As the Rugby World Cup Final approaches, the minds of those who deal with all things sporting could be forgiven for wandering away from the job in hand. With this in mind, I will save David Graveney and co a hard day at the office by picking the squad for Sri Lanka for them. No need for thanks, David, although tickets for Lords next year wouldn’t go amiss.
I have picked a squad of fifteen. It’s a short tour and players shouldn’t go on tour just to carry the drinks.
Seven batsmen to fill the top six spots in the order. Five of them are no-brainers and have contributed to the most stable middle order that England have had since the days of Gatting, Gower, Lamb and Botham. This means no place for International underachiever Mark Ramprakash. Owais Shah’s performances in One Day cricket indicate that he is becoming comfortable at International level. Andrew Strauss has gone potential England captain to under threat for his place in the squad. He edges out Rob Key on the basis that Strauss has just had his longest break from cricket since joining the England ranks. Mental fatigue looked to be one of Strauss’s problems last season and he has enough behind him to encourage patience from the selectors for one more series.
Matt Prior is the player in possession and despite worries about his abilities with the gloves, he is also the best batsman of England’s wicket-keepers. In the absence of Andrew Flintoff this will be crucial as he may need to bat at 6, if England go with five bowlers. On a short tour, the reserve wicket-keeper is around for cover in case of injury. Therefore, a like-for-like replacement in Tim Ambrose will be taken. This means no place for England’s best wicket-keeper, Chris Read, but having made the decision about running with Prior, he should be given a fair chance.
In the past, bits and pieces players have been picked as pseudo all-rounders. However, in this part no all-rounders have been chosen as there are none, other than Flintoff, who are International class. The rest of the squad has been chose to reflect this. It is likely that England will play with six batsmen and four bowlers. However, Vaughan, Pietersen and Collingwood can expect a fair amount of bowling as support to the main four bowlers. If the team moves to five and five, then Graeme Swann or Stuart Broad will bat at number 7.
As only two will be taken, they pick themselves. This means no place for Adil Rashid, who will spend a more useful time playing cricket with England Lions rather than watching the test team
Only four pace bowlers will be taken and with three likely to play in the test team, all will play at some point during the series. When fit, Matthew Hoggard has been England’s best bowler for the past two years. Ryan Sidebottom and James Anderson showed their progression during the summer and with their experience of the One Day series should give control. The fourth bowler is Stuart Broad who is a different type of bowler and has the ability to bat higher up the order than Chris Tremlett or Steve Harmison, which will be critical in the absence of Flintoff.
Therefore the full squad for the Sri Lanka series is:
Michael Vaughan (Capt)