The XI England should pick for the second Test against Pakistan

There is a Japanese business philosophy called Kaizen, meaning continuous improvement. It’s a philosophy that England should use when selecting their final XI for the second Test against Pakistan, which starts on Thursday.

The hosts may have won the first Test of the series at Old Trafford, but they didn’t have the smoothest ride to get there. A first innings deficit of 107 runs and a second innings where England were 5-117 before Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes saved the day doesn’t exactly scream a comfortable victory to me.

England were helped by Pakistan serving up a classic example of their unpredictability with the tourists folding in their second innings. This is why England shouldn’t be complacent and instead, through Kaizen, look to work on what went wrong for them in the first Test to improve for the second Test.

Shane Warne mentioned in commentary how Australia would aim to score 600 runs in a match to put them in the box seat. England should use exactly the same strategy.

So what’s the best XI for England to score 600 runs and take 20 wickets?

Well, there is one forced change that needs to be made after Sunday’s announcement that Ben Stokes will miss the rest of the series for family reasons.

While this is an unfortunate circumstance, England can take this opportunity to bring Zak Crawley back in the side at number 3. This will allow Joe Root to bat at number 4, where he is most comfortable.

After Stokes picked up an injury in the second Test against the West Indies, England have been playing with one fewer batsman to bolster the bowling attack due to Stokes not being able to bowl.

This was a problem that looked to have been solved in the first Test against Pakistan as Stokes bowled four overs in Pakistan’s second innings, taking 2-11.

Not being a batsman light should bring England more stability at the top of the order. But that may not be possible now that Stokes is not playing.

England’s top five should be locked in though with Rory Burns and Dominic Sibley opening, Crawley at 3, Root at 4, and Ollie Pope coming in at 5.

Jos Buttler presents England with a wicketkeeping dilemma.

Buttler had a poor performance behind the stumps, missing stumpings and catches, including dropping Shan Masood on 45 in the first innings. Shan went on to score 156 runs.

However, Buttler saved himself in England’s run chase. He knew he owed England runs and he duly delivered, forming a 139-run sixth wicket partnership with Chris Woakes and helping England get out of a tricky situation from 5-117 to 6-256 by the time he was dismissed for 75.

Jos Buttler of England

Jos Buttler of England (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

As Buttler put in a brilliant display with the bat, I would keep him in the side as a specialist batsman and try something different by giving the wicketkeeping gloves to Ben Foakes.

The eye-catching statistic with Foakes is that he has taken two stumpings in his relatively short Test career, compared to Buttler’s zero.

Foakes is considered to be the best keeper in the country and can be handy with the bat too. He scored a century on debut against Sri Lanka in 2018 and averaged 41.5 across five Tests.

While that figure is likely to be skewed by the century, Foakes’ Test average is backed up by his first-class average, which stands at 38.01, with nine hundreds and 30 fifties scored.

For me, he would be a great addition to the side and England should give him another go behind the stumps.

If things don’t work out, then Buttler gets re-instated as keeper. It’s as simple as that.

As for the bowling attack, the only change I’d make is to leave James Anderson out for at least the second Test. He only took one wicket in the first Test and didn’t look at his best.

England have been rotating their bowlers all summer due to the condensed schedule. There’s no doubt that Anderson has still got a lot left to give but he just needs to be rested for this Test.

That leaves the bowling attack for the second Test as: Chris Woakes, Dominic Bess, Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad.

The tail end of the order should be mixed up a bit. Woakes should come in at number 8 with Stuart Broad at 9, Archer at 10, and Bess at 11.

Chris Woakes

Chris Woakes (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

I’m not comfortable with seeing Bess come in at 8 and falling cheaply before Broad comes in at 10 and starts knocking the bowlers around the park.

Of course, Broad will reign himself in when he needs to, but the point still stands. He should be batting a little higher up the order.

After all, Broad was batting at number 9 when he scored his one and only century back in 2010.

So the England XI I’d like to see for the second Test against Pakistan is as follows:
1. Rory Burns
2. Dominic Sibley
3. Zak Crawley
4. Joe Root (captain)
5. Ollie Pope
6. Jos Buttler
7. Ben Foakes (wicketkeeper)
8. Chris Woakes
9. Stuart Broad
10. Jofra Archer
11. Dominic Bess

Let’s see if England share my views when the team is announced at the toss on Thursday.

Why have the ICC postponed the Women’s Cricket World Cup 2021?

Given the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, sports fans have become used to the postponing of events.
But when it comes to cricket, recent decisions do not make sense.

Last week, the ICC made a number of key announcements about upcoming tournaments.

Firstly, the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2020 (that was due to commence in two months’ time in Sydney) will be further postponed and held in Australia in 2022.

Members of the Local Organising Committee, while disappointed, are hopeful that with appropriate lead time, this will allow them to stage the tournament in front of full stadiums.

A decision was also made to postpone the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2021 (which was due to be held in New Zealand) until March 2022.

Given the nature of the pandemic, you can understand why these decisions have been made.

What I can’t then understand though is the decision for India to host the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in 2021.

Why has the ICC made the decision to postpone the first two tournaments? Is it because of the pandemic? If so, then I find it baffling that a decision would be made to play a tournament in India, a country where case numbers are continuing on an upward trajectory and which has over 600,000 active cases as at Tuesday morning.

So far, India has had over 2.2 million cases and over 44,499 deaths.

Does this sound like a place where a major cricket tournament should be held? From a health and safety perspective, I simply do not see how India will be in a position to host this tournament.

Australian T20 side.

(Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

And if the ICC is comfortable with holding a tournament in India, then why postpone the Women’s World Cup?

This week, New Zealand has marked 100 days of no community spread of COVID-19. So in terms of a place to host a major tournament, I could think of none safer than New Zealand right now, particularly if the teams travelling for the tournament were to follow strict quarantining both before and after the tournament.

It would be financially costly and take some strategic thinking, but the women’s game is worth it.

The decision feels like a missed opportunity for the ICC particularly after what we saw in March this year when over 86,000 people gathered at the MCG for the Final of the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup between Australia and India.

Records tumbled that day – it was a new national record for women’s sport with the 86,174 in attendance significantly higher than the previous record of 53,034 at the 2019 AFLW grand final between the Adelaide Crows and Carlton at the Adelaide Oval.

It was also the largest crowd for a women’s cricket match, surpassing the 1997 ICC One Day World Cup Final in India which had around 80,000 spectators.

The time for investment in the women’s game is now, because there is nothing but upside. Additionally, this investment needs to be a push from the global cricketing community, because the women’s game will thrive when we all work together.

There will be some that say that the reason for the postponement is because there is a lack of women’s cricket leading into the tournament so teams will not be ready.

Could the same argument not be made for the men’s event scheduled for 2021?

Megan Schutt bowls

Megan Schutt bowls. (Photo by Will Russell-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Additionally, at this stage, many cricketers will have the chance to compete in the WBBL which is scheduled to take place in October and November in Australia.

As we know, many of the world’s best internationals will travel down under for this tournament and additionally, you would expect plenty of Indian women to also have the chance to play some cricket with the announcement of the Women’s IPL exhibition games last week (strangely to be held at the same time as the WBBL).

I truly hope that this is a decision that has been made for the right reasons and not simply made as an excuse to put women’s cricket on hold for another 12 months.

Given the momentum in the women’s game at the moment, this would be valuable time lost and for some players nearing the end of their career, they may miss their last chance to compete in a Women’s World Cup.

Or perhaps this is simply a conspiracy by the England Women’s Cricket Team who want to hold on to their World Champion status for one year longer (comment made with tongue firmly in cheek).