Sunsport’s John Etheridge reveals who he’d choose for the first five-dayer against South Africa and agrees it’s tough to decide
TREVOR BAYLISS says it will be the most difficult squad selection since he became head coach two years ago.
Bayliss and the other selectors meet at Worcester on Friday while the England Lions take on South Africa in their final warm-up match before the First Test.
So who should walk out alongside new Test skipper Joe Root at Lord’s?
Starting from the top of the order, it is impossible to choose Lancashire opener Haseeb Hameed.
He looked better and more secure than Alastair Cook for much of the Test series in India last winter before he was ruled out the final two Tests with a broken hand.
But his form this summer has fallen off a cliff and he has yet to register a half-century in four-day cricket. So Mark Stoneman should make his England debut.
Hameed needs to recapture his form and confidence and, hopefully, return for the easy-looking three-Test series West Indies that follows the showdown with the Proteas.
If he starts racking up the runs again, Hameed can book his place on the plane to Australia next winter.
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With six centuries this summer, Cook is a certainty and so is Durham’s Keaton Jennings. Joe Root should bat at No.4, even though Bayliss would prefer him at three.
Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes come next but I would play Bairstow as a specialist batsman and hand the gloves to Surrey’s Ben Foakes.
His county boss Alec Stewart describes Foakes as the best wicketkeeper in the WORLD. And he scores a stack of runs, too.
Moeen Ali should bat at No.7, where he can score rapid runs down the order and operate as England’s first-choice spinner.
Mason Crane will be discussed at the selection meeting but I’d hold fire on the 20-year-old from Hampshire.
Let him bowl some more overs in county cricket before considering him for the Ashes trip.
England have plenty of concerns about the fast bowling with Chris Woakes and Jake Ball both ruled out.
But Stuart Broad, suffering with a bruised heel, has been working hard to be fit for the Royal London Cup final between Notts and Surrey on Saturday – and the Test match five days later.
Mark Wood and James Anderson have endured more than their fair share of injuries over the last year or two but they are fit and bowling well at the moment.
My team for the First Test v South Africa at Lord’s on July 6: Cook, Stoneman, Jennings, Root (capt), Bairstow, Stokes, Moeen, Foakes (wkt), Broad, Wood, Anderson.
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