Picking an Alternative England Test XI from Outside the Current Squad
England's Test summer gets underway against Sri Lanka at Lord's tomorrow.
Not only is it England's first Test of the post-Kevin Pietersen era, but it is the Test beginning of the much-proclaimed new era in the Test format.
England's squad for the first Test is as follows: Alastair Cook, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Matt Prior, Sam Robson, Joe Root, Chris Woakes.
The squad was one that was preceded by much debate and competition for spots was fierce.
This slideshow will pick an alternative Test team involving players who missed out on selection for the real thing.
1. Nick Compton
Compton's England career came to an abrupt halt just prior to the home Ashes series last year. Compton had not done badly at all for England, but with an average of 31.93, he'd not made an irresistible claim for selection either.
He has been in solid form for Somerset so far this season and, with nine Tests to his name, brings international experience to a side that by definition will be lacking in it.
2. Alex Hales
A risky pick and certainly one not backed up by statistics.
Hales' quality in the shorter formats is not doubted, but an awful Championship season for Nottinghamshire last year certainly threw into doubt his ability against the red ball.
However, Hales offers something rare and special. He is an attacking batsman of unusual dominance in the English game. His 166 in the Championship only last week showed that he is capable of transferring his white ball game into the longer formats.
Hales would add dynamism and prowess to England's batting.
3. James Vince
James Vince is one of the most talented batsmen in the country and is in superb form this season.
Vince is the fourth top scorer in county cricket this year with 765 runs for Hampshire so far.
At just 23 years of age, Vince has a bright future ahead of him.
He is an elegant batsman, once compared to Michael Vaughan, and has the ability to suggest he would be capable of filling the role at No. 3.
Vince is not an obvious selection, but his form and age are too impressive to ignore.
4. Kevin Pietersen
At No. 4, the obvious choice is the best English batsman of this generation and perhaps even the generation before.
Pietersen's form since his sudden and dramatic international jettisoning has been far from spectacular, yet Pietersen was the highest scorer in England's horror Ashes winter and his is a talent not quickly lost.
Pietersen has the experience to captain this England side.
5. Samit Patel
It is strange but telling that Moeen Ali, not Samit Patel, has won selection for the first Test against Sri Lanka.
England have been looking for a batting all-rounder capable of bowling some spin, and while Ali fits the role, Patel also does and does so with a better recent first-class record and more international experience.
Patel is the fifth-leading run-scorer in championship cricket this year with 709 runs and has already represented England at Test level.
His fitness, or rather lack of, is often cited as the reason for his continued non-selection, but if his fitness is such an issue, then why is he scoring so many runs? England often over-complicate selections, and while there is logic in picking Ali, there is little logic in ignoring Patel.
6. Jos Buttler
Jos Buttler narrowly missing out on selection for the first Test, with Matt Prior getting the nod, was understandable and justifiable.
Yet Buttler is certainly the man for this second string XI. His talent and rare ability make him too difficult to ignore.
He may not be totally ready for Test cricket quite yet and would benefit from more time in county cricket, yet at the same time talent feeds off risks and can often be moulded by risks. Buttler is the most talented young batsman in England and should certainly be in this team.
7. Ben Stokes
Stokes missing out on selection for the first Test was certainly a surprise. The selectors cited his lack of first-class cricket as the reason for England's only winter Ashes hero missing out on selection.
Which was a strange explanation considering he's not played much less than Chris Woakes who was selected.
Either way, Stokes walks into this team as one of the first names on the team sheet.
8. Adil Rashid
English cricket is desperately short of spin bowlers currently, but Rashid, who half a decade ago was tipped for great things, remains a consistent and reliable performer at county level.
Furthermore, being a leg-spinner, Rashid adds a more unusual dimension to this England team.
He has been in decent form for his county Yorkshire with both bat and ball, striking fifties and having taken 15 wickets so far this season at an average of 30.
9. Graeme Onions
Again, another difficult selection. But Graeme Onions is the one remaining survivor of England's reserve back-up bowlers while Tim Bresnan, Boyd Rankin and Chris Tremlett have fallen out of favour recently.
Onions' early season has been disrupted by injury, but the Durham paceman remains one of the most feared bowlers on the county circuit.
Onions has long been a fringe player for England since making his Test debut in 2009 but his lack of opportunities has worked in his favour now with him still just about remaining in the frame for selection.
Durham are hopeful that Onions will make a return from his wrist injury shortly.
10. Jack Brooks
Brooks has been an excellent performer on the county circuit for some time, but since his move to Yorkshire, he has excelled, and particularly this season, he has begun to push for the international honours many always believed to be a step too far for the tireless pacer.
Brooks sits atop of the bowling statistics this season and has been doing so in first-division cricket.
Brooks has toured with the England Performance Programme, so has been involved in the setup before, and his energetic bowling would certainly be valuable in this attack.
11. Steven Finn
There is little doubting that Steven Finn is best not rushed back into England's teams right now. His career so far has been horribly volatile, and he certainly needs plenty of time in county cricket to regain a foothold on a career that could well be wasted if not managed properly.
However, in this case, when we are having to pick an England team without the preferred pace attack, Finn would have to play.
Finn remains a dangerous bowler, his natural height and raw ability proving enough to distinguish him from many other performers in county cricket.
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