Ben Stokes can guide England out of the gloom

Ben Stokes is only 22 and has a bright future ahead of him
Ben Stokes is only 22 and has a bright future ahead of him
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Ben Stokes is the man who can light the way back to good times to England according to our Leeds team.

Alastair Cook may be confident that the English cricket team is about to enter a bright new era, but are there players on the county circuit good enough to break into the Test team?

Last summer's Ashes series victory now seems a lifetime away, although on reflection cracks in the England team were starting to appear even then.

But could anyone have predicted that, just four months after Cook was lifting the famous urn, England would have capitulated to a 5-0 series whitewash in Australia and seen the international careers of Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann, and possibly Jonathan Trott, come to an end?

A home series against Sri Lanka may be the perfect opportunity for England to try to pick up the pieces, but as well as the absences of Pietersen, Trott and Swann, home fans will also be expecting to see a new wicketkeeper as Matt Prior continues to struggle with an Achilles injury.

The 32-year-old, who has been such a key part of England's success since making his Test debut against West Indies at Lord's seven years ago, has been a regular in the side ever since.

However, he will not keep wicket for Sussex in the County Championship fixture against Middlesex, and is unlikely to play in the first Test of the summer against Sri Lanka.

So, who will replace Prior, and for that matter Pietersen, Swann and Trott?

Somerset wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter could be recalled, or Essex captain James Foster, more than a decade since he won the last of his seven Test caps, could find himself restored to the side.

Kieswetter has never played a Test but has made 71 appearances in one-day and Twenty20 internationals while the 34-year-old Foster has been in fine form for his county in the first two months of the season.

He is a good batsman, having scored more than 11,000 first-class runs at an average of over 35, so he looks to be in prime position to take Prior's place, although he is not the long-term solution.

Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes still looks likely to come into the side after being one of the rare beacons of light in Australia over the winter.

However, he may be a little rusty as he has been sidelined since breaking his hand during the World T20 preparations in the West Indies earlier this year.

Stokes is still only 22, but showed he has the temperament to do well at Test level, finishing the Ashes series Down Under as England's third-highest run scorer with 279 and also the second-highest wicket taker with 15.

He needs to continue his development in the two Tests against Sri Lanka before the five-Test series against India later in the summer.

Chris Jordan will surely be given the chance to shine at Test level after his heroics in the recent one-day international victory against Sri Lanka at The Oval.

The Sussex man looks the part, blasting 38 runs from 13 balls at the end of England's innings, before taking some vital wickets as Sri Lanka lost by 81 runs.

Jordan has yet to play Test cricket, but appears to have the character to thrive in the five-day form of the game.

He has a good chance of playing in the first Test at Lord's and will bring a streak of youthful exuberance to the team as will Stokes and possibly Gary Ballance.

The Yorkshire star should be given the chance to impress on home soil after being thrown in at the deep end in Australia when he replaced Joe Root in the fifth Test.

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