Let’s be honest, nobody has a fucking clue who should play in the Oval Test

In his first two active weeks as England skipper, Joe Root has already seen how fast the media can turn on what they see as an underperforming England team and captain. Root, just twelve days into his reign, may already look back at the first Test at Lord’s as distant, halcyon days of bliss after the flack his team has copped in the aftermath of his side’s, admittedly dismal, second Test defeat to South Africa at Trent Bridge.

Whilst the criticism has been consistently belligerent, former captain Hussain called England’s band of cricket ‘rubbish’ and Michael Vaughan said that England might ‘lack respect’ for the game’s longest form, pundits don’t seem to be as consistent in their views on how England can reverse their variable form.

There are different schools of selection; some rely on stats more than others whilst others look to the selections of Vaughan and Trescothick as examples of needing to look at more than just numbers.

In fact, you could field an entirely separate XI of players pundits have tipped to make an appearance for England in the third Test at the Kia Oval. These pundits are people whose opinions we’re supposed to trust, but given the diversity of the views they offer and how frequently you hear suggestions that people should be picked because of their white ball form, you wonder whether they actually watch any more county cricket than the rest of us.

Here is a legitimate XI of players who pundits in the media want in their England team for the third Test.

 

Mark Stoneman

 

The mostly likely change according to Nick Hoult in the Telegraph, and a feature in a host of fans’ hypothetical XIs. Stoneman has certainly enjoyed his move south to Surrey this season and is the second highest scoring Englishman in Division One this season but given that Gary Ballance is the highest, that’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to transfer that form into Test cricket. Anyway, if Trevor Bayliss admits that he’s never seen him play, has he got that much of a chance?

 

Haseeb Hameed

 

Paul Newman’s tip to replace Jennings in the Daily Mail, despite his difficult season for Lancashire this year. To be honest, he would be a like for like replacement for Jennings; both impressed on the India tour and both have struggled for County Championship runs this season.

 

Tom Westley

 

A popular choice. Westley is fast becoming James Hildreth’s successor as the Cricinfo reader’s immediate suggestion whenever anyone in England’s middle order has their place in the side is under threat. In fairness to Westley, centuries against recent Australia, Sri Lanka and South African touring sides suggest he might have what it takes to succeed at the highest level.

 

Dawid Malan

 

Name-checked by Bayliss in the run-up to the first Test, he’s obviously someone that has impressed the England camp. Malan made an impact in his T20 debut earlier this summer, but if selected, he would be another attacking-minded player in a side that’s been criticised for their over-exuberant shot selection.

 

Jos Buttler

 

Another who makes Paul Newman’s XI. The logic is pretty clear; the one-day side seem to be doing alright so we might as well just pick them instead. Heck, let’s get Morgan, Hales and Billings into the side whilst we’re at it.

 

Ben Foakes

 

Championed by the wicket-keeping purists, Foakes is kind of like a cricketing Sergio Busquets – cricket hipsters will argue that you only really notice the absence of a specialist keeper when they’re missing. Boxing Foakes as a keeping specialist would be harsh though considering his excellent form with the bat for Surrey this season, but given how well Jonny Bairstow has kept so far in the series, his inclusion is an unlikely one at the moment.

 

Adil Rashid

 

In Hussain’s England XI, Rashid bowled more overs and took more wickets in last winter’s India tour than any other Englishman and would appear to offer more in the ‘number one spinner’ role that Liam Dawson currently occupies. Despite the wickets though, Rashid went at nearly four an over so new skipper Root might want someone with more control.

 

Toby Roland-Jones

 

The man who bowled Middlesex to their first County Championship in 26 years is tipped by the likes of Ali Martin in the Guardian to push Mark Wood for his spot in the team for the third Test. He’s been picked in multiple England Test squads without making his debut so far, so will be itching to get the chance to show what he can do at the Kia Oval.

 

Liam Plunkett

 

In David Lloyd’s England XI, Plunkett would present England with a different option at the Kia Oval with his extra pace and bounce. A lack of first class cricket might count against him though, having predominately played the white ball stuff in 2017.

 

Mason Crane

 

The real romantic choice and another member of Bumble’s XI. Whilst his talent was obvious in his two T20 appearances against South Africa, throwing a 20-year-old who averages 42 with the ball in first class cricket into the Test side might have negative ramifications for his long-term development. He’s definitely one for the future, but maybe not just yet.

 

Jake Ball

 

Ball has looked good for England in his short international career without setting the world alight and if fit for the third Test, could well push Wood for a place as England’s third seamer.

 

All the players mentioned by the pundits have their own merits and reasons why they should make the England team for the next Test, but given that with the exception of Stoneman and to a degree Westley, that none of them can agree with each other it just looks like none of them have a clue on how to solve this mess.

If they can’t agree, how the hell can we?

 

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