Sometimes when contributing to a blog, you need to write an article that you would really prefer not to. It is safe to say that this is one such occasion, as I’m going to call for the unthinkable, put my head on the line and say that Moeen Ali should be dropped from the Test side this summer.
I know, I feel like I’m clubbing a baby seal here, but please do hear me out on this one. Moeen is without doubt one of the most likeable and selfless players in the English set up. He has been pushed up and down the order by the England selectors more than I’ve had hot dinners (I believe he has batted every position from opener to number 9). He put his head on the line back in 2014, when England asked him to be their main spinner, when he was at best a part time bowler for his county. Not once has Moeen ever complained about the constant shifting of his role within the England team and that clearly shows that he is a selfless individual, one who is exceptionally proud to play for his country and hence why it is difficult for me to demand for him to be dropped.
Moeen currently averages 35 with the bat and 42 with the ball at this time of writing and averaged 45 with the bat and 46 with the ball over the last 12 months (before our resident stats expert Simon picks me up on this one). So some may question why I would like such a valuable team player as Moeen to be dropped, especially when he scored a hundred in the last Test in India. However, I’m sure we all remember Shane Warne’s observation about Monty Panesar some years ago “that Panesar, rather than having played 33 Tests, had merely played his first one 33 times.” Some felt it was overly harsh, I actually happened to agree on this point at the time. I also feel this quip should also apply to Moeen with both his batting and bowling. Moeen, whilst it’s wonderful to watch his batting in full flow, is just as likely to hole out to cover with a slightly uppish cover drive or to advance down the wicket a whack one down mid-on’s throat. He has been doing this since his Test Debut back in 2014, some 37 Test matches ago. There hasn’t seemed to be any deep thought about his batting and why he consistently gets out playing loose, wafty shots. Perhaps he is of the mindset that ‘that’s the way he plays, so why change when it’s bought him success in the past’ and that could be a fair point. I mean I remember another English batsman who came onto the scene in 2005 and played exciting, attacking and sometimes fairly brainless cricket; however this individual averaged a whole lot more than 35 in his career playing ‘his way’. Unfortunately the said individual liked to whistle when he got out, so that was that for him then.
I could however, live with the fact that Moeen is as likely to nick a wide one to third slip when looking to save the game as he is as likely to launch a sumptuous cover drive to the boundary that should have an R rating to it. I could live with this, if the rest of his game was in order; however it simply isn’t due to one glaring weakness that sorts out the county pro from the Test pro, the short ball. It’s not that Moeen can’t play the short ball, it’s the fact that Moeen really really can’t play the short ball. One only needs to look at the recent series in India, when he bounced out on slow low wickets both in the Test series and then latterly in the 3rd ODI against a 40 over old, soft white ball. The tangle that Moeen gets himself into when facing the bouncer is two fold. He doesn’t seem to have the ability to duck and weave against the short ball, something that Atherton in his prime had a fantastic ability to do, nor does he have the natural shot appreciation to deposit it into the stand such as Ricky Ponting did. This leaves Moeen in some halfway house, where he still has to play the hook but it is likely that he’ll either top edge it or place it down deep square legs throat. It sort of reminds me of Yuvraj Singh’s inability to make it in international cricket, he had all the shots in the book, but as soon as word went round that he didn’t like it by his nose, then every fast bowler worth his salt tried to put it there. We only have to see the results of the 2011 series in England, which pretty much ended his career as a Test batsman. This upcoming year, we have a strong and quick South African fast bowling attack coming to England, followed by the Ashes on quick and bouncy Australian wickets. I dread to think what the Hazlewood and Starc will do to him at the Gabba and WACA, but what I do know for sure, there aren’t going to be that many pitched up deliveries for him to cover drive.
Now this could be glossed over somewhat, if Moeen was a premier spin bowler, but sadly most people now agree that he is what we thought he was in 2014, a part time bowler trying his best to cover England’s empty cupboard of spin bowling options. It is often true that when a new bowler comes into Test cricket, he has a bit of a bounce effect, in that the batsmen haven’t seen them bowl too much and quite often there are a few early wickets on offer as batsmen have yet to work them out. As with anything though in international cricket, coaches soon go through hours of video footage analyzing their technique, their weaknesses and where to target them and hence only high quality bowlers will flourish on this stage. This was true in 2014 when the Indian batsmen kept getting out to Moeen, by whacking him into the stands. However Moeen has now played 37 Test matches as England’s main spin weapon, and it would be fair to assume that he would be able to improve in that time; however sadly, I believe he has actually regressed as a bowler. He has all too often been easy pickings for opposition batsmen, milked around for singles at every opportunity and then waiting for the bad ball (which is often just around the corner) to put away to the boundary, thus making it impossible to build any pressure on the opposing side. Sure Moeen might bowl the odd Jaffa, but that doesn’t help too much when you’re constantly going at 4.5 runs an over. I might be being a tad unfair on Moeen’s bowling, as Graeme Swann aside, we have never been blessed with great spin bowlers since I’ve been following the cricket in depth. We won the 2005 with Ashley Giles as our main bowler, who wasn’t blessed with the most talent of an international Test spinner; however the one thing Giles could do was tie up an end and let our battery of quick’s steam in from the other end with an attacking field, because their main spinner wasn’t leaking 80 runs a day. This is something that unfortunately Moeen is simply unable to do.
It seems folly to me, to head to Australia where pitches aren’t exactly conducive to spin bowling with a part time bowler who can’t keep the runs down. I doubt Dave Warner or Steve Smith are losing any sleep about facing him in the middle. Even with England’s stocks of spin bowling being so diminished, surely it would make more sense to take a specialist spin bowler rather than a part time spinner that has regressed? The likes of Leach, Rayner, Rashid or even Mason Crane might not have that much better results in the short term, but I would hope that they would learn a lot from the experience and hence improve as their experience of International cricket grows. After 37 Test’s, I just don’t see how Moeen will improve his bowling sufficiently enough to be of an international standard.
In my own humble opinion, Moeen needs to focus on improving his batting, certainly against the short ball to lock down the number 5 position on his batting alone or somehow for his bowling to dramatically click for him to start the summer in the Test side. England had a preference for bits and pieces cricketers in the 90’s and we all know how that worked out for them then, I simply don’t see a place for them in a current Test side.
Right, I’ve got my tin hat on..
I like Mo too and agree with many of the points that you are making. I do have doubts about him doing well v SA or Aus because of the very issues that you point out and I really can’t believe that we can still pick him on the basis of providing circa 15+ overs a day, even if we are playing 4 seamers and could get by with him and Root. He HAS to get in as a batsman alone. Tough I know and to be honest, the reason why I think he might stay in the side is because the England management are unsure of their own true batting alternatives for a specialist slot and also the lack of faith in a genuine spinning option.
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When a player is being considered to be dropped, you have to ask the question…….. “is the replacement any better?”…… One of the reasons I never could understand the constant defence of Cooks captaincy by the ECB in house pundits was a bin liner full of dog turd couldn’t have done any worse.
The problem for the selectors, as you rightly point out is the spin bowling department is empty. Moeen fits the bill as a batsman who bowls a bit of spin bowling. This was very useful for England because their top & middle order has become prone to endless collapses. Moeen coming in at 7 or 8 or 9 offered the hope of some salvation. And to be fair to him, and other lower order batsman they have bailed out England time, and time again. 100/5 has often been turned in to 300 all out, giving the bowlers a chance.
We don’t have a Warne type attacking wicket taking bowler. We tend to use them, as you say in the Ashley Giles mode of blocking up one end for 20 odd overs to give the seamers a break. Rashid does not seem able to do that role which is not surprising as he is a more attacking leg spinner. ( but without the genius of Warne)
But will the new bowler be able to bat a bit to make up for the loss of Moeens runs? If Mooen is averaging 45 with the bat in the last year I would say that is not droppable form. You have to let him play against SA to see if he can handle the short ball. If he fails this summer, then I would agree not to take him to Aus. Give him the winter off.
I don’t really have a strong opinion on the selection or otherwise of Moeen Ali. He’s clearly not quite good enough to be a consistently high class Test batsman or bowler, but the alternatives are far from obvious.
I do however feel it only right to point out that I don’t think his personality should have much bearing on the outcome. He seems to be a pleasant and decent man and I’d much rather fall into conversation with him at a party than with Graeme Swann. On the pitch, however, Swann gets my vote every time.
Isn’t that part of the KP problem we still see played out in front of us every day? Who cares how nice he is, really?
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It could well be that Liam Dawson replaces him against South Africa. He was steady against India, even when they were racking up 700. However, it is hard to see him doing the same against Australia in Australia. He lacks the pace, bounce and spin to be much more than cannon-fodder down under. For Australia, it is back to Rashid for his attacking threat and maybe 5 seamers. On Australian pitches, Moeen is likely to go for many runs. Last Ashes, on the good pitches, Steve Smith, Mitch Marsh et al gave him a hard time.
If Dawson played as many tests as Ali I would be amazed if he had a better batting or bowling average.
Good point, Ian. But I would hope that Dawson had a better economy rate. Moeen is, unfortunately, going for 3.7 runs per over and not taking many wickets – 4.4 in the last Ashes series! We need a holding bowler, who can go for around 3 per over so that the quicks can rest and that is not likely to be Moeen. Ideally we would like an attacking threat who is also economical. Perhaps Leach/Crane/Rayner should get a run in the Summer Tests.
The figures of Yasir Shah (and last year, Mark Craig) in Australia have been horrendous.
Also, on a pedantic note, England aren’t going to play at the WACA I believe. Isn’t the Ashes going to be the first Test at this new Perth ground?
Think its 50/50 at present between the two venues.
Not sure. I’ve long thought it ironic that while it’s perfectly acceptable to get out off a defensive shot, it’s deemed to be utterly irresponsible off an attacking shot.
I would love to see England moving forward – introducing new players for the future and totally agree that Leach, Rayner etc should be hardened in the test arena. Always hated Geoff Miller’s policy of always picking the same XI, even when woefully out of form.
If England are looking for a slot to try out a promising batsman or bowler, Moeen is likely the most vulnerable, although should still be considered, if someone’s injured/unavailable.
Really pleased to read this piece tonight, as the same thoughts occurred to me just a couple of days ago, but – living abroad as I do – I couldn’t share them with anyone!!
The short-ball frailties only put the tin lid on it for me. 12 months of playing on non-spinning tracks mean that Moeen’s gentle flights aren’t going to dupe many folks, and I’d definitely go for 12 months of Rashid’s rippers, while we have enough seamers to keep it tight. In short, turn the usual bowling attack on its head by playing our main spinner as the strike bowler. I reckon it’s the least worst option for next winter, as things currently stand. This conclusion was partly due to reading about Jack Leach’s difficulties in adapting to his new action, otherwise I’d have been tempted to give him a go this summer, at least against the Windies at the end of the summer.
In terms of replacing his batting, I don’t think we have (yet) too many worries. The top 4 is nailed on, for better or worse, with Root moving back down to take Moeen’s latest position at 4. Stokes is going nowhere at 6. Bairstow is guaranteed a slot. Woakes plays at 8. So we’ve either got Buttler at 7, with ‘no vacancies’, or a space at 5. If it’s the latter, I think there will be plenty of applicants come July, possibly including Moeen himself.
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if I’d been there we’d have had no conversation about it anyway, because you’d have said all that, and I’d have said, “Yep.”
The best thing to do with talented young sportsmen who average 45 in the last year is help them develop their game. I notice in all sports if you give a young talented man a set clear role and give them experience in that role they improve. I would follow this method with mo as he has not been given this type of support before. Why not try this first. It feels a bit daily mail to just bin him when really he probably has been effected by poor management.
Australia win by 333 runs and within three days…..
They even managed to drop three catches (David Warner, of all people, being the main culprit) and miss Kohli on a DRS. But “you have to take every chance in India” is only one of the narratives in crisis after this!
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Oh dear oh dear, So Australia have beaten India by 333 runs. Remember all the genius English pundits who told us that losing 4-0 in India was a fantastic result? And on the back of this great result Captain Cook should decide his own future, and stay on as captain if he felt like it?
Gold plated punditry by the biggest tossers in English sports journalism. Even if India win all the remaining test matches it will still be better than England’s result. Have these morons got anything right in the last 4 years? Can’t say I can remember anything.
No wonder some of them are now reduced to reviewing movies or hanging out in the US watching American sports.
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Preposterous clutching at straws #1:
Preposterous clutching at straws #2:
The dawn chorus of moron pundits singing from their bullshit him sheets.
Remember the bright green seamers at Nottingham and Birmingham which you all thoroughly approved of? The hypocrisy of these people is breath taking. Pitch doctoring for me, and darling Alastair, but not for thee.
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Bloody spell check managed to change hymn to him.
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#1 is amazing. The mental contortions required to make that statement are frightening
The better the pitch, the less important the toss is. With pitches like that you really want to win the toss – it is a massive advantage, as you get to bat when conditions are best, and to bowl when conditions are worst for batting (and why I think the series result against SA flattered the better tossers a bit).
Still, Australia comfortably outbatted and outbowled India, in the third innings, compared to India’s first innings. Admittedly, not too hard after that collapse, but Smith made more in that innings of his than the entire Indian team combined did in either of their innings …
But we all know that the Ashes are going to be a walkover for England …
and to back up your point D’A:
“This was an accident waiting to happen. Ravi Shastri, former director of the Indian team, has said on air, in his role as commentator now, that he had asked for the pitches India laid out for South Africa in Mohali and Nagpur. Both were three-day wins for India, but in both those Tests India won the toss. Such pitches stay okay for about a session, and they get progressively worse. India’s score of 107 in the second innings in Pune was about par for such pitches. That makes winning the toss crucial, which can’t be good news for the No. 1 side in the world who have the superior skill in normal Indian conditions.
While experts called this a lottery pitch – Harabhajan Singh refused to even call it a pitch – and while Australia called this a pitch unlike any other they had played on, India’s captain and coach didn’t find much wrong with it. ”
A few SNJOK stats:
1) Best ever Test 12-for (beating George Lohmann).
2) Best same bowling figures in each innings of a Test (beating Chandra’s 6-52 in 1977/78).
3) First time spinners have taken all ten in an innings for Aus since Warne and May against England in 1993 (sure I’m not the only one who remembers that one well!)
And SNJOK wasn’t MotM!
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Add best bowling figures by an Australian against India to the SNJOK list (beating Alan Davidson’s 12/124 in 1959).
He was, in the end. Just that ridiculous pandering to sponsors that means we end up with a player of the match (Starc, first award given) and a man of the match (O’Keefe, last award given). Quite what O’Keefe did as a man, rather than a player, is unclear.
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Another faintly gob-smacking stat from Pune –
Steve Smith’s century is only the third second innings hundred by an Australian in India (in nearly 50 Tests). The others were by Damien Martyn and Mark Taylor (and were both lower scores).
Second innings ton. It’s not leading from the front, like Steely Cook, it’s counter-punching. It’s taking a decisive grip of the game when it’s in the balance.
Smith is clearly in the top rank but I’ve always had a reservation because of his lack of elegance. I watched a bit of him in this test and my doubts have evaporated. Facing good spinners on an inconsistent pitch required flexibility, and intent underpinned by technique. Smith embodied this, this was a perfect innings from Smith. It wasn’t about classic batting, it was about scoring runs.
I like it when someone forces me to reevaluate my opinion by sheer force of performance. If Smith keeps performing like this, he will be head and shoulders above anyone else.
Maybe the next Ashes will be played on slow turning pitches. Smith and Renshaw looked a class above any of the English batsmen in terms of technique and shot selection against the turning ball.
All those headlines after the last ICC meeting, what was their point again?…..
Down the agenda – isn’t that a bit like saying we won’t prosecute a burglar because the house occupants have moved?
I’ve asked Damian Collins, as acting chair of CMS, twice for an update but he never replied. I have since emailed CMS direct for a comment on the failure to summons Clarke, and, needless to say, it has not replied. It looks like lack of transparency runs deep in the English establishment. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
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Only elitist establishment types know Latin. The public don’t like those kind of people anymore. Giles, by contrast, is a man of the populus. He needs no scrutiny.
Some things just wither and die on the vine. I’m sure I read that that Saffer Jennings who did so well for England in India failed to respect the dates for qualification, but we’ve heard no more. I guess there are bigger crimes in cricket.
But yes, Giles is a man of the people, just like Trump is. The saviour of the working class, who fills his cabinet with elite power brokers. Clarke will never be brought to brook, unless he stops delivering.
Stpcks’ previews the WI tour:
The warm-up matches are being live streamed (link on Lawrence Booth’s Twitter).
Meanwhile, doesn’t look like things are getting better for Jack Leach in SL.
Slow left-armers and Andy Flower? It doesn’t seem often to end happily, does it?….
Thanks to a George Dobell tweet, England currently live on http://www.windiescricket.com/news/watch-uwi-vc-xi-vs-england-xi
No commentary, no repetative replays – almost like being there
Wonderful victory for Australia today of course, but I think it had as much to do with Indian implosion as Australian excellence. Very good cricket from Australia, excellent in places, but I’d be surprised if we see India dimissed for 100 again in the near future. Many of the Indian dismissals were just suicidal, rather than being bowler-induced..
When MJ did for England, the bowling was undeniable. I don’t think O’Keefes bowling was undeniable.
But who knows, this is cricket, anything can happen. Not sure Australia has ever started an India tour by being 1-0. The rules of cricket are being torn up, who knows what’s going to happen next.
One famous 1-0 lead in 2001. Then Dravid and Laxman intervened!
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It was indeed a very good performance by Australia. It’s what England and the above mentioned pundits (and oh so many others) utterly failed to accept: take care of your own stuff; control what you can; play to your fullest; losing is never inevitable.
Indian implosion accepted, full credit to Australia. Deserved victory for doing things right and not balling things up themselves.
I would add though, it was a pitch of unusual bounce. Bounce rather than lateral movement is what the Indian bats struggle(d) with.
No need to congrat me, I didn’t bowl a ball or score a single run, and I’m not a flag waver. But since it comes from you I’ll graciously accept your congrats, and I’ll even refrain from teal related comments.
Bounce you say? I’m stll trying to understand what happened. It’s not just the spin that gets you, it’s the possibility of spin. SOK doesn’t spin it much but the fact that he might seems to have been deadly, even when he doesn’t. Especially when he doesn’t. Fucking spinners, eh? But you’re saying it’s not spin, it’s bounce. Hmm.
I watched Kohli shoulder arms to a ball, from O’Keefe, that hit the stumps. It’s disturbed my entire weekend, it just doesn’t make sense. Discombobulated.
I think it’s a fair point about Mo. The only thing I would say is that, yes, he’s still likely to slap one to cover or sky one or nock off, and yes that was always true of him, but it is happening less. It’s a comparative point, granted, but I think he’s still a better batsman than he was four years ago.
However, his bowling in India was on the depressing side of poor and it really let us down.
None the less, I fully expect to see him at 5 and Johnny at 7, that there’ll be a lack of discourse over our continued 6 bowler strategy, and that the dropping of Rashid will be ignored.
P.S. Not here, necessarily, but you know what I mean.
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Not cricket related but interesting observing the football media in their natural habitat, namely Skys Sunday Supplement. Or it should be renamed……”The Sunday Man Utd”
So Leiceter City (the current champions) sack their manager, and fleets streets finest want to wallow in their favourate subject, their only subject…….Man Utd and their manager. They know their audience. Would The League cup final get such billing by fleet streets finest if Man U weren’t playing?
Oh goodie….. if you were fed up hearing about Man U, they have now moved on to talking about Wayne Rooney. (Who just happens to play for Man Utd.) have you ever noticed how all these journos let slip the tern “Utd?” Is that West Ham Utd? Or Sheffield Utd? These journos are all card carrying “Utd” fans.
It’s going to be funny watching all these premiership players go off to China in the next 20 years. The most surprised will be Englands one eyed journalists who can’t imagine anything once you pass over the White cliffs of Dover. I’m off to walk the dog now, it’s better than watching this utter drivel.
I’ll repeat something I’ve posted about before (I think on here) – Moeen would not have been selected for England as a spinner were it not for them trying to punish Stokes for his locker punch. In the build up to the Sri Lanka series, Stokes was batting and bowling for Durham – he was both fit and match-fit, which couldn’t be said for every member of the squad England selected. Yet he wasn’t selected and the whispers were that it was a punishment. It took about a year for him to regain form for England.
Moeen was definitely on England’s radar – he had debuted in ODIs and T20Is over the winter. But he was selected as a batsman and occasional bowler (I’ve been through the scorecards, in many games he didn’t bowl a single over), not as an all-rounder. Although it’s far from clear who England would have picked as an alternative spinner, I really doubt England would have initially selected Moeen as a specialist spinner at 8. I can understand why they picked him as an all-rounder at 6.
And now we find ourselves in the funny position where we have two all-rounders unbalancing the team. I think that England will give Moeen the opportunity to nail down the 5 position. As for the spin bowling, I hope that they give someone a go during the summer. With the West Indies being the opposition for the late-summer Tests, there may be an opportunity to blood Rayner or Leach, depending in form, or see how Rashid does against non-masters of spin.
Neither Jenning or Hameed covering themselves in glory for the Lions vs SL at the moment.
Livingstone…. I presume??
Which reminds me that it’s not only Mo who’ll be peppered with short stuff this summer. Hameed’s broken hand will also be remembered.
Lions lost by 3 wickets as SL A lost some late wickets in a hectic run chase.
Is there anyone in the Lions’ party whose been less mentioned for promotion than Liam (140*) Livingstone? Hopefully, that will now change….
Also, Jason Behrendorff just took 14/89 against a Victoria side including Finch, Stoinis, Cameron White and Dan Christian (and on a pitch where his own side made 285 against a bowling attack who all have representative honours). I liked Behrendorff when I saw in the BBL but then he seemed to go AWOL (injury?) and seldom seemed mentioned as a Test candidate. Anyone have any thoughts on him?
“The Lions began the final day still 163 runs in arrears and were grateful for Livingstone’s painstaking, unbeaten 140; in all he batted for seven-and-a-half hours in the match, becoming only the second batsman after Kevin Pietersen to score a century in each innings of a first-class match for England Lions (or their predecessors, England A and England B). ”
Oh dear… Flower must be hoovering.
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Should also mention that it included 9/36 in the first innings (5th best figures in Sheffield Shield history), and he had the first 3 wickets to fall early in the second. Behrendorff has been on the selectors’ radar since he made his first class debut, or maybe earlier. Tall, fast, left arm, he’s a dream prospect. However, he has been injured most of his career, this was his first game back after 3-4 months out.
Australia is bursting with good, varied fast bowling talent at the moment. Bird, Sayers, Cummins, Pattinson, all fighting for one place behind Starc and Hazlewood in the Ashes. If Behrendorff stays fit may push to the front of that line.
Behrendorff’s 14 wickets (didn’t work on my laptop, but working fine on my phone?)
ICYMI amidst the endless articles about Joe Root, Ben Stokes and the IPL:
ECB changing its constitution in order to #MakeEnglishCricketGreatAgain (i.e. gear everything to the new T20)
Nothing about indemnifying club debts?
Atherton won the cricket SJA again:
Not really surprising. He has always been more sensible than most of the others. Doesn’t mean I always agree with him, but he backs up what he says with logic. You never feel he is pushing an agenda for the agendas sake.
Pity poor Nasser. He used to have a similar credibility. Then he went off the reservation. It’s amazing how many cricket pundits were brought down by shrilling for cook.
Nothing for Mike Selvey? That’s a shame.
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Wot! No ‘Lifetime Aggrievement’ award for Selfey??? Must have got the envelopes mixed up…
I think I’ve seen somewhere that Selvey got a commendation (as did Vic Marks and Rob Smyth).
That’s what I read. Those three. Tom Collomosse on Twitter said of one of those that he “hasn’t seen one of then inside a cricket ground” in his time covering and wondered why Hoult wasn’t highly commended.
But it’s all good.
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