Who has put their hand up to play in the one-day international against Scotland?

With the county cricket season in full swing, Robin Scott-Elliot assesses the form of those hoping to break into England’s first squad of the summer

Alastair Cook and Peter Moores sat down together for the first time at England’s training base at Loughborough on Thursday to begin their task of raising English cricket from the depths to which it sank over the stormiest of winters. It is part salvage operation, restoring the likes of Ian Bell and James Anderson to their former seaworthiness, and part new build.

The first selection is for next month’s one-day international against Scotland in Aberdeen, a spring venue as far removed from Chittagong and the Dutch humiliation as is possible in cricketing terms, but it is the assembly of the side to face Sri Lanka in the first of the summer’s Test matches at Lord’s in June – following a five-match one-day series – that carries most interest and will see most debate.

There are places available; Kevin Pietersen is gone – if never forgotten; he will see to that – there is a vacancy alongside Cook, a wicketkeeper to be settled upon, as well as a spinner and probably a seamer too. It is a long time since a domestic season began with such a buzz.

“Looking at county scores the last few weeks, people are scoring big hundreds, taking wickets and that’s exciting,” said Cook, who has himself hit two centuries for Essex. “People are realising there are places up for grabs and trying to grab them.”

The batting wannabes –  or remember-mes

Sam Robson impressed England’s management over the winter, and few managed that. The Sydney-born opener stood out on the Lions tour to Sri Lanka in front of an admiring Graham Gooch, who remains close to Cook and knows a thing or two about opening the batting.

Robson began the season as favourite to partner the England captain – provided he scored domestic runs. After a wobbly start at Hove, Robson now has 216 of them, including 163 made against Nottinghamshire at Lord’s.

His name is pencilled in, but there is competition. Nick Compton’s international ambition remains despite the chastening end to his initial Test experience. Compton scored an unbeaten century to steer Somerset away from defeat at Durham on Wednesday. Yorkshire’s highly regarded Alex Lees has also started well, although his international days may still be a year or two down the line.

Robson remains the outstanding candidate. Varun Chopra has been a consistent scorer at the top of Warwickshire’s order in recent seasons and a regular in the England Lions set-up but averages 35 from four innings in this campaign, while Michael Carberry’s attempt to patch up the boats he burnt so spectacularly with his damning verdict on his time with England still requires plenty of work. The Hampshire opener has scored a century but has nearly 160 runs fewer than the England captain, having had six innings to Cook’s four.

The search for middle-order balance

This has thrown up one obvious name. Gary Ballance began his Test career with England at 17 for 4 in the final Test in Sydney. He battled for an hour and a half but innings of 18 and seven followed by a modest one-day series did not make an outstanding case for staying put. Yet if county form is to be rewarded, the Harare-born left-hander deserves another opportunity. He has begun with scores of 77, five and 174. The latter may have been against a limited Northampton attack but runs  in Leeds in April mean  something.

There is plenty of Yorkshire interest in the middle order. Joe Root’s season proper is yet to begin following his broken thumb. After a failure for the second team, his summer starts in earnest at Lord’s on Sunday in a match that will keep Angus Fraser, juggling roles with Middlesex and as an England selector, keenly interested. Adil Rashid has already provided further evidence of his run scoring and given the lack of spinning options and the early-season conditions Rashid has an opportunity to make a timely point at Lord’s.

The keeping question

Of all the places to be discussed by Fraser, James Whitaker, Moores and Cook, it is who will wear the gloves against Sri Lanka that may well take up most time. Matt Prior, who endured his troubles in Australia with admirable stoicism, opened the season with a bristling century against a good Middlesex attack at Hove. It was like the Prior of old but that the Prior of old can never entirely return was make clear by him missing Sussex’s next game due to his troublesome Achilles. It is an injury that will require careful nursing, but the 32-year-old still looks England’s safest pair of hands.

Jonny Bairstow, the incumbent, also has injury worries, although Yorkshire expect an early return from his broken finger against Durham next week. He will need prompt runs. Craig Kieswetter has begun solidly having been given Somerset’s faith ahead of Jos Buttler, who has just returned for Lancashire following a post-Twenty20 break.

Seams to be coming together nicely

There is reasonable satisfaction to be found for Moores and co when it comes to pace bowling. Anderson is getting overs under his belt, while under Fraser’s watchful eye Steve Finn has made unexpectedly rapid progress. Nobody has more than his 15 wickets.

Sussex’s Chris Jordan is collecting admirers in the long-form of the game to go with his one-day promise and Tymal Mills, whom England continue to imagine hopefully as their own version of Mitchell Johnson, is getting game time, and wickets, for Essex, which has not been as common an occurrence as hoped for. The game against Surrey was the 21-year-old’s 25th first-class outing, although as a county colleague the England captain will be well aware of what he can, and can’t, do.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'