Having said on Monday that it’s “all about the Ashes” in a less than happy way, I have to confront my own position. Now the home test series are over, the next task is the Ashes, and we know, still, it just about has some form of pull on the cricket world, and here. While we feel the general sense of disillusionment with all the game brings with it, it is going to be the proper 2 ½ years between the two old foes going at it, so allow me to get a little bit enthused. For me, and I suspect some others, this is test cricket’s last throw of the dice. If this is a poor quality, poor test series, I don’t honestly know where we go from here. Down to the T20 pier I fear. A new love is hard to find, after all.
After the test summer, we need to look at who might be going, and who might not. I’m not going to dissect the selection quandaries, rather make some observations. It was interesting to read the comments of some of the journalists regarding the selection for the upcoming Ashes. Interesting in that Bayliss has said that if he has anything to do with it, there will be no “flyers” from outside the squad or the playing pool from the last 18 months. This is an admirable approach so it seems, but where is it coming from?
Why would you shut down other options at this stage? What if one of those mentioned in dispatches suddenly strings together a run of excellent scores at the end of the season? For example, if Liam Livingstone ran off a couple of big tons after his double a week or so ago, why would he be more a risky selection than Tom Westley or Dawid Malan who have not pulled up any trees against an opposition bowling line-up that won’t be in Australia’s league? What if Nick Browne outperformed his Essex colleague in the final games to get Essex over the line? How about if Sam Robson batted Middlesex to safety having been out of the England order since 2014? Ben Duckett could be considered due to this logic, but Sam Northeast, who consistently seems to score runs, reprises his role of the younger generation’s James Hildreth. Sam is averaging 55, yes in Division 2, but this is no spring chicken. Maybe someone has seen something in the past.
I’m not lobbying for Northeast, but the fact that Bayliss seems unwilling to work with what he doesn’t know, just because it is the Ashes, doesn’t compute to me. Australia blew up their batting line-up after Hobart last year, and came across Renshaw and Handscomb. This against a tough South African bowling line-up, albeit a little on the downward curve after clinching the series. Both are now ensconced having made runs. We will be playing three players who have had a few tests each and not really, in truth, looked like nailing it down at all. Westley played a few nice shots early on, a number of the media fell in love quicker than a repressed teenager, only to have their ardour thrown back in their face in what should now be called Hameed Syndrome.
Oh, and on to young Hameed. Again, I have to say this, I really, really want to see the kid succeed. Nothing would give me more pleasure. But agonising over every painstaking, woefully out of nick, half century isn’t going to do it. It’s like revisiting the woes of Ben Hollioake all over again. Let him get on in peace, get himself back to form, and become a player in his own time. In his recent piece Newman insists that “Hameed has to be on the plane” which defies all logic. You want to take a player along who has made two (is it) half centuries all season? Why? Magic beans based on a competent debut against India? Take his age out of it – is he selectable in a way that, say Steven Finn wasn’t despite also proving his test class time and again? I simply don’t know why HH has got them all giddy. I saw one commenter on the Guardian say, within two lines, that Rashid could not be picked for England because of his poor summer, but that HH should go as the third opener!
Newman is nailing his colours to the Alex Hales mast. I am not actually as rabidly against that per se, but he did have his chance over quite a period of time and didn’t take it. That was opening, and it may be he thrives down the order.
On the bowling front, the debate is pretty settled. Clearly Broad, Anderson, Woakes and TRJ will be going (to drop TRJ would be incredible given his start). Moeen is the one spinner, and probably Crane will be the other (Aussie state experience and the fact that Adil is persona non grata). There might be room for another – Wood or Ball given we can’t go outside the last 18 months – and Finn hasn’t exactly staked a claim for recall. This leaves the excitement to a back-up keeper. Why we would choose anyone other than Jos Buttler, despite not pulling up any trees, given the constraints on selection I don’t know.
There remains a sneaking suspicion, though, that to go for a wild card, one of those hunch selections that sometimes come off in Ashes tours down under (but more frequently don’t), might infer weakness or incompetence. The selectors have not pulled a batting rabbit out of the hutch since Gary Ballance, and he soon succumbed to cricketing myxomatosis when he stopped scoring runs, and possibly as more of an indicator, siren voices mentioned technical flaws and GB’s unwillingness to countenance changing them. Ballance suffered from having a batting style only his mother and James Whitaker could love, and while racking up 6 tons in 103 test innings has you a stalwart of the side, 4 centuries in your first 10 tests doesn’t prevent you from getting the axe. So given Ballance is rabbit stew now, the rest of the batting hopes haven’t been as good as him. To punt for someone else may lead people to believe our selectors don’t know what they are doing. Perish the thought.
For me, and I know some of our other scribes, the position of Trevor Bayliss seems rather odd. He’s actively, or maybe passively, made it clear he knows little about county cricket. He seems a little resistant to get out there, like the old school, and run the rule over players. He seemed reticent over Mark Stoneman, but then when he has worked with him, made comments about how he likes him as an unfussy, organised cricketer. Bayliss, and Farbrace the Untouchable, have presided over a maddeningly inconsistent England team. Their fielding has fallen off a cliff. They can play matches of unutterable nonsense, lose the plot every bit as much as the Moores teams of yore. There seems, though, barely a murmur from the media about him. It’s as if his invisible man nature is a virtue. No-one is writing Flower-like eulogies for him in the press. No-one seems to think that he’s a liability either. Maybe people don’t care as much. I’m really not sure.
The 2017/18 Ashes are going to pit two floored teams together. Who will survive? I think England will lose, potentially heavily depending on how fit the Aussie bowling attack will be. The team is too flawed, and the talent pipeline is drying up. Newman can say we have a world class spine, but the problem with this team, frequently, is when it is behind it has no backbone. Blaming that on three players making their way is one thing. But look at some of the established players, and their inconsistency and you have the nub of the issue. However, we will be watching on BT Sport, and not Sky, which brings me on to my next piece in the next day or so.
TV coverage (don’t worry Bogfather, you can have your go soon as well!)
Aha, you have reminded me of the other thing that has put me off test cricket and particularly the current England team.
WTF has Adil Rashid done? Is he a serial cuckolder? Is he a bigger arsehole than Stuart Broad appears to be, and even if he is, is he so damaging to the spirit of the team that he is more KP than KP?
Normally the cheerleaders of the fourth estate let us know what the issue is (apart from some mild mutterings of character there has been nothing)
Now I’m not saying he’s a world class leg spinner, and his fielding is ordinary, but he knows his craft, takes wickets, can bat a bit and has a lot of experience in Australia (admittedly big bash).
He appears to be persona non grata and clearly the ECB have let it be known to journalists, but as usual we the paying public are told nothing.
Was he that awful in India? Any worse any others?
It seems a mystery to me (unless my complete disinterest over the past few years has made me miss the bleeding obvious)
Confused of Clevedon
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Rashid’s disappearance has rather coincided with Root’s arrival as captain. County ‘colleagues’ and all that.
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“His card has been marked”…M.Selvey
He’s back in the limited overs squads so clearly he’s not reached KP levels of bellendery (yet). Mainly, he was just expensive when taking wickets, although he was definitely a better option than Liam “I have photos of the selectors, a racoon & 3 cheerleaders for the Dallas Cowboys” Dawson.
Problem is England don’t really do spinners unless they’re in Asia (and for some reason not always then either) or they’re feeling frisky and experimental (but why they don’t just change the parental controls on the Internet browsers instead I don’t know).
The attraction of the Ashes is the thought that there might finally be some sort of benchmark to measure the standard of English cricket. Or cricket in general
Not a cold evening pink ball fest against a fresh of-the-plane rookie WI team, or an early September Lords game for a swinging Jim. Or a non contest againts a Kolpaked Proteas with their star bowler sanctioned. Will we finally have a real contest. On pitches that do not turn square on day one.
Will the team consisting of the worlds best ever greatest opening batsmen and human individual, the worlds most skillfull fast bowler ever, and the better than Botham bowler that is the best ever Ashes winner in the best ever English team even give those Aussies a sniff…. I wonder.
I looki at the photo of the score board at the top of the page and the names on their.
At the same time, the news of some non-big three players risking life and limb to play in Pakistan (remember Faf has a new born baby…) makes the so-called mercenary tag for T20 players or certain South African born players wearing the three lions seem trivial.
It seems English and world cricket is alive and well…. or I will assume that if I compare the lack of any interview by director comma, or any other ECB board member compared to 2 or 3 years ago. How wonderful.
As Mr Dylan said. I used to care. But things have changed. I will have another whiskey…
Am still processing the numbers but a few thoughts… Why have Lyth and Robson been discarded forever? If someone suggested to Lyth to forget the scoreboard for the first hour, play in the V, and only then unfurl the cover drive, I think he should be given another chance. How many times were Gooch, Gower, Willis and Co dropped before they finally cemented their places? If Ballance and Compton are the only guys to get second chances, what is the question? My take is that this Ashes is between 2 mediocre sides, rather like 1977, 1978-79, 1981, and 1982-3. They produced exciting and absorbing cricket even if most of it was not top-drawer. Whereas 2015 was one of the dullest series I have ever watched. Completely lacking in drama
I will say that if Cummins is fit, we’re for a show. Not a pleasant one, obviously, but the kind o fast bowling not seen since MJ got it together last time. I honestly think Cummins is the real deal and a class apart – and has it in him to tear us apart. Could be spectacular.
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“Why have Lyth and Robson been discarded forever?”
In Lyth’s case, because he didn’t make over 37 in five consecutive Tests and averages under 25 in the CC this year. I’m not sure they have given up on Robson and wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the winter tour party (that’s if he’s tackled that all-important “anonymity in the field” that he used to suffer from – whatever it meant).
They couldn’t select either last year because they’d clearly decided to give Hales an extended try-out (and don’t forget Hales did well against SL). Also, although both Lyth and Robson had decent domestic 2016s, their records were far inferior to, say, Nick Gubbins so selecting them would’ve been hard to justify. They took Hameed and Duckett last winter because Hameed had a reputation as good against spin (born out subsequently) and I suspect Duckett was a response to Bayliss (and probably Cook) wanting an attacking opener.
Stoneman’s CC century yesterday has probably ensured his place so there’s probably one place left in the Ashes party for a top order batsman and not much to chose between a whole raft of candidates (probably between Robson, Jennings and Hameed with Browne, Burns and Roy as outliers. My suspicion is that they’d love to pick Jennings and are praying he makes a score to justify it. It wasn’t long ago that they were talking up Jennings not only as opener for years to come but as FEC and the team looks short of other captaincy options if something happened to Root in the medium-term).
It’s interesting that after 13 innings, Gooch had scored 305 runs at an average of 25.42. Not strikingly different to Lyth’s record of 265 runs at 20.38.
Hameed scored 4 in 70 balls when his team, in theory, is chasing the championship. The seductive powers of a couple of innings in India and people lose their minds. From the outside he appears a mess. But hey. Magic beans and all that.
Not directly a response to you sir, but it has to go somewhere.
With root, stokes, Jimmy, broad backed by Moeen, bairstow, woakes. England is certainly not a mediocre side.
Oz with Warner, Smith, lyon, starc, Cummins is not mediocre either as they are playing in Oz
In fact, England are probably no 1 across all surfaces.
That’s half a side. The best England teams of the 21st century (all two of them) were consistently strong in all areas. The biggest difference, it seems to me, is that the 2003-05 and 2009-11 vintages could often draw or even win from very difficult positions. This lot have no spine at all: when they lose they lose BIG. I can only think of one victory from well behind since the 2013/14 Ashes, against Pakistan in 2016. I certainly can’t think of draws to match Galle 2003, Durban 2004, Cape Town and Cardiff 2009, Auckland 2013, even St. John’s 2004.
All surfaces? One example: they have won literally one Test in Asia, from ten attempts, since the 2012 series victory in India. Their record in Asia since then (against three opponents: they haven’t been to Sri Lanka since April 2012) is exactly the same as India’s in England this decade, i.e. won 1, lost 7; England have had two draws and India just the one.
If England are the best in the world, Test cricket is even more stuffed than I already thought it was.
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Across all surfaces does not mean that on every surface england is tops. All it means is that if you take an overall perspective of how they will do if we have a series comprising of matches in different surfaces, they would probably be the leaders in terms of points scored.
Last away results.
Sri Lanka 1-1
West Indies 1-1
New Zealand 0-0
South Africa 2-1
Zimbabwe 0-0 around 20 years ago!
Not that impressive.
Timelines are warped though for the Oz tour. Doubt England will lose now. England appear to be a better team than Oz at this stage though home advantage probably negates the advantage England have.
England are a team which will do badly only on turning pitches . Oz suffer from the same glitch. B Oz are weak against spin too in the SC.
So, Eng > Oz on current squad and form. Eng > SA . home and away . Eng > India (As a balanced indian fan, I can certainly say this). So, England is the No 1 team.
Also, it is impossible that there will be all conquering teams home and away all the time. So, it is not a sign of worsening test cricket that England have weaknesses and are not all conquering.
I do understand that england fans prefer elf deprecation to ensure reverse jinxes. 😀
All surfaces. I remember the last Ashes the “London” surfaces caused them some issues….
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I hope I can pull my analysis together in time… England’s batting line up is not healthy. For Australia, they are betting on youth, as ever
One of the good things about the 70s was the Sunday John Player League, where the commentators were John Arlott and Jim Laker. When Warwickshire were playing and Mike Smith came in, he would describe him as the “great destroyer of off-spin bowling”. Jim Laker would chuckle and say that Mike Smith made him retire. MJK Smith against Moeen…. Maybe he would only go for 8 runs per over. MJK did not often go for big shots and off-drives. His art was about pushing, placing, deflecting. And he played against bowlers with much better control than Moeen.
Some familiar sounding issues from the world of rugby in the Guardian:
“Travel can broaden game but club trips to US and South Africa make little sense: This weekend’s Premiership match in Pennsylvania and Pro14 games in South Africa have more costs, fewer fans and a huge carbon bootprint ”
“Rugby in America to me looks like a collection of individuals and companies looking to make a quick buck out of what they perceive as a growing game. No one is actually prepared to do the hard yards and build the structure of the game. It’s all very fragmented and short term. Until that changes, I can’t see it being much of a developing market.”
“Playing rugby in Bloemfontein in December is bonkers,” Griffiths says. “There’s a reason they don’t play rugby there at that time.”
(I decided to just copy these as my typing seems dreadful…)
Yet again, Wigmore writes the article Bull should be writing:
Right on the money again. International cricket is on the cusp of disintegration.
I see St Gary Lineker of Walkers crisps has got involved now…….”Always amusing observing journalists pat each other on the back for having a go at other journalists.”
Lineker is part of the journos must stick together brigade. Can’t have the great unwashed ( sorry paying customers who pay your wages Lineker) giving opinions.
” He would never get the same job now. Only top class cricketers would get broadcasting jobs.”
In the modem world we get Freddie screaming into the microphone. because he has played the game. Broadcasting is saturated with ex players, sucking up to current players, and making excuses for shit players. It’s a giant smorgasbord of players past and present patting themselves on the back, and making lame jokes, and Leaden like cliches that were probably written for you by someone else.
Perhaps horses should commentate on horse racing? And engines on motor racing? Would we notice the difference?
I like Lineker, but that is literally unbelievable from someone who presented an hour-long BBC puff piece on Wayne Rooney last year, about six years after the lump ceased to be a world class footballer.
He does these great set piece interviews that are always about 100 years out of date.
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What would Derek Pringle do?….
A new one! (Bloody hell, has it been a year since the last one?)
… and The Leg Glance is on holiday.
Why are they obsessed with who is the 50 most influential people in English cricket?
We never see power lists of the top 50 in football or rugby. Delusions of grandeur!
Only one question for me. Will we need a nickname change?
No, 39 will stand forever because he really….really meant it.
He was completely un self aware of what a doofus he looked like.
Saying that, he is so out to lunch he might even have promoted himself up the list this year.
If he has left himself out, then perhaps we should change his name to ‘Phil Neville’ – the perennial no,50 on Football 365’s England squad list?
There must be some complete dregs in a top 50 for England… surely most of the top spots are in BCCI/ICC/Sky/Star/Various cement and (snake) oil companies?
Apologies I’ve not been around to post recently and for the slight digression but I had a rare opportunity to get to the Oval today (work normally gets in the way). I thought it might be one last chance to watch Kumar Sangakkara bat in the flesh. Even as a Yorkshire fan it was a joy. He played two shots off Tim Bresnan that made the whole day worthwhile – one an effortless straight six into the top deck of the pavilion. The second almost defied belief. Yorkshire had stationed two men catching at short extra cover, literally three yards apart, only for Kumar to thread a perfect cover drive all along the ground for four exactly between the two. It took poor old Tim about 30 seconds to stop staring at the end of his follow through and drag himself back to his mark. He (Kumar not Tim) has to be as good a player as I have seen live. Incredible to watch.
Ben Foakes also made a very impressive hundred, albeit on a very flat deck – he also looks a complete natural with the gloves and would be my pick for reserve keeper for the Ashes. Talking of keepers, Andy Hodd must be the most underrated keeper around – what a cracking pro he has been for Yorkshire.
And Stuart Meaker bowled with some serious gas – watching him somehow felt like watching a lost talent – a real what might have been.
I was hoping to see Gary Ballance Gary Ballance in action but Yorkshire’s surprisingly resilient opening stand meant he’s yet to have his chance to bolster his Ashes chances on as true a pitch as he’s going to find.
In any event, like Quebecer I feel that whoever fills England’s top order chasms might be Cummins fodder…
I popped along to the last hour and a half or so yesterday evening. That meant I saw an innings of some promise from Kohler-Cadmore and a controlled innings from Marsh on what was admittedly a dead pitch. I am sorry that I never saw Sangakkara’s knock, I think I may have seen the last I ever will of the great man in his whites. I did see some of him earlier this season and my occasional trips to the Oval have rarely disappointed when he’s been at the crease.
No chance of getting along next week?
Actually I probably do have a chance on Monday through to Wednesday.
This was such a lovely post, WhiteRose – and then you went and agreed with me, which made it, like, the best post ever.
It’s so sad reading those who are talking of how they’ve fallen out of love with the game/just can’t bring themselves to care etc. I understand it, I do, but it’s still so sad. I had my own crisis post KP and the horror show of horseshit that suddenly poured out of people’s mouths, but became determined to not let anyone steal the game from me, and so went about piecing together how I could still love it.
Someone making sure they got to see Sanga one last time – and was rewarded by shots that they’ll never forget – gives me hope that that which is beautiful about the game will always be so.
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For obvious reasons, I’ve rediscovered my love of the CC.
As for the Ashes, well, I’ve no idea what England can do to improve the batting lineup if players who’ve not played Tests before aren’t to be considered (surely, for example, Northeast would do better @ 5 than Malan?). And I think the Aussies will smack Moeen’s bowling to all parts. But at least we have a brilliant 6 in Stokes, and 3 from Anderson, Broad, TRJ and Woakes looks excellent.
A lot of weight on Cook’s shoulders. Need a big series from him.
He’s already beaten Tendulkar by winning a County Championship. Surprised his fans aren’t all over that stat . . .
Does anyone know when the tour party is going to be announced?
Two things I’ve heard mentioned briefly that I was wondering if anyone knew more about:
1) The announcement has been put back (from when to when and why?)
2) The Lions will be in Australia at the same time as the senior squad.
The Lions are in Australia at the same time as England so I think they will load them up with players on the fringes of the Test squad. I would expect to see Rashid and Hameed in the Lions. Also Mark Wood if he is border line fit. The captain will probably be someone like Jos Butler so he to is on the plane too.
It’s a clever way of having a second eleven standing by for emergencies.
Not forgetting having the coach on hand to share his expertise after he did so well last time…..
I’m sure you’re right about Hameed and Wood – but I’m not so sure about Rashid who I think they only want in an ODI role. Buttler has played virtually no red-ball cricket and with mediocre results so it’ll be interesting to see what happens there.
It’ll also be interesting to see what matches the Lions have scheduled. Some four-day matches against quality opposition are what I’m hoping to see.
It’s like that old question…….
Who really governs Britian?
Answer…… Andrew Flower.
Better than square bashing at sandhurst with sgt major flower!
Surely, even if England are mainly selected players who are ‘known quantities’, Foakes is the next cab off the rank for wicket-keeper?
As I write that, video evidence is posted to support my cause – https://t.co/ed5KvERoeo
Jean-Paul Duminy retired from Test cricket. The only supporters that are happy about that are the South African and Aussie supporters (2008, that magnificent stand with Steyn, 2012, getting injured so that Faf could debut, 2016, that ton in Perth).