The young ones XI

Now that England have a win under their belt on this tour, our outlook has improved a little bit (but it’s going to take a lot of therapy to get Abu Dhabi out of our system). In the meantime, we’ve had some feedback saying that we’re too negative, which surprised us slightly – we thought the clue was in the ‘Grumpy’ bit of ‘Two Grumpy England Cricket Fans’. Writing angry rants is very cathartic and we’ll continue to do so (as we said in our very first post), until there really is nothing left to rant about, which we’re not expecting to be any time soon. But we also don’t take criticism lightly, so in that spirit, here’s something a bit more cheerful on the future of England cricket in the form of an XI of England talent, past, present and future.

This one’s for you, Millsy…

England have heaps of young talent coming through, and we expect at least one or two of the players in this list to become world-beaters. If five or six can develop, Australia may as well kiss goodbye to the Ashes for a decade or so (you heard it here first…). So without further ado:

Four future stars you’ve heard of…

1. James Taylor, 22 years old – He’s already made his England debut in a long-forgotten ODI against Ireland, but his current role is as England Lions skipper. Has just moved from Leicestershire, where he often propped up the batting order, to Notts, and his star is definitely rising. Averaging nearly 50 in First Class cricket, and only just turned 22, we’re expecting him to become a fixture in the England middle order sooner rather than later, although he still needs to learn to wear his pads properly. Very diminutive in stature, and will look comically short in a team with Broad, Tremlett, Finn etc. Speaking of which…

2. Steve Finn, 22 – It’s easy to forget he’s played 12 Tests already, but Steve looks likely to be a mainstay of the England attack for many years. Should have played instead of Tremlett in Dubai, after an impressive ODI series in India. With his height, more pace than Broad or Anderson had at the same age and a smart cricketing brain, he has the potential to be a wrecking ball. We expect big things.

3. Jonny Bairstow, 22 – Slightly underperformed in India, but still has a bright future. Strong and aggressive in his batting, and still developing with his keeping, he’s likely to play as a specialist batsman for the medium term, but could be a long-term heir to Matt Prior. May have to wait for Steve Davies to have his chance.

4. Chris Woakes, 22 – Has slipped under the radar a bit after an eye-catching start to his England career in Australia, but a regular in the Lions team. Often criticised for lacking real pace, but as Vernon Philander has recently shown for SA, if you can be accurate and move the ball, that doesn’t matter and his FC record speaks for itself. Has also become a genuine, balanced all-rounder, and could be a perfect long-term fit to allow England to progress with five bowlers.

… Four you might not have done…

1. Jos Buttler, 21 – A little raw, but with blistering power and an obscene List A record (averaging over 70 with a strike rate of nearly 130), he’s unlikely to break into the Test team any time soon, but was probably only an injured hand away from playing in the first ODI in the UAE, and could be a very handy batsman to have floating around the middle order. Scored a ridiculous 56-ball hundred for England Lions.

2. Danny Briggs, 20 – One of a crop of exciting young spinners, Briggs got the nod for the Lions tour to the subcontinent. Has already played a good amount of FC cricket, and has had moderate success on what is usually a pretty flat Rose Bowl pitch. Has the disadvantage of not having any batting as a second string. Could play on the current tour, but England will probably let him have another couple of years in county cricket before really throwing him into the mix.

3. Reece Topley, 18 – Has only just turned 18, and looks a really ‘Top’ prospect. Another freakishly tall bowler (being 6 ft 7 doesn’t seem unusual any more, really), he terrorised county lineups on helpful wickets at the start of last season, before having to go back to school. Needs to learn his trade in First Class cricket, but give him two or three years and we could be looking at another Finn / Broad.

4. Alex Hales, 23 – A bit unfair to put him in this bracket, really, given that he’s already played four international T20s, but as one of the older of the crop and not yet a household name, has developed nicely while not many were looking. Yet to convince the selectors he’s worth a place in the ODI squad, but another good season in county cricket will surely earn him a call-up.

… And three who didn’t quite make it (at least not yet)

1. Adil Rashid, 23 – A bit of an enigma. He looked to be the next big thing of English cricket as a legspinner with strong batting to go with it, but after breaking into the one day set up, failed to convince the selectors he was worth a long-term place, and has even drifted out of Lions contention. He may just have been sent away to ply his trade for Yorkshire for a year or two, but after a strong start had a poor season overall in 2011, and we’ve heard the odd whisper questioning his professionalism (his Twitter profile says ‘dont do much just like to chill’ (sic)). Plenty of time yet, though, and we really hopes he makes it.

2. Rory Hamilton-Brown, 24 – Again maybe a little unfair to bracket him here. Moved to Surrey as captain aged just 22 and has been exceptional in that role, leading the side to county championship promotion and the CB40 title, but his batting has been patchy and the overall stats unimpressive. Still young though, and possesses natural leadership material for the higher level if he can have a good couple of seasons.

3. Joe Denly, 25 – Looked a bright opener in his limited England career, but lacked the strike rate to last long in ODIs. Had a very strong finish to 2011 in county cricket, but needs to work on his consistency. Looks to be well down the pecking order now, and perhaps the man with the furthest to go of anyone on this list.

The XI – all in all, a pretty strong lineup:

  1. Hales
  2. Denly
  3. Hamilton-Brown (c)
  4. Taylor
  5. Bairstow (wk)
  6. Buttler
  7. Woakes (2)
  8. Rashid (4)
  9. Finn (1)
  10. Briggs (5)
  11. Topley (3)

Right, that’s enough of that. Back to the ranting…

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