How Do You Solve A Problem Like Jos Buttler?

Jos Buttler is an absolutely incredible white ball cricketer. That is a statement which even the most contentious or unorthodox cricket pundit would find impossible to disagree with. No player in the history of one day cricket has scored more runs than Buttler at a faster strike rate. Only Shahid Afridi and Glenn Maxwell even come close. A destructive and dominating batsman who instils fear into the hearts of his opponents.

In Test cricket, the picture is more nuanced. A Test batting average of 33.90 is not particularly impressive for a 30 year old after 47 Test matches, especially having played 20 of those games as a specialist batsman. It’s not a terrible record either, but it places him significantly below the top tier of Test wicketkeeper-batsmen (de Kock, Watling, Pant and Rizwan, for example). Nevertheless, Joe Root has come out in the press this week vehemently backing Buttler not only as a batsman but also as the Test wicketkeeper for this winter’s tours.

Buttler’s batting statistics last summer were exemplary. He was England’s second most prolific run scorer in the six Tests, scoring just one run less than Zak Crawley, and finished with a batting average of 52.00. A wicketkeeper with that kind of scoring ability is essentially undroppable.

So here is my argument for why I would drop him from the Test team.

For a start, it might be worth considering why Buttler performed so well this summer. One notable aspect is that he didn’t play any white ball cricket in the months leading up to or during the Test summer. With the IPL postponed, his last T20 was in February against South Africa and his last fifty-over game was the 2019 World Cup final. That represents almost six months with no distractions from preparing for Test cricket.

Few batsmen seem able to seamlessly swap between white ball cricket and Tests, with the transition usually having a negative effect in at least one of the formats, and this is borne out in the statistics. Jos Buttler averages 38 when he has played a Test in the previous 30 days, but only 18 when he hasn’t. Buttler is without doubt one of the best white ball batsmen in the world, with ODI and T20I strike rates which are amongst the best of all time, and there is a T20 World Cup due to be played in India this October. Is it a good selection policy to keep him out of T20Is and the IPL this year in order to have him playing at his best in Tests?  I don’t think so.

Another key aspect to my preference on not selecting Buttler in Tests is his wicketkeeping ability. Specifically, his keeping when up to the stumps is just plain bad. According to CricViz, Jos Buttler was by some considerable distance the worst Test keeper to spin in the period from the beginning of 2018 to the first Test against Pakistan in 2019. I must confess that I don’t exactly understand how CricViz quantifies ‘Fielding Impact’ as their models are intentially opaque, but it is presumably some combination of missed wicket-taking chances and preventable byes and wides being conceded.

One clear example of Jos Buttler’s abilities (or lack thereof) with regards to spin bowling is his record of Test stumpings. In 27 Tests as England wicketkeeper, Buttler has not taken a single stumping. Not one. In fact, in the history of Test cricket only one wicketkeeper has played as many Tests as Buttler without taking at least three stumpings: Former ICC CEO and South African international Dave Richardson (who still took two more than Buttler). This could be a crucial weakness because England’s next two Test series are in Sri Lanka and India.

England have won only one Test series in Asia over the past eight years, and that was their 3-0 victory in Sri Lanka two years ago. The key to this rare overseas whitewash was their spin bowling: 49 of the 60 wickets England took were from their spin attack of Leach, Ali, Rashid and Root (18, 18, 12, and 1 wickets respectively). Seventy-nine percent of England’s overs were delivered by these four bowlers. It is patently ridiculous to me that you would even consider selecting Jos Buttler as wicketkeeper in conditions where he seems almost certain to struggle.

It is worth noting that Buttler was selected as a specialist batsman in the previous Sri Lanka series, and performed very well. He scored the second most runs for England, amassing 250 runs in six innings and was behind only Ben Foakes’ total of 277. There is certainly an argument for including him this winter in that role, but that isn’t necessarily clear cut either.

For one thing, ‘demoting’ Buttler to a mere batsman would lead to him replacing one of the existing batting lineup. I can’t see him playing in the top order, although England did try Moeen Ali once as an opener in the UAE so I can’t entirely rule it out either. England’s middle order comprises of the captain, the best batting allrounder in the world, and Ollie Pope. Pope is currently returning from a shoulder injury, so won’t even be available for the Sri Lanka series. If he does return in time to play in India, Pope is clearly the most vulnerable. He has never played a Test in the subcontinent, and also had a lacklustre summer for England. On the other hand, he is only twenty three years old and he already has a career Test batting average greater than Buttler’s. I’m not sure I’d necessarily opt for experience in this scenario, although Buttler might have the Sri Lanka series to press his case for inclusion.

Perhaps the most important factor regarding Jos Buttler’s selection would be managing his workload in 2021. If Buttler is selected for all of England’s Test cricket this year in addition to the IPL in April/May and the T20 World Cup in October, it is not unreasonable to think that he would only spend a few weeks outside of the England camp all year. In normal times, this would be mentally and physically draining for any cricketer. These are not normal times however, and there seems a fair chance that a large portion of this time will also be in some form of quarantine or bubble.

If three-format players like Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer aren’t given series off, they might well be burned out by the end of the year. You only have to look at England after they had been driven beyond their limits by Andy Flower to see how that might decimate a team. I like my cricket management like I like my TV: Without repeats of the shit stuff.

There is a strong argument that Stokes and Archer are essential picks in the subcontinent. In England’s last series in Sri Lanka, Stokes took five wickets whilst the swing and seam bowlers (Anderson, Broad and Sam Curran) could only manage two between them. Pace and bounce are clearly more effective weapons in those conditions, therefore I would probably look to rest those two during during the English summer instead. Whilst you can certainly make a case for Buttler’s inclusion as a specialist batsman in Sri Lanka and India, his place in the squad doesn’t feel anywhere near as necessary to England’s chances of success as those of the pace bowlers.

Joe Root has publicly backed him though, so he’ll probably keep wicket in all six Tests this winter.

If you have any comments about Jos Buttler, the upcoming Tests, or anything else, add them below.

63 thoughts on “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Jos Buttler?

  1. hatmallet Jan 3, 2021 / 2:47 pm

    I’ve been having a look at the stumpings question this morning. Part of the issue is that Buttler has played almost all his innings in places that favour quicks – England, SA, NZ and WI, with just 2 games in the UAE.

    If you look at those countries excluding the UAE since 2000, then you typically only get a stumping every 13 innings or so (or 0.07 stumpings per innings).

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    • dannycricket Jan 3, 2021 / 3:00 pm

      Going deeper still, Jos Buttler has only kept wicket in England, New Zealand, South Africa, the UAE and the West Indies. Take the UAE away and filter for the four remaining since 2000 and it’s still a historically bad record. He has 0 stumpings in 25 Tests, the next closest is Tim Ambrose with 11 Tests. https://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=1;filter=advanced;host=1;host=3;host=4;host=5;keeper=1;orderby=stumped;spanmin1=01+Jan+2000;spanval1=span;template=results;type=fielding

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      • hatmallet Jan 3, 2021 / 3:40 pm

        Yes that’s the same Statsguru list I made. The raw numbers are all low, I wouldn’t say there is much difference between 0 from 25 and 2 from 81 (Watling).

        We’d need to see stats on stumpings missed/fumbled vs completed. I don’t think Buttler is great standing up and wouldn’t expect such data to be kind to him (we know he’s missed some so he has a 0% success rate!), I just don’t think the “0 stumpings” argument is quite as damning as it is on the surface.

        Btw, a curious one I saw earlier was Matthew Wade – 11 stumpings from 42 innings!

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        • dannycricket Jan 3, 2021 / 3:48 pm

          I wouldn’t say it’s my argument so much as supporting evidence for my argument that Buttler is pretty crap (in terms of international wicketkeeping standards) when standing at the stumps. From watching him, he drops the ball more often than most. Not even on edges, just the standard turn off the pitch. The stumpings, and CricViz Fielding Impact are just the things I found online to support my otherwise very subjective and totally unqualified (Chris is our resident wicketkeeping expert) judgement on his abilities.

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  2. rpoultz Jan 4, 2021 / 11:00 am

    I have always thought that his keeping has looked very ‘lazy’. I don’t know whether that is down to technique or anything else. I would say it is pretty much accepted that he isn’t the best keeper but due to his white ball record he has been afforded more opportunities than most. I suspect he is almost at the point of he will decide when he doesn’t want to play red ball cricket anymore rather than being dropped.

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  3. dArthez Jan 4, 2021 / 11:15 am

    From 218/1 onwards the batting has been of an abysmal standard from South Africa. When in control of the match: chase wide ones (de Kock, van der Dussen), or when someone is bowling at the stumps, forget all about the lbw laws (Bavuma) and assorted mishaps.

    Bavuma has not done anything for 40 Tests now (still the one Test ton against England on a 600 plays 600 road in Cape Town 5 years ago), and seemingly does not know you are: a) not out when you actually don’t hit the ball (see last Test), or b) anything related to lbw laws. Why is he playing Test cricket if he does not even know the basic rules of the game? And if Bavuma is really the best South Africa can muster, why does the country still have Test status?

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    • Marek Jan 4, 2021 / 7:59 pm

      …interesting that this comment is on the Jos Buttler thread, because until his last innings he had a pretty similar record to Bavuma!

      The difference being, I guess, that Buttler is a proven performer in white-ball cricket whereas Bavuma isn’t…at least not yet.

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      • dArthez Jan 5, 2021 / 6:11 am

        They may have had similar records, but no one is going to argue that Bavuma might possibly have an X-factor. At least with Buttler ‘quick run scoring’ is an argument for his inclusion and batting at 6 or 7. Not a very good argument, but it is an argument that can be made.

        Sure batting averages are not the be-all and end all. But if you are averaging 30 with the bat, at least don’t drop dollies every Test (Bavuma seems to be doing that), or get out in extremely silly ways every other Test. Or at least chip in with a few overs every now and then, to give the frontline bowlers a break. Bowling 3 overs per year does not constitute chipping in with the ball either. Even if his keeping is so-so, Buttler played more the allrounder part than Bavuma did.

        At least with Duminy he had an extremely impressive FC record to fall back on (averaging over 50); Bavuma does not go beyond mid-30s. With Duminy it really seemed to be pressure of expectation when cameras are on him (not unheard of of course), but with Bavuma, I really fail to understand his continued selection. And if there really are no better options, that is an admission of mediocrity from CSA – don’t expect the team to compete, against decent opposition.

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      • Marek Jan 5, 2021 / 11:56 am

        Do you really fail to understand his selection?

        I’d assumed for several years now he was a quota pick in a team where almost all the other top-seven options were white and none of them were black Africans.

        It looks to me like it’s not so much an admission of mediocrity as an admission that the needs of cricketing policy (taken in the narrow sense) and transformation policy aren’t always reconcilable.

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        • dArthez Jan 5, 2021 / 2:00 pm

          Even then, there are other options available that could be tried. Or could have been tried. I am not saying that anyone else would have set the world on fire, but if you keep persisting with the tried and failing:

          1) you will be accused of tokenism
          2) you will be hearing that the guy is undroppable because of the colour of his skin
          3) you are not giving other domestic players who happen to be Black a chance
          4) you will be actually entrenching notions of preferential treatment, which actually undermines any transformative agenda you might be having.
          4b) This is compounded with the fact that a lot of cricketing talent is discovered young, and then ends up in posh cricketing schools, with bursaries etc. Of course it would be an illusion to believe that everyone has the same opportunities. But, you keep selecting the same few privileged Black players ad infinitum, while disregarding the 99% who have not had such a lucky break to begin with. A lack of access to cricket for the majority of people is a big issue in South Africa, and as long as that is not addressed notions of preferential treatment are very difficult to dispel.
          5) there is less interest among the general population to support a losing team than a competitive / winning team. That is not limited to South Africa, or cricket – you also see it elsewhere and in other sports. So it is important to get the balance right between transformation imperatives and playing results.
          5b) Reduced interest also applies to sponsorship and funding, value of television rights etc. Obviously that is not only due to the players (a competent board would really have helped South Africa in the last few years, but yeah, why be competent when you can loot?).

          And if someone is persistently failing, don’t stick with them, but try someone else. You might actually find that someone else actually does perform to a higher standard. If so, well and good. If not, you cannot be accused of many of the above mentioned complaints that are uttered against Bavuma’s selection (other than that he is not good enough). I’ll say it, but bad policies can actually entrench racist notion, rather than combating them, as they purport to do.

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  4. Marek Jan 5, 2021 / 11:20 pm

    The Buttler situation is a classic example of dropping someone too late.

    I was actually very happy when he was recalled in 2018: I’d much rather be having this conversation than sitting round in 2024 or whenever going “you know, he could have been the next Gilchrist/de Villiers/Les Ames/Clyde Walcott, and we never picked him”. And I was glad that he was given a nice long run in the team, especially given that he started so well, because his talent ceiling is so high. I could even sort of see the logic in making him keeper when Bairstow was dropped, although personally I’d have picked Foakes then.

    But by the end of last winter I think we’d seen that he was unlikely to be a consistently good test batsman, and last summer was a good time to bring Foakes into the starting XI. (A bit of forward planning might have suggested the same thing, given that England were going to play six tests in Asia this winter).

    And now…we’re still working on assumptions and ideas about potential: we don’t really know if Buttler’s average in his last four tests is an outlier or a new dawn. We could easily be giving him another year in the team where he averages 32, and be changing keeper on the first day in Brisbane in December (see also: late-period Ian Bell!)

    Luckily there’s an alternative, as you suggest Danny–although whether it’s a wise one from the burnout point of view is a moot point! With Pope injured, there’s a spare batting slot for Sri Lanka–and, for all that Dan Lawrence has been bigged up by the media and that he had a good Lions tour last winter, he hasn’t been consistently good in the Championship for several years. England could always play Foakes as keeper and Buttler as a batsman; it might cause a bit of a logjam at the start of the India series, but Smith has already suggested that Buttler will be rested for the Ahmedabad tests–and in the longer term, I wonder how long Burns has got in tests, which might free up a batting slot.

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    • dArthez Jan 6, 2021 / 1:41 pm

      Agreed. Buttler scoring runs in the summer just is confusing matters. It should have been clear-cut that Foakes was going to keep in Asia, but Buttler delivering once everything was organised to allow for that (ie. no white ball games for him in the summer), just confused matters.

      He has not improved his keeping to spinners, and since spin will be 80+% of the overs being bowled in all likelihood (yeah, you don’t expect India and Sri Lanka to serve up green tops, do we?), which is the most important metric for a keeper in Asia, even before runs being scored with the bat. Sure you don’t want to pick a keeper to bat at #11, but it is not like Foakes is clearly inferior with the bat either.

      The only argument that could possible be entertained by an outsider is if Buttler is good enough to bat in the top 6 in Asia, rather than whether or not he should keep (he really should not).

      Foakes, Stokes, Leach and Archer pick themselves (though obviously for the bowlers, workload issues need to be considered). And given Smith’s brilliance, I would not even bet on Leach being played even if fit. The rest is just going with the incumbents, and not blindly picking Anderson & Broad.

      There might be a decent case to pick Woakes over either Broad and Anderson – you don’t expect pacers to contribute much, unless outright 150kph+, and then the stronger batting might be more useful. You probably don’t need more than two frontline pacers, especially if you are also going to play Stokes. That is unless, the groundsman is acting on instructions of the ECB …

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      • dannycricket Jan 7, 2021 / 11:09 am

        Curran batted well in Sri Lanka two years ago, so I might favour him over Woakes.

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    • Marek Jan 6, 2021 / 4:43 pm

      My reason for playing Woakes would be that England absolutely need to find out before Brisbane how likely he is to be any good south of Southampton…which, seven years into his test career, we still don’t have any evidence of.

      I would only play Anderson or Broad in SL, where Woakes can effectively be the substitute for Stokes. Otherwise, I would pick Woakes, Curran or Overton in one slot (all for the reason above) and Archer, Wood or Stone in the other (it would also be useful to know whether Wood or Stone are capable of lasting two matches in a row!)

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      • fungineer99 Jan 10, 2021 / 10:19 pm

        Stokes and Archer are being rested for the SL tour and I don’t think Overton is in the squad although the promising Ollie Robinson is.

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        • dannycricket Jan 10, 2021 / 10:29 pm

          Yeah. From the squad in Sri Lanka, my bowlers would be Leach, Bess, Parkinson, Wood and Mahmood. That’s a long tail though, so I very much doubt that’s who England will go for.

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          • fungineer99 Jan 10, 2021 / 11:01 pm

            I don’t think Parkinson is in the squad either. Surprisingly, there are six seamers but only two genuine spinners (would have been three if Moeen Ali was available).

            I thought Robinson was in the squad but he just played in the warm-up game.

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          • fungineer99 Jan 10, 2021 / 11:06 pm

            No Mahmood either although Olly Stone has managed to be included.

            Looks like bowlers in first test will be Leach, Bess, Wood, one of Broad/Anderson/Stone then Woakes/Curran as the Stokes replacement. Presumably they believe 2.5 spinners (Root as the half) will be sufficient!

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          • dannycricket Jan 10, 2021 / 11:22 pm

            Mahmood is there, just in the reserve squad. I wouldn’t mind Stone in there though.

            Root managed to take just one wicket there two years ago, at an average of 46.00 and a strike rate of 96.00. Relying on him as a bowler would be a mistake. Woakes and Curran both have bowling averages of 50 or more in Asia. Broad’s average in Asia is 38.14 and Anderson’s in the last five years is 63.80.

            It’s fair to say that I’m not a fan of these selections for the following two tours.

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          • Marek Jan 11, 2021 / 1:11 pm

            One assumption that everyone’s making is that the Galle groundsman is going to prepare wickets that turn square. But from the point of view of the SL bowling attack, that’s probably less likely than it was a few years ago.

            Lakmal, Kumara, Vishwa (and possibly Asitha, from how he bowled on his debut) Fernando and Rajitha–always assuming they’re fit–are probably as threatening as Embuldeniya (who’s been a bit patchy so far in tests), Hasuranga (who’s promising but inexperienced in tests, Dhananjaya (who’s only been cleared to bowl in the last few days and could easily be the new Saeed Ajmal 2015-model), Perera (who’s past his best) and Sandakan (who’s rarely picked).

            And as Danny points out, England’s seamers aren’t as effective in SL as they are in…some other places…in addition to which they don’t have an in-form, match-fit, effective test spinner.

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          • dannycricket Jan 11, 2021 / 1:23 pm

            I would say the likelihood is either a turning or completely flat pitch. If it is essentially a road, how else are you going to bowl 150+ overs without knackering your fast bowlers? Either way, I think you need three spinners. Not least because England’s spin options this time are much less experienced than two years ago.

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          • Marek Jan 11, 2021 / 8:39 pm

            Re Root’s bowling–your figures reminded me of what a poor strike rate England spinners have generally. Of the 20 who’ve got at least 50 wickets since the second world war, there are more with a strike rate of 92 or more than 72 or below. Five of them have a worse strike rate than 96, most of them considered important parts of England’s bowling attack in their eras.

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          • dannycricket Jan 11, 2021 / 9:00 pm

            Yeah, although much of this is with terrible keepers. Prior and Buttler in particular weren’t great when at the stumps. Before Swann, the whole idea of an English spinner was just to be economical whilst the seamers rotated at the other end. Wickets were a bonus for the likes of Tufnell.

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          • Marek Jan 11, 2021 / 9:55 pm

            …although it was the same if not worse in the eras of uncovered pitches, high-quality keepers (Knott, Taylor etc) and supposedly great county spinners from the time when almost every county fielded two (or more) at once. The strike rate of, say, Giles (or, although he didn’t play much, Such) is some way better than Titmus, Edmonds, Emburey, Pocock or Illingworth. Even bowlers like Underwood (or for that matter Verity) don’t have an especially wonderful SR (73 and 77 respectively: Greig’s SR is several balls better than Underwood’s)–and reading reports of the 30s and 60s it seems like conditions were often tailor-made for them.

            The only real exceptions before the Swann era (which probably not coincidentally is around the same time as the start of the IPL) are Laker and Wardle. I wonder how well Wardle would have done if he hadn’t been the Pietersen of his era…!

            So there’s something (or maybe several different things) interesting going on here.

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  5. Tom Kerr Jan 11, 2021 / 7:12 am

    I know it’s completely off-topic for this thread, but I just want to congratulate Australia and India for one of the most enthralling test matches I’ve watched. Superb test cricket from both sides in Sydney and a very brave display by India to hang on on the last day despite all the injuries they suffered during the match – at one point they looked as though they might even be able to win it. This was a great example of test cricket at its best.

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    • Marek Jan 11, 2021 / 12:59 pm

      Talking of injuries, were they saying that Vihari is likely to be fit for Brisbane?–it seems like he’s done his hamstring. India have piled up almost as many injuries as SL…which could well be a warning sign for England.

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      • dannycricket Jan 11, 2021 / 1:26 pm

        With the number of injuries in the Indian squad, I think their definition of being ‘fit enough for selection’ might be lower than normal. Especially when they can’t just fly replacements in.

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      • Marek Jan 11, 2021 / 5:16 pm

        Probably not for batsmen, though: it’s the one area where they’re fairly well supplied with fit reserves at the moment. I think Jadeja will be much harder to replace than Vihari would be–although I also think Vihari’s tenacity is underrated

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    • dannycricket Jan 11, 2021 / 1:24 pm

      No such thing as off-topic here.

      (Aside from the 20-30 spam comments which are automatically filtered out by WordPress every day)

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      • Northern Light Jan 11, 2021 / 2:06 pm

        Excellent news. In other news, Steve Smith is helping the Aussies redraw “the Line” again by…er… erasinng some lines 🙂

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      • Marek Jan 11, 2021 / 5:10 pm

        New Australia just like the old Australia shock!!

        I really know don’t know where Paine gets his saintly reputation from: every time the Australian team is giving an opposing player some lip, he seems to be at the centre of it.

        As for Smith–as one of the UK press corps implied, apart from anything he must be one coin short of a ball-tampering kit if he doesn’t realise that the stump camera picks up…things in the vicinity of the stumps. That in itself should be enough to keep him away from the captaincy.

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        • dlpthomas Jan 14, 2021 / 11:37 am

          Paine’s performance with both gloves and mouth was poor. The Smith thing has been blown out of all proportion – he shadow bats all the time when in the field and it often involves scratching out his mark on the crease. (he really is a space-cadet) Whether or not the umpires should let him do that is another question entirely.

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        • Marek Jan 14, 2021 / 11:58 am

          …and now he has the cheek to suggest that the Brisbane crowd leave their aggression at home. He’s in danger of turning into a bit of a bell-end–and also the sort of hypocrite that allowed the sandpaper incident to happen in the first place.

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      • Tom Kerr Jan 13, 2021 / 10:25 am

        Thanks, Danny. I hope this match puts an end to the idea of four-day test matches.

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        • dannycricket Jan 13, 2021 / 12:03 pm

          I mean, technically it would have ended as a draw whether it was four or five days. In a sense, nothing changed. Of course, as is often difficult to explain to outsiders, there is a big difference between a boring draw and a thrilling draw, and this was more of the latter.

          Liked by 1 person

    • dlpthomas Jan 14, 2021 / 7:53 am

      Its been a really good series and would have been ever better if both sides could have fielded a full strength side. India have been very impressive given that Australia is a difficult place to tour at the best of times and is even harder now with COVID restrictions are in place.

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  6. dArthez Jan 14, 2021 / 4:35 am

    On the bright side, after the idiot decision was taken that Foakes sits on the bench, Buttler won’t have to keep in the fourth innings in all likelihood.

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    • dannycricket Jan 14, 2021 / 5:30 am

      I wouldn’t be quite as confident. Even with Sri Lanka’s ropey batting, I’m not sure that England’s pace attack (if you can include Sam Curran in such a description) will be as useful once the ball has softened a little.

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    • dArthez Jan 14, 2021 / 5:36 am

      Notice that in the first hour a grand total of 9.1 overs have been bowled. 55 balls in the first hour of a Test.

      Thirimanne living up to his reputation of being utterly useless (specialist batsman with an average of 22 – that is reminiscent of Bangladesh of a decade ago), and Kusal Mendis being hopelessly out of form collects yet another duck, to go with the 5 ball, 4 ball and golden ducks he collected in South Africa. Maybe he is inspired by Atapattu, and wants to string the worst ever scoring series by a Sri Lanka specialist batsman together.

      Sri Lanka are really missing Karunaratne here (due to injury).

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      • dannycricket Jan 14, 2021 / 5:42 am

        Kusal Perera’s shot was shocking. Reverse sweep to a spinner on the second ball?

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      • Tom Kerr Jan 14, 2021 / 10:10 am

        Hi Darthez – not sure if you were watching the match, but there were delays because the electronic sight screens didn’t work. I don’t think the players were to blame in this case (I note you didn’t!).

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    • Marek Jan 14, 2021 / 12:24 pm

      It’ll be interesting Danny! The problem for SL is that they’re still probably missing three of their best half-dozen batsmen and they’re ridiculously over-reliant on Mathews (who might tear a hamstring at any moment!) and Chandimal.

      Some fairly minor stats-mining reveals just how awful the SL top order in this match is. As you suggest, d’A, Thirimanne shouldn’t be anywhere near the test side, even in an injury crisis–and shouldn’t have been since 2016 at the latest. If you take away his one century (out of 65 innings, made in early 2013 as was the only other time he’s passed 70 in a test match), he averages almost exactly 20 in 36 tests. And England worry about Buttler averaging 34…:-)

      Mendis since June 2018 and Perera for his whole career average under 25 against top-nine sides if you take out their one highest score–their already mediocre averages are bolstered by one big not-out hundred (wonderful as they both were) and a good series aginst Zimbabwe (their only other hundred in that time in both cases).

      And whatever Perera is, he isn’t a red-ball opener: he’s an aggressive counter-attacking no. 5 or 6. (Take away Zimbabwe and he too averages almost exactly 20 as a top-three player). Interestingly his average is also much better when he’s keeper, so I suspect that in the long run it could well be a choice between him and Dickwella. Surely when everyone’s fit the current line-up should be Karunaratne, Oshada Fernando, Chandimal, Mathews, de Silva, [keeper]…which would also allow them to play Shanaka and balance the side.

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  7. dArthez Jan 14, 2021 / 6:51 am

    At times, cricket is cruel. Bess gets an absolute gift of a wicket (Kusal Perera), and Leach has Chandimal dropped (by Lawrence).

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    • dArthez Jan 14, 2021 / 7:47 am

      At least the slapstick comedy batting from the South Africa series continues. But that was woeful from Chandimal.

      It would be a shocker if England were not batting by stumps.

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      • dArthez Jan 14, 2021 / 8:19 am

        Are they playing a Test match or are they shooting footage for “Bat like Chris Martin part 2” ?

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        • dArthez Jan 14, 2021 / 8:42 am

          I take that back. Chris Martin would have batted better.

          Also puts the batting performance in South Africa in a bit of perspective (and with that the South African bowling performances)..

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      • dannycricket Jan 14, 2021 / 8:30 am

        Apparently there might be rain this afternoon. But yeah, I can’t see them batting out 90 overs.

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  8. dlpthomas Jan 14, 2021 / 8:01 am

    Much to my annoyance, the game is not being shown in Australia. Looks like its Guerilla Cricket for me.

    Like

    • dannycricket Jan 14, 2021 / 8:31 am

      Apparently it’s streaming on a Australian gambling website (Sportsbet?).

      Like

      • dlpthomas Jan 14, 2021 / 11:39 am

        Thanks – I’ll check it out.

        Like

      • dlpthomas Jan 14, 2021 / 11:49 am

        your a legend – pretty good picture (though I can’t work out to get it to full screen) and no commentary which is bliss given I’ve had a gut full of listening to Warne and his fan club.

        Like

        • dannycricket Jan 14, 2021 / 12:11 pm

          Yeah, more cricket should have a commentary-free option. Anything is better than Warne/Bumble/Vaughan, etc. I just have my TV permanent on mute for most sports.

          Like

  9. dArthez Jan 14, 2021 / 8:58 am

    Bess ends with 5/30, yet no one will struggle to find better 1/50 bowling performances. Nothing against Bess, but abysmal would be a compliment to that batting performance by Sri Lanka.

    Like

  10. dArthez Jan 14, 2021 / 9:29 am

    I guess since Sri Lanka are fielding now, they’re shooting for “Field like a ton of bricks”.

    How Crawley survived that runout opportunity is beyond everyone.

    Like

  11. Miami Dad's Six Jan 14, 2021 / 9:57 am

    This has been awful cricket from just about everyone today.

    As I type, Crawley holes out trying to bash the left arm slow over mid-off. I don’t really like Crawley – he’s been a bit too “earmarked for greatness by the ECB” for me.

    A much more interesting prospect is Lawrence – it isn’t often a batsman from a club cricket background (rather than a state school background) gets picked for England. I’ve never actually seen him bat – I expect that’ll change today, given the lack of application shown by batsmen thus far.

    Like

    • dannycricket Jan 14, 2021 / 10:08 am

      That’s very cynical. I’m sure Bairstow will…

      Ah. Yeah, you’re probably right.

      Like

    • Tom Kerr Jan 14, 2021 / 10:17 am

      Miami – do you really mean state school background? To me that means comprehensive schools rather than the inappropriately-named public schools where rich people send their kids. It’s a long time since I lived and played cricket in the UK, but most cricket clubs came from state schools. It was the rich kids that got pro-coaching at Wellington College or similar.

      Like

    • dArthez Jan 14, 2021 / 11:26 am

      It is amazing what a bit of application can do. Never before in the history of Test cricket application mattered, did it?

      England cruising and should probably win by an innings from here.

      Like

      • Tom Kerr Jan 14, 2021 / 11:38 am

        I hope England gets a big first innings score because that pitch is starting to break up already.

        Like

  12. Madhumita Gupta Jan 17, 2021 / 1:00 pm

    I hope you have watched him keep in the ongoing SL test .. almost impeccable .. the reason Joe Root has backed him is not the stats .. you need to prod deeper and understand the other aspects .. he is a definite match winner irrespective of his test averages and an exceptional fighter .. his resilience in the face of enormous criticism and ability to have the mental clarity to fightback and prove himself is the reason he is a natural leader and game changer.. no amount of stats can show you that .. and btw for the stat freaks’ contentment he has completed a stunning ‘Dhoni style’ clever stumping today as well 😁 .. onwards and upwards 🤞🏼

    Like

    • dannycricket Jan 17, 2021 / 1:09 pm

      Yeah, it’s been a very good game with the gloves for him. Of course, that’s not supposed to be a surprise in a Test wicketkeeper and it was.

      He remains the only wicketkeeper in the history of Test cricket to have kept wicket in over 20 Tests and not have at least two stumpings, but it’s certainly progress.

      Like

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