We are now two Tests into this year’s Investec Ashes Series, with score sitting at 1-1.  In the first test at Cardiff, England put in a great performance to win the test in four days, Joe Root getting a century to recover a tricky position for England in the first innings, before an Australian fourth innings collapse ensured a 169 run victory.  However, the second test at Lord’s was a very different contest, when Chris Rogers and Steven Smith got 173 and 215 respectively to get a score of 566-8 declared.  From that moment, the game was out of England’s reach, though it was not helped by an appalling fourth innings collapse that resulted in their being all out for 103 and granting Australia a 405 run win.

After the first test, the England fans were delighted with their team’s performance, prompting the selectors to name an unchanged side for the second test.  However, after the thrashing received by England at the Home of Cricket, many fans are now calling for a radical reshuffle of the team.  A name that always comes up when fans are unhappy with their England side is Kevin Pietersen.  I’m going to analyse whether Pietersen, or any other player needs to be brought in or out of the current side if England are to have a chance of winning the ashes back from Australia, from top of the order to the bottom.

Adam Lyth – the 27 year old has played four tests for his country with an average of 25.  He scored his only hundred against New Zealand in 2014.  In 2014, he was the County Championship’s top run scorer and won the PCA and Cricket Writers Club player of the year.  However, he is coming in for a lot of criticism for his performances in the first two Tests of this year’s Ashes.  He has so far made 6, 37, 0 and 7 and his place is far from safe in the eyes of the public.

Alistair Cook – the England skipper is one of the few players who nobody seems to have problems with at the moment, despite the fact that he came under criticism when he was first appointed as Andrew Strauss’ replacement.  At one point, he recorded a series of very low scores and fans were concerned about his captaincy in the way he used his fielders and bowlers, but he has since recovered and everybody seems to think he deserves his place as captain and opener.

Gary Ballance – England’s number three arrived on the International stage with a bang, scoring three hundreds in his first three games, in doing so becoming only the third player to score hundreds in his first two tests at Lord’s.  However, he has since come under some scrutiny, with his scores in this year’s Ashes being 61, 0, 23 and 14.  Personally, I feel that he is just going through a bad patch of form so should be given another chance.

Ian Bell – Bell is England’s most experienced player, having played over a 100 test matches for his country. However, despite his brilliance throughout his career for England, he is going through a terrible patch of form.  In his last five Tests his scores have been 0, 0, 1, 29, 12, 1, 1, 60, 1 and 11.  With only one score above 50 in his last ten innings, it is clear there is something wrong with Bell.

Joe Root – Root is currently considered England’s next great batsman and nobody has any qualms with his inclusion in the side, certainly not after his match winning 100 in the first Test at the SWALEC Stadium.

Ben Stokes – Stokes has arguably been England’s most consistent payer this Ashes series so his inclusion in the side is generally supported.  He has featured prominently with both ball and bat.  Stokes has so far scored 42, 52, 87 and 0 in this series, his duck being an unlucky run out where he made his ground but was in the air as the ball hit the stumps.

Jos Buttler – Buttler is England’s sole choice as wicket-keeper since Matt Prior’s retirement from International Cricket and there is no question of him being dropped.  His only real problem is that he sometimes misreads the state of the match and plays too offensively than is necessary or vice-versa.

Moeen Ali – Moeen is the only spinner currently in the England side but is generally seen as more of a batsman than a bowler.  Again, there is no possibility of his being dropped but there is a possibility of him being moved up the order as people feel that he cannot hope to achieve the scores he is capable of when batting with the tail.

Stuart Broad – Broad was arguably England’s best bowler at Lord’s and his partnership with James Anderson is widely seen as being one of the most dangerous in world cricket.  With the bat in hand, he has recently had some problems dealing with short balls, but he seems to have put those troubles behind him and looks like he could become a valuable member of the batting line-up in future, having been England’s top scorer in the second innings at Lord’s.

Mark Wood – Wood offers a valuable option for Alistair Cook, as a good first change fast bowler for when Broad or Anderson need a rest.  He uses his height effectively to get bounce and pace out of most pitches and has so far been unlucky not to have picked up more wickets this series.

James Anderson – Anderson is England’s front line bowler and England’s highest ever wicket taker in Tests.  This makes him one of the most important players and there is no chance he will be axed from the side any time soon, however, Lord’s he was unable to get much purchase from the pitch and didn’t take a wicket in either innings.  England fans will be hoping for a return to form for Anderson ahead of the next Test.

The pitch – At Lord’s the pitch offered almost nothing for the bowlers, presumably because England wanted to nullify the threat of Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc.  Both Aussie bowlers, however, performed far better than England’s, and the decision to prepare a batsman’s pitch proved to backfire as Chris Rogers and Steve Smith got 173 and 215 respectively to give the Aussies a big score, whereas England’s top order collapsed twice to allow Australia an easy win.  Although Alistair Cook said the pitch was nothing to do with England, the truth is that it was probably prepared like that on the ECB’s instructions.  Hopefully, the pitch at Edgbaston will be a far more balanced pitch, meaning that les emphasis will be placed on who wins the toss on the first morning.

The eleven I would play for Edgbaston is:

Alistair Cook

Moeen Ali

Ian Bell

Joe Root

Gary Ballance

Ben Stokes

Jonny Bairstow

Jos Buttler

Stuart Broad

Mark Wood

James Anderson

This is because I feel that Lyth has had his chance but has failed to take and should be dropped, while Moeen Ali is a batsman who can bowl a few overs, and should be treated thus.  Ian Bell is too valuable to drop but I think a change in the position he bats may help him find form, especially as he is the most experienced England batsman so should be able to cope with the mental pressure of going in at number three.  Joe Root has shown that he is ready to move up the order and take on some more responsibility, while I feel Gary Ballance needs to have some responsibility taken off his shoulders, having played only four tests.  I think moving him down in the order would help him to settle down and show what a good batsman he is.  Ben Stokes would remain in the same position and hopefully continue in his run of form, while I would bring Jonny Bairstow in for Lyth, both for his batting expertise he has shown for Yorkshire this season and his fielding talent he showed when he last made a breakthrough into the England side.  Jos Buttler would move down a place, making it less important if he gives his wicket away, while the bottom three positions would stay the same.

I feel that this team, if any, would have a good chance of beating Australia in the third Ashes test at Edgbaston.  Pietersen, meanwhile, I would not pick.  This is not because I don’t feel he is talented enough to merit a place, but because he is too controversial a character to have in and around the side, as I believe teams perform to their best when there are not other, off the field matters, going on to take their minds off of their games.

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