With Ali Cook gone, what will the England team look like?

England has announced an unchanged squad for the fifth and final test of the summer against India. Stick around next week when we will have two features celebrating the end of the Cricketing summer. This game not only ends the summer but also sees the end of the career of Alistair Cook, England’s greatest test batsman of all time. Where does England look next? Could this be the time to make big changes to a shaky middle order? Below we will look at who can replace Cook and possibly and off form Jennings and the makeup of the team around them.

Rory Burns – Surrey – 28

Rory is our pick to open the batting with Cook gone. Only Olly Pope averages higher at the county level of players who have played at least 5 games. Burns is not only a solid opener averaging 65.68 in Division One but looks set to captain Surrey to a County Championship. He would bring vital leadership that will be missing with Cook gone. He could be a potential candidate to take over the captaincy should Root want to focus on batting. Burns also has a solid strike rate of 49.25, balancing patience with scoring.

James Hildreth – Somerset  – 33

If England is looking for experience then they can do worse than giving Hildreth a call. Averaging 48.05 this year, he is only as far down the rankings because of internationals and players with only a couple of appearances. Aussie opener Justin Langer called him an extraordinary talent, James has been knocking on the door for years. His strike rate is around 66, he likes to score and could be the perfect foil for Burns playing patiently at the other end.

Joe Clarke – Worcestershire – 22

Looking at the recent picks of selection duo James Taylor and Ed Smith, Joe Clarke would be in the running to take one of the two slots. At only 22 he fits with the youth movement currently moving through the ECB. His average may not be as high as the other two players above him at 38.55, but he is a young player and still developing. Perhaps if Cook were playing on, Clarke would be the man at the other end learning from Cook and being moulded in his image.

Looking around what’s out there, Clarke and Burns would take the places of Jennings and Cook at the top of the order. What about number 3? After the openers, this is the next great debate in English cricket should Root bat at 3 or 4. Root is without a doubt England’s best player, if he wants to bat at 4 let him, especially if he is already burdened with the captaincy. So, who would bat at 3? A lot of that depends on the makeup of the team going forward.

Traditionally, test cricket sides were made up of 5 batsmen, an all-rounder, a wicketkeeper and 4 bowlers. With the growth in one-day cricket all-rounders are a hot commodity, but is there such a thing as too many? In our team currently we have Rory Burns and Joe Clarke opening then Root at 4, so we need 2 more specialist Batsmen. There is nothing to say that the players in the team of specialist Batsmen can’t be wicketkeepers or all-rounders but it needs to be made clear what there role is.

Our first move, Jonny Bairstow moves to three as a batsman not a keeper. I can already feel the comments burning through me. He is a good keeper, yes, but as the potential to be a fantastic batsman, he didn’t really get a chance to show this in the last test with his broken finger. Bairstow thrives on responsibility, taking the gloves off him and having him anchor the innings could be just what he needs. Batting at 5 we have Ben Stokes, it was obvious in the 4th Test that Stokes wasn’t fit. His new more controlled run-up seems to be there as much to aid his fitness as much as his control. Stokes can be a devastating strike bowler, but he has proven his summer he can be a controlled batsman who can hold an innings together, see Trent Bridge. If England are struggling for wickets throw Stokes the ball as a surprise package but let him bat.

At six we have our allrounder, who would take on the role that Stokes has left? It purely depends on conditions Sam Curran would be my go to here. In his short test career, his has already proven that he his a dab hand with the bat and ball. Throughout his whole career, he has been seen as a Batsman who can bowl, this could be his chance to prove it. Behind the stumps, we would call on Ben Foakes. For our money, Ben Foakes has shown that he is the best gloveman in English Cricket. Not only is he good behind the stumps but he can bat. He averages 47.81 in the four-day game and as good as Buttler is, Foakes style of play is much more suited to Test Cricket and with Bairstow, Stokes and Curran above him England can afford to have a more patient number 7.

So we move onto the bowlers. If fit Jack Leach is the best spinner that England has to offer, him playing more Test Cricket would aid the development of Dom Bess. While Moeen Ali does well in English conditions, he is more of a batsman and could do a job as a specialist one. Leach has recovered from a poor start to get his average down to around 22.

What about the pacemen? The obvious picks are the incumbents Woakes, Anderson and Broad. The trio are proven and have wickets all over the world. Anderson is set to become the highest wicket taking test bowler of all time and Broad is his partner in crime. Woakes, not only produces results on the pitch but is a well-liked figure in the dressing room which is always important. On the fringes, we would have Tom Curran, Jamie Porter and Jake Ball, though Ball’s ability at Test Level is correctly in doubt.

Our England Team

Rory Burns

Joe Clarke

Jonny Bairstow

Joe Root

Ben Stokes

Sam Curran

Ben Foakes

Chris Woakes

Jack Leach

Stuart Broad

James Anderson

Cricket is a squad game, sticking to the formula above it leaves plenty of players on the fringes who can come in and perform. Hildreth, Ali and Buttler we mentioned earlier but there is Nick Gubbins, Ben Duckett, Olly Pope, Dom Bess, Adil Rashid all waiting in the wings.

What do you think? Should this be England’s future? Who should replace Cook or be given their chance? Comment, Email or Tweet us @Unlikelydanblog. If you like this article be sure to share it with your friends.

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