Listen To The Propaganda, Listen To The Latest Slander – My First Test Review

For an Ashes Panel update, please go to the end of the post. This is my first take on the last Ashes test, but I do want to set up the Panel for a preview post for the Lord’s test which starts next Wednesday. Questions are at the end of this. Please do not answer them in the comments. Please. Now, on to my very long first thoughts……

There’s a lot less cricket coverage “free to air” these days. The Telegraph and Times are behind paywalls, and I can’t be bothered with the Mirror’s website because it acts as though it hates its customer. So the first three articles I read on yesterday’s debacle were from George Dobell on Cricinfo, Martin Samuel of the Mail (I hate my eyes and my brain) and Paul Newman of the same parish. Dobell critiques the results of yesterday as an inevitable consequence of the first class cricket strategy from the ECB over the past few years. That if you have desperate selections, desperation is probably the likeliest result. That if you pick a player for attacking intent, that when he attacks and gets out, you shouldn’t be that surprised. That Denly was a walking wicket because he knew he couldn’t defend Nathan Lyon. That this team isn’t made to save tests, they’ve given that aspect up. This is going down in flames or winning in a blaze of glory. There’s not been a drawn test for many years in England.

So while Dobell was as measured, but in his own way very damning of where England are now, let’s sample some of Samuel and Newman. For them, this was on Jason Roy.

Martin Samuel goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on….

Few minds scramble as fast as those of England batsmen under Antipodean pressure on day five. Any number of vignettes could represent how swiftly hopes of survival faded: Rory Burns losing his wicket with the score on 19; Joe Denly’s ludicrous review when the entire ground could have told him he’d hit it. Yet Jason Roy summed it up. Roy by doing exactly what his detractors suspected he would; Roy by conforming to stereotype; Roy by refusing to bend to the demands of the match.

Roy epitomised the reason there was so little hope for England, once it became obvious the weather wasn’t going to come to a flaky batting side’s rescue. He went, clean bowled by Lyon for 28, just at a point in the game when even those who had suspected his temperament as an opening Test batsman were beginning to remark on his discipline.

Yet Roy’s dismissal was desperate. He was not so much outwitted as undone, dancing down the wicket, needlessly looking to knock the spinner into the confectionary stand, and bowled through a gap of the type more usually reserved for delivery drivers.

It summed up an English malaise in these condition, the confusion of purpose and intent. Roy has been encouraged to play his normal, white-ball game. And that involves taking risks.

Yet those risks are calculated, shaped to the situation. Roy has to move the scoreboard along, yes. But that doesn’t mean he swings at the first ball of the day; or the next one; or the one after. He plays the game, as necessary, and Monday’s game demanded patience.

So to try what he did against Lyon was more than foolish. That he almost hesitated before breaching the dressing-room door after it had happened suggests he knew this, too. The argument is that Roy might one day win England a match playing in this manner, but that isn’t true. No batsman wins a game going completely against the demands of the situation. Even those who advocate aggression from the openers – and Trevor Bayliss, England’s coach, certainly does – appreciate the need to balance that with the state of play. Roy didn’t.

No, he’s not finished…

He treated the task as if England were chasing victory, which they were not – at no time was there an attempt to post the 398 required – or that the mission was the same as on day one.

Had Roy got out this way in England’s first innings, it would have been frustrating and his critics would have been furious, but those who supported his selection would have understood. That’s what you get when you pick an attacking opener: attack.

The least that can be hoped, however, is that the same opener recognises when the best, the only form of attack is defence. It wasn’t just that Roy played a lousy shot for Test cricket.

No, still some more to go…

It would have been a shocker in any form of the game: 50-over, Twenty20, it might not even past muster in The Hundred, unless runs are awarded for the breadth of swing plane when missing the ball. And don’t put it past them until they’ve focus-grouped it.

Yet it precipitated one of those middle-order collapses that are as English as cream tea, motorway roadworks or the proroguing of parliament. England lasted two and a quarter hours during that horrid spell and were 86 for nine.

So it is to Paul Newman we look to for a moment of sanity, a cricket writer’s perspective, a calmer head rather than a football writer (and a crap one at that, in my view) guesting on cricket for reasons not known.

When Jason Roy came charging needlessly down the wicket in an attempt to hit Nathan Lyon out of Birmingham and instead missed a wild slog, it became clear England were going down floundering rather than fighting.

Yes, Roy has been chosen for this Ashes on the big-match temperament and attacking game that has made him one of the most destructive batsmen in white-ball cricket.

Those were paragraphs 2 and 3. Jason Roy. All Jason Roy’s fault. He “set the tone”. It was, as always, much worse getting out playing to score runs, to try to dominate, than it is to have your technique undressed. A man playing his second test plays a horrible shot, and it’s on him. A shot we all knew, deep down, Jason Roy was going to play. At some point. You lot wanted him, now you lot bury him? It’s fun watching this press and media corps, it really is.

And, yes, if England are going to put their faith in him in the ultimate form of the game they will have to put up with some overly positive shots and brain-fades made in the name of imposing himself on Test cricket.

But not this. Not such a reckless and headless slog that it offered Lyon the first of his six wickets in England’s woeful last day collapse not only on a plate but gift-wrapped and labelled ‘To Garry, with love from Jason.’

At that stage of this fifth day England had lost only Rory Burns and could still entertain realistic hopes of at least making Australia work hard for their victory on a ground where they had not won since the halcyon days of 2001.

Yet once Roy had departed, running off the pitch and away from the scene of his crime almost in embarrassment, an England team that appear to be struggling to recover from the mental and physical exertions of winning the World Cup, crashed spectacularly.

Be positive, be attacking, don’t get out. Jason Roy didn’t need to be told it wasn’t a good idea, but as always, if that wild slog had netted him a four, a six, or even a harmless squib out to leg, no-one would have remembered it. But it’s always worse getting out when trying to hit out, we know that. We also had a clue that Jason Roy wasn’t or isn’t a test opener, and he certainly isn’t when you need to get out of jail on a turning fifth day pitch, or to defend. It’s like picking Lionel Messi for your football team and sticking him at centre-back against a team who like to lump it high and long. If he gets caught dribbling it out of defence, or playing an ambitious pass, would you slate him? OK, Roy isn’t Messi, but it’s sort of the same thing. It’s the selection that’s the problem, not the player.

Meanwhile, Paul, the man you worshipped Ed Smith for selecting, Jos Buttler, had another horror game against Australia. He averages 12.8 against them. I know many said last time out that the Aussies played on his weaknesses, tying him down, making him take risky shots, but as much as I like Jos, he’s averaging in the mid 30s in his career, and he doesn’t look like a test batsman, as much as I really, really want him to be. You aren’t going to get Paul supporting that case when there’s a Jason Roy to berate. Instead, although Roy played in the World Cup and has no excuses, Bairstow, Buttler and Moeen (who didn’t play every game) are shot.

I don’t think we need to talk about Joe Denly. I said he looks to be a bloke who has turned up to an event, and no-one is quite sure why, and it would be rude to ask him to leave too early.  But if you don’t think he’s test class now, and you haven’t for the majority of his career, what’s the point. The England team is not supposed to be a supper club. Look at the county championship, look at who has made a persuasive case to be given a go, whether he has played Lions cricket or not, and do it. Give him five test matches if you must, you’ll have a good idea after three. (Rory Burns didn’t disgrace himself in Sri Lanka, played a decent knock in the Caribbean and scored a hundred on an iffy-ish pitch against a very decent attack here). Those men are Sam Northeast – 815 at 62.69 – and Dominic Sibley – 940 at 62.67. They may benefit from some nice surfaces, but they have played long innings and made good runs in the First Division. One of them is an opener, the other is a middle order bat. But, I suspect, that’s too vanilla for Ed Smith. It took them long enough to pick Burns, trying virtually everybody else, and then they have the gall to go straight to Smith on the cameras when Burns brought up his hundred as if the selection was a masterstroke.

Australia clearly have the best batsman on either side, but we knew that. Joe Root is much closer to the third best (arguably Warner) than he is to Smith at the moment, and we all know that. He is also incredibly hard to get out, and we know that too. However, talk of Bradman, talk of his immortality, of it being pointless trying to get him out, of just hoping he will make a mistake is folly. He can, and will fail. There are always ways to get him out, and many times he’ll make runs. I look back to the 2001 team, for instance, with a line-up of Hayden, Slater/Langer, Ponting, Mark Waugh, Damien Martyn, Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist. These are all players who averaged well over 40, some over 50, back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. A murderer’s row. Imagine starting the day out against that lot. Here we have an opener who can hit form, a solid number 3 who finds ways to get out when going well (Khawaja must be so frustrating as an Aussie fan), a number five who is game, with potential, and Matthew Wade at six. Come on. Don’t be scared. If you give in, mentally concede ground, do you think that will work. Did the great Aussie sides see Sachin, or Lara, and especially Kallis, and say “no, we can’t get them out”. Smith is in blazing form, has been for ages, but he is human. We’re treating him, talking about him as if he is not.

I’m nearly 2000 words in (many of them the Mail’s) and yet I still can’t quite understand anyone in authority’s thinking. There’s so much wrong, that I can’t quite get to the point where we need to start. It’s a team full of muddled thinking, with a pretend genius at the helm. Merely speaking of prioritising red ball cricket isn’t enough. We have a coach looking at other job applications having met his main performance objective, and knowing he’s leaving. We have a guardian authority taking the plaudits for the World Cup and acting like messiahs, while ignoring the core support in England over the lack of red ball cricket in the summer months, the new franchise competition set to dominate the landscape during test season next year, and downgrading the format we are world champions in. It’s hard to think of a bigger muppet show. But Tom did his lap of honour with the media on Day One, and I doubt will be seen again this year if this goes even more pear-shaped.

This is a team put together by a mad scientist. It manages to be much less than the sum of its parts. It flogs its best players to exhaustion, then puts its hand up and says what else can we do? (How about scheduling three test tours the winter after this summer, that should work) It has a team with one opener, and a one day opener, a captain who doesn’t want to bat three, but then does. It has a number four who was picked to bat three, but was deemed not to be good enough there, so he can fail at four. Our number 5 can’t buy a score against Australia. Our number six is run into the ground bowling, but you suspect is the best of the bunch at the moment. The number seven is a wicket-keeper batsman who rails against the slightest thing that demotes his status, and as he’s not part of Phoenix, you know who will steam right in. The number eight is a spinner / batsman on a lousy trot, who needs to go back to county cricket to recover his form, only to have to return to the T20 Blast until September, by which it is too late. Our number nine, who had a good match, is a bad bowling spell away from being labelled benign, and yet doesn’t appear to be as exhausted as the batsmen, who, you know, don’t have to run steaming in 100 times a day. Our number 10 has probably had his one good spell, and one decent innings of the summer. And our number 11 turned up recovering from injury, got injured, is out injured for the next game, and probably the one after that, and yet we still believe in our medical staff.

I might have more on this later in the week.

Finally, I want some volunteers for an Ashes Panel* in the lead up to next week’s test. PLEASE DO NOT POST ANY ANSWERS TO THESE IN THE COMMENTS. Please e-mail or any of the e-mail addresses in the “contact us” tab above with your answers. I will need to have them by close of play on Sunday.

  1. A brief summary of the first test. Most importantly, they key moments England lost the game?
  2. Jason Roy has copped a lot of stick for being Jason Roy. Your views on the selection of opener, and what would you do for this, and the next few tests?
  3. Nathan Lyon was very very good on the fifth day. Great skill, or bad play?
  4. Steve Smith is being portrayed as a run-making machine. A product of his environment, as test match cricket diminishes in quality, or a freak of nature, who would have thrived in any era?
  5. Your England team for the second test. Your changes and why?


*An example of an Ashes Panel post can be found here. I do it as a full blog post. The first five, presuming I get five, will be published, and possibly more. You know you want to….

I feel like I’ve left a lot to say on this previous test, so may be back later this week with some more comment. Any comments on this are welcome. The Ashes mean so much to so many that defeats leave an out of proportion sense of anger and despair many times. But this one feels bad. We were conditioned, at least some were, to expect a stuffing Down Under last time so that some journalists and pundits who should have known better allowed a free pass because the team wasn’t whitewashed. Now it’s the World Cup hangover as a reason / excuse. Didn’t stop £100 tickets being charged. Didn’t stop players raking in large salaries. Didn’t stop coaches staying on for one last hurrah/raspberry. Didn’t stop the ECB from shoehorning an Ashes after a World Cup, when having one before a World Cup was deemed as counter-productive to a successful campaign.

While Newman and Samuel pull their swords out and thrash at Jason Roy, George Dobell finishes his article with the words that should really resonate… less the grinding of axes, more the finesse of true swordsmanship.

But cracks are appearing up and down this England side and it feels, for perhaps the first time, as if instead of building toward something, they are starting to crumble and fall apart. Nothing that happened at Edgbaston was a surprise. And that should worry England.

Indeed. See you later.


58 thoughts on “Listen To The Propaganda, Listen To The Latest Slander – My First Test Review

  1. dArthez Aug 6, 2019 / 5:18 pm

    Smith did not do that well in South Africa (in the 5 innings before sandpapergate hit, he managed just one fifty, and averaged 27). Obviously the innings after that broke is excluded from that.

    Three times he got out to spinners (twice to Maharaj, once to Dean Elgar).

    He had a good series in India (70+ average), did not do much in Bangladesh (sub 30 average), was decent in Sri Lanka (low 40s), and also struggled a bit at home against South Africa (2016, average of 42.40). In between he pillaged Pakistan in Australia and England in the Ashes down under.

    So obviously the guy can be gotten out, also relatively cheaply, especially when you do have control over what the wicket will play like (home advantage).

    Not that anyone in the English mainstream press would notice, because that would involve *gasp* watching teams other than England …


  2. Mark Aug 6, 2019 / 7:29 pm

    I’m quite shocked by the nature of the “get Roy” type pieces. What did they expect? The reason he was picked is because they don’t think they have anyone better.

    England’s Test team is rapidly resembling a rock tribute act. They look ok, and sound ok, but they ain’t the real deal. England’s one trick pony act since 2014 has been to put everything on home series, and produce green seamers for Anderson and, Broad. Bowl the opposition out for 250, and then rely on an ODI batting line up to better it. To be fair, it has worked, But it starts to malfunction when there is nothing in the pitch. Which is why England have struggled away from home.

    The most despressing thing is it is going to get worse. Cricket is moving inexorably to the shorter and shorter game format. It’s all very well Harrison saying that Test cricket is still important but what happens when you haven’t got the players to play it? We are going to find out soon. Anderson and Broad are in their mid thirties. Does anyone seriously think they will be around in four years time?

    Why doesn’t Martin Samuel and the rest of Fleet streets finest address the bigger issues? Test type batsman, test type spinners, where are you going to find them in a country that will put everything on the 16.4?

    If you think it’s bad now wait another five years,


  3. Mark Aug 6, 2019 / 8:41 pm

    From the BBC…..

    “Former England and Australia bowling coach David Saker says he would “love” to succeed Trevor Bayliss as England head coach.”

    It will be a Selvey/Saker jamboree.


      • Marek Aug 7, 2019 / 9:46 am

        The man who has the best strike rate of any England player since the First World War to take more than 100 wickets, apart from Fred Trueman…sacrificed on the altars of bowling dry and tinkering with actions.

        There’s a contemporary side to all this. Moeen Ali’s strike rate is 60, which is amazing for a spinner who’s got almost 200 wickets. There are only ten England bowlers who have more wickets at a strike rate in the 50s, and none of them are spinners (there are none who even have half the number). There are only six spinners to do so, and none of them are from outside Asia or Australia. It’s way better than such good bowlers as Verity and Underwood.

        And people often seem more concerned with his economy rate (see also: Rashid, Adil!). It seems to me that here is a bowler who–particularly given that England’s spin-bowling stocks aren’t the deepest–should be planned around and used as an attacking option without worrying too much about how many runs he goes for. (As`did Finn, he’s going for around 3.6, which I suspect isn’t too far from the average scoring rate in Tests at the moment–not for seven or eight).

        Now true, he had a shocker last week and it’s possible that he might need to be rested (frankly, he should have been rested a whole lot more over the last three years, particularly from one-day series). It’s possible that Leach might be better. But the more extreme calls for spin-bowling change seem to rely mainly on Leach’s lower economy rate.

        In the matches they’ve played together, in one Leach bowled three overs against the lowest-ranked Test team and went for nine an over; in the other three they got the same number of wickets at a broadly similar average. That’s hardly a really conclusive argument.

        Maybe–as it should have been with Finn–it’s time to find one or two other bowlers who can bowl economically enough to bowl around him, and just accept him for what he is, which is as a pure wicket-taker. After all, no-one complains about England viewing Mark Wood like that, who also has an economy rate of well over three and an inferior strike rate.

        Of course, now is probably not the best week to be saying this, but I wonder if part of Ali’s issue is that England have been so schizophrenic–or unrealistic–about how to use him that he hardly knows why he’s in the team sometimes.

        Liked by 1 person

        • dArthez Aug 7, 2019 / 10:41 am

          Part of the problem for Moeen is that the setup can’t make up its mind about his role in the team. He could well end up becoming the second player batting in all eleven positions (only #10 and #11 are missing at the moment, and on the evidence of his batting, if England retain him, he might well be best off batting in one of those two positions in the next Test, or even both).

          That is not on Moeen of course.

          Honestly just drop him from the team at present. He looks shot. Time away from England may help him to rediscover some form, and get some enjoyment from his red ball cricket again; when form has so completely deserted you it is impossible to enjoy yourself on the field. If he ever returns, cement his role as lead / second spinner unambiguously and the same with his batting position. Anyone who then tinkers with his batting position (other than due to a nightwatchman being promoted), deserves to be shot then.


        • LordCanisLupus Aug 7, 2019 / 11:39 am

          Henderson does a piece in last month’s Wisden on Finn. It’s supposed to be sympathetic, but that old bastard doesn’t do sympathy. Felt more like taking the piss. That he’s kept on at Middlesex out of some loyalty or sympathy.

          Smith had a lot to answer for on that one. The coaches then took that and ran him into the ground. Then someone said “unselectable” and might as well have called him a basket case. And you wonder why I got worried when they went mad over Haseeb Hameed?


          • nonoxcol Aug 7, 2019 / 12:03 pm

            Took me about 20 seconds to work out which Smith you meant there, what with all the talk of New Bradman and Look At My Shades.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Benny Aug 6, 2019 / 11:21 pm

    Jason Roy – 2nd highest score in the final innings, lower strike rate than Denly or Woakes, longest innings in terms of balls faced – of course it’s all his fault.

    Sometimes batsmen do get out. It appears to be acceptable if they’re defending but treasonable if attacking.


    • dArthez Aug 7, 2019 / 5:38 am

      But only for a select few.

      If you did not know, you really would not think that Buttler had any idea of how to play a Test innings, if you’d only watch the last innings he batted …

      Sure, Roy’s dismissal was a silly shot.

      But in a bizarre way the procession of batsmen who gifted their wicket to Lyon (not saying that Lyon did not work for them, but the 2010 side would have made him work harder for them) after that justifies that shot: if no one can be bothered to play a good innings against Lyon and his colleagues, and Roy might well have had a sense that no one would (England have form in this respect), then the best chance that Roy could have given England is to bludgeon Lyon out of the attack. Did not work, and was always a high risk approach.

      But honestly, which 2019 England batsman would you entrust to bat for your life in the fourth innings?

      All stats here are from a mimimum of 15 innings batted in the fourth innings of a Test, with the exception of Buttler.
      Root has a decent record, but 4 of his 6 100-ball marathons came before 2017 (Adelaide 2013, Headingley 2014 (Cook’s finest moment as a captain), Lord’s vs. India 2014 (Ishant Sharma bounced England out in that one), 2nd Test in Dubai (2015). More recently the second Test in India (2016), and Adelaide 2017. If I am not mistaken, England lost all those Tests. He lasts on average 84 balls in the last innings, but the last time Root batted in a fourth innings to either win or draw a Test was back in 2016 (Johannesburg).

      Stokes on average lasts 54 balls in the fourth innings. Which is relatively solid – but he has only lasted 100+ balls twice. 195 balls in Perth 2013, and 187 at Trent Bridge against India last year (and obviously that means that in his other 14 innings he lasts 34 balls on average, which is not walking wicket territory, but also not anything more than a temporary holdup). In fact the only time Stokes batted in the fourth innings and did not end up losing was in 2015 against Pakistan, when England could not chase down a target of 99 in 11 overs …

      Bairstow lasts on average 37 balls. One efffort of 100+ balls (2016 Lord’s vs. Pakistan), and one effort of 60+ balls (2nd Test against Pakistan in the UAE).

      Buttler 60 balls on average. Helped by a good rearguard (176 balls) against India at Trent Bridge (2018). But England still lost with nearly a day of play left (also goes to highlight how futile the 187 balls consumed by Stokes were in that innings). But since the sample size is just 7 innings, I would not attribute solidity or lack of solidity to that.

      In short, the moment England bat in the fourth innings you might as well declare your life forfeit, and ask Bairstow to bat for your life, just to get it over with, without too many agonies.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. thelegglance Aug 7, 2019 / 8:14 am

    One of my absolute favourites has always been blaming a player for subsequent wickets – as though some kind of thought transference ensures all those following play a crap shot.

    Roy deserves criticism for the execution of his shot, but absolutely not the intent of it – that was a perfectly good idea. What betrayed his lack of experience in the long form was that having not got to the pitch of it, he continued with the shot rather than baling out and defending it. It’s what he would do in an ODI or T20 – why the surprise?

    I’m all for focusing on what players can do rather than what they can’t, but you have to give them a chance to show what they can do rather than tying an arm behind their back before they start. An ODI opener is there to tee off, a Test opener generally isn’t. And sure, David Warner is a bit of an exception to that rule but that’s what exceptions are.

    The whole batting order is a mess. Root is only at 3 because there was no one else to do it, and in itself it’s damn weird to put your best batsman in a position he’s not comfortable because of the failures of others.

    The reality is that the only way England will go big is if Root does. Even then the brittleness is painfully obvious elsewhere.

    I can get that England aren’t strong in the batting – we’ve had that many times. But failing to give what we do have the best chance is ludicrous. Woakes would be a better candidate for opening or three. Stokes would be too – they both have the technique and patience to do it compared to who else is picked. It’s not feasible or fair because of their other obligations, so it’s not a suggestion, it’s an indication of what a mess it is.

    The likes of Buttler or Roy are so destructive you can see a case for including them, but there has to be enough solidity around them to give them a fighting chance, and there just isn’t. Buttler at 280-3 is a very different prospect to Buttler at 30-3. This isn’t bloody complex, and while any team can have a bad day, this is the routine for this England side.

    But yeah, funky selection. England being a weak side I can cope with. England being a weak side AND being screwed over by their own selection I can’t.


    • Mark Aug 7, 2019 / 9:11 am

      England are between a rock and a hard place. If they are going to play a mostly ODI batting line up then they should prepare a pitch that is pretty flat with little sideways movement. At least then the batsman can hit through the line , and maybe blast away and make a reasonable total.

      Problem is, if there is no movement in the pitch it renders our bowling attack completely toothless. Which means the opposition will score a decent total…… leaving England’s gun batting line up vulnerable in the second innings. ( which is exactly what happened at Birmingham.)

      And yes, England’s batting line up is a complete mess. Roy opening? Root batting at 3 very reluctantly? Denley? Butler at 5? Bairstow and Ali out of form?

      I would drop Roy to three or 4. If Root really really, wants to bat at 4 then let him. He is our best player and captain. So Roy drops to three. Really he should bat at five ahead of Butler. Should Stokes bat at three? He has the technique, but he can’t when he is also a main bowler.

      What a mess.

      New blocking style opener required to open with Burns. Denley dropped. Root at three, Roy at 4, Stokes at 5. Is Butler a luxury if he isn’t going to keep wicket? Should Bairstow become a proper test batsman and give up the gloves? I would feel a lot better Butler batting at 7.

      Woakes opening couldn’t do much worse, but would anyone seriously accept it? Would Woakes really want to do it? Even if you set him the target of batting 20 overs. Runs didn’t matter.

      We also need a spinner who can take wickets in the second innings. Where are players going to learn these skills playing only 100 balls an innings in the new 16.4? 100 balls an innings to prepare you for 100+ overs an innings. The ECB are destroying the fabric of the game.


    • Marek Aug 7, 2019 / 10:08 am

      I’m not convinced that funky selection is the villain here.

      As you say, there is a case for including both Buttler and Roy on the basis that they’re talented enough for it to have a chance of working. That is, in Tests they could be the next David Warner rather than the next Alex Hales. (And actually Buttler has played several innings which show that–unlike Bairstow 3.0, say–he understands that Tests and ODIs are different beasts).

      The only truly shocking selection is Denly: putting a Second Division player who averages 36 in the Test team is not likely to end well. But who to replace him with? I can see very few players even knocking politely on the door, let alone banging it down.

      Foakes? For me yes, but it would involve both moving an out-of-form player to no.4 or 5, which might not look too good in the short-term, and would also involve addressing England’s biggest current sacred cow of Bairstow as keeper. (Now that really IS funky selection: fail to pick the best keeper in the country who averages 40 in Tests in order to pick as keeper someone who was originally a specialist batsman and who’s averaged mid-20s for 18 months, because…he wants to keep!)

      Pope? Maybe, but he’s injured.

      Sibley? Maybe, but that would involve yet another shuffle to the top order…and he was fairly ho-hum for Surrey wasn’t he? (Dmitri?)

      And then who?

      The problem is the weakness of the system, and that’s the really depressing thing for me. This may well–apart from Foakes for Denly–be the best batting team that England can put out at the moment. This match reminded me of Bangladesh circa 2016 a bit: compete doughtily for three days, and then fall apart for the last two.

      The moment at which England lost the match? Quite possibly somewhere in 2015 or so!


      • Sophie Aug 7, 2019 / 10:36 am

        I’m not sure Foakes will average 40 after playing a decent number of tests. It’s way too early to use this number as an argument.


        • Marek Aug 7, 2019 / 10:55 am

          Yes, I’m not sure either!

          What it does show for me is that there is someone who is a better keeper who has potential with the bat (at least–after all, Denly, Roy, Duckett and Robson to name but four aren’t averaging anyway near that from a similar sample size!) This at a time when England both have a hole in the specialist batting and the argument that Bairstow keeping helps his batting is not very sustainable.


          • Sophie Aug 7, 2019 / 11:06 am

            Well, personally I think Bairstow should be dropped anyway, so he can go and play some county cricket, but unfortunately his coach is spouting nonsense like “Jonny is at his best when he has something to prove”, never mind his form, and it seems to completely have passed him by that his batting has been going downhill for quite a while now, so it looks like they’ll keep dragging him along for now. I don’t see what good it does him, never mind the team.


        • thelegglance Aug 7, 2019 / 11:11 am

          Should we expect the wicketkeeper to average 40? Particularly when most of the frontline batsmen don’t. Sure, the role has changed and they’re expected to bat, but asking them to be better than all bar one of the order is a tad unreasonable isn’t it?


          • LordCanisLupus Aug 7, 2019 / 11:31 am

            A couple of points on the various issues raised.

            Dominic Sibley left Surrey because he couldn’t guarantee a place, and we effectively swapped him for Rick Clarke. For some reason, the story goes, he wanted to bat at 3 and have some guarantees that he would do so, and Alec Stewart told him he would not give a guarantee to anyone. In many ways the move suited everybody – Sibley wasn’t going to open with Roy and Stoneman at the top – and Surrey needed more bowling. Sibley came into the team many years ago with a double ton against Yorkshire while still a student (he needed permission from his headmaster to play), but never kicked on. Saw him a couple of years ago make a nice half century against Lancashire. He’s in form, and it lasted through the difficult spring into summer, but he has played just one T20 game in the Blast, and made 74 & 30 in the Lions game in mid-July as his last first class outing. He’s 23. If you believe he might have it, he could be a stayer. Or you can wait to pick him when he is out of form. First class average is now in the 40s.

            Ben Foakes has been injured, had a poor game with the bat for the Lions, has not made many runs, I think, for Surrey this year, and maybe on a bit of a lull in form, despite that sensible innings to win the ODI against Ireland. A lot of people are in love with his glovework, but I’m not an expert on that. He’s also, I think, had to captain Surrey, who aren’t playing well this summer. If a rising tide lifts all boats, a sinking one does the negative thing. There is the issue of Jonny Bairstow though. Obviously you don’t pick teams on the worries of the reactions of people who are going to get dropped. Bairstow plays with this chip on his shoulder, which is all right for some, but not for others. What will happen if they go down the Foakes route is Bairstow better keep his mouth shut because some are out to get him in the press – you don’t leave Phoenix Management and expect to be treated with Stokes-like sympathy by a certain mouthpiece. Bairstow won’t keep his mouth shut, and we’ll see the press pile in. He’s an interesting character.

            I don’t blame Smith for this team, just as I don’t credit him much for the ODI success or some temporary success with Buttler in the test team. He wanted the victory laps though, so now he can be pilloried as well. This line-up is a mess. An utter mess. Environment means he can’t bring in players ready to play the test game without warm-ups (unless 2nd XI counts). That’s down to the bosses. Whichever option looks awful. He had just better hope that they all play better. It’s the only hope he has.


          • Sophie Aug 7, 2019 / 11:51 am

            That was an answer to (paraphrasing) “it’s crazy not to pick a guy who averages 40 in tests”. And he’s not even averaging 40 in county cricket this year. Not that I think it’s all about averages. He’s done poorly in the Lions game, but England made him bat 3 while keeping wicket in their typical funky way.


          • LordCanisLupus Aug 7, 2019 / 11:56 am

            I think it might be better for all concerned to replace the word “funky” with “clueless”.

            Being “funky” gives FICJAM Ed far too much credit. 🙂


      • mdpayne87 Aug 7, 2019 / 11:22 am

        Just to say that Denly is not a Second Division player, the mighty Kent are in the top flight these days. And averaging 56 this season in CC too.


        • LordCanisLupus Aug 7, 2019 / 11:34 am

          You are both right, of course. Denly was selected for the winter tour to West Indies on the back of his second division form, and maintained his place on 1st division stats. I saw him on 8 July score an 80-odd against Surrey. Once Surrey got a brain in their heads, and a new ball, Morne Morkel started pinging in the short stuff and made him look dreadful before getting out.

          I was advised that Ed Smith likes him, and thinks he’s a “real player” from his days at Kent. This has been described as his “ego pick”. I think Smith also thinks his leg spin might be of assistance. I truly hope that isn’t the case.


  6. nonoxcol Aug 7, 2019 / 8:31 am

    Noted this morning there has been nothing on Steyn’s retirement on the Guardian cricket pages in almost 48 hours.

    I know the timing was dreadful for an Ashes-obsessed nation but they usually find room for *something* from other countries. Albeit a lot less than they once did.


    • dArthez Aug 7, 2019 / 8:45 am

      The last non-England related cricket news on the Guardian is about Pavel Florin, a Romanian amateur, and his unusual bowling action on July 31st. So basically, the Guardian has not bothered with the rest of the world for a week already. Could well stretch into 2 or 3 months.

      Any guesses for the number of how many commentators will be expressing surprise that Steyn won’t be playing Tests this winter, when England’s tour is underway?


        • dArthez Aug 7, 2019 / 10:11 am

          A bit of a pity that they don’t examine his away record in more detail. Just two places (New Zealand and the UAE where he did not pick up a 5-wicket haul, from 3 and 4 Tests respectively, with his worst bowling average of 32.78 coming in the UAE as well.

          His stats are freakish, especially considering the era he was playing in.

          There are not many places that he was outbowled by even one of the local quicks across his career (ie. looking at Tests in which Steyn and the local quick(s) played against each other. Think only Shahadat Hossain (17.00 vs 17.18) managed that feat), with a minimum of 10 wickets taken (Anderson (averaged 40+, Broad 50+, to Steyn’s 31.65; and Mitchell Johnson did not ((26 vs 23)) either. And we all know that Johnson was a pretty formidable bowler in Australia, and reserved his best for South Africa.

          I could be missing one or two of course (especially the bowlers that came up after 2015, such as the Sri Lankan quicks that played in 2018, when South Africa had a horrible tour of Sri Lanka, and Steyn was clearly past his best. but I doubt they would have taken 10 or more wickets in those Tests; maybe the likes of Bhuvi Kumar qualify).

          It is not often that even pretty much every home team would have liked to have one particular away team bowler in their lineup (Australia would not pick Anderson in Australia for instance, India would certainly not pick Moeen over Ashwin in India, the same Ashwin would not get past Lyon in Australia or past Maharaj in South Africa, and is doubtful to be preferred over Moeen in England, and Boult for instance would struggle to get into the South Africa (40+ average) or Australian side (33).

          That freakishly good.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Marek Aug 7, 2019 / 10:11 am

        While we’re on SA–any thoughts on the departure ot Ottis Gibson, d’A?


        • dArthez Aug 7, 2019 / 10:27 am

          Bit of mixed feelings about that one. And it is always hard to judge a coach when the players themselves, particularly the batsmen, are declining. I would have preferred to have kept his services for the bowlers, as a bowling coach (Ngidi in particular would benefit from that, as he has hardly played more than a dozen FC matches (9 FC matches, and 4 Tests to go with that, for a grand total of 13 games). But that might simply not have been financially feasible. CSA is that broke.

          But in terms of selection, no. It is ludicrous to play with 5 frontline bowlers, when the batting is extremely weak (like South Africa did against Sri Lanka). Gibson was a big proponent of that. Not sure if he was the one responsible for SA’s attempts at pitch doctoring, but for teams like South Africa and Australia there is no benefit in doctoring the pitches since the traditional pitches suit their opposition least (with the exception of when these two teams play each other).

          Part of the responsibility that was the farce of the ODI team at the World Cup also has to be laid at Gibson’s door. Selection, tactics, and the sheer instability around the team in terms of personnel is partly due to Gibson.

          But it is not just Gibson. I certainly would not mind if the selectors were sacked for several acts of lunacy in the process (picking Duminy with a grand total of 0 fifties from nearly 20 attempts in England as a finisher in the World Cup is like England picking Paul Downton in 2019 to keep wicket in Bairstow’s stead). I have not heard about any of the selectors involved, being sacked for that.

          Also it boggles the mind that Faf won the SA Cricketer of the Year award, and ODI Player of the Year award. Honestly, given the pathetic year SA have had, it was almost unbecoming not to declare such awards vacant / not to be awarded due to lack of performance.


          • Marek Aug 7, 2019 / 10:44 am

            Thanks. Interesting to hear.

            On the selectors–hasn’t Zondi been sacked too?


          • dArthez Aug 7, 2019 / 10:51 am

            Zondi’s contract was not renewed (it ran until the World Cup), and he was not interested in renewing his contract unless it was to be a full-time job. So not sacked.


        • LordCanisLupus Aug 7, 2019 / 11:36 am

          Wasn’t he rumoured to be applying for the England job?

          I know he’s not the best character witness but Chris Gayle had pretty scathing things to say about Gibson in his book. According to him he says one thing to you and tells the press something else. He’d fit right in!


    • thebogfather Aug 7, 2019 / 3:40 pm

      Steyn just ‘retired’ from Tests
      Still going to play white ball with zest
      McCullum has retired from all
      Canada T20 his last curtain call..


  7. REDRUM106 Aug 7, 2019 / 2:43 pm

    If anything underlines the utter nonsense of the fixture schedule it’s this week. The Aussies, fresh from a comprehensive win at Edgbaston, are at Worcester for a 3 day game against a strong Worcs side. This will give some of their squad players a game as well as others like Bancroft some time in the middle to find form, not to mention a run out for Messrs Starc and Hazlewood. Meanwhile what does the schedule offer the England players in the way of means to regain some form and confidence at red ball cricket – answer the square root of f*** all.

    Liked by 3 people

    • thebogfather Aug 7, 2019 / 3:45 pm

      They could join Jofra and ply their trade
      In 2nd XI ‘coffins of ply’, figure boosting charade
      Or like Stone, injured in practice now
      Joining our cue of broken ECB cash cows…


      • thebogfather Aug 7, 2019 / 3:49 pm

        and yes that cue was a queue with a stick
        as we snooker ourselves for moneys quick
        yet still mismanage the damage…


    • Mark Aug 7, 2019 / 4:00 pm

      As long as people pay £100 for a test match ticket or subscribe to Sky they are just going to carry on.

      I can’t see England having the raw materials to work with to create test match players going forward. It’s depressing, but I seriously wonder if Test cricket will even be around in 25 years time.

      They are completely clearing the schedule for 16.4. Even if it’s a huge success it won’t produce test match players. England’s only hope is nobody else produces test match cricketers either.


  8. man in a barrel Aug 8, 2019 / 1:01 pm

    I didn’t see much of the match but a few things stand out.

    Jimmy is a talisman. Although the English attack came good in the first innings, in helpful conditions, they were bereft of ideas in the second.

    Last time around, I think I was alone in pointing out that for all his movements, when he strikes the ball, Smith brings the bat down vertically, close to the pad and under his nose.

    Cummins is a superb bowler.

    Last time, Australia erred in not picking Siddle until the last test. I don’t think they will make that mistake again. At times on the last day he was unplayable and made Root look like a novice.

    Why Denly? If you are already carrying a technically flawed middle order with Bairstow and Buttler, you need a technician around. Stokes has good technique. But Denly?

    Burns better have a plan for the short stuff if they get a faster track.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. dArthez Aug 8, 2019 / 3:36 pm

    Amla retired as well from the international game. Way past his best; probably played on 2 years too long.


    • Mark Aug 9, 2019 / 11:53 am

      Money for old rope. It’s a giant gravy train for the right sort of people. Isn’t Strauss involved in the Lords set up as well?

      Why the hell does a 16.4 team even need a coach? It only lasts 100 balls. It’s the equivalent of one session, of one day’s play in a Test match.

      The whole project is a giant grift. There are a lot of noses in the trough. And they are destroying all other cricket for their greed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marek Aug 9, 2019 / 1:30 pm

        Yes, wouldn’t tactics make it too hard for the challenged-of-brain such as women and children to understand?

        Surely you just look at the ball and whack it. A hundred times. No point in over-complicating a simple sport–you might put people off.

        Liked by 1 person

        • thebogfather Aug 9, 2019 / 1:53 pm

          Ah, but
          There’s gonna be 150 seconds
          For them to earn their smut
          In every innings to readily-reckon be
          So these tactical dollar sluts
          Will spend 30 secs for a huddle
          Then 120 promoting the sponsors’ cuddle
          being Mic’d up so devoting to KP
          Nuts not 24!!!, you bilious muddle!


          • Mark Aug 9, 2019 / 2:16 pm

            Apparently there aren’t any good English coaches in England.
            So they are paying Aussies to do it. Which as Marek says means…see it, whack it, and run.

            See it, Whack it and Run sounds like a firm of solicitors.

            It’s a win win for the Aussies. They get rich, and our Test team gets worse and worse.

            Have I mentioned how much I loathe the ECB lately?


          • Mark Aug 9, 2019 / 2:30 pm

            By the way someone just pointed out this……..

            Shane Warne last year talking about the 16.4………

            “I’m not sure I’m a fan of ‘The 100, I think we’ve got three formats that work really well and you don’t need to confuse spectators with any more.”

            2019 Shane Warne…….

            “I’m very proud and very honoured to be asked to be the head coach of the Hundred team based at Lord’s. The opportunity to coach in a brand new tournament and work with modern-day players is something I will really enjoy and I am looking forward to the challenge. This tournament will unearth some heroes and hopefully some future World Cup stars for England and other countries. I love the concept of the Hundred and it has grabbed my attention in the same way the IPL did.”

            “We built a team from scratch with a diverse range of players from different backgrounds and ages and I can’t wait to build the same mix of players to entertain the fans who come down to Lord’s for the Hundred.”

            I can’t imagine what made him change his mind?

            Definition of Integrity “The quality of being honest, and of havinging strong moral principles.”


  10. Sophie Aug 9, 2019 / 2:37 pm

    “Yorkshire’s leg-spinning all-rounder Adil Rashid has been ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a chronic shoulder issue.

    The Bradford-born, 31-year-old World Cup winner, who underwent a scan on Tuesday, will now take some time out to rehabilitate his shoulder injury under the expert care of England’s medical team.”

    Uh oh, and good luck to him.


    • Quebecer Aug 9, 2019 / 4:20 pm

      Poor old Rash. Puts his World Cup in more perspective. We knew he wasn’t right, but it seems he did bloody well to manage what he did.


      • Marek Aug 9, 2019 / 6:37 pm

        Good luck to him also dealing with the vituperative bile he’ll get on Twitter for this, if the incredibly aggressive reactions people were posting on Yorks Twitter feed when he originally withdrew from the Blast squad are anything to go by!


  11. Marek Aug 9, 2019 / 6:50 pm

    On a different subject: I sort of understand why the ICC wanted to suspend Zimbabwe for breaching the non-governmental-interference rule; after all, a government-appointed committee suspending the entire board is fairly obvious interference.

    But can anyone explain to me why this was any more interference than we see from the governments of South Africa (government-mandated transformation targets, which effectively impact on selection), Pakistan (entire domestic structure being revamped because revamping it is a pet project of the Prime Minister), or Sri Lanka (trying to sack their coach because the sports ministry told the board to do so)?

    And is the ICC’s policy fit for purpose anyway? Presumably the SA govt would say that it’s right to have that sort of interference because sport doesn’t–and shouldn’t–exist in a social vacuum, and Zimbabwe’s SRC would say that their interference is right because the board was corrupt and they suspected that it might be embezzling the ICC’s money.



    • dArthez Aug 9, 2019 / 8:24 pm

      In the case of the latter, that would ring extremely hollow, since some ZANU – alligned board members made certain that Zanu profitted handsomely from an ICC-loan. And don’t ask the people running the show where Zimbabwe’s prize money from the World Cup in 2015 went. It certainly did no go to the players, since Brendan Taylor was paid all of $250 for his efforts on the field then …

      And for years we have seen the Sri Lankan politicians involved in lots of cricket shenanigans (Jayasuriya has dabbled in politics, after his playing days, but involved in the running of cricket while he was a ruling party MP if memory serves).

      Honestly, I would not be surprised to find out that the theft of cricketing funds (as this may well have been an attempt to achieve that) was even too brazen for the ICC to stand by idly.


      • Marek Aug 10, 2019 / 10:10 am

        Theft by who? The ousted board or the SRC?


      • dArthez Aug 10, 2019 / 11:30 am

        Is the story I was thinking of. The ICC did the square root of nothing about that one for more than a year after they discovered that the money they gave to ZC was misused. Bvute in particular (at least if memory serves, I am not from Zimbabwe, so I could easily have mixed people up) was aligned with Zanu-PF (in fact it seems he is still in politics for Zanu-PF, which is not exactly a party that has many positive credentials left). And currently a Member of Parliament in Zimbabwe.

        There have been quite a few scandals in which Zimbabwe Cricket deliberately misused funds. And it was all okay with the ICC. Oh, and in case you were wondering, he was still involved in Zimbabwe Cricket in 2019.

        Now I know the latter source is not necessarily the most credible, but gives the reader a bit of an impression of what kind of person was not sanctioned by the ICC for rather dubious shenanigans over an extended period of time.

        So this suspension came as a shock to me, since before then just about anything went according to the ICC.


  12. Jomesy Aug 10, 2019 / 9:27 pm

    Off topic so apologies. This afternoon I watched the 1st episode of KP: Story of a genius. I really enjoyed it! So nice to see him talk about his early days. Loved the bit where he entered (uninvited) to the England teams dressing room as a Natal player and said to FEC “I want to play county cricket”.

    The slightly sad bit was Nasser fishing for him being unpopular (I used to love Nasser but he’s gone all corporate). Hopefully that’ll come good over the course of the episodes as it’s clear they get on. NB: I’ve no problem with Nasser asking tough questions and maybe it’s the editing, but it just came across as crass at that point.

    Anyway, KP was and is *just* different and it was really nice to see the guy relaxed in his own skin taking about his route to international cricket. Seriously driven, seriously good, too young to have perspective but has it now.

    Ps – you can hire his ranch where episode 1 was filmed if you have at least….yeah ok maybe someone can but I can’t. Good for him and good that he’s finally been remembered.


    • nonoxcol Aug 11, 2019 / 9:01 am

      If you put “KP story of a genius” into Twitter, the person most frequently slagged off isn’t the subject of the documentary.

      It gives me enormous, enduring satisfaction to note that it is Lovejoy.

      Ha ha ha ha ha.

      Ha ha ha.


      Liked by 2 people

      • jomesy Aug 11, 2019 / 9:12 am

        Thanks NOC – I’m not on Twitter but that does make me chuckle too!


  13. jomesy Aug 11, 2019 / 8:20 pm

    @NOC. Tried to find on Twitter – failed – can you send link?


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