England Ladder: Test Matches
This is our fourth England Ladder. A year ago, we still thought Ajmal Shahzad would have a chance of playing that summer; now he’s fallen out with Yorkshire, driven down the M62 to Manchester and will be hoping to learn from the likes of Glenn Chapple and Saj Mahmood to try and rejuvenate his career. It will come as no surprise therefore, that Shahzad does not make our ladder.
We’re generally a pretty sick bunch here at 51allout – as a glance at Nichael’s DVD library would demonstrate – but one thing we’re really sick of is talking about the disappointment of the winter tours. So it is nice to look forward again, to the
sun-drenched rain-swept playing fields of Lord’s, Trent Bridge and Edgbaston where the West Indies will wrap up in sweaters, carelessly lose wickets from promising positions and generally look as out of place as Radiohead at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party. We’ve already published England Watch, in which we cast our eyes over those players on the fringe of the squad who ought to be trying to impress the selectors; the findings therein have helped us shape our thoughts for the ladder. Summary: mostly good if you’re Denis Compton’s grandson, mostly bad if you play for Hampshire.
- Alastair Cook (unchanged) England’s most important batsman, England’s next captain and the one player who would be guaranteed to play for any country in the world right now.
- Graeme Swann (+1) Following six weeks in which Monty Panesar suddenly became many people’s hero and England’s leading spinner, in Sri Lanka Swann showed the true order of things with 16 wickets in two matches.
- Jimmy Anderson (+1) Now England’s fifth leading wicket-taker, Anderson is now showing a consistency in all conditions that frankly scares us. He’s also not yet 30, which also scares us. The South Africa series could well be a battle of the quick bowlers and we simply cannot wait, not even with those aforementioned DVDs to occupy us.
- Matt Prior (+1) After a testing winter, Prior must be looking forward to keeping to Anderson’s hooping swingers in May conditions. Absolutely vital to England in any number of ways.
- Kevin Pietersen (+4) All it took was one innings of 151 to show why he (should be) undroppable. There’ll always be doubters, but not in our camp. Though we’d like to see his average return to the 50s rather than the 40s.
- Andrew Strauss (-4) We don’t think his place is at risk…yet. A winning team can afford a captain who doesn’t contribute much with the bat, a losing one arguably cannot. Home conditions and the relatively easy demands of the West Indies should at least produce victories if the weather allow, but with South Africa, India and Australia looming in the near distance there is rightly concern about his run of scores. Given the lack of an obvious replacement opener, his place should be secure for now.
- Jonathan Trott (unchanged) Solid. The average may unsurprisingly be dropping, but after a satisfactory winter with the bat, there’s still no-one we (or Andy Flower) would rather see padded up from the start of the innings.
- Stuart Broad (unchanged) Putting to one side his petulance, his injuries and his use of the DRS, Broad is now a formidable bowler. Only the surplus of pace options prevent him being higher on this ladder.
- Ian Bell (-3) If anyone out there has a basic grasp of Latin, perhaps they could tell us what the summer and winter equivalent of annus mirabilis and annus horribilis would be? He chose to play for the Lions this week, following a hundred against Durham – we’re desperate for Bell to remind us we we nicknamed him ‘Lord’ in the first place.
- Tim Bresnan (+1) Another Test, another victory for Tim Tom. So good, we can’t remember the last time we joked about him working in B&Q.
- Ravi Bopara (+2) And so the wheel turns again for Bopara. As Eoin Morgan hasn’t been seen for months, the Essex man is once again the favourite for the No. 6 position. There’s only so many times we can suggest this will be his last chance, but this will be his last chance. Until the next one.
- Steven Finn (+2) Well at least he played a Test this winter. Some time this decade, Finn will get a proper opportunity – but until then he’s faced with another spell on the sidelines.
- Graeme Onions (+10) This climb up the ladder is partly due to our bare naked desire to see Gronions play for England again, partly due to a superb start to his season.
- Samit Patel (+2) Didn’t do enough in Sri Lanka to suggest he’s the future, didn’t do badly enough to suggest he should be discarded forever. Will remain in the frame and is more than likely to tour India this autumn.
- Jonny Bairstow (+3) With two centuries already this season, Bairstow’s impressive start will do his chances of being selected as a batsman no harm whatsoever – although we don’t yet see him as a reserve wicket-keeper to Prior even though he’s currently keeping wicket for the Lions.
- James Taylor (+5) After a sluggish start to the season, Taylor may have been overtaken in the race to be the alternative to Bopara, despite his 118 against the West Indies. However his captaincy of the Lions and his undisputed talent means that we’d bet on him in the long-term.
- Eoin Morgan (-7) Dropped from the Test team, Morgan has now disappeared into the oblivion of the Indian Premier League (appearances: 0).
- Monty Panesar (-3) Rejuvenated in the UAE and a bit underwhelming in Sri Lanka, Panesar faces another summer for Sussex. Remains a favourite to tour India, but only injury to Swann will trigger his selection against either West Indies or South Africa.
- Steven Davies (unchanged) The lesser-spotted Davies toured both the UAE and Sri Lanka but seemed to be overlooked even for the water-carrier role. His ability to either open or bat in the middle / lower order counts in his favour as he remains the back-up ‘keeper. A side note: we desperately wanted to include Chris Read on the ladder after his fabulous start to the season, but let’s face it- it ain’t gonna happen.
- Alex Hales (+4) The longer Strauss goes without making a substantial score, the quicker the young openers will climb the ladder.
- Stuart Meaker (NE) Has come from nowhere (South Africa, natch) to become one of many promising young fast bowlers.
- Jade Dernbach (unchanged) Beginning to show signs that he could be a prospect in the longer forms of the game.
- Joe Root (NE) As with Alex Hales, but we’re even less convinced by the Yorkshireman.
- Craig Kieswetter (-7) Our hunch is that by the end of the season, Kieswetter won’t be anywhere near the England set-up.
- Joe Denly (NE) Has already made a significant score this summer of Middlesex and as an opener, he shouldn’t be too far from the selectors’ thoughts.
- Michael Carberry (NE) We’re sure he’ll remain a member of the one-cap club, even though he’s currently in the Lions set up.
- Nick Compton (NE) After a tremendous start to the season, the man officially named Denis’s grandson is the man of the moment. But that’s all he’ll be, surely?
- Chris Tremlett (-16) After a remarkable return to the international scene, sadly Tremlett’s troubles with injuries means that we believe he’ll not play for England again – especially with such an abundance of talent on the scene.
- Jack Brooks (NE) Just to prove the undeniable strength in depth, Brooks makes the ladder at the expense of Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes, Tymal Mills, James Harris, Matt Coles and Amjad Khan.
- Saj Mahmood (unchanged) Has Saj any Australian ancestry? If so, John Inverarity could do worse than give him a call…