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Which right-handers can England pick to counter Ashwin?

by Wisden Staff 5 minute read

Ravichandran Ashwin is wreaking havoc in England’s batting line-up in the series’ early exchanges, a situation exacerbated by the fact there were seven left-handers in England’s XI at Edgbaston.

The 31-year-old off-spinner has a stellar record to left-handers: while he’s by no means poor to right-handers, averaging 26.50 overall in Tests, to left-handers he’s extraordinary, averaging 17.45.

With Dawid Malan struggling and Ben Stokes’ likely replacement for the second Test (during his trial in Bristol) Moeen Ali also a lefty, who else could the home side call upon to challenge the champion twirler?

Joe Clarke

Clarke has scored three red-ball tons so far this season

Despite being just 22, Clarke has been earmarked for the top for a while, first gaining selection for the England Lions at the age of 19. After scoring runs in Division Two, much was expected of him this season in Division One after Worcestershire’s promotion last year.

He’s backed up the hype. He’s hit three first-class hundreds already this season, including a quite brilliant 177 to save the game on the fourth day against Nottinghamshire. He has both the class – his batting style has been likened to Joe Root’s – and the temperament to succeed at Test level.

Ollie Pope

Pope made his England Lions debut earlier this summer

Arguably the breakout player in county cricket this season. The 20-year-old who had predominately played just white-ball cricket for Surrey prior to this year, has been a revelation for his county, almost doing the impossible of replacing Kumar Sangakkara in their batting line-up.

With three centuries, he’s the second-highest runscorer in Division One this season behind his teammate Rory Burns. With not even a full season of County Championship cricket under his belt, a senior call-up might be slightly premature.

James Vince

Vince last played for England on their tour to New Zealand this spring

The closest to the England team having taken part over the winter, James Vince has promised more than he’s delivered so far. But batting No.3 in Australia is a different thing to batting No.4 against India, and given his good form this summer – he made a double-hundred early on and was the third-top run-scorer in the Royal London Cup – could yet be significant. He has certainly made batting look very easy of late. Ed Smith did leave him out of his first squad as selector though, after recalling Jos Buttler.

Jason Roy

Could Roy take his white ball form into Test cricket?

There are few clamouring for Roy’s inclusion and he doesn’t have the finest of reputations against spin, but at least in Roy England have a right-hand middle-order batsman of international quality who they could call upon.

The issue is more that, like Jos Buttler previously, his involvement in England’s white-ball teams limits his availability for the County Championship, in which he has not played a match all year.

James Hildreth

Hildreth in action for Somerset

One of the first names brought up in the pub after an England batting collapse, it is quite an accomplishment to have a career average of 43 with 43 first-class hundreds and not have played for England in this era of consistent inconsistency with the bat.

Hildreth is again piling on the runs in county cricket, sitting third in the list of runscorers this season. He plays his home games at Taunton, a ground that is kind to spin bowlers, so he is perhaps better placed than anyone in England to deal with the threat of Ashwin.

Alex Hales

Hales would be a curve ball pick

OK, it almost certainly won’t happen, but what about Alex Hales? The selection of Adil Rashid in the first Test proves you don’t have to sign-up for county red-ball cricket to be considered for Test action, while Jos Buttler’s re-introduction into the Test fold proved that Smith is not afraid to back aggressive players more accustomed to the shorter formats. If the blockers aren’t doing their jobs, why not go for a counter-attacking option?

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