England’s astonishing wealth of seam bowlers could be their major asset as they strive to become the number one ranked Test side in the world.
While many international sides have struggled to assemble attacks capable of regularly taking 20 Test wickets, England have done so in 11 of their last 13 matches.
Six seamers have been used in that time with England sticking to a four man attack - with three quicks complimenting Graeme Swann’s off-spin.
England are set to continue with that formula, which has won them their last four Test series', against Sri Lanka and India this summer. Both sides play a Test match and One Day International at Lord’s.
Team Director Andy Flower has expressed a desire to continue with the rotation policy they tentatively explored in 2010 in order to ensure his quick bowlers are not unduly affected by the strains of international cricket.
It also enables England to shuffle their attack depending on conditions, safe in the knowledge that any replacements have the necessary ingredients to bowl at Test level.
England will be cautious of making too many changes though and are likely to be reluctant to drop spearhead James Anderson unless pushed. Anderson has been included alongside Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett for the first Test of the summer against Sri Lanka.
England have a wealth of pace and variety to choose from this summer. We take a look at their strengths, weaknesses and statistical records.
Role: Formerly a precocious talent - unplayable when the ball swung and almost redundant when it didn’t - Anderson has blossomed into arguably the best seam bowler in world cricket and crucially one of the most consistent.
Worrying loss of form during the ICC World Cup was a concern but most likely due to tiredness after an Ashes-winning winter. Expect him to bounce back.
Role: England’s ‘enforcer’ over the past year is hoping to put a tough, injury troubled winter behind him. Stats perhaps don’t fully illustrate his importance to England’s cause but Flower and Andrew Strauss will be desperate for him to quickly regain form.
Made first Test ton at Lord’s in 2010 and adds depth to the batting line-up.
Role: At 6’8" and fast-medium one of the most uncomfortable bowlers to face in the world game. After several years in the international wilderness, came into the side in Perth during the Ashes win and immediately looked hungry for Test wickets.
Starts the summer as first choice, though he is yet to start a match alongside fellow beanpole Broad.
Role: Mightily impressive in the Ashes, Bresnan had the honour of taking the wicket which secured the Urn in Melbourne. A real workhorse, he was England’s standout bowler in the World Cup but will miss the first part of the summer due to a recurrence of a calf tear.
Excellent batting gives him an extra edge - England will miss him during the Sri Lanka series.
Role: The golden boy of English cricket before the Ashes has slipped down the pecking order, but at just 22 has plenty to give in the future. A genuine wicket taker who has worked hard since the Ashes to add more consistency to his game.
Another giant at 6’8" but in a different mould to either Tremlett or Broad.
Role: Despite trekking his way around Australia last winter as an on/off member of the squad, Shahzad still has just one Test appearance to his name. An ability to swing the ball both ways at good pace gives the Yorkshireman added appeal at Test level.
Would be a surprise if he played but Bresnan’s injury could let him in if England opt for variety in their attack.
Role: Yet to play a Test but knocking loudly on the door after a glorious start to the summer for Warwickshire. A genuine all-rounder, Woakes has four first-class centuries to his name and averages 52.40 with the bat in County Championship cricket this summer.
Allied to 24 wickets at 18.54 with the ball, he looks a superb prospect.
Our four man attack for Lord's Test:
Local boy Steve Finn gets the nod from us. Flower has hinted strongly at a rotation policy and a 'horses for courses' approach. Finn knows Lord's better than most, playing here regularly for Middlesex.
He took nine wickets in his first Test at the Home of Cricket and has made a strong start to the county championship season. We think he'll shade it over Tremlett.