Ashes Betting: Cook retirement adds to England's selection dilemmas

Alastair Cook
Alastair Cook has announced he will be retiring from Test cricket after the fifth Test v India
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After Alastair Cook announced his retirement this morning, Ralph Ellis fears there are problems ahead for Joe Root's side - despite the series victory over India...

"England are now the [2.06] favourites for the Ashes series next summer but I can’t help feeling there are very many bumps in the road before then."

Great win over India but questions remain

Joe Root called it his best series as England's Test captain, and he probably had a point. Victory over India was in doubt right up until the hugely impressive Sam Curran trapped Ravi Ashwin to take the final wicket.

Against an Indian team which had a coherent seam attack and a top order full of players capable of making big scores, Root's side had somehow found ways to win.

But when the England captain went on to talk about how he had felt very much in control of things at the Aegeas bowl, and how he had "a real clear vision of how I see us improving", I struggled to share his optimism.

England are now the [2.06] favourites for the Ashes series next summer but I can't help feeling there are very many bumps in the road before then.

Start with the batting order. Since Andrew Strauss retired England have been looking for a partner for Alastair Cook, but they need to find two openers now after the Essex man announced his retirement on Monday morning. He will be stepping down after the fifth Test, capping a phenomenal career.

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No closer to a settled batting order

Cook will go down as one of the legends of the game but he is stepping down now for a reason. He has been horribly out of form throughout this series and that must have made it even harder for Keaton Jennings to settle. It's ended up with the two of them being walking wickets at the start of each innings.

Then there's the search for a proper number three if Root is going to move back to his favourite berth at four. Pushing Moeen Ali up the order didn't work. It was worrying to see Jonny Bairstow apparently sulking at losing his job behind the wicket, too.

While the middle order have kept riding to the rescue in this series, you simply can't go into an Ashes contest relying on that. The idea of a deep batting line-up is to pile up more runs after a good start, not to keep digging you out of a hole.

As for the bowling, on the face of it looks the least of Root's problems after such a splendid performance as a unit against India.

Scratch the surface, though, and you remember that Jimmy Anderson is going to be 37 next summer while his senior strike partner Stuart Broad will be 33. Sure, they look after themselves brilliantly, but there must come a moment when one or both break down under the strain of bowling so many overs and then what's left?

Not enough young players coming through

Curran has been a wonderful breath of fresh air in this series both with bat and ball, but there simply isn't a long queue of other young players ready to step up to the Test arena.

The various hopefuls who have come in and out at different times have underlined the huge gulf between doing well in County cricket and at Test level. It's simply not like Gareth Southgate being able to blood half a dozen youngsters in top competition because the counties aren't producing the same potential.

Of course England are better in home conditions and with the Duke ball. They haven't lost a series on their own soil in the last nine.

But you worry that this might be a team which needs to evolve between now and next summer and there isn't the quality for that process to happen.

So well done Root and England for wrapping up this series win but the Ashes? There's still a long way to go to justify being favourites to win them back.

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