podcast), who advises experimentation and winding up Stuart Broad to reap the reward of his ire later in the summer

Line-up: Burns, Sibley, Crawley, Root, Pope, Lawrence, Foakes, Overton, Robinson, Leach, Anderson

Openers Burns and Sibley

As the saying goes with England openers, if it isn’t a raging dumpster fire, don’t fix it. It would be wrong to say that either of the pair are irreplaceable at the top of the England order, but frankly there don’t appear to be any other semi-capable options. Sibley averaged 47 last summer, a significant accomplishment for an opening batter. Burns has demonstrated aptitude against quick bowling, and should suit Australian conditions, which, with the Ashes in mind, has to be a factor in selection this summer. Finally, whilst both struggled away this winter, the surfaces those Tests were played on are as far removed from English and Australian conditions as possible, which should grant them at least a temporary reprieve.

Middle order: Crawley, Root, Pope, Lawrence

As these matches are as irrelevant as Test cricket can be (they are not part of a WTC cycle, both teams are below full strength) I would like to see England use the opportunity to conduct a kind of middle-order batting Hunger Games. With Stokes due to return to the side after the New Zealand series, and the possibility that England go back to using five bowlers in the future, it is possible that only one of Crawley, Pope and Lawrence will fit into a full-strength England team. All three have shown flashes of brilliance, as well as longer flashes of inexperience; hopefully at least one of the three will be able to demonstrate that they’re capable of taking their game to a more consistent level. In addition, all neutrals should be cheering on Joe Root, who still has a chance to break the record for most Test runs in a calendar year.

Wicketkeeper: Ben Foakes

Ben Foakes deserves his long overdue home Test debut. England may be tempted by James Bracey, but Foakes’ position as the incumbent, and the one with a higher first-class batting average should make this a simple call.

Bowlers: Overton, Robinson, Wood, Anderson

As this series represents a little bit of a free hit, from an England perspective, they should use the opportunity to experiment and answer some lingering questions. First of all, is Overton good now? His last performances for England suggested he didn’t quite have it at the top level. However, he has since returned to Somerset, taken on more responsibility with the bat, and bowls from a freakishly high height, which could be a useful weapon at international level. Second, can Ollie Robinson replicate his extra-terrestrial performances for Sussex at the international level? If he is even close, then he has the chance to nail down the “Anderson/Broad are being rested today” spot in the England XI. To round the team off, England should be brave and rest Jack Leach, instead taking Anderson and Wood to provide some experience with the ball. Stuart Broad misses out, as the best way to get him to perform later in the summer (when the matches actually matter), is to wind him up now.