Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. In the words of The Chemical Brothers and Beth Orton, where do we start, where do we begin? Writing volume seven of the England Ladder has been an arduous job – a task made even harder by Editor Steve’s policy of not allowing us to take hard drugs whilst writing these articles. So although it was agonisingly difficult to sort out some kind of ordered ranking (remember, the ladder is in order of likelihood of selection, so No. 1 is the ‘first name on the team sheet’ and No. 3o is, well, someone ‘doing this synthetic type of alpha beta psychedelic funking’), we got there in the end and now need a nice sit down. Preferably in the chill out room.
We’d rather not highlight any pieces that we wrote in 2013 that said England were anything other than a shower of shite. Just about everything in our previous England Ladder haunts us like that bad acid trip in the mid-90s when we lost our shoes outside the Heavenly Social. Yet we must admit being a tiny bit presumptuous that England would remain good for a few more months. So in time honoured fashion, let’s start with the block rockin’ beats at the top of the ladder:
1. Alastair Cook (unchanged) Can we have him back please? There is uncertainty over his future role(s) but whether captain or senior pro, England need him in the team and at the top of the order. Surely a man of his experience and ability can rediscover his nous.
2. Jimmy Anderson (+2) Now that the whole non-English world has gone back to thinking he’s a bit crap, it’d be fuck-ing-great if Anderson bounce back this summer (bouncing back will be a regular theme in this article). He was by no means dreadful in Australia, but was always bowling in a losing cause.
3. Stuart Broad (+5) England’s best bowler across the mega-Ashes and one of the few to return from Australia in credit. Add in the fact that his name is on the shortlist of potential replacement captains and he’s right back up near the top of this list.
4. Ian Bell (+3) In the summer he was the Right Honourable Lord Bell of The England Hundreds. In the winter he was just some chap named Ian. Considering what has gone on with England’s batting line-up, Bell is now essential.
5. Kevin Pietersen (unchanged) We haven’t got a clue, Charles.
6. Matt Prior (-4) We know it’s a long way to go until the next Test series, but the county season isn’t far off. If Prior is not back in the team for Sri Lanka, it will be another disaster. His dropping in Australia was justifiable – but surely a player can’t fall so far for ever?
7. Ben Stokes (RE) The ginger ninja could feasibly be two positions higher on the ladder, but we’re trying to keep calm here.
8. Okay, we’re struggling now. Joe Root (+3) Proof that the winter tour was a little bit crap: Joe Root was dropped from both the Test and the ODI team, yet rises three places on this ladder. This is because England can bat him at anywhere in the top six, where there are potentially four spots free.
9. Michael Carberry (RE) If he manages to remain in the team, we fancy he could do well in home conditions against Sri Lanka and India. It’s a big bold if though.
10. Steven Finn (-1) Steven, you’re still really something. Well, we hope you are. By not playing a game all tour, Finn was the biggest victim of the winter of discontent. But oddly his worth to the side – if fit and in in form – has been demonstrated.
11. Monty Panesar (+2) Now that Graeme Swann has taken flight, England are really in a terrible place, spinning-wise. We’re not as critical of Panesar as some, but he really does offer a lot less to the team than is ideal. England need to decide whether to persist with the experienced player or keep taking punts on the youngsters (and let Panesar drift off into the Essex sun for good). Assuming the former, they need to be faithful and commit to him for the whole summer.
12. Jonathan Trott (-6) This is a complete guess to be fair (as are all the others, if you think about it). Nobody really knows how Trott is, but there shouldn’t be an automatic presumption that the man can’t play for England again. Yes his career was waning slightly, but if fit and well, he’d be a more reassuring sight in the team list than Gary Ballance.
13. Graeme Onions (+3) By not being associated with the Ashes, Onions stock has risen once more. Given the rubbishness of those who toured and the inexperience of those who didn’t, Onions would be a safe bet to feature this summer.
14. Tim Bresnan (+1) Time is running out for Bresnan. The discovery of Ben Stokes may well bring Tim Tom’s Test career to a close.
15. Jos Buttler (+11) Like everyone else, we’re hoping he starts his Lancashire season impressively. He might not yet be Prior’s understudy, but he could be a central character to whatever new strategy emerges under Team England 2.0.
16. Scott Borthwick (RE) With a remarkable Test match average of 20.50, is Borthwick the next Test superstar? No. But he did do better on debut than Simon Kerrigan. Which as ringing endorsements go, is like saying that a man with no legs is better than a man with no arms at campanology.
17. Chris Woakes (unchanged) Although we feel Woakes isn’t quite good enough for international duty, there are so many places currently free in the team (and who would have thought that six months ago?) that anyone who does well for their county could feature against Sri Lanka. As bits ‘n’ pieces all-rounders go, Woakes is one of the best.
18. Sam Robson (NE) As England once again begin to look to Australia for inspiration, a man born in Sydney seems to be a serious possibility. As an opener who scores runs for fun in Division One, he has a good chance. Unlike old sex on two legs Nick Compton.
19. Moeen Ali (NE) A man going places. The combination of good batsman and able spinner has served him well in county cricket and now the Lions. Playing in Division Two may hold him back, but the selectors picked Carberry from that division, so Ali might have a chance.
20. James Taylor (-2) The little man will be sending contact requests on LinkedIn to Stephen Fleming, Gary Kirsten, Ashley Giles, Darren Lehmann, Tom Moody, Jason Gillespie, Peter Moores, Paul Collingwood, Paul Downton and James Whitaker. But hopefully not Graham Gooch.
21. Gary Ballance (NE) It would be unfair to judge Ballance on his solitary Test, but does anyone outside of Yorkshire genuinely consider him the future of the Test team? Good luck to the lad, but we’re firmly in the Taylor/Ali camp.
22. Jonny Bairstow (-10) It may seem like 51allout have a vendetta against Bairstow. But out of a group of young players seemingly handled poorly by the management, Bairstow is arguably the one who has been most disadvantaged. The man needs to just play cricket. For Yorkshire. For a season.
23. James Tredwell (-9) Nope.
24. Eoin Morgan (RE) We’d be mightily annoyed if Morgan was recalled to the Test team, but the thinking behind it might make sense (if that thinking is “let’s pick a player who can score quickly free from the constraints of pre-ordained plans” rather than “let’s pick a player with a poor record and who had an awful technique the last time he played in Test matches”).
25. Chris Jordan (NE) The next Stuart Meaker.
26. Varun Chopra (+1) He’s an opener, ergo he’s in the mix.
27. Ravi Bopara (-8) Double nope.
28. Jamie Overton (NE) Well he belongs in the “something different” category.
29. Tymal Mills (NE) See Jamie Overton, but less good (but he’s left-handed and bowls quick!!!!!).
30. Liam Plunkett (unchanged) Why? Why not?!