A post Ashes reality seemed to hit pretty hard within the England camp as Head coach Chris Silverwood, Assistant coach Graham Thorpe and managing director of men’s cricket Ashely Giles all left their positions one by one.
2021 was without a disaster for England’s Test cricket with Joe Root being a small shining light in a very dark and very large pit.
A strong start in Sri Lanka at the beginning of the year was suddenly overwhelmed by the end of a seven-year unbeaten home record in a Test series with a 1-0 defeat by New Zealand. England were also 2-1 down to India when the final match had to be postponed due to a Covid outbreak in India’s camp.
Any year that culminates with a 4-0 Test defeat would be considered suboptimal but coupled with it being an Ashes Test as well as it following on from such disasters in the summer, it became the final nail in the coffin for England’s 2021 Test setup.
With the next Test series around the corner, England have shaken up a lot more than just their coaching staff as the announcement of the Test squad has sparked much debate, confusion and fears for fans around the country.
Some necessary changes have been made but certain decisions that the interim managing director, former England captain Sir Andrew Strauss, has made has begged the question as to whether two prolific cricketers may be nearing the end of their time within the England camp.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad
With over 1,100 Test Wickets between them, Stuart Broad and James Anderson have become synonymous with England’s opening bowling in Test cricket.
Anderson has recently celebrated his 169th Test Match and recorded the best average for any English bowler in Australia but is now being rewarded by being dropped.
With 640 Test wickets - more than any other fast bowler in Test cricket history - leaving Anderson out sends a remarkably strong message that a new look and model for England’s Test team is here.
The veteran pair are two of eight players from the Ashes squad to miss out on Test selection for the Windies tour.
Many fans are now fearing that this may be the beginning of the end for the pair who have a combined age of 74.
In a series that was most definitely lost due to failings in batting rather than bowling, it would appear that it is predominantly England’s two most successful bowlers who have suffered the consequences.
What has Sir Andrew Strauss said on the matter?
Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Strauss said: “In respect of James Anderson and Stuart Broad I want to emphasise this does not mean the end for them as England players.
“We feel that it is important to look at some exciting new bowling potential and give some added responsibility to other players who have featured previously.
“No one doubts the quality and experience that James and Stuart bring to the England set-up. It will be up to the new managing director and permanent head coach to decide on whether they will be involved this summer and beyond.”
Former England batter Mark Ramprakash described the decision as an ‘earthquake in cricketing terms’ and I must say I would agree. While it is most definitely a necessity to change England’s batting line-up and bring in new blood, it seems baffling to completely leave out two bowlers who, despite their age, are continuing to deliver at every occasion.
Who has replaced the fast bowlers?
Lancashire fast bowler Saqib Mahmood will hopefully play his first International Test match as England face the West Indies. Mahmood has long been overdue a Test call up and bounced on to the scene during England’s ODI series against Pakistan in 2021.
The 24-year-old is known for his powerful physique and impressive pace as well as being able to reverse the ball later on in an innings.
He has been known to clock up speeds of 90mph and his pace will be a very welcome sight for an English team known to rely on swing maybe too much.
Yorkshireman Matthew Fisher has earned his first England Test call up. Having featured in England’s Lions squad, the 24-year-old lanky seamer has now been called up to fill some rather big and weighty shoes.
He is sitting on a first class bowling average of 27.52 and has taken 32 List A wickets.
Alex Lees earns first Test call up
English fans had great hopes for Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed who came into the squad ready to step up and provide a steady opening grind.
However, the repetitive nightmare took over once more and Hameed enjoyed a top score of just 27 throughout the whole series.
Hameed was not helped by his fellow opener Rory Burns who managed two ducks, a 13, 4, 26 and 34.
For what is becoming almost as long as I can remember, England have struggled to find a consistent and successful opening partnership.
As a result of such poor performances, Hameed and Burns will not be joining Joe Root in the West Indies and Durham’s Alex Lees has earned his first England Test call-up.
Lees captained the England Lions tour in Australia and is sitting on a List A batting average of 40.28.
The 28-year-old will hope to offer much more in the top order than his two predecessors were able.
Now this is one decision I can most definitely get behind. Foakes has been widely known as the best glovesman in the country with Sir Alex Stewart even once stating that Foakes is actually the best wicketkeeper in the world.
His batting average has let him down in the past when it comes to International selection but with Jos Buttler currently injured (an incident that will have saved it from being dropped due to poor form) Foakes will once more step up to the task.
He has five Test and 11 List A stumpings as well as 14 Test and 86 List A catches.
The 28-year-old is also currently sitting on a List A average of 37.32 and Test average of 31.53, but this will hopefully be less of a concern if England’s openers are able to achieve more than they were down under.
England will play their first Test match against the West Indies on 8 March 2022 at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium from 2pm GMT.
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