England captain leading by example as summer Tests approach

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Although many would like to see England’s stars testing themselves in the shortest form of the game out in the IPL, the majority have shunned that competition’s heavy pay packets for early-summer stints in the County Championship.

With Test series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan on the horizon, opting for the negligible crowds and chilly winds of the English domestic season is very much the warm up for traditionalists. For most it has paid dividends.

For England’s captain, Alastair Cook, that is most definitely the case. The left-hander has plundered Division Two attacks to all parts during Essex’s first four games, scoring three hundreds and averaging 130.75 in his seven knocks.

As part of a top order that has stuttered in red-ball international cricket, a continuation of Cook’s form will be vital when the first Test of the summer gets underway against Sri Lanka at Headingley.

Unfortunately his most recent Test-match opening partner, Alex Hales, has only managed to squeeze in one match. He scored 70 runs in his two innings and will be under pressure for his place if scoring low against Angelo Mathews’ side in Leeds.

Number three Nick Compton has fared even worse for Middlesex, averaging 24.25 in five knocks and is yet to pass 50.

Joe Root followed a golden duck with 27 in his only outing for Yorkshire, while teammate Jonny Bairstow has continued thriving on County attacks, registering a mammoth 246 in his collection of 335 runs so far this season.

Ben Stokes hasn’t been among the runs for Durham in his two games, but has terrorised with the ball, taking 11 wickets at an average of 24.18.

Another all-rounder, Moeen Ali, has contributed a ton for Worcestershire, but has only taken one wicket in 42 overs across two appearances.

From the out and out bowlers, Jimmy Anderson has a best of 3-29 in four innings for Lancashire, while Stuart Broad has just four scalps to his name thus far.

Of those trying to force their way into the XI, Adil Rashid’s leggies have earned him seven scalps and could see him join Ali as a two-headed spin attack, although Notts’ leading wicket taker, Jake Ball, could well land the spot if England tread an old-fashioned three-seamer path.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.