England’s tour of Sri Lanka begins next week and marks a new era for the England team with the retirement of Alastair Cook from international cricket ending a 12-year fixture for the side at the top of the order and a player who played 161 consecutive tests. This coinciding with a period of mass uncertainty as to England’s other opening batsman with a dozen players used to partner Cook over the last five years and not one player making a convincing enough case to fill the role on a permanent basis.
The Cook retirement and the lack of an opener who has made a success of the job has left England with an interesting squad selection as to who will be tasked with the roles of opening the England innings. With a lack of options England have decided to keep the faith with Keaton Jennings who played in the last series against India but has a poor average of 22 from his 12-test match’s and only one 50 to his name from 22 innings. He is backed up with the form player from the County Championship in Rory Burns who has regularly passed 1,000 runs in a season over the last few seasons and Joe Denly who has only ever represented England in the one-day arena and which was back in 2009.
It’s entirely likely that England will go with a new look top 3 in the order, with captain Joe Root regularly stating his preference to bat at No 4 and Moeen Ali being promoted to fill the No 3 slot in the last test match against India. Leaving four players fighting to bat in the top three positions and every single one of the them unaccustomed to batting at the top of the order at the highest level.
Conditions in Sri Lanka could not be more different to what the England side are used to on home territory or the uncapped players are used to face with week in and out in the County Championship. The extreme heat of the subcontinent and wickets that are slow and take prodigious spin from very early in the game and offer little to nothing for the quicker bowlers.
The conditions offer opportunity in the markets with England’s red-hot favourites of Broad and Anderson in the top bowler category could well have reduced roles as spin plays a more prominent role, meaning a keen eye on the warm up games and which spinner looks to be given the greatest opportunity with the ball and who adapts to the different pitch’s best could well be a strong contender.
Another market of interest could well be in the Man of the Match field with potentially two of England’s top three in Denly and most certainly Moeen Ali also likely to have big roles with their ability to bowl spin and offering them both the opportunity to score heavily and pick up wickets.
England goes into the series with many questions to answer about how they are likely to proceed with a new line up, but also offering a chance for players to really grab a massive opportunity and play themselves into England’s future.
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