Sri Lanka arrive in England on Wednesday ahead of the first Test in a three-match series on May 19.
With two weeks till that Headingley Test, we asked Nasser Hussain, Nick Knight, Michael Atherton, Rob Key and Paul Allott to play the role of selector, and pick their teams.
Nasser Hussain – “Vince has long-term potential”
I’ve gone for James Vince at number three ahead of Nick Compton. If you ask me about the long-term potential, then Vince has got something about him that I would like to see more of. He is a very elegant player.
Alex Hales stays as opener, he is the man in possession and I don’t think people are bursting down the door to say give me that position, and I think Hales deserves a chance away from home and at home.
Once you leave Ian Bell out, what were the selectors expecting, that he wasn’t going to go back to county cricket and score runs? Of course he was. He is a high class player, so I don’t see why Bell scoring runs for Warwickshire should surprise the selectors or in any way change their mind. I’d like to see Jonny Bairstow move up to five, and give Jos Buttler back the gloves.
Nick Knight – “Now is the right time for Vince”
I’ve seen a lot of Vince over the years and I think now is the right time for him. Picking a young player to play Test cricket is all about getting the right timing, and having been part of the England one-day set-up for a while now, now is the right time. He is a very classy player, an eye-catching player. He has a hundred in the Championship already this year, against Yorkshire – a very good attack – so his form is good. I have a hunch that this lad is ready to play.
At five I’ve gone with Gary Ballance. He averages over 47 in Test match cricket. He had a difficult time technically over the last six to eight months and apparently has worked at those areas, which I’d like to see. Also, the one thing you can’t question about Ballance is that he has the character and the temperament to score runs at Test match level. That’s not the gamble, the gamble is if he has corrected those technical issues.
Michael Atherton – “Don’t dismiss Bell”
I’ve put Joe Root at three, Bell at four. In the past, I used to think a lot about age and where the team was going but now I just keep it simple, I just pick the best team and with Bell, although he is 34, you’ve got a guy with 22 Test match hundreds.
Kumar Sangakkara scored 3,428 runs at an average of 60 with 12 hundreds after the age of 34, Graham Gooch 5,154 runs at 47, with 13 hundreds, and Jacques Kallis 3,012 runs at an average of 57.92, with 14 hundreds. I think you need to think long and hard before you just dismiss people, as at 34 and beyond you can still have a very productive time of it.
Traditionally, England have played their best player at four. Australians like to have them at three – think Don Bradman, Ricky Ponting, Greg Chappell. Trevor Bayliss is an Australian coach and deep down I think he’d like to have somebody coming in at three who can press the game and Joe Root is England’s best player, so I’d move him up to three.
Robert Key – “Rashid could be trump card”
I’ve got Ballance in there at five because I think that somebody that averages over 47 deserves another opportunity. It’d be ridiculous to think if he doesn’t, it would be one of the great mysteries in cricket.
The one change I’ve made that is different to other people is that I’d bring in Adil Rashid in for Moeen Ali. That’s nothing against Moeen, it’s just I think Rashid – the way he’s improved this winter since playing out in the UAE – could be a real trump card for England, and he can bat as well.
Paul Allott – “Ball is knocking down the door”
Steven Finn comes back in because he bowled so well in South Africa, and was in possession before he was injured. I like Jake Ball though, and he will be knocking on the door as he is in form and taking wickets.
I saw Ball bowl at Old Trafford in the Championship, when Lancashire beat Nottinghamshire. In the company of Stuart Broad, James Anderson, and Neil Wagner – another Test match bowler for New Zealand – he did not look out of place, so he is in my squad, but as my 12th man. Headingley and Chester-le-Street in the early season provided the type of bowler that Ball is with some assistance, so I wouldn’t be worried if I had to play him.