So after hope turned into angst and then into despair in the First Test at Edgbaston, England head to Lords 1-0 down in the series and into a game they dare not lose. First of all, the weather forecast for tomorrow in London is atrocious, with Friday not looking exactly great either, so if you are a fan of seeing AB de Villiers’ masterclasses or Alastair Cook’s last England century, then you are likely in a for a treat over the next few days. With more than a bit of indifferent weather around at Lords this week and the chances of play tomorrow looking about as likely as a sensible decision by the ECB, then whoever wins the toss probably on Thursday will want to bat first in what is likely to be an uninterrupted day’s play.
England have named their squad of 12 for the game with Jimmy now crocked and Moeen dropped for more humane purposes, it seems like Archer and Leach will play with a toss-up between Denly and Curran for the final position. I very much doubt that they would want to move Stokes up to 4 to accommodate Curran, so my money would be on Denly retaining his place despite looking in no way like an international quality batsman. Of course, the more sensible thing to do might be to admit that the selectors got it horribly wrong in the First Test by playing Roy as an opener instead of dropping him to number 4 and persevering with Bairstow who is not a great wicketkeeper and looks like a walking wicket whenever he walks to the crease. England though don’t do sensible with Ed Smith and his enormous ego in charge of selection and were never going to admit that they made a complete hash of selections for the First Test, so here we go again, with England facing a potent Australian attack with a paper-thin batting unit. Plus ca change!
The demotion of Moeen is the one sensible thing England have done in my opinion in the last week. His brain has looked frazzled, his batting is probably worse than Stuart Broad’s at the moment and he was shown by a competent spinner at Lords. Moeen does seem to divide people the most in this England team, not only on Twitter, but also between the Editors on this blog. I have never been a massive fan and have always wanted England to invest in a spinner who is a natural master of his art, not one who bats and bowls a bit, but many others quite rightly point to his bowling record over the last 12 months as an argument that he should be persevered with as a front line spinner. My major issue is that when he doesn’t take wickets, he is often unable to tie down an end, often going for 4 runs an over, something which must be incredibly difficult to captain when trying to rotate the quicks from the other end. Some may argue that his demotion is harsh on him after 1 Test against Australia; however I personally think that he needs to get away from the game for a little bit to clear his mind and work on some of the fundamentals. There has been some talk that maybe the geniuses at Loughborough had been tinkering with Moeen’s technique too much, thankfully Mike Selvey was on hand to give a typically insightful and nuanced response:
Naturally it would be preferable for his replacement to have bowled some overs recently in the red ball format, but the England brains trust seem to be lacking just that in preparing their players for the Test Match format.
As for Australia, they have made the slightly odd decision to leave out James Pattinson for the Lords Test, despite him looking pretty threatening in the last Test. It may well be that they don’t want to risk injuring him with 4 Tests pretty much back to back or that they don’t think the Lords surface will suit his bowling, but I’d be a little miffed if I were him. I would expect Hazelwood to replace Pattinson in the team as the only change in their team from Edgbaston with Siddle and Cummins making a pretty potent attack on a pitch that might well do a fair bit with overhead conditions.
On a final note, I see that the ECB are doing their best to not just alienate the fans with The Hundred, but also those English coaches who ply their arts in the county set up, by giving The Hundred coaching gigs to as many international coaches as possible. It hardly seems prudent to be throwing large amounts of cash at the likes of Shane Warne and Gary Kirsten (it’s amazing how a fist full of cash can suddenly change your opinion of something isn’t it Shane) when they are struggling to pay their own centrally contracted players at the moment. The lunatics have generally always run the asylum when it comes to English cricket administration, but this is something else, especially when the saying ‘you can’t polish a turd’ springs to mind with this stupid format. Again, plus ca change!
Anyway feel free to comment with any thoughts below on the off chance that we actually get some play tomorrow. Danny did promise to live blog the day before he saw the weather forecast, so I suggest that we make him stay true to his word! Also if you haven’t had a chance to read the Ashes panel yet, then do so here, there are some really good points made and like Dmitri, I would also like to thank those who took the time out to answer the questions. No doubt there will be some more following soon!