Picking an England Test XI Using Only Exciting Players
England's current Test team are boring right? So said Darren Lehmann last year after his Australian team lost the Ashes but went on to extract a comprehensive revenge over the winter.
And, judging from the first Test of this summer against Sri Lanka, the nerve-shredding last couple of hours aside, Alastair Cook and Peter Moores have plenty of work ahead to shake off that tag.
So, let's help them out. Here's a hypothetical exciting XI that England could pick should they want to spice things up.
How do you think they'd go? Would they score 400-plus runs in no time at all and take control of games? Or do they lack the patience that is required to be successful over five days of cricket?
*Please note, for the sake of clarity, no current England players were considered for this team. But the likes of Chris Jordan, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Matt Prior and Ian Bell could easily grace this XI.
1. Alex Hales
A meteoric rise in Twenty20 international cricket has seen a clamour for the bombastic Alex Hales to be given a chance in England's struggling ODI team. But what about at Test level?
The Nottinghamshire opener has huge potential across all-formats, but a disastrous red-ball summer in 2013, where he averaged 13.94 in the County Championship, has set him back.
However, after starting the current campaign on the sidelines for Notts, recent weeks have indicated a full return to form with a blistering 167 off just 133 balls against Sussex, backed up by two 90-plus scores against Middlesex.
At his fluent best, Hales makes the game look simple, capable of playing classically straight and also, when he gets in, with brutal power.
2. James Vince
Another exciting player who has long been linked with a full England call-up is Hampshire's swash-buckling batsman James Vince.
The 23-year-old, who has been playing at the top domestic level for five years already, averages over 40 in first-class cricket and has scored his runs at a steady click of 65.03.
A stunning recent innings of 240 against Essex off just 222 balls was further evidence of his ability, and with an armoury of shots all-round the wicket, his brand of cricket make him perfect for this side.
Although he often bats in the middle order for his county, Vince will step up to the top of the order in this hypothetical side.
3. Kevin Pietersen
After his well-documented axing by England, the enigmatic Kevin Pietersen would be delighted to find that he was the centrepiece of this team.
Love him or hate him, the bar-clearing South African-born batsman played some of the most spectacular Test innings of recent times, such as this (atrocious haircut though).
Even his haul of 23 centuries and 8,181 Test runs, compiled at a strike rate of 61.72 doesn't tell the full story of his unique approach to batting, which usually was comprised of outrageous and unique shots.
4. Eoin Morgan
Eoin Morgan was a breath of fresh air when he burst on to the scene a few years ago, and he remains England's most important batsman in limited overs cricket.
However, his ability to hit the ball in unusual parts of the field let him down in Test cricket where different skills can be required, and he's spent the last few years chasing the dollars of the T20 format.
But this season, a new-look England has prompted Morgan to recommit himself to Middlesex with a view to returning to the sport's highest level, and if his 472 County Championship runs from just eight innings are anything to go by, he could be successful.
5. Samit Patel
While the saga of Samit Patel and an England recall continues, the gifted all-rounder walks into the exciting XI, where shot-making is encouraged and the fitness policy is less stringent.
After an initial run at international level, which included five Tests and plenty of ODI success, the 29-year-old was discarded, with fitness issues being cited as one of the main factors.
But Nottinghamshire fans know what England are missing out on. Patel is capable of scoring rapidly (see his 764 runs at a strike rate of 68.03 this season) and decimating attacks while also chips in with some useful overs of spin.
Welcome aboard Samit. By the way, you'll love the lunches at exciting XI's HQ.
6. Jim Allenby
A left-field choice, but Jim Allenby has been one of county cricket's most dynamic performers with both bat and ball for some years and, after becoming eligible for England, could be a revelation at Test level.
But will a 31-year-old Australian-born Glamorgan player get a chance? Unlikely.
Still, through scoring over 8,000 runs at an average of over 40 with the bat and taking 222 wickets at 26.59 with the ball, this genuine all-rounder walks into the exciting XI's side.
7. Joss Buttler
Wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler has already established himself in England's T20 and ODI squads, but could the 23-year-old make the step up to the Test team?
The former Somerset man, who moved to Lancashire in order to prove himself behind the stumps, is arguably the biggest talent in English cricket and has produced numerous dazzling displays of late-order hitting.
Thus, even though it's only a matter of time before he supplants Matt Prior in the Test team, for now he'll have to make do with the honour of donning the gloves for the exciting XI.
8. David Willey
Northamptonshire's David Willey enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2013, despite an injury-hit start to the current campaign; his explosive all-round game makes him perfect for a spot in this team.
As well as his clean striking—check out this stunning 19-ball half century in last season's T20 final—the 24-year-old bowls rapidly and also offers that highly sought-after left-arm variation.
One question, can he do it with the red ball? A first-class career haul of 114 first-class wickets at 29.28 and a batting average of 27.19 suggest so as England may soon find out.
9. Stuart Meaker
In full flight, Surrey's Stuart Meaker is arguably the fastest bowler on the county circuit, and it would be great to see him unleashed on international-calibre batting line-ups under Test match conditions.
The South African-born 25-year-old has played a handful of limited overs games for England, although a run of significant injuries have hampered his chances of proving himself at the highest level.
Like most raw pacemen, he can leak runs, but Meaker's haul of 188 first-class scalps in 56 matches indicate his propensity to take wickets also.
10. Jack Brooks
He doesn't just look like Rambo, the headband-clad Jack Brooks plays like him too, taking no prisoners with his all-action approach to bowling.
After joining Yorkshire in order to improve his international prospects, the 30-year-old has established himself as one of county cricket's most dangerous bowlers always looking to hit attacking lines and lengths.
A late developer, Brooks only made his first-class debut at the age of 25, so there's plenty of miles left in his legs and plenty of time for more starring roles.
11. Monty Panesar
England doesn't really produce exciting slow bowlers as such, with most of their successful twirlers mostly delivering regulation spin a la Graeme Swann.
But one slow bowler who remains a captivating cricketer to watch, for good (normally his bowling) and bad (his batting and fielding) reasons is Monty Panesar.
Beset by troubles off the pitch lately, the 30-year-old may have played his last games at international level, although it would be interesting to see what happen if England were presented with a dry and dusty wicket later this summer.
Statistics courtesy of espncricinfo.com unless specified.
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