Sir Ian Botham says it’s time to rest Jos Buttler. Graeme Swann agrees, but he’d drop Ian Bell too. Meanwhile, Michael Vaughan insists Moeen Ali shouldn’t open the batting.
After a loss there aren’t many pundits more savage in advocating change than the brethren following the England cricket team. Luckily, the men in charge of actually picking the team have become far more level-headed.
Since an established core of young players took over from the senior stars that were decimated in Australia in 2013/14 there hasn’t been the need to make drastic alterations.
One loss in the UAE shouldn’t change that strategy. After all England only lost the second Test after one bad session and came agonizingly close to saving the game thanks to some of those same newcomers.
Buttler certainly looks in desperate need of a spell out of the team in order to rediscover his confidence, but beyond the Lancashire stumper England should stick with the personnel they have.
Moeen Ali is a top order batsman for his county, he is perfectly capable of opening the batting at international level, as he has done in ODIs, and should remain Alastair Cook’s partner in the third Test.
Whether he opens in South Africa is another question, but will England play two spinners there? These are the joys of picking a squad, they allow you to adapt to different conditions.
Ian Bell has only batted at number three in five Tests since moving there during last summer’s Ashes. His record in that time (260 runs at 37.14) is neither illuminating nor droppable form. Allow it to move definitively one way or the other before speculating on his place.
England are likely to do just that in Sharjah, keeping Ali at the top, with Bell at three. That means James Taylor will return to Test cricket at number five, with Bairstow filling Buttler’s wicketkeeping gloves at seven.
Taylor has progressed pleasingly as an England player despite being in and out of the limited-overs side. He is far better placed to leave a lasting impression on the Test team than when making his only two previous appearances back in 2012.
He plays spin well and is in the Joe Root-mould of imposing himself on opposition attacks right from ball one. With him in the side over a forlorn Buttler, England will fancy their chances of levelling the series at odds of 11/4.
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