What Team Should England Go With For Headingley?

headingley-ashes

The fourth Ashes Test starts at Headingley tomorrow. This excites many people around the country, including me. Not only are we set for another five days of competitive cricket between England and Australia but the series could be decided.

If Andrew Strauss’ men emerge victorious in Leeds, they would have regained the Ashes. A 2-0 series lead would be taken into the final Test at The Oval with Ricky Ponting’s men only able to aim for a consolation victory. (MB: I hope so cuz I’ve got a tenner on 2-1 @17/2!)

This is a long way off at the moment though. Australia are far from done on this tour as yet and will be determined to take the series into a final Test decider.

So, it is all eyes on Headingley and the first point of interest will be the team that England put out. Will they go with an extra batsman? Will they bring in Ryan Sidebottom or Steve Harmison to shake up the bowling line-up?

Well, a lot depends on the fitness of Andrew Flintoff. His all-round ability provides a great balance to the team and if he is unavailable, there are one or two changes that will have to be made. So, I think it is best to go with a ‘Freddie Fit’ team and a ‘Freddie Un-Fit’ team.

Freddie Fit:

Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Graham Onions.

I appreciate that this is a bit boring as I have gone for the same team as the last Test at Edgbaston. However, if Flintoff is fit to bowl, I don’t see the need to change it. There is enough form in this bowling line-up to bowl-out Australia twice and there is enough batting to post at least one score of above 400.

Freddie Un-Fit:

Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Jonathan Trott, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steve Harmison, Graham Onions.

This might not be the most popular team choice, but if Flintoff isn’t fit you have to bolster the batting line-up a little bit. This isn’t a negative tactic because England are 1-0 up, it is a sensible tactic to try and ensure that the team scores enough runs to force a result.

So, Trott comes in at No.6 to replace Flintoff. Then, Harmison comes in to replace Broad. This is so England can get someone in their bowling line-up who does a similar job to that of Flintoff. Harmison has had his troubles, but Australia don’t like facing him. Simple as that.

The only worry with this second team is whether the bowling is too light. There will be only four front-line bowlers, after all. If this proved a significant concern after looking at the pitch, Broad would keep his place and bat at No.7 with Harmison coming in as a straight swap for Flintoff.

We won’t know about Freddie’s fitness until the morning, so plenty of decisions to be made for Strauss and Andy Flower before the coin is tossed! Before then, keep a close eye on the Fourth Test odds before making your Headingley Test bet. (MB: Thomas is spot on. Betfair are currently trading at 4.3 for an England win which is miles better than anyone else but get on it before Freddie is declared unfit as the price will drop)

By Thomas Rooney, a sports blogger who writes about Ashes Test cricket

Headingley photo credit: Tony Kennick

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