Ashes 2019 Combined XI

Adrian Meredith makes some big calls as he picks an Ashes XI after the 2019 season.

Ah, making cricket teams, the hobby of all cricket enthusiasts, and the cause of the most fervent arguments. Even when only two teams played, we get into arguments as to who fits into which position. Do we pick two specialist openers when all of the openers were so horrible? Do we need two pick one of the two team captains? Must we pick a spin bowler? Do we need to balance the team 5 to 6 because the series was a draw or is it okay to acknowledge that Steve Smith carried most of the Australian team?

The first step in picking this particular team is to acknowledge the very best players from each team who must be in the team, players for whom there is no debate that they belong.

  1. Steve Smith (Australia)
  2. Ben Stokes (England)
  3. Marnus Labuschagne (Australia)
  4. Jofra Archer (England)
  5. Stuart Broad (England)
  6. Pat Cummins (Australia)
  7. Josh Hazlewood (Australia)
  8. Jack Leach (England)

This team is in many ways very easy to pick, when we have 8 players that are automatic choices. Steve Smith had one of the best series by any players ever, Ben Stokes won the unwinnable game, Marnus Labuschagne was phenomenal, and even when we go down to Jack Leach, he had one of the best 1 not outs you could ever imagine, and he was a distance ahead of Australia’s spinner Nathan Lyon.

Now that we have those 8 in mind, we now need to look at the questionable positions:

Question 1: Do we need to bother with the openers?

David Warner (95 runs at 9.50), Cameron Bancroft (44 runs at 11.00), Marcus Harris (58 runs at 9.66), Jason Roy (110 runs at 13.75) were all pretty hopeless, the sole standout opener being Rory Burns (390 runs at 39.00), but should we include Burns’s eventual opening partner Joe Denly (312 runs at 31.20)? It seems a bit silly really, when Denly was little more than a makeshift opener and spent the first 3 tests batting at number 4. If we are going with Denly just because he opened in 2 tests, why not go with the next best batsman in Joe Root (325 runs at 32.50)? Root’s runs were much harder earned than Denly’s and he deserves it far better. Root was also the team captain, and his captaincy was a whole lot better than his counterpart Paine’s, especially with use of DRS.

Question 2: Which wicket keeper do we pick?

As Tim Paine is the only one of the two to be a “full-time wicket keeper” surely he should be picked, but the statistics say that Jonny Bairstow had a better time. Bairstow had 2 more dismissals (22 versus 20), had more stumpings (2 versus 0), and scored more runs (214 versus 180) at a higher average (23.77 versus 20.00). Why is anyone considering Paine? Oh, because we want a captain. Considering how badly he captained the team, it’s a poor argument.

Question 3: Who is the final pick?

With Burns and Bairstow easy picks from the above, the final choice is out of the “normal” opener Denly, or the better-performing batsman Root. Root has opened the batting before and been quite good at it, and Root is the next best batsman. He didn’t have the best series but he was still England’s third best and the fifth best overall. But Denly wasn’t much worse than Root. Well, he was actually a whole lot worse, but, thanks to some cheap runs in the final test, Denly’s average wasn’t much worse.

Question 4: Do we need 5 bowlers?

In the first set of picks, there are 5 bowlers, but do we need all 5? The worst of them, as far as averages are concerned, is Stuart Broad. Could he be the unlucky one to miss out? It’s a tough call, but perhaps we should. I mean, many of his wickets were David Warner, who arguably was out of form, and otherwise he wasn’t quite as good as the other bowlers.

Final line up:

With Broad missing out, we can now settle the Denly versus Root decision once and for all and play both, which means we have a specialist opener and also can have one of the two regular team captains as our combined captain.

  1. Rory Burns (England)
  2. Joe Denly (England)
  3. Joe Root (England) (c)
  4. Steve Smith (Australia)
  5. Marnus Labuschagne (Australia)
  6. Ben Stokes (England)
  7. Jonny Bairstow (England) (wk)
  8. Pat Cummins (Australia)
  9. Jofra Archer (England)
  10. Jack Leach (England)
  11. Josh Hazlewood (Australia)

12th man: Stuart Broad (England)

It might seem strange, having seven English players compared to just four from Australia, but such was the difference between the sides, bar Smith, and it highlights just how good Smith was. The gap between Smith and Stokes, the next best player in the series, was enormous. Take Smith out of the Australian side and England win every test. Include Smith and Australia could easily have won them all. With Smith, Australia were the better team. Without him, England were easily better.

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