After a fantabulous summer for England, they now face a long gap until their next Test in Dubai in January, interspersed with the forthcoming five ODIs in India. With nine of the first XI essentially penned in already, it will be interesting to see any of the youngsters perform on the India tour, or if any of the Lions and performance squad players can manoeuvre their way into the squad. Anyway, with no further ado, these are the 30 players ranked in order of what we vaguely call importance to the selectors.
1. Alastair Cook (unchanged) 12,1,2,5,294, or how to rectify a personally poor series in the space of 773 minutes.
2. Andrew Strauss (unchanged) Another frustrating series with the bat- Strauss never looked woefully out of form, but the one time he did manage to get past 50, he was bowled trying to sweep a spinner. Moreover, in the fourth Test, he got bogged down and played a loose shot to give Sreesanth a wicket. In a winning team, these dismissals aren’t a cause for alarm or concern. But he must be desperate for some more centuries.
3. Graeme Swann (unchanged) The perfect spinner for this bowling unit: Swann offers control and guile (albeit tail enders have shown a tendency to slog him over the boundary) on unfavourable pitches, allied with massive spin, canny flight and unpredictable bounce on those wickets that turn. He is sure to play a huge role in the new year, as well as the forthcoming ODIs.
4. Jimmy Anderson (unchanged) Turning to our July ladder:
“Speaking of great contests, Anderson’s role with the new ball against India will be vital, particularly if and when Virender Sehwag appears. With no disrespect to Pakistan or Bangladesh and lots of disrespect to Australia, his magnificent run of form has not been against the most competitive or stable of batting line-ups. If he can perform along similar lines to his average since January 2010 of 23.08 (especially if it brings a series victory) then it might be time to start placing Anderson on a list of the all-time best England quicks.”
Okay, Sehwag appeared and disappeared as quickly as a vanilla slice on Samit Patel’s plate, but Anderson’s 21 wickets at 25.71, including many important players at key moments, were conclusive.
5. Matt Prior (+1) When was the last time that an English Test wicket-keeper has been so far ahead of his rival glovemen that his position is 100% secure? Quite feasibly the best in the world right now.
6. Ian Bell (+1) The batsman of the summer; by scoring 159, 34 and 235 from his previous problem position of no.3, Bell showed that he’s right up there with the world’s best at present. And we predict his stock will only rise for the next few years. Sheer class.
7. Jonathan Trott (-2) Unfortunately, Trott only played a small part in the India series, but is now fit again and has been voted the international cricketer of the year. Sadly his paltry 98 runs saw his average drop below 60.00. When we wrote in July, “Admittedly Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and a rejuvenated Ishant Sharma are a more formidable attack than Suranga Lakmal and Rangana Herath, but we’re expecting the average to stay the Bradman-side of 60.00” we were clearly speaking crap – about the quality of the bowlers as well as the average. He drops two places because of the importance of Prior and because Bell has shown his colours at no.3.
8. Stuart Broad (+3) Okay, we doubted him. He was garbage against Sri Lanka, but the polar opposite against India rewarded the selectors’ faith. Currently injured, but hopefully will be fully fit by the new year.
9. Kevin Pietersen (unchanged) It would appear as Pietersen has turned a corner, such was the manner of his mature 202* in the first Test against India at Lord’s. We wondered if the (allegedly) headline act India would draw the best out of him; 533 runs at 106 would suggest they did.
10. Eoin Morgan (unchanged) We’ve written about Morgan before and we will write about him again. His technique should work to his advantage on the flat tracks of the United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka, but we fear the worst should he face Dale Steyn on a cloudy day at Headingley next year.
11. Tim Bresnan (+1) Blimey: played 10 won 10; a bowling average of 23.60 and a batting average of 45.42. If Samit Patel proves us as wrong as Bresnan did, expect the chubby spinner to bag his 384th Test wicket in the same match as he scores his 8,901st run.
12. Chris Tremlett (-4) Man of the Series against Sri Lanka, but was only available for the first match against India before injury struck. In ordinary circumstances, he’d back as soon as he recovers, but Bresnan’s form means these aren’t normal times.
13. Ravi Bopara (+1) He scored 7 and 44* in his two matches against India, one was atrocious, the other was perfunctory. Not enough to quash the doubts about him, but just about enough to keep him as first reserve batsman.
14. Steven Finn (-1) Not a bad fast bowler, for a water carrier.
15. Monty Panesar (+4) The second leading wicket-taker in division one, Panesar took 69 first-class wickets for Sussex this summer. Admittedly he hasn’t played for England since he survived those overs in that match at Cardiff in 2009, but in our minds, he’s a safer bet than any of the youngsters. And he’s not James Tredwell.
16. Samit Patel (+1) As we have said in the past, we really really don’t want him to play as the sole spinner, should anything happen to Swann. Mind you, we really don’t want him to play as a second spinner either, but because he knows which way around to hold his bat, he has a very good chance of going on all the winter tours.
17. Craig Kieswetter (-1) Thanks to the brilliance of Prior, the position of reserve wicket-keeper has been ignored somewhat. Purely because he is ODI and T20 ‘keeper, we’re placing Kieswetter ahead of the rest. Fingers’ crossed we’re wrong though.
18. Jonny Bairstow (+7) The big mover. Another fine county season and his dramatic ODI debut, allied to the fact that there is a host of Yorkshiremen advocating his selection, show us enough to think he may be in with a chance of a Test cap sooner rather than later.
19. Steven Davies (-1) Rather the forgotten man amidst the fanfare of late summer debutants, it was Davies who was reserve during the winter down under. He scored 1,000 runs for Surrey – sometimes as opener, another point in his favour perhaps – and took 55 dismissals (enough to finish fifth in the list of dismissals); but will that be enough to tour the United Arab Emirates? Still only 25, but a veteran compared with some of his rivals.
20. Jos Buttler (NE) As further proof of the uncertainty over this position, another Somerset wicket-keeper debuts on the England Ladder. Unlikely to be in the Test squad, but stranger things have happened in England selection meetings before.
21. James Taylor (unchanged) We told you he would play for England in the previous Ladder. Okay, that prediction is up there with ‘we think Samit Patel might get hit for a boundary this over’ and ‘we think there’s going to be a comedy Australian run out soon’, but we don’t get to brag very often.
22. Jade Dernbach (-7) His reasonable record in his first international summer will no doubt please the selectors, even though we are not fully convinced that he deserves a place in the 50-over team. However his performances have certainly proved that he is still a long way from being good enough to play Test cricket, particularly given the quantity and quality of players ahead of him.
23. Graham Onions (-1) There would be much dancing around our way if the Durham seamer was able to rekindle his England career. Of course, in the 20 months since he last played, Tremmers, Bressers and Finners have all taken their opportunities, thus Onions is in truth a long way from the team. But here’s a question for you: how many countries would be delighted to field an attack of Tremlett, Finn, Onions and Panesar – or more pertinently would not look forward to facing such an attack?
24. Alex Hales (NE) Cook and Strauss have been together for so long at the top of the order that other openers have had very few chances. Michael Carberry played once against Bangladesh; his form since his welcome return to cricket after his illness suggests he may be good enough to still warrant consideration. However it is the young Nottinghamshire opener who has impressed the most this season: winning the PCA Young Player of the Year award and scoring 1,127 runs at almost 47. There have been other young batsmen in recent seasons who have faded slightly after a fine year- Jimmy Adams and Andrew Gale for example- but at the present time, were Strauss to break a finger or if Cook is involved in a bizarre agricultural accident, we think it would be Hales who gets the call-up.
25. Chris Woakes (+1) Warwickshire’s Woakes had a fantastic summer, taking 56 wickets at 21.78, despite being injured early on. His handiness with the bat (579 runs at 48.25) means he remains above the likes of James Harris in the pecking order. In truth, he is probably a lot closer to the ODI side than he is the Test side though.
26. Ben Stokes (+1) Another youngster who’s season was disrupted by injury, Stokes failed to grasp the opportunity presented to him in the ODI series, but his chance will come again, particularly if the selectors continue their pro-Ginger stance.
27. Scott Borthwick (NE) Two cautionary words: Rashid, Adil. We are generally sympathetic to Rashid at 51allout, believing him to have been harshly treated by the selectors in the past. We certainly hope he has not disappeared from their consideration permanently. But it is true that new young spinners have arrived on the scene and for now at least seem to be better prospects. Leg spinner Borthwick had a competent season, taking 35 wickets at a lick over 30 apiece. He is set to become a regular in the Lions squad and he made his England debut in the injury-hit Autumn internationals.
28. Gary Keedy (NE) A tiny part of us would like to see Keedy given a chance to play Test cricket for England similar to that which was presented to Shaun Udal. However Udal’s four caps came in the pre-Panesar, pre-Swann era. Keedy will just have to pray for an injury crisis on an India 2011 scale.
29. Danny Briggs (NE) In what was a surprisingly good year for young English spinners, we think Briggs’ 38 wickets (albeit at 36.65) from 11 matches means he should be above Simon Kerrigan (26 from 5) in this race to be Swann’s reserve. Both should of course be miles ahead of Patel, but until Patel gets slogged for 200 in Dubai, they remain low on this ladder.
30. Saj Mahmood (unchanged) Well, it would be rude not to.