x

Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Joe Root's England need to have a more settled side to become a force in Test cricket again

Ollie Pope is set to become the 27th player to represent England's Test team since Root took over as captain last July – it is a lot of players to have been picked in 12 months

Captain Joe Root, his predecessor Alastair Cook and James Anderson are among a handful of players to feature regularly in England's Test team in recent times. Reuters
Captain Joe Root, his predecessor Alastair Cook and James Anderson are among a handful of players to feature regularly in England's Test team in recent times. Reuters

The summer of 1989 was a pretty ugly one for English cricket.

The England Test side were emphatically beaten by Allan Border's inspired Australia thrashed the home side 4-0 to regain the Ashes.

To highlight England's turmoil they used 29 players across the six Tests, highlighted the muddled thinking and panic that went on within the camp as they came up against a side who were better then them with both bat and ball.

Now, winding forward to modern times, things are not quite as chaotic for England, but the Joe Root captaincy era can certainly be accused of getting through a fair share of players.

When Surrey batsman Ollie Pope, who replaces the dropped Dawid Malan, takes the field at Lord's for the second Test against India on Thursday, he will become the 27th individual to have played for England since Joe Root's first match as Test captain last July.

That covers a period of 17 Tests, so granted this is no 1989, but it is still a lot of players to have been picked in a little more than 12 months.

There has been a lack of consistency in the England side, both in personnel and staff.

The win in the first Test against India on Saturday at Edgbaston, which came after England's victory over Pakistan in June in the second Test in June, was only the second time in Root's reign that his side have won back-to-back Tests.

______________

Read more:

England's James Anderson escapes injury after being struck by golf ball

Chitrabhanu Kadalayil: Mixed emotions could turn to despair for India if Lord's result is the same

Talking points ahead of England v India Test at Lord's: Batting support for Virat Kohli a priority

Paul Radley: England's 1,000th Test may not save five-day game but it will live long in memory

England v India predictions: In-form captain Virat Kohli to inspire his side to Test series victory

______________

Ollie Pope has been brought in place of Dawid Malan in time for the second Test against India. Getty Images
Ollie Pope has been brought in place of Dawid Malan in time for the second Test against India. Getty Images

A potential element of England's failure to string two performances together is that they rarely field the same side twice. You have to go back to the third Test against Australia in Perth for the last time they fielded the same 11 in back-to-back Tests, seven Tests a go in total.

Only five players (Root, Alastair Cook, Jonny Bairstow, James Anderson and Stuart Broad) have played in every Test of the Root regime.

Not all of that has been down to trigger-happy selectors. There have been injuries and the Ben Stokes situation, with the all-rounder on trial in Bristol on a charge of affray, that have played a role in the unpredictable line-ups.

But for Root it has been clearly hard to stamp his authority on a team, when the only certainties he has had is Cook opening, Bairstow behind the stumps, and Anderson and Broad with the new ball.

That quartet were all established before Root took over, so in many ways the side has not progressed.

That is unfair in some ways. Bowling-wise, the likes of Chris Woakes and Toby Roland-Jones have had promising form curtailed by injuries.

And it is not as if batsmen have not been given a chance to shine. Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Gary Ballance and Malan have all been given chances to cement places and have not taken them.

There is no doubt England are going through a fallow period in terms of having talent to pick from, and so not unreasonably the selectors will continue to try different talents until someone does step up – as Sam Curran so spectacularly did against India at Edgbaston.

The decision to pick Rashid Ali as the spin option, despite the Yorkshire player not playing county cricket, was controversial, and in many ways showed the desperation to find a spinner to finally replace the gap not ever fully filled by the retirement of Graeme Swann almost five years ago.

Moeen Ali, do not forget, is a batsman who has become useful as a spin option but should never have been relied on to the frontline choice, as he was in the Ashes last winter.

England, given how poorly they batted as an unit at Edgbaston, are fortunate to be one up on India going to Lord's.

Pope will likely be given the rest of the summer to establish himself at No 4 in the side.

England do have the makings of a good side. If they can solve the opener headache, with Keaton Jennings given another go as Cook's partner, Pope can be the answer at No 4, and Curran continues to shine as support to Broad and Anderson then it solidifies their prospects against India.

India are not facing the same side that beat them a Edgbaston with Malan and Stokes out for Pope and most likely Moeen.

England have the talent to keep winning, at least this summer in their own conditions, but if they are to try and push on and become a force again in the longest form of the team then they need more then just five regular names on the teamsheet.