Sports Mole's England XI for West Indies tour

Sports Mole picks the 11 players that we believe should take the field for England in the first Test against the West Indies in April.

The wounds have certainly not healed following a disastrous World Cup campaign, but the England squad have been gifted the opportunity to turn their focus to another challenge ahead of the trip to the West Indies.

As the Kevin Pietersen debate rolls on, the pressure continues to be piled on the shoulders of Peter Moores and this summer's Ashes series is currently being looked upon with pessimism, rather than excitement.

However, the team have the chance to gain some momentum with a three-Test series in the Caribbean, and Sports Mole has picked out the 11 players that we believe should be named in the side for the first match in Antigua on April 13.


1. Alastair Cook (c)

There is not doubt that Cook would have been distraught when he was informed by the ECB that he would not be leading England to the World Cup, but the decision may have done the captain a few favours. No longer burdened by the responsibility of playing two formats, Cook should feel reinvigorated by the rest. A prolific trip to the Caribbean is vital for the skipper.

Alastair Cook of England smashes the ball towards the boundary during Day 1 of the 3rd Investec Test match between England and India at the Ageas Bowl on July 27, 2014© Getty Images

2. Jonathan Trott

What a story for Trott. It looked as though his international career was over after leaving the last Ashes tour with what was later described as burnout. He has been troubled since that decision, but it now appears that the man who has nine Test centuries to his name is back. His experience could be crucial, and an early big score is needed to nail down a place ahead of Yorkshire opener Adam Lyth.

3. Gary Ballance

Drafted into the World Cup squad following the Cook decision, it was a forgettable tournament for Ballance as he joined a number of his teammates by struggling for runs. However, he averages over 60 in his nine Test matches and the 25-year-old should be confident heading into the tour.

4. Ian Bell

Much like Trott, it is Bell's experience as much as his batting ability which is crucial for England. The classy right-hander appears to be getting better with age, and he has taken full advantage of the opportunity created at number four by Pietersen's sacking just over a year ago. A consistent performer in the longest format, Bell has an important role to play in another busy year for England.

5. Joe Root

Joe Root batting on day two of England's fifth Test with India on August 16, 2014© Getty Images

Even while England have struggled across all formats over the last 18 months, Root has impressed with his impressive attitude and vital innings at difficult times. Last summer, the 24-year-old was in fantastic form as he nudged his Test average above 50. The Yorkshire ace seems to just get better, and he will be a key man for England in the Caribbean and for years to come.

6. Adil Rashid

It has been nearly six years since Rashid was last seen at international level. The all-rounder has played five one-day internationals and five Twenty20 matches for England, but for many years it looked as though he would fail to take full advantage of his potential. However, Rashid starred with bat and ball as a superb Yorkshire side lifted the County Championship title last season, taking 46 wickets with his leg-spin and scoring 577 runs. He should get a chance at six with Moeen Ali nursing an injury at home.

7. Jos Buttler

Rashid was often used at number seven with Yorkshire last season, but it seems unlikely that England will stray from their tactic of using Buttler in this position. Doubts were raised about his temperament in the longest format of the game before he made a promising start to his Test career last summer. England's only wicketkeeper on this tour.

8. Ben Stokes

England's paceman Ben Stokes approaches his bowling mark against Australia during day two of the second Ashes Test cricket match in Adelaide on December 6, 2013© Getty Images

Ever since Andy Flower was in charge of the England team, batting depth has been crucial in selection decisions. Stokes probably should be batting higher up the order, and there could be an argument for him to be at number six, but he will be delighted just to be involved after missing out on a place in the England World Cup squad. The all-rounder has the tools required to succeed in Test cricket, and he will be desperate to prove his worth with bat and ball.

9. Liam Plunkett

Durham seamer Mark Wood was recognised for his fine County Championship form with a call-up last week, but it could be a familiar face who gets the nod in Antigua. Plunkett proved some of his doubters wrong by clinching a place in the squad last summer, and he is a different player to the one who broke into the side as a youngster. His pace and aggression makes him a good option on flat Caribbean pitches.

10. Stuart Broad

Broad's form in limited-overs cricket should be a big concern for the England selectors, and the World Cup suggested that the best bet would be to look to younger players going forward with the white ball. However, Broad's place in the Test side is safe. He is an experienced seamer whose record over the past couple of years has been impressive despite England's fall from grace.

11. James Anderson

Perhaps Anderson is not quite where he was a few years ago, but he remains the leader of this attack and no other English seamer poses the same threat with the new ball in Test cricket. His swing will be key early in the innings before conditions begin to favour the batsmen on tough pitches.


Jonathan Trott of England looks on during day one of the 3rd Investec Ashes Test match between England and Australia at Old Trafford Cricket Ground on August 1, 2013
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