@Yas_Wisden 3 minute read
Yesterday, a day out from the IPL auction, England head coach Chris Silverwood admitted that there was a possibility that the England Test players involved in the knockout stages of this year’s IPL might miss a section of England’s two-Test series against New Zealand.
While the schedule for this year’s IPL is yet to be released, the play-offs are likely to coincide with the beginning of that England-New Zealand series, that is set to take place shortly before the World Test Championship final.
Though unlikely, it is possible that as many as seven England players (Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow) who have played Test cricket in the last 12 months could be involved in the play-offs should Rajasthan Royals, Delhi Capitals, Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad reach the final four.
How would the England Test XI look if those even players were out of contention? The top five would be relatively unaffected. Rory Burns and Dom Sibley are in no danger of securing lucrative T20 deals any time soon and while the former’s place in the side is under scrutiny after a succession of low scores, he has generally been reliable in home conditions and would be a near certainty in the team without the IPL seven.
Zak Crawley would presumably occupy the No. 3 slot, as he did last summer, with skipper Joe Root one place behind him at four. Ollie Pope would most likely shift up one spot to No.5 with Ben Foakes, who enjoyed an excellent game in his Test return at Chennai, the obvious candidate to don the gloves in Buttler’s absence.
It’s less clear how England would replace Stokes. When Stokes missed a section of the Test summer in 2020, England persisted with their five-bowler strategy with Woakes moving up to No. 7 to facilitate the inclusion of an additional seamer. In Sri Lanka earlier this year, when England were also without Stokes, Sam Curran batted at seven to allow England to adopt a similar strategy.
With Woakes, Curran and Moeen (another option to bat seven) all potentially unavailable, England, normally brimming with all-round options, suddenly look short, meaning they might go for just four bowlers, with Dan Lawrence filling in at No.6.
One option could be to promote Dom Bess to seven, though the dropping of Bess after the first Test India suggests that Leach is ahead of his former Somerset teammate at this point in time in the spin pecking order. Without Bess, it’s hard to imagine any of the other bowlers used by England in recent times batting as high as seven.
So who could that all-rounder be? Again, England might look to Somerset. Lewis Gregory came close to playing a Test for England in 2019, earning a place in the squad for England’s one-off game against Ireland, and has batted in the top seven for England before, albeit in T20Is. I’m sticking my hat on Craig Overton, though. By the end of the 2020 season, Overton was batting higher than Gregory for Somerset and while he is not an ideal Test no. 7, he averaged over 30 in last year’s Bob Willis Trophy, has a first-class century to his name and was arguably the standout domestic bowler in 2020, taking his wickets at fewer than 14 runs per dismissal.
The rest of the side is fairly straightforward. Leach continues as the side’s first choice spinner, James Anderson will take the new ball with Stuart Broad with one of Mark Wood or Olly Stone occupying the role as the team’s enforcer.
Uncapped Sussex seamer Ollie Robinson could also be an option to take advantage of traditional early-season English conditions. He came close to a debut last summer, and has a terrific first-class record, with 250 wickets at 21.78. He would also bolster England’s tail, averaging 20.84 with the bat, and with one century, a rollicking run-a-ball ton from No.9 on first-class debut, to his name. However, batting any higher than No.8 would be a stretch.
England’s Test XI without their IPL stars: