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International Cricket - Cricket: Five England players who need to step up

After another Ashes disappointment and change of coach, England look set to go through another rebuilding plan as they prepare for a Test series in the West Indies.

Paul Collingwood has been placed in temporary charge of the squad for the upcoming three-Test challenge in the Caribbean, where England haven’t won a series since 2004.

The tourists are 10/11 to get back to winning ways with a series success, with West Indies 2/1 and the draw available at 15/4.

We have selected five players from the 16-man touring party that need a big series to make sure they are part of the selectors' plans going forward.

Jonny Bairstow

Having been a Test regular from 2015 to 2019, the Yorkshire batsman was dropped from the Test arena in 2020 and it looked like he would have to focus on the white-ball formats.

But he gained a recall in 2021 and played in the third and fourth Tests Down Under, scoring an impressive century in Sydney and earning himself another chance to become a regular.

At the age of 32 and with his fitness, Bairstow could have at least another five or six years of Test cricket ahead of him, if he can show some decent form in the Caribbean.

Finding which position to use him in the batting line-up is still a big consideration, with number five looking the best option, although he scored his century at the SCG batting at six.

Bairstow - who is also a back-up wicketkeeper option - has played three previous Tests in the Windies, scoring 110 runs in five innings and averaging 22.00.

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Ben Foakes

Foakes joined an illustrious group when scoring a century on his Test debut, smashing 107 against Sri Lanka in Galle in 2018.

He then followed that up with an unbeaten half-century in the second Test in Pallekele and looked to be cementing his place as the future first-choice wicketkeeper.

But it's hard to believe that four years on, he only has eight Tests to his name and his last five-day international appearance came in India in March 2021.

Many pundits have felt that he is the best option with the gloves, with England's selectors instead looking for a better batting option.

With Jos Buttler struggling in Australia and left out of this squad, the Surrey ace now has a big opportunity to strengthen his claims to become the regular wicketkeeper.

Jack Leach

Nobody will ever forget that day at Headingley in the summer of 2019, when Leach hung around to help England and Ben Stokes beat Australia by one wicket.

But he in particular will want to stop hearing about that and will want people talking about his bowling performances, as he looks to secure his place as England's first-choice spinner.

Having taken 20 wickets in his first four Tests, he has claimed 48 scalps in his next 15 appearances with a bowling average of 32.05.

Leach's main rival looks to be Lancashire leg-spinner Matt Parkinson, who is also named amongst the squad to face the West Indies.

The Somerset man, though, has started the tour well, taking four first-innings wickets in the warm-up match against West Indies Presidents XI and is 12/1 to be Player of the Match in the first Test.

Mark Wood

There has been plenty of scrutiny on Mark Wood in recent months, but that will go up another level with the absence of Stuart Broad and James Anderson.

With Jofra Archer still missing through injury, Wood is England's quickest bowling option but he hasn't yet lived up to expectations, certainly compared to his limited-overs efforts.

The 32-year-old made his Test debut in 2015 and seven years on, has just 25 Test appearances to his name after being used more in limited-overs cricket.

Wood, who has already been hampered in illness on this tour, has played in Test cricket in the Caribbean before during the 2018 tour. The Durham paceman won the 'Player of the Match' and took six wickets in the Test.

Zak Crawley

One of the major issues for England in recent years has been finding a consistent opening partnership, with Zak Crawley having an opportunity to take a firm grip of one of those two positions.

Having sat out the opening two tests, the right-hander showed signs of what he is capable of – making 77 in the second innings in Sydney.

Crawley does have a double-hundred to his name, scoring 267 against Pakistan at the Rose Bowl in 2020, but has to improve on his current Test average of 28.21.

This will be his first test of playing on Caribbean wickets and a strong performance will put him in he driving seat to open against New Zealand, India and South Africa this summer.

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