Overall, the Edgbaston test was a huge success for England. An eight wicket win after being utterly dominated at Lord’s represents the perfect comeback from Alastair Cook’s men. Not only did England win, but their new number three, Ian Bell, got two fifties and their replacement for the injured Mark Wood earned a man of the match award by taking eight wickets.
However, there still remains a selection concern ahead of the fourth test in Nottingham on Thursday. The issue, and a pressing one at that, is James Anderson’s injury. After pulling up halfway through an over, England’s leading wicket taker and opening bowler has been ruled out. Who exactly should replace him is a matter for some debate. Initially, there were calls for Chris Rushworth to come in. The Durham seamer has taken wickets for fun in the county championship, and is a similar type of bowler to the man he might have replaced.
However, Rushworth was not called up to the 13 man squad, with England instead going with Liam Plunkett and Mark Foottit as potential replacements. That leaves the spot to be filled by one of three bowlers, with Mark Wood being the third. By all accounts, Wood is fit now following his untimely injury the day before the third test. Should England go with their recently found skiddy, animated paceman they will know what they will get. Wood has bowled with pace and hurried both the New Zealand and Aussie batsmen this summer, without perhaps moving the ball sideways too much. With that in mind, picking Wood would mean picking a bowler who does not match the injured Anderson, but is that necessarily a problem?
The fact that Steven Finn bowled so well in Birmingham is a big plus. He and Broad could open the bowling, with Wood coming on first change. I don’t see Wood as an opening bowler at the moment, but he can be used well as a partnership breaker, and has the added advantage of being able to reverse swing the ball – something Anderson can also do.
As for Liam Plunkett, should England go with Yorkshire’s paceman they might just find themselves left with 4 bowlers who replicate each other too much. Plunkett looks to hit the deck and bowl a heavy ball, which is something Broad and Finn have never been shy of. That said, Broad has improved upon his length this series and now seems to be bowling generally fuller, and on the evidence of Edgbaston Finn has learned to pitch the ball up and swing it away too. Plunkett could therefore slot in as a back of a length bowler, and also boasts a fair amount of international experience.
Mark Footttit would undoubtedly be a wildcard pick. He is a left armer and is uncapped for his country, so picking him might well be a bit risky. His lack of experience is almost guaranteed to work against him, but perhaps out of the three available bowlers Foottit is the closest to Anderson. He swings the ball like Jimmy, and gives the ball every chance by pitching it up. He also offers something a little different, by being a left armer. All that works against Foottit is his lack of experience, and I don’t believe the England selectors will want to risk it this time round. Personally, I think they will go with Wood, and that wouldn’t be unfair as he was unlucky to miss out on the Edgbaston game, having bowled well so far this summer.
Perhaps the only other selection issue at the moment concerns Adam Lyth. While Moeen Ali hasn’t bowled particularly well he’s scored invaluable runs and England seem to be happy with the balance of the side. Lyth’s form has been slightly concerning though, as he’s struggled outside off stump all series. While his early career has seen him dismissed to a number of top deliveries, the Yorkshireman has chased wide ones on a couple of occasions in the last two games and does not look hugely convincing. England have kept him in their squad going into the fourth test, but should he fail to make runs again it will be interesting to see what happens at the Oval. Should England win at Trent Bridge and secure the series, they’ll probably stick with Lyth and let him see the series out, but if they lose they might be faced with a real dilemma.
In conclusion then, while Lyth’s place is safe for Nottingham, it might not be for the final test. As for Anderson’s replacement, I think it will be and probably ought to be Wood. While he isn’t a like for like replacement for Jimmy, I believe he will and arguably should get the nod. He has promised much and performed well so far this summer, and deserves to be shown some loyalty. Regardless of who England go with, the Aussies will certainly need to sort their middle order out if they are to stay in the series.