Five things England need to address after humbling in India

By Sports Desk March 11, 2024

Brendon McCullum insisted England will “come back bigger, stronger and more refined” following their 4-1 Test series defeat in India.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five aspects that should be addressed by head coach McCullum and captain Ben Stokes before England’s next Test against the West Indies at Lord’s on July 10.

Who takes the gloves?

Ben Foakes was just about flawless behind the stumps once again but he did not record a single fifty, with his career average dipping below 30, and struggles to assert himself in the fashion England want.

Jonny Bairstow is not as proficient with the gloves and also flattered to deceive in India, but he averages 59 at home under McCullum and Stokes and can marshal the tail in a way Foakes is seemingly unable to.

Knocking on the door away from those pair is Ollie Robinson of Durham and Jamie Smith at Surrey.

Jack, Tom or Shoaib?

Not for over a decade have England had such plentiful spin options.

England took a bit of a punt on Tom Hartley and especially Shoaib Bashir but the duo demonstrated they have the mettle for Test cricket.

Rehan Ahmed showed determination, too, but might be more suited to the white-ball formats for now.

Jack Leach’s fitness issues in the past 12 months mean he is not guaranteed to be inked in for the English summer, with just one spinner usually required.

Hartley may be more suited to Asian conditions but 20-year-old Bashir is someone England should invest in. Leach’s position as premier spinner at Somerset means Bashir could be sent on loan elsewhere in the early county season.

Identify a replacement for James Anderson

The evergreen swing king reached Test wicket 700 in the final Test after several months in the 690s.

Anderson has given no outward indication he is ready to slow down but time waits for no one and England must be prepared when the day comes the 41-year-old decides to hang up his spikes.

Any sign of decline after a poor Ashes showing was quietened a little with solid, if unspectacular, performances in India in unhelpful conditions.

While his longevity is astounding, wickets are his main currency and he has just 15 of them in his last eight Tests at a bloated average of 50.8.

In two marquee series against England’s biggest rivals, that is a poor return but he is not one to be kept subdued for long.

Settle on a seam attack

Anderson may well be able to keep going until the next Ashes series in 2025-26 but he has lost his long-time opening bowling partner in Stuart Broad.

That did not matter so much in India but on green seamers in England, there will be no shortage of candidates looking to step into Broad’s shoes.

Chris Woakes is likely to come back into contention although he is 35 himself, so it could be the next generation who come through.

Gus Atkinson impressed the backroom staff despite not playing in India and McCullum tipped the quick to make his Test debut in the summer.

Matthew Potts, Brydon Carse and Josh Tongue are pushing to be involved while Ollie Robinson must get to the bottom of his fitness issues.

Back Ollie Pope

England’s vice-captain had one of the more curious series of modern times.

A breakout 196, which Joe Root called “one of the best knocks that I’ve ever seen”, carried England to a stunning victory in Hyderabad.

But he did not reach 40 after that, made a pair at Ranchi and looked increasingly frenetic.

England have been encouraged by his growing confidence as an authority figure on the field as deputy to Stokes and will hope that can filter through to his batting.

Pope has already been shuffled around a lot in a 43-Test career and his talent is undeniable so he just needs to find a way of taking the edge off when he goes out to bat.

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