Ashes 2013-14: What is England's best Test team for Sri Lanka?

 

English cricket is in disarray after the devastating 5-0 Ashes whitewash by Australia.

The fault lines in Alastair Cook's team were first exposed and then ripped open by an Australia team hell-bent on avenging their defeats in the previous three Ashes series.

England's new selection panel faces some big decisions as it looks to build a team capable of winning back the Ashes on home soil in 18 months time.

Should Kevin Pietersen be sacked or backed? Should Matt Prior get the wicketkeeping gloves back? Who can spice up a predictable bowling attack stripped of Graeme Swann's charisma and match-winning skills?

We asked four cricket pundits to name their England XIs for the first Test against Sri Lanka at Lord's in June.

Michael Vaughan, former England captain

1. Alastair Cook 2. Sam Robson 3. Ian Bell, 4. Kevin Pietersen 5. Joe Root 6. Ben Stokes 7. Matt Prior 8. Scott Borthwick 9. Stuart Broad 10. James Anderson 11. Tymal Mills/Jamie Overton

This is Alastair Cook's moment. For five years, Andy Flower has played his way. Now Cook has to say 'this is how I want to play'. A complete line in the sand, he has to start afresh.

Tymal Mills factfile

Age: 21

Team: Essex

First-class matches: 18

Wickets: 32 at 35.71

Did you know? His bowling was clocked at 90mph before his 20th birthday

Kevin Pietersen is England's best player. He can make the biggest impact on the game and has to be in the side.

I think they'll go with Scott Borthwick as the spinner and use Joe Root's off spin. They will have the four quick bowlers and then use the spin option as a holding role. England have got to base their game on getting loads of runs and allow Borthwick to bowl a few overs of attacking leg spin here and there.

With James Anderson and Stuart Broad, you know what you are going to get, but Ben Stokes is becoming dependable as an all-rounder, so you can throw a fourth bowler in. I'd like it to be Jamie Overton or Tymal Mills to provide some genuine pace. They need to try to blood one of those two and then stick with them.

Steve Finn needs a bit of cricket away from prying eyes. He's gone backwards. He just needs to get back to playing the game and remembering why he got into it as a child. Jonny Bairstow also needs cricket away from this environment.

Steve Harmison, former England fast bowler

1. Alastair Cook 2. Joe Root 3. Ian Bell 4. Kevin Pietersen 5. Gary Ballance 6. Ben Stokes 7. Matt Prior, 8. Scott Borthwick, 9. Tim Bresnan 10. Stuart Broad 11. James Anderson

I feel sorry for Michael Carberry but he seems likely to be made a scapegoat for what happened down under. He got off to some good starts but hundreds are what make you stand out as a batsman and others have stolen a march on him.

England's Test schedule

June 2014: Sri Lanka (h) 2 Tests

July-Aug 2014: India (h) 5 Tests

April 2015: West Indies (a) 3 Tests

May 2015: New Zealand (h) 3 Tests

July-Aug 2015: Australia (h) 5 Tests

Oct-Nov 2015: Pakistan (a) 3 Tests

Dec 2015- Jan 2016: South Africa (a) 4 Tests

I was disappointed when Joe Root went back to number six because I think he was destined to open from the minute England put him there. Form permitting, Alastair Cook and Root should be England's opening partnership for the next five or six years.

Kevin Pietersen is the million dollar question. He is our best player but the England & Wales Cricket Board have got to think hard about what he does between now and the first Test in June. He will feel that he can get himself into form by playing on the big stage in the Indian Premier League but would he be better served playing for Surrey in the County Championship? That will be the biggest headache for the ECB.

When Matt Prior was dropped for Melbourne, I thought it was the end of his international career, but Jonny Bairstow failed to take his chance and probably needs to go back and play three or four months of cricket for Yorkshire.

Tim Bresnan just gets the nod ahead of Graham Onions and Steve Finn. Bresnan was rushed back to play in the Ashes series, but with cricket under his belt for Yorkshire we will see him back to what he was before his back injury - a pivotal part of that England set-up.

Simon Hughes, Test Match Special Analyst

1. Alastair Cook 2. Joe Root 3. Ian Bell 4. Kevin Pietersen 5. Gary Ballance 6. Ben Stokes 7. Matt Prior 8. Scott Borthwick 9. Stuart Broad 10. Steven Finn 11. James Anderson

England made a big mistake in not moving Ian Bell to number three when Jonathan Trott departed the Ashes tour. When Bell batted at five he ran out of partners and gradually lost form.

The right Ballance?

Gary Ballance

Age: 24

Team: Yorkshire

First-class matches: 68

Runs: 4,772 at 52.43

Did you know? Ballance appeared for Zimbabwe at the 2006 Under-19 World Cup at the age of 16

So I would move Bell back to his favoured position and shift Joe Root back to open because that is what he was earmarked to do in the first place.

Kevin Pietersen is vital to England's fortunes but he should be much more of an influence within the team. He seems very detached at the moment, which is a complete waste of a talent who has a good cricket brain. I might also think about batting him at five instead of four.

Gary Ballance has shown enough aptitude to be worth preserving with. His first-class record and approach to the game is impressive and he has the attributes to be a good middle-order player.

I would not hesitate to recall Matt Prior. He is the best man for the job but he just needed a break. Look at Brad Haddin and how much success he had enjoyed late in his career after some time out of the spotlight.

The spinner is a difficult one. Monty Panesar reached a peak in India last year and, following his well-publicised problems off the field, he may not have much more to offer. We should look to use Scott Borthwick in the same way Australia use Steve Smith and develop another spinner for the future through county cricket.

Phil Tufnell, former England spinner

1. Alastair Cook 2. Nick Compton/Michael Carberry 3. Ian Bell 4. Kevin Pietersen 5. Gary Ballance/Eoin Morgan 6. Ben Stokes 7. Matt Prior 8. Stuart Broad 9. Scott Borthwick/Ollie Rayner 10. James Anderson 11. Graeme Onions/Steven Finn/Tymal Mills

England have to pick on form, that is all they have got to go on now. What a great opportunity for everyone in county cricket. If they start well, they could get into the side. If you get runs or wickets, you are going to be knocking on the door.

Ollie Rayner factfile

Age: 28

Team: Middlesex

First-class matches: 77

Wickets: 172 at 31.95

Did you know? German-born and 6 ft 5 ins tall, Rayner became the first Sussex player since 1920 to score a century on debut with 101 against the touring Sri Lankans in 2006.

If Eoin Morgan starts the season well and scores five hundreds, he is in. The same goes for Gary Ballance. Likewise, I would make the opener's slot a shootout between Michael Carberry and Nick Compton.

You need to keep some form of nucleus and stability there. However, the senior players need to learn from their mistakes and come back and really prove it. If they don't do this time, they are gone.

There is obviously something up with Monty Panesar. If they didn't play him in Sydney, where are they going to play him?

Middlesex off-spinner Ollie Rayner is definitely in the picture. If he can replicate what he did last season, he can go up to the selectors and ask 'what more have I got to do?' It is not as if there are quality spinners queuing up in front of him.