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Opinion

Who should England pick for the first Test v West Indies? Our writers pick their XIs

by Wisden Staff 6 minute read

Wisden.com writers pick their England XI for the first Test against the West Indies in Barbados. Which team, if any, do you agree with?

Following impressive series victories against India at home and Sri Lanka away, England have quietly assembled a strong squad for the five-day format. With the emergence of Sam Curran, Ben Foakes and Jack Leach, plus the remodelled Jos Buttler and the re-engaged Adil Rashid, England have given themselves a real selection headache.

It isn’t all rosy, though. There are still question marks at the top of the order, and whether Bairstow is the long-term solution at first drop, while finding the right balance in the bowling unit appears to require constant tinkering – though England perhaps just have the luxury of selecting horses for horses.

Just four Tests away from the Ashes, Ed Smith, Joe Root and Trevor Bayliss will be hoping that any lingering doubts on certain positions are resolved during this three-Test series in the Caribbean. Here, wisden.com writers pick their England XI for the first Test at the Kensington Oval, which starts on Wednesday, January 23.

Ed Smith has not been afraid to make some brave calls since becoming England’s chief selector

Jo Harman, Wisden Cricket Monthly magazine editor

  1. Burns
  2. Jennings
  3. Bairstow
  4. Root (c)
  5. Stokes
  6. Buttler
  7. Moeen
  8. Foakes (wk)
  9. Curran
  10. Leach
  11. Anderson

This feels a little like putting together a jigsaw when you’ve been given more pieces than you need. Stuart Broad is incredibly unlucky to miss the cut but I just don’t see how you can leave out Curran at the moment (seven Tests, seven wins so far for England’s ‘new Tim Bresnan’) and I want the option of a second spinner at the Kensington Oval – a venue where Yasir Shah took 7-94 two years ago. Based on that spell I was tempted to pick a leggie but Leach edges out Rashid because of the greater control he offers, and the fact he generally out-bowled him in Sri Lanka. There’s an argument to drop a batsman and play a sixth bowler but given that a wicket fell every 45.9 deliveries in Tests in the Caribbean last year – the lowest among all host nations – I see scoring runs being more of an issue than taking wickets.

Sam Curran was England’s Player of the Series against India last summer

Rich Evans, wisden.com editor

  1. Burns
  2. Jennings
  3. Bairstow
  4. Root (c)
  5. Stokes
  6. Buttler
  7. Foakes (wk)
  8. Moeen
  9. Curran
  10. Leach
  11. Anderson

Curran must get the nod ahead of Broad, with all-round ability, forward-planning, good luck charm and feel-good factor the chief rationales. But the bowling does take a slight hit, so the reliable Leach edges out the luxurious Rashid, despite leg-spinner Yasir’s nine wickets on this deck two years ago. Whether we think Jonny Bairstow is England’s long-term solution at first drop is irrelevant – he’s the best man for the job right now (Joe Root’s not moving and Ben Stokes does enough) and deserves the gig after his Colombo ton. Stats may suggest he has a weakness against straight deliveries, but he has the iron will to overcome that. The axe mustn’t fall on Curran, Foakes or Leach – they’ve done everything asked of them – but the openers still have it all to prove, with Jason Roy breathing down their necks.

Jonny Bairstow

Jonny Bairstow lets it all out in Colombo after his comeback ton

Ben Gardner, wisden.com staff writer

  1. Burns
  2. Jennings
  3. Stokes
  4. Root (c)
  5. Buttler
  6. Moeen
  7. Foakes (wk)
  8. Curran
  9. Rashid
  10. Broad
  11. Anderson

I’m not convinced about Bairstow at three, and wonder if he’s susceptible to the moving ball. Root batting at four is as unavoidable as death and taxes, and anyway Stokes is England’s most proficient against lateral movement. Rashid plays over Leach because with six bowlers you don’t need an end holder-upper, and on the flat slow Windies wickets, a bowler who can make something happen from nothing could be invaluable. If England do opt for Bairstow and five bowlers, then Leach comes back into the team for end holding-up purposes, and Broad sits on the bench.

England have some tight decisions to make regarding spinners Moeen Ali, Jack Leach and Adil Rashid

Yas Rana, wisden.com staff writer

  1. Burns
  2. Jennings
  3. Root (c)
  4. Stokes
  5. Buttler
  6. Moeen
  7. Foakes (wk)
  8. Curran
  9. Rashid
  10. Broad
  11. Anderson

Leach and Bairstow are unlucky to miss out. Despite Bairstow’s hundred in England’s most recent Test, he is surely not a viable long-term option at three. He came into the side for that match at the expense of an injured Curran, and with Curran back there’s simply no room for him. It was a toss of a coin between Rashid and Leach. Although Leach offers a different angle to Moeen, who is still England’s number-one spinner, Rashid offers a different wicket-taking threat entirely. On slower, flat wickets – that kind that England have struggled on recently – his ‘mystery’ leg-spin gives England an edge. He could play in Barbados as a third spinner ahead of Broad, but Broad’s warm-up game hat-trick, taken with his new-look, shortened run-up, seals his spot.

Stuart Broad celebrates after taking a hat-trick during day two of the warm-up match

Taha Hashim, wisden.com staff writer

  1. Jennings
  2. Burns
  3. Bairstow
  4. Root (c)
  5. Buttler
  6. Stokes
  7. Moeen
  8. Foakes (wk)
  9. Curran
  10. Rashid
  11. Anderson

Such was England’s all-round excellence in Sri Lanka, a number of deserving names miss out on selection in this XI. While Jack Leach’s left-arm twirlers were potent in the subcontinent, there will be less necessity for spin in Bridgetown, and if anyone is to partner Moeen Ali, it should be Adil Rashid. While he remains hit-and-miss with his leg break, Yasir Shah’s nine wickets on the same pitch two years ago should serve as some inspiration. Despite Stuart Broad’s hat-trick in England’s opening warm-up fixture – he seems to have a knack for the landmark – Sam Curran’s left-arm seam, in accompaniment with his blistering power down the order is too delightful to ignore. It was variety that served England well in Sri Lanka, and a similar formula in the Caribbean should grant them another away win. 

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