Following the recent conduct of England’s superstar all-rounder Ben Stokes, England could face the possibility of an Ashes series in Australia without their talisman.
With Stokes under police investigation, the ECB has announced that Stokes will not make the trip down under if the investigation is not concluded by that the time the side departs on October 28, with pace bowler Steven Finn called-up to the squad. A potentially huge loss for England, we look into Trevor Bayliss’ options to balance his side for the first test in Brisbane if they are to lose Stokes.
Move Moeen into the all-rounder role
The most likely move England will make is simply to shift current number 7,8 and 9 (Bairstow, Ali and Woakes) up the order one place each, with Woakes more than capable of batting at number 8, with a test average of 32.14. This would then allow England to bring in an extra bowler to replace the bowling abilities of Stokes that they will sorely miss.
The big worry with this option is the only bowling replacements in the squad are Jake Ball, Craig Overton or Mason Crane, with a combined two test caps between the three of them, and then Steven Finn who has been hot and cold over the past four years. As well as this, it weakens the batting line-up, with three genuine bowlers batting 9, 10 and 11; a strategy England have been reluctant to deploy.
Many feel as though Ali is wasted batting at number 8, having played multiple swashbuckling innings, and being England’s saviour on multiple occasions. A move higher in the order could further benefit Ali’s batting and see him score bigger numbers in the upcoming Ashes series.
Foakes to take the gloves
A slightly rogue move could see England hand Test rookie Ben Foakes the gloves for the first test, allowing Jonny Bairstow to move up the order and play solely as a batsman. England may be reluctant to do this, with Foakes’ lack of international experience, along with Bairstow’ impressive glove-work over the past 18 months making this option seem unlikely.
However, it could free up Bairstow to score even more runs than he has been doing over the past 18 months, allowing him to concentrate solely on his batting.
Play an extra batsman
A possible option for England if they lose Ben Stokes is to replace him with a genuine batsman, meaning a recall for Gary Ballance could be on the cards, batting lower down the order at number 6, where many experts feel he could be more comfortable not facing the newer ball.
However, this option, like the previous option of bringing in Foakes leaves England a bowler short, with just four frontline options, plus the reluctant off-spin of Joe Root. This could be a big concern with conditions expected to be favouring the batters during this year’s Ashes series, it could mean a hefty workload for England’s bowlers.
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