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Our writers pick their England XI for the first Ashes Test – who do you agree with?

by Wisden Staff 7 minute read

Our writers have their say on who England should select for the first Test against Australia in the 2019 Ashes series, which starts on August 1.

England’s Test line-up isn’t quite as settled as the one-day international unit that lifted the Cricket World Cup earlier this month, with question marks hanging over both the batting order and fast-bowling battery.

Below, our writers explain who they’d pick from England’s 14-man squad for the first Test at Edgbaston – and why.

Phil Walker, editor-in-chief, Wisden Cricket Monthly

1. Burns
2. Denly
3. Root (c)
4. Roy
5. Stokes
6. Buttler
7. Bairstow (wk)
8. Woakes
9. Moeen
10. Stone/Archer
11. Anderson

What a job it is picking this one. Aussie quicks, overhead conditions, a big fat seam on the special-measures Duke ball as demanded by England’s bowlers – it’s got all the makings of a bowlers’ series. So logic says pack the batting, but with whom?

I’ve gone with a conventional balance. Jonny Bairstow drops down to No.7, which fairly reflects his form in the five-day game, leaving Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler in the engine room. I’m all for Joe Root putting his hand up to bat at No.3, because he’s the best man for the job. That’s a huge move for the team. And personally I like Jason Roy at No.4 more than as an opener; Joe Denly and Rory Burns look raw at this level, but to drop either for another all-rounder feels like a gamble too far, so they will open the batting together. Between them they have many years of experience doing the job.

Could Olly Stone provide a pace threat if Jofra Archer fails to prove his fitness?

Finally, and with the deepest of breaths, I’m going with the extra pace of Olly Stone for Stuart Broad, given that you can’t play Jofra Archer until he’s fully fit. (That said, I’m sure that Broad will play, and that he’ll produce a vintage up-yours spell to stick it up his detractors.) Caveat: if Jofra is genuinely able to get through a full five-dayer, then he comes in for Stone. As yet unmentioned players that we’ll see at some stage: Sam Curran, James Vince, Dawid Malan, Jack Leach, Dominic Sibley.

Jo Harman, magazine editor, Wisden Cricket Monthly

1. Burns
2. Roy
3. Root (c)
4. Denly
5. Stokes
6. Buttler
7. Bairstow (wk)
8. Moeen
9. Woakes
10. Broad
11. Anderson

I can’t remember picking an England Test XI ever being this confusing. It’s like trying to solve an impossible puzzle – every time you think you’ve cracked it you realise you’ve got a piece in the wrong place and the whole thing falls apart.

It’s tempting to drop Burns, play Sam Curran at No.8 and move all the batters up a position, especially if you think (not unreasonably) that Curran is likely to score more runs than Burns. But Root would end up with more bowling options than he’d know what to do with and several players batting a position too high. So Burns gets a reprieve.

England opener Rory Burns is running out of lives

That leaves me needing to choose three quicks from five, with Archer and Stone missing out. However talented he is, it’s not fair to give Archer a Test debut unless he’s 100 per cent fit, especially for a match of this importance, so he’s held back for Lord’s. And I can’t reconcile picking a bowler as inexperienced as Stone for the first Test of an Ashes series while leaving one of Woakes or Broad on the sidelines, even if it does leave the attack looking a little one-paced.

Not ideal, but it’ll have to do.

Rich Evans, digital editor

  1. Burns
  2. Denly
  3. Roy
  4. Root (c)
  5. Stokes
  6. Bairstow (wk)
  7. Buttler
  8. Woakes
  9. Moeen
  10. Archer/Broad
  11. Anderson

You could flick a coin for a number of positions. Reports suggest Root has relaxed his stance and is open to batting at first drop, but since we have Roy, Burns and Denly in the squad (and, judging by the Ireland Test, we need as many batsmen as possible), I’d be inclined to leave Root in his cherished No.4 role, for now, as the Steve Smith versus Root duel is likely to prove decisive. If the other top-three candidates – the team’s sacrificial lambs – fail in their first two outings, unsettling the skipper could become a gamble worth taking, though Warwickshire’s Dom Sibley may also come into contention. I’d prefer Roy to bat at No.3 or 4 against a slightly older ball – give him a chance to succeed in the Test arena.

Who will win the battle of the middle-order maestros? 

I hate leaving Curran out, but Woakes gets the nod as the more reliable seamer and an equally capable batsman, while the bowling attack would lack a cutting edge if he were to dislodge Archer/Broad. If Archer is fit, his selection is a no-brainer, as England need an x-factor speedster to fight fire with fire. A fit Mark Wood would have also been in contention, but I’d opt for Broad’s experience over Stone.

Ben Gardner, staff writer

1. Burns
2. Denly
3. Roy
4. Root (c)
5. Buttler
6. Stokes
7. Bairstow (wk)
8. Woakes
9. Moeen
10. Archer
11. Anderson

Judging by the Ireland Test, England need to pick all the batsmen they can to avoid disaster, so Woakes nudges ahead of Broad, while Curran and Stone miss out. Denly might be slightly more proficient against the moving ball, and Roy definitely more destructive when just a hint of lacquer has come off, as he showed in the second innings against Ireland, so they switch places. Going forward, I’d pick someone who opens regularly, probably Dom Sibley, to partner Burns, who has earned a stretch in the team, and I’d replace Bairstow – who averages less than 30 since the start of 2017, has six hundreds in seven years as a Test cricketer, and has won England only a handful of matches in that time – with Surrey’s Ben Foakes.

Could Surrey stumper Ben Foakes earn a Test recall during the series? 

Taha Hashim, staff writer

1. Roy
2. Burns
3. Root (c)
4. Stokes
5. Buttler
6. Bairstow (wk)
7. Curran
8. Woakes
9. Moeen
10. Archer/Stone
11. Anderson

It’s a harsh call on Denly, who top-scored with 23 in the first innings against Ireland and fell victim to the hesitancy of his skipper in his second dig, but I’ve got to find a space for golden boy Sam Curran. He doesn’t merit a place as a front-line bowler but rather fits into my side as a specialist game-changer at No 7. Let him smack away and run in for the odd over; he’s bound to do something out of the ordinary. Broad is another harsh omission, but the last time Woakes and Archer bowled to Australia at Edgbaston, they were magnificent. If Archer’s fitness remains under question, Stone should come in as a more like-for-like replacement.

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