England’s winter tours begin on a week on Friday in New Zealand which will span the whole of November before travelling to South Africa over Christmas and New Year and finally finishing in Sri Lanka around March. In contrast to recent years the focus will be heavily on test matches and t20s which have been reflected in the fixture list.
Starting with the red ball team and it’s time for Joe Root and his men to correct some wrongs starting with their last series against New Zealand which they lost. It will be early season down their which will make the conditions heavily in the bowlers favour so England’s batsmen had better get their technique in good order, we all remember what happened last time.
Defeat in the first series of the winter would be less than ideal as there is a feeling that the sharks are beginning to circle for Root’s position as captain. Up till now the fact that England put so much into winning the World Cup has deflected some of the criticism away but that defensive shield no longer exists.
The middle series of the winter might end up being the easiest for England as South Africa are currently in a little bit of turmoil. The feeling around South African cricket the last time they came out of a tour of India is very similar to how it is now, and England have been luckily enough to play them next each time.
Four years ago South Africa was in a head spin after being thrashed by India and it never felt like they got out of second gear against England. I expect a similar series this time round although just because South Africa is in this predicament does not mean they still don’t have the players to hurt England.
Conditions will be favourable you would hope to England’s batsmen who desperately need to nail down some positions. It looks almost certain that Root will drop down to four and England will in essence play three opening batsman at the top of the order. With Stokes at five and Buttler at seven who will have to prove himself as a wicketkeeper batsman that leaves room for Ollie Pope at six. This appears to be a much more solid batting line up but only time will tell whether it will work or not. If the same line up of batsmen takes to the field against the West Indies in June then it will be a huge success and relief for England.
As for the bowlers well life is slightly simpler with the likes of Archer, Mahmood, Stone and Parkinson giving them some variety and bite to go with the reliable, Broad, Leach and Woakes. Anderson is looking at a possible return for South Africa as England will have to work out how best they want to use him going forward. My warning to England fans who think they should move on without him is you might not realise what you have until he is gone, England doesn’t have a natural successor of the same quality as Anderson just at the moment.
Sri Lanka right at this moment feels like a little too far away to talk about as there is a lot of cricket to be played between now and then. You would have thought they will try and play in a similar way to the one that brought them much success in 2018 when they completed a 3-0 whitewash. They are likely to recall Ali and give a debut to the exciting leg spinner Parkinson in a three man spin attack.
Root probably can’t have many more disappointing results to his name as captain and a bad winter could spell the end of his reign. Some may already consider him fortunate to still be in the job after two unsuccessful Ashes campaigns.
Of course this winter also brings in the arrival of Chris Silverwood as the new England coach after being promoted from bowling coach. I feel there is an unusually strong case to suggest that his harder job maybe to carry on the good work in the shorter formats by setting new targets and keeping out complacency. History in Football, Rugby and Cricket show that the greater challenge may not be to climb the mountain but do it all over again.
England’s focus will turn to the T20 World Cup in a year’s time and they know expectation will be high as they have now pushed the bar greater than it ever has been. Next week England play a white ball match for the first time since you know when, it will be an opportunity to see how they will cope with having the tag of world champions. The added element as well of it being against the same opposition as the final in New Zealand, it’s sure to be a fascinating series.
Overall it could be a rollercoaster of a winter with some really tough opponents lying in wait for England. The conditions they meet however shouldn’t be to dissimilar to the ones they encounter at home and England know a good start in New Zealand is crucial. England will hope their brave new world isn’t prematurely ended.