Following Paul Collingwood’s retirement, England took the brave decision to replace him with Eoin Morgan, a proven One-Day and Twenty20 player, but a player with what can only be explained as an average first-class record. Occasionally selectors manage to pull-one out of the bag, selecting someone with a modest record, who then proves himself better at playing Steyn’s 90mph away-swingers than Alan Richardson’s 75mph away-drifters. Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan fitted into this bracket, but sadly Morgan did not. His technique has been found to be flawed and hopefully now he can return to Middlesex and make the most of his undoubted talent in the longer-version of the game. So who will come in to fill this void?
Hugely talented and, for quite a chunk of his career, huge to look at, Patel was selected for the tour to Sri Lanka. He did well, didn’t look out of his depth, but failed to make a telling contribution that would secure a place. England’s decision to bat him at seven showed a lack of faith in his batting, strange for guy who averages 40+. His bowling is accurate, and would be useful in a containing role in England, unless they are playing on an absolute bunsen (bunsen burner – turner). He’s fielding has always been considered a week link, he’s certainly no Paul Collingwood, but does have a fairly safe pair of hands. His improved ODI form as well as solid start in Sri Lanka, in my opinion should be enough to keep him in the side. Poor start to the season in difficult conditions at Trent Bridge will though count against him.
The Essex man is still only 26, despite seemingly being around for ever, and already has three Test hundred’s to his name in just seventeen innings’, a fair return. Combine this with some useful medium-pace (quicker in pace than Collingwood, but not as canny) and solid fielding – he should be a shoe in. It is questions about temperament and ability to playing bowling of the highest order that remain. It was Shane Warne, in his role as a pundit who first questioned Bopara’s mentality, often seen as over-confidence, at the start of the Ashes series in 2009, Bopara was ruthlessly exposed and replaced by Trott in the fifth-and-final-test (who exceeded Bopara’s run total in 1 single innings). Fantastic hundred against Yorkshire at Leeds in very trying conditions has greatly enhanced his chances.
Born in Milton Keynes, and educated in Glastonbury, you would want him batting at any cricket festival. Excellent to watch, scores runs all round the wicket, and his hockey days have left him with a style reminiscent of AB DeVilliers. Score more runs per season, on average, than anybody else mentioned on this page. His main strength is his ability to score daddy hundreds, when he gets in, he stays in, scoring double and even treble hundreds. There are no question marks about his character either, he’s an astute thinker who has captained both England Lions and Somerset. Questions do still linger about his ability to score difficult and important runs. Last week at Nottingham with Somerset already in command and in good batting conditions, he compiled a terrific ton at almost a-run-a-ball. The week before, in a very tight game, on a seaming pitch, that Somerset ultimately lost, Hildreth contributed 0 and 3, bowled on both occasions by left-arm seamers. Hildreth needs to play a match defining innings and soon to have a chance of selection (preferably away from Taunton).
A solid player for a good few seasons now, Compton has suddenly burst into life and amassed an amazing 685 runs runs already this season (we’re still in April!). Grandson of the legendary Denis Compton, this chap you would think has the perfect credentials as an England cricketer. Yet his was born in Durban he only arrived in the UK as a teenager, with so many South Africans already in-and-around the England side, this may count against him, I see no reason why it should though. If he can continue his fine form, and Strauss continues to play find-and-seek with his, an opening higher up the order may come his way later in the season.
Would be a left-field selection. If England are after a genuine all-rounder, which they say they are, Gidman has to be considered. A relative unknown until last season, and late to blossom, he amazed Gloucestershire fans with over a 1000 runs at 46 and 51 wickets at 21, at truly monumental effort. Brother of Alex, Will has started this season in much the same vain, 16 wickets at 16-a-piece. The nippy seamer will need to maintain this form over a sustained period to get any kind of recognition, and it may be in one-day cricket that he gets his chance, but it is in the longest format where this style of cricketer is at his best. Playing Second Division will be held against him. A player very similar to Rikki Clarke who also should not be ignored.