Big calls to come for Cook and co
As the dust begins to settle, following what seems to be the biannual “darkest day” in English cricket, Alastair Cook and Trevor Bayliss must now try and figure out how they can travel on to India and try to avoid total humiliation.
Bob Willis’ demand that England charter a jet and pack Gary Ballance and Adil Rashid off to Leeds Bradford Airport would certainly be a good starting point.
For the record they’d do no worse finding a seat on that plane for Steven Finn and Zafar Ansari, too.
This brief Bangladesh tour was supposed to provide England with the perfect preperation for India, allowing them to adapt to the sub-continent conditions, playing competitive cricket all the while working out their best batting line-up and solving that spin bowling conundrum.
Yet, England head to India with it all up in the air, arguably with more questions raised than before this tour began.
They do not know who will open the batting.
Did Duckett do enough or will they be tempted to go with the uncapped Haseeb Hameed, who thus far has only carried the drinks?
Hameed has been touted as having the perfect mix of temperament and technique to open the batting in India. While the opportunity to have a ‘right hand, left hand’ combination surely makes him nailed on for a debut in Rajkot a week on Wednesday.
In doing so the Lancashire opener would become the first teenager to open the batting in a test match for England for over 100 years.
It’s probably safe to assume that Gary Ballance will not be jettisoned as Willis suggested, however that does not mean that there is any place for him in this side going forward.
The decision to take Ballance in the first place was a questionable one and his average of six from four innings here surely spells the end.
That would mean a move to number four for Duckett, a position which will perhaps allow him to bat with the freedom that his style of play requires.
After battling with his technique in his first couple of innings, a quick-fire half-century on a turning pitch went some way towards showing he has the adaptability that will be required for this touur.
Cook and Root had a quiet series in Bangladesh but you just know they will come good and provide big runs when it matters for England.
Top four sorted then.
How about who takes the gloves?
Now, this may seem like a daft question as Jonny Bairstow has done a solid job for the last 12 months.
Behind Cook and Root, Bairstow is probably England’s next best batsmen and in a rejigged batting line-up, it’s likely he will be given more responsibility.
It could be a difficult proposition to expect him to keep wicket in the Indian heat for two days straight, before batting at number five and the very real possibility that he could find himself out in the middle after 15 minutes.
Jos Buttler is in the squad, and despite his lack of red-ball cricket, he is world class with the gloves and would provide a solid counter-attacking option with the bat in England’s lower order. It would be foolish not to use him.
Buttler was dropped from the test side during England’s tour of the UAE last winter following poor returns both there and in the Ashes.
However, prior to that he had made an explosive start to life in test cricket and his experiences in the IPL means he is already accustomed to Indian conditions.
Ben Stokes was England’s best performer throughout both tests with bat and ball, he is looking more and more the complete all-rounder with each time he plays. His sheer will and graft when running in with the ball is exactly what’s required when coming up against Kohli an co in their own backyard.
Chris Woakes has had a sensational year and looked dangerous with the ball at times in the last test without much reward.
Stuart Broad simply has to replace Steven Finn to complete the three-pronged seam attack.
That leaves just one box left to be ticked, just what makes up England’s best spin attack?
They have tried the three-man attack and simply they do not have three good enough options to continue bothering with this.
Moeen Ali is the best of a bad bunch and can at least tie up an end when he isn’t taking wickets.
The batting reshuffle sees Ali drop down the order and allows him to focus on one job, being England’s premier spinner on this tour.
Adil Rashid cannot be relied upon, his economy rate is sky-high and at times his captain couldn’t set a field to his erratic line and length. He is a luxury bowler that England just can’t afford, at least not in the early days of this series.
Zafar Ansari looked nervous and with a first class bowling average of 35, you imagine he could be an all you can eat buffet to the Indian top-order.
That leaves us with 39-year-old Gareth Batty, who made a solid if not spectacular return to test cricket in the first test, before he was dropped for the second.
Batty took four wickets in the match and his wily old approach to the game stands him in pole position to support Ali with the ball.
So here it is; England’s XI for the first test in Rajkot, with all factors having been carefully considered:
Cook (capt), Hameed, Root, Duckett, Bairstow, Stokes, Buttler (wk), Ali, Woakes, Broad, Batty.
India is a gruelling tour and no place for the mentally frail, England must pick themselves up, and fast.