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International Cricket

Stokes in for who? Six ways England could line-up for third Test

by Wisden Staff 8 minute read

So, the big man is back. Ben Stokes has been found not guilty of affray and is likely to feature at Trent Bridge after England wasted no time reinstating the all-rounder to their squad for the third Test.

While Joe Root and the England management will be delighted to have their talisman return, having sat out the second Test due to the seven-day trial at Bristol Crown Court, his re-inclusion has given them a real selection headache.

England have so many bowlers and all-rounders at the top of their game right now, who do they drop? It’s the type of selection dilemma that club cricket captains across the land could only dream of experiencing.

Chris Woakes’ Test comeback couldn’t have gone much better

Chris Woakes excelled in the all-rounder role at Lord’s, scoring 120 not out – his maiden Test ton – and achieving match bowling figures of 4-43 in a man-of-the-match-winning performance, as the hosts went 2-0 up in the series with an innings victory at Lord’s.

The Warwickshire man’s inclusion must be a formality, surely – so, what will England do with this unexpected embarrassment of riches in home conditions?

Could they drop a youngster in Ollie Pope or Sam Curran? Could they go into the match with six bowlers? Adil Rashid was a passenger at Lord’s – will England opt for an all-seam attack?

Here we predict the most likely England line-up for the third Test against India. Take a look-see and let us know which option you’d go for if you were in charge.

Drop Curran

Sam Curran has impressed against India so far in this series, but is he undroppable?

Granted, it would be a harsh call to dump Sam Curran, but hear us out. The Surrey all-rounder’s star has risen during this series, recovering from an innocuous start against Pakistan to churning out some match-defining contributions against India, headlined by 4-74 in India’s first innings and a knock of 63 in England’s second to give England’s pace battery something to bowl at. So far in this series, the left-hander averages 42.33 with the willow and has six scalps at 24.17 with the ball. But if England decide against resting one of James Anderson or Stuart Broad, do England really need three seaming all-rounders in Woakes, Stokes and Curran?

Cook
Jennings
Root
Pope
Bairstow
Stokes
Buttler
Woakes
Rashid
Broad
Anderson

Drop Rashid

Adil Rashid joined a rather unfortunate but exclusive group at Lord’s

The Yorkshire leggie became only the 14th player to go through a Test match without batting, bowling or being part of a dismissal after being a passenger at Lord’s. So that makes him dispensable, right? It’s not that straightforward. Joe Root will most likely demand the presence of a front-line spinner, regardless of the conditions.

Cook
Jennings
Root
Pope
Bairstow
Stokes
Buttler
Curran
Woakes
Broad
Anderson

Rest Broad

Could Stuart Broad benefit from a breather?

Stuart Broad conceded in the days leading up to the series that himself and James Anderson had been briefed about the possibility of being rested for a match to manage workload. So, if there’s a selection headache, why not let the Nottinghamshire seamer put his feet up? England are unlikely to rest the indispensable Anderson before a series victory is secured, and while Broad has been solid, he’s been outdone by other individual bowling performances so far. Some would say he’s due one of his trademark super spells, though, and he’d be playing on home turf at Trent Bridge.

Cook
Jennings
Root
Pope
Bairstow
Stokes
Buttler
Curran
Woakes
Rashid
Anderson

Unchanged

Maybe England don’t need to change a winning team?

This line-up was more likely before the outcome of Stokes’ court case on Tuesday. Now the all-rounder has been drafted back into the squad so quickly after the jury’s verdict suggests an unchanged side is arguably the least likely of the scenarios presented here. But could England decide to stick with the team that beat the Indians in the second Test so convincingly? Is it plausible that while England have shown the all-rounder support in the wake of a difficult week, Stokes could be made to wait? Probably not.

Cook
Jennings
Root
Pope
Bairstow
Buttler
Curran
Woakes
Rashid
Broad
Anderson

Drop Pope

Ollie Pope is certainly one for the future, but is he the man for the third Test?

Surrey pup Ollie Pope made 28 in his only innings on debut at Lord’s, and in any other series he would have probably done enough to retain his spot for the next battle, especially with England’s top-order under-performing above him. But releasing Pope could allow Jonny Bairstow to move up to No.4, with Jos Buttler taking the gloves. Six front-line bowlers, however, may seem a bit of a luxury, while promoting Stokes to No.5 may raise eyebrows in terms of both suitability and workload, especially with Buttler struggling for runs. Openers Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings both face uncertain futures, but it’s likely they’ll be given the nod once more. If England drop a front-line batsman, it’s likely that Pope will make way.

Cook
Jennings
Root
Bairstow
Stokes
Buttler (wk)
Curran
Woakes
Rashid
Broad
Anderson

Bring in Mo/ultimate batting line-up

Could Moeen Ali come back into contention after Adil Rashid was a passenger at Lord’s?

If England feel conditions will be similar to Lord’s, but Root feels uncomfortable entering a match with only himself as a part-time spin option, England could opt for Moeen Ali ahead of Rashid if the England captain believes the contribution from his spinner is likely to be minimal like it was at Lord’s. Moeen replacing Rashid would extend the batting line-up, enabling one of Woakes, Curran or Moeen to bat at No.9. With Stokes also likely to feature, this scenario would likely see two changes made to a winning side. We’ve also allowed Broad to rest, creating an unbelieveable batting line-up!

Cook
Jennings
Root
Pope
Bairstow
Stokes
Buttler (wk)
Curran
Moeen
Woakes
Anderson

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