The Betway ambassador writes that England’s young players must cement their Ashes positions this summer, but that their spin options are still not good enough.
Plenty to play for in England v New Zealand
This series feels quite low-key because of the different objectives for the two sides, but the first thing to say is that I expect England to be fully motivated for this Test, regardless of the fact that they are without key players and have bigger fish to fry later in the year.
It’s easy to motivate yourself for a Test match. If you’re there for it, and you’re going to play in it, it gets your full attention.
For New Zealand, it’s about getting used to these English conditions and playing against the Dukes ball ahead of the World Test Championship.
This is a curtain-raiser for them.
They’ll want to know their best combinations, they’ll want to keep their players fit and they’ll they want to have all their players in form. They have an unbelievable opportunity to get the best preparation before that one-off Test match against India.
From England’s perspective, it’s about what happens later in the year: the Ashes.
Playing against India in England is huge, too, so they’ve got two massive series.
It’s about players individually putting their hands up to be picked. They’re such big events that you want to put your position in the team beyond doubt going into them.
It’s a series with lots of interesting dynamics and plenty to play for.
Huge opportunity for England’s young batsmen
I learned in 2010/11 that in order to go to Australia and win, you have to have a settled team. It’s no good players scratching around and being switched in and out of the side.
We had such a settled top seven on that tour: Cook, Strauss, Trott, myself, Collingwood, Bell and Prior.
Youngsters like Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope and Dan Lawrence have such a huge opportunity in these matches to nail down their places for that series, which would mean England don’t have to worry about their side going down under this winter.
Of course, you still have guys like Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler, but I want to know what England’s best batting line-up is by the end of this summer.
In the bowling department, more rest and rotation may be required. Broad and Anderson can keep going in the same side, particularly in England, and then you have Wood, Woakes, Robinson, Overton and others available throughout this summer.
England must produce their own Ravi Jadeja
It frustrates me that there still isn’t an international-standard English left-arm spin bowler who bats.
Look at what Ravindra Jadeja has done for India in Test match cricket, one-day cricket and T20 cricket.
It’s the one position that the ECB must be prioritising. They need to invest in somebody, because someone of that ilk is priceless across all three formats.
If you’re a kid, an emerging player or a county cricketer, copy Jadeja. Copy what Jadeja does because he’s an absolute superstar. You’ll have a long career as a Test match cricketer for England.
Leach is not a Test match spinner and Bess is not a Test match spinner.
I wrote nearly two years ago that I hope Leach doesn’t get remembered for Specsavers adverts because it’s about winning Test matches.
Unfortunately, I was right, because he’s not good enough. He hasn’t bowled any teams out, he hasn’t bowled England to glory in Tests like Panesar and Swann used to do.
It’s going to be a very hot week at Lord’s and England aren’t picking a spinner. That just shows us where they are at with the quality of their options.
They must identify and properly develop a left-arm spin all-rounder or that department will always be a weakness.
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