ICC Champions Trophy
June’s tournament is being staged in this country and England and have been drawn in Group A alongside Australia, Bangladesh and New Zealand. The hosts are a strong side in their own conditions and have been playing some really impressive one-day cricket over the past 18 months or so, scoring in excess of 400 a couple of times. I believe Eoin Morgan’s side have a good chance of winning this competition. Australia are producing some decent 50-over performances at present and South Africa will probably be there or thereabouts but England are a strong unit. There is always a bit more pressure at tournaments, but England reached the final of the World Twenty20 last year and I back them to be in the hunt.
England’s test year
Again, in their own conditions England have been really strong. Even though they didn’t beat Pakistan in the summer, a lot of younger players have stepped up and are looking like senior members of the squad now. It didn’t happen in the subcontinent against India but that was not a great surprise. I believe England will go from strength to strength in Test cricket this year and when the Ashes come around in the winter, I expect them to be a glued unit. South Africa will be a big challenge in the summer, while I expect us to beat the West Indies quite comfortably. Australia away is the ultimate test but if England can bed in some of the newer members of the side, the likes of Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings, the opportunity will be there to avenge that 5-0 Ashes whitewash of 2013-14.
Test cricket generally
A lot of teams are dominant on their own soil and Test cricket is waiting for a team to dominate in all conditions, just like Australia did for years. No team seems capable of that currently. Likewise, I cannot see any side plummeting down the rankings. The current Australia side has been a little fragile of late and they are the one side that if players do not step up then it could be a worry. They are picking a lot of different players at present – some like opener Matthew Renshaw and Peter Handscomb have done marvellously well – but while England have a couple of places up for grabs in their side, Australia seem to have five or six.
If Yorkshire didn’t lose so many of their players to England duty then they would be my strong favourites. Somerset are likely to be a handful this term as they seem to have found a formula which works for them. Surrey, who will be bolstered by the signings of Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick from Durham, are a bit like England in the sense of young players really finding their feet. Defending champions Middlesex are so consistent and rarely lose. I believe those four will fight it out for honours.
After the fifth Test against India in Chennai last month, Cook had a look in his eye which suggested he’d had enough. England obviously want him to carry on and he is a pretty stubborn and driven character. I think he’ll like the challenge of leading England in Australia again, especially with a good chance of beating them. My gut instinct is he will carry on.