Cricket Expert & Columnist
England v Sri Lanka: Selectors will pick Sam Robson to open ahead of Carberry and Root
But whether they should is a whole different matter...
Last Updated: 07/05/14 8:34am
With the first Test against Sri Lanka just over a month away, there's still time for players to bat their way into contention and fill the void created by the absence of Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen.
Former skippers Nasser Hussain and Mike Atherton - along with former one-day coach Ashley Giles - explained who they would pick, presuming all contenders are fit. But do you agree? Click here for their bowling selections.
Who is definitely on the team-sheet for Lord's?
Giles: Alastair Cook, as captain, and Ian Bell are the two definite selections but Michael Carberry's position must be vulnerable. England have options in a couple of positions and Gary Ballance's spot is one where there are a number of options. Joe Root was dropped for that final Test but I can't see any way that he isn't going to be in.
Athers: I'd say that on the form that Ballance has shown this season and the fact that he played in that last Test match against Australia, that he's pretty much a certainty to play, as is Joe Root. But there is still a bit of cricket to play yet...
Nasser: The selectors will have to make a decision on how many batsmen they are going to play; if they play six, will they pick Matt Prior at seven? When Graeme Swann was available, playing four bowlers worked. But do they now have to think about playing five bowlers? If we're saying Ben Stokes is fit, then he has to be considered too.
Should Michael Carberry open with Cook?
Giles: Carberry had an ok Ashes - he got a number of scores between 30-40 and a 60 but he's going to come under pressure. I think his main competition is going to come from Sam Robson. I think he is good enough for Test cricket.
I was really impressed with him before Christmas on the Performance Programme. For someone who is only 24 years old he is very organised and he knows his own game and its mechanics very well already. His technique is quite simple - he stands very still at the crease, which is very Australian, but he plays to his strengths and I like him a lot.
Robson is a run-accumulator. He'll admit that he won't go out and play with particular flair but he's extremely organised; he doesn't look flustered or rushed if the ball goes around a bit but waits for opportunities to come to him to score.
Athers: England got themselves into a bit of a hole last year when they had Cook, Nick Compton and Jonathan Trott at 1-2-3 and things just got stuck a little bit. That's why they dropped Compton after the second Test against New Zealand and pushed Root up from the middle order because they thought he might just give them a little bit more urgency and impetus. Now there's no Trott at number three - Bell may well be pushed there - but that will still be in the back of their minds.
I think the selectors will pick Robson. Whether they should, I'm not sure. I haven't seen enough of him to make a judgement but he's got to be getting a stack full of runs. We often talk a lot of theory but should be asking 'who is really knocking down the door with a hatful of runs?' When you've got a side that has just been hammered 5-0, all positions are open and you have to keep it simple. Who is really demanding to be selected?
But I'm slightly uncomfortable just discarding Carberry. He didn't do horrendously in the winter. I've been there against bowlers who are trying to knock your block off at 94-95mph. You've gone through that very tough scenario only to be discarded for a 24-year-old who has had a nice time of it with the Lions in Sri Lanka and gets his chance against the seam of Sri Lanka and India. We shouldn't get sucked into the argument that Carberry is too old; don't worry about age so much, just pick what you believe is going to be your best side.
Nasser: I have a little bit of sympathy for anyone - and there won't be much public sympathy for anyone on that last Ashes tour - who were out there in Australia fending it off in those last couple of Tests. Some of them, like Ballance, Jonny Bairstow and Scott Borthwick were thrown in there. You have to plan for the future but don't forget about guys who were putting on the England shirt for you in some difficult circumstances. Carberry does come into that category but he is 34 and you have to keep one eye on the long-term future and Robson got three hundreds on that Lions tour. Carberry did fine in Australia - at times he looked a little bit too over-coached and I don't think he played at international level how he plays for his county.
Giles: Robson has committed his future to playing for England - that's good enough for me - but there is a lot of cricket to be played before that first Test team is announced and some of the guys will have more opportunities than others. The likes of Eoin Morgan and Moeen Ali will be involved with the one-day squad whereas Robson is likely to be playing Championship cricket all of the way through.
I think Root is better playing in the middle-order from a technical point of view. If it were me, I would want Joe to bat at four in both Test cricket and ODI cricket. Bell has talked in the past about really testing himself and being known as one of the best Test players in the world by batting at three.
Athers: I would open with Cook and Root, with Bell at three.
Nasser: I think Root is better suited to the middle-order - look at his stats. It's an easier place to bat, which is why Bell is probably batting at four for Warwickshire this season rather than move up to three in Trott's absence. Bell has been in the Test team for a long time - he needs to take that responsibility and move up to three rather than expose a younger player at number three. I'd have Root at four. Ballance came in for the last Test at Sydney; he didn't get many and he got hit on the helmet by Mitchell Johnson but he looked very composed in the middle and he's come back and got a shed-load of county runs, so I think he must play at number five.
Athers: Morgan was given a nudge by Paul Downton and the selectors to make himself available for early season English cricket rather than the IPL and James Vince is getting a shed-load of runs for Hampshire.
Giles: I really like Vince. He matured a lot while on the Performance Programme in Australia. He's got a lot of scope but I think it's a bit early right now for him. Morgan is worth considering; his first-class record isn't fantastic but he's a tough, tough bloke to have in that middle order. But I don't think we should think about James Taylor either, who is a very good player. If Stokes is fit I would bat him at seven behind Matt Prior.
Nasser: If you play the extra batsman I'd go with Morgan because he gives you something different; he can get on with it if that's what you need, he puts bums on seats.
Watch England's one-day international against Scotland from 10am this Friday on Sky Sports 2. See England take on World Twenty20 Champions Sri Lanka - live on Sky Sports 2 from 6pm on May 20 - before the first of five live ODIs between the teams hits your screen at 12.30pm on Sky Sports 2 on May 22.