Having introduced my new series about cricketers in my last post I now move on to an opening batter who provides a springboard for plenty of other ideas.
VALE ATQUE AVE
The 2015 English cricket season started with the news of the dropping and subsequent international retirement of Charlotte Edwards after a long and illustrious career (she features later in this series). Who was going to fill the monster sized vacancy that her departure left at the top of the England women’s batting order?
The first England women’s squad post the dropping and retirement of Edwards featured an opening pair of Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield. Beaumont immediately began making big runs in her new role at the top of the order, and remarkably a fairly seamless transition from one era to the next took place.
OPENING WOES IN THE MENS TEAM
Meanwhile in the ranks of the England men’s team a gaping hole was emerging at the top of the batting order. Alastair Cook, so long an absolute rock in that position, seemed to have gone into irreversible decline and none of those selected to partner him looked remotely good enough. Mark Stoneman went after a sequence of test matches that brought him four 5o plus scores but never saw him get as far as 60 (and he had several lives in the course of his top score of 59). He was replaced by Keaton Jennings who has scored two test hundreds but who is also looking at an average of 25.86 after 16 test matches (at least 15 runs per innings light for a specialist batter at that level).
When Cook announced that he was retiring from international cricket the problem became greater still. Rory Burns of Surrey was an obvious candidate for one slot at the top of the order, having scored far more runs than anyone else in the English season. For the the other England faced a difficult decision between the following:
- Stick with the underachieving Jennings and hope for miracles.
- Revert to Stoneman with even less chance of success
- Bring in a second brand new opener and hope that (at least) one of the newbies hits their straps right from the start.
- Faced with an assortment of unappealing options as listed above go for someone who has been making stacks of international runs at the top of the order and give Tammy Beaumont her chance to play alongside the men.
In the event England took option one, and one big score for him in Sri Lanka apart it has not worked out either for them or for Jennings. In the test match currently under way at St Lucia England are doing well, but they have not had many top order runs to work with, although Burns batted a long time in the first innings. In the first two tests of this series England were roundly defeated, and the less said about their batting efforts, the better.
COULD A WOMAN PLAY ALONGSIDE THE MEN?
The short answer is yes. I would not expect a female fast bowler to be able to hold their own as power is so important in this department, but in batting, fielding, wicketkeeping and slow bowling, where there is less of a premium on pure power I see no reason why a female could not hold their own with the men, and my suggestion relates specifically to an opening batter.
If some new opener makes a succession of centuries in the early part of the English season , thereby forcing themselves on the selectors my current thinking may be modified, but at the moment I remain convinced that the best solution to the England Mens team’s opening woes is to give Beaumont her chance and see what happens.
THOMAS SQUAD FOR 1ST ASHES MATCH
I have misgivings about someone who is almost 33 starting a test career from fresh, but Joe Denly’s 69 in St Lucia would seem to have earned him an extended run, so it is on that basis that he features in my squad for the first Ashes Match. I will list the names, and then append some explanations:
- I Beaumont
- Rory Burns
- Joe Denly
- Joe Root*
- Joss Buttler
- Ben Foakes+
- Ben Stokes
- Sam Curran
- Adil Rashid
- Jack Leach
- Mark Wood
- James Anderson
- Olly Stone
I have named 13 because the exact make up the bowling unit will depend on the nature of the pitch and the conditions. I regard Anderson, Wood and Stone as essential for the seam attack (two outright quicks, and England’s all-time leading wicket taker), with Leach and Rashid in that order of precedence as spin options should conditions warrant it, and Curran as a fourth front-line seamer (possibly batting at 7 in place of Stokes) should conditions warrant that option. Bairstow at no 3, as a specialist batter, is also an option but would seem shockingly inconsistent given the Denly has produced a significant score in St Lucia, which is why he is not there in my list.