A world XI of players all aged 25 or under that could dominate Test cricket for years to come, as picked by the Wisden.com team.
While Dom Sibley and Ben Stokes’ partnership was enjoyable in a sense, for England fans starved of stubborn application, in another, as the pair combined for 57 runs in 24 overs in the morning session, it made for tough viewing.
To inject some excitement into their day, the Wisden.com team of Yas Rana, head of content, Ben Gardner, managing editor, and Taha Hashim, features editor, decided to pick a world Test XI of players aged 25 years old or younger, as of July 17, 2020, at lunch during day two of the second Test between England and West Indies.
The team was picked to play a theoretical mid-summer Test at Lord’s, starting next week. Without further ado, here is Wisden’s Under-25 World Test XI.
1. Aiden Markram – South Africa, 25
20 Tests, 1,424 runs @ 38.48, 4 100s, HS: 152
The South African opener has had an up-and-down start to his Test career, with his form in and out of South Africa vastly different. Aiden Markram’s four centuries and six fifties have all come at home, where he averages 46.20. In four Tests overseas – two in India and two in Sri Lanka – he averages 10.50.
However, his obvious talent and murderous ability against pace gets him the nod, with his two centuries against Australia in the 2018 series between the sides of particular note.
2. Dom Sibley – England, 24
8* Tests, 532 runs @ 44.33, 2 100s, HS: 133*
The least experienced batsman in this team, Dom Sibley has had a stellar start to his Test career. Two marathon hundreds – each longer than any innings Andrew Strauss played in Tests – and several useful starts have gone a good deal towards answering England’s longstanding top-order problems. Only a weakness against balls targeting his armpit and a low strike rate stand out as areas to improve, with his patience and judgement outside off stump up there with the best in the world.
3. Kusal Mendis – Sri Lanka, 25
44 Tests, 2,995 runs @ 36.97, 7 100s, HS: 196
Less than a year into his Test career, Kusal Mendis played one of the greatest Test innings by a Sri Lankan. Having been skittled for 117 in the first innings, and trailing by almost 100, his 176 was the only score above fifty as Sri Lanka secured only their second win against Australia, and paved the way for an historic whitewash.
Since then, his star has waned somewhat, though he has scored six hundreds in the intervening period. A match-saving hundred against New Zealand, and a mesmeric 84* against South Africa, sealing another whitewash, this one overseas, served to confirm that there’s a special player in there somewhere.
4. Babar Azam (c) – Pakistan, 25
26 Tests, 1,850 runs @ 45.12, 5 100s, HS: 143
For a time, there was speculation over whether Babar Azam would ever crack Test cricket, or be consigned to the curious pile of white-ball masters unable to translate their talent into the longest format. Since the start of 2018, he has averaged 65.47, putting that question firmly to bed, with a hundred and a 97 of the highest class amongst the wreckage caused by Australia’s quicks Down Under last winter confirming him as among the world’s best.
Since Test cricket returned to Pakistan, he has reached another level, with three centuries and a 60 in four innings at home. The captain of Wisden‘s Under-25 World Test XI.
5. Ollie Pope – England, 22
9* Tests, 461 runs @ 38.42, 1 100, HS: 135*
Picked at No.4 for England having never batted there for Surrey, Ollie Pope’s first stint as a Test cricketer was brief but promising. Since, he has piled on the runs in county cricket like no other batsman in the country and is rated by many as England’s most exciting young batsman since Joe Root. A maiden century in South Africa and a handful of lower-order rescue acts are the first signs that England have a live one on their hands.
6. Rishabh Pant (wk) – India, 22
13 Tests, 814 runs @ 38.76, 2 100s, HS: 159*
Though not an established presence in India’s first-choice XI, Rishabh Pant has already achieved things no other wicketkeeper from his country ever has. After a tough first tour of England, his hundred in the final innings of the series at The Oval briefly gave India hope of securing a record chase, while Down Under, his 159 not out at the Sydney Cricket Ground helped seal perhaps India’s greatest ever Test series win. No other keeper has scored two overseas Test hundreds for India.
His belligerent nature might lead to a few frustrating low scores but will send pulses racing often enough to make up for it.
7. Sam Curran – England, 22
18* Tests, 728 runs @ 26.96, HS: 78, 38 wickets @ 31.24, BBI: 4-58
While it’s still not clear exactly what type of cricketer Sam Curran is, what is apparent is that he’s a very good one, who contributes to England’s success almost every time he plays. Player of the Series against India in his first home summer, as a succession of vital hands helped down the then-No.1 ranked Test side, he’s the perfect option at No.7 to biff some lower-order runs or be thrown the ball when nothing else is happening.
8. Rashid Khan – Afghanistan, 21
4 Tests, 23 wickets @ 21.08, 3 five-wicket hauls, BBI: 6-49
The most inexperienced of this Test XI, but also perhaps the cricketer who has had the most impact for his country. Already ensconced as Afghanistan’s greatest cricketer – with honourable mention to Mohammad Nabi – Rashid Khan became the third captain to take 10 wickets and score a half-century to help down Bangladesh in Chattogram. With the other two Imran Khan and Allan Border, it’s quite a list to be on.
With only eight first-class games to his name, the panel were wary of entrusting him with holding up an end, but with four quicks to rotate, felt that this was a team that would give him licence to attack. However, with Mehidy Hasan Miraz champing at his heels, the captaincy was handed to Babar Azam instead.
9. Jofra Archer – England, 25
8 Tests, 33 wickets @ 28.12, 3 five-wicket hauls, BBI: 6-45
In his first Test match, Jofra Archer ruffled Steve Smith, the best batsman since Don Bradman. By the end of that Ashes, he had two six-fors, including one which set up one of England’s greatest Test wins, to his name. Injury and indiscretion have kept him out of half the Tests England have played since, but, taking into account the World Cup heroics, there’s evidence to suggest he could join Jasprit Bumrah in becoming a fast bowler considered world-class in all formats.
10. Kagiso Rabada – South Africa, 25
43 Tests, 197 wickets @ 22.95, 9 five-wicket hauls, BBI: 7-112
Already one of South Africa’s greatest fast bowlers, Kagiso Rabada’s Test-wicket tally and average are impressive, but it’s his strike rate that’s truly mind-boggling. No bowler since 1900 has taken more than 100 wickets more often than the speedster, whose scalps come every 40.6 deliveries. The first name on this team sheet.
11. Shaheen Shah Afridi – Pakistan, 20
8 Tests, 30 wickets @ 27.96, 1 five-wicket haul, BBI: 5-77
Tall, left-arm, and rapid, Shaheen Shah Afridi is already leading Pakistan’s Test attack at the age of 20. His maiden five-for against Sri Lanka in Karachi ensured Pakistan’s return home got off to a winning start after a rain-ruined first match.