This post looks at the options for each time ahead of the deciding test match between England and the West Indies on Friday. There is a match taking place at The Oval tonight which may be interesting, and will be viewable courtesy of Surrey County Cricket Club’s livestream.
I think the current top six can and should be retained, so I shall nothing further about them. Buttler has to go, and the question of his replacement is tied up with the question of how England should line up bowler wise. Here the problem is condensing the choices into at most five, and possibly only four. It would be rough on Jimmy Anderson not to play at his home ground, but equally Stuart Broad bowled two magnificent spells in the game just concluded and would not react well to being rested for the decider. Curran’s left arm and Archer’s extreme pace now that he can be selected again give them edges, as does the former’s batting. Woakes had a solid game with the ball in the match just concluded, and he also has batting skill on his side. Bess remains first choice spinner and the question is whether Jack Leach should also be selected. Going the two spinners route would require the selection of five players who are predominantly bowlers, and I feel that at least one of Curran or Woakes would have to be picked in this circumstance, as Bess at 7, Archer at 8, Leach at 9, Broad at 10 and Anderson at 11 leaves the lower order looking very fragile. A bowling foursome, if Leach is not to be picked should be Bess, Archer, Broad, Anderson, with Ben Foakes getting the gloves and batting at seven. For the two spinner route Pope gets the gloves, and the remainder of the order goes either Woakes, Curran, Bess, Archer, Leach or if you are prepared to gamble a bit more Curran, Bess, Archer, Leach, Broad I am going to plump for two spinners and a bit of a gamble on the batting and suggest as the final XI: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, +Pope, Curran, Bess, Archer, Leach, Broad.
The West Indies’ big question is whether to pick Rahkeem Cornwall, and if so how they will fit him in. This depends on whether they are want extra batting strength to maximize their chances of retaining the Wisden Trophy, which they do by avoiding defeat, or whether they are determined to go all out to attempt to become the first West Indies side to win a series in England since 1988. The cautious approach entails bring Cornwall in for Shannon Gabriel, have him bat at nine below Holder, so that West Indies have only two outright tailenders, Joseph and Roach. The more aggressive approach is to drop a batter, presumably Shai Hope who has done precious little since scoring those twin tons at Headingley in 2017, and have a 7,8,9,10,11 of Holder, Cornwall, Joseph, Roach, Gabriel. To me the latter approach has far more appeal, and a side of Campbell, Brathwaite, Brooks, Blackwood, Chase, +Dowrich, Holder, Cornwall, Joseph, Roach, Gabriel thus eventuates. Cornwall is best known for being the heaviest international cricketer since Warwick Armstrong in 1921, so, in the spirit of my lockdown series of All Time XIs, we move on to…
THE PLUS SIZED XI
- *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying types through his career, captain. As a youngster he was a champion sprinter and hurdler as well as a quality cricketer but in later years his weight mushroomed, reaching somewhere in the region of 20 stone near the end of his career. In 1895, less than two months short of his 47th birthday, he scored 1,000 first class runs in the first three weeks of his season (May 9th – 30th), including his 100th first class hundred (no 2 on the list of century makers at the time being Arthur Shrewsbury on 41).
- Colin Milburn – right handed opening batter. His career was ended prematurely by the car accident that cost him his left eye, but his record up to that point was very impressive.
- Mike Gatting – right handed batter, occasional right arm medium pace bowler.
- Mark Cosgrove – left handed batter, occasional right arm medium pace bowler. Australia were never keen on selecting him because of his bulk, but he scored plenty of runs in first class cricket.
- Inzamam-ul-Haq – right handed batter. He was once dubbed ‘Aloo’, which translates as ‘Potato’ on account of his shape. He had a long test career in which he averaged 49 with the bat.
- Warwick Armstrong – right handed batter, leg spinner. At the end of his test career he weighed in at 22 stone, and yet in those last two years he did as much batting as Steve Waugh in a comparable period and bowled as many overs of leg spin as Shane Warne in a comparable period. He was nicknamed ‘Big Ship’, and there is a book about him by Gideon Haigh titled “Big Ship”.
- Alfred Mynn – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. ‘The Lion of Kent’ weighed in at 18 stone in his pomp, and later grew even heavier, allegedly weighing in at 24 stone by the end of his career.
- Rahkeem Cornwall – off spinner, useful right handed lower order batter. His averages are just the right way round at first class level – 23.75 with the bat and 23.57 with the ball. He is taller than Armstrong was by a couple of inches and weighs about the same.
- Jim Smith – right arm fast medium bowler, ultra-aggressive right handed lower order batter. 6’4″ tall and weighing in at 17 stone. He once clubbed a 50 in just 11 minutes off genuine bowling – not declaration stuff. He was born in Wiltshire, and under the rules of the day had to qualify by residence for a first class county, in his case Middlesex. He took 172 first class wickets in his first full season, finishing sixth in the national bowling averages, and helped by the fact that with Lord’s as his home ground he was enjoying success in front of the right people he was selected for that winter’s tour. Unfortunately for fans of big hitting he and Arthur Wellard of Somerset were only once selected in the same England team.
- Joel Garner – right arm fast bowler. 6’8″ tall and broad and solid in proportion to that great height. He is perhaps here under slightly false pretenses since he did not noticeably carry extra weight, but he was certainly a big unit.
- +Mordecai Sherwin – wicket keeper. Given the nature of the job it is no great surprise that plus sized wicket keepers are something of a rarity. However, this guy weighed 17 stone and was still able to pull off 836 dismissals in 328 first class appearances (611 catches and 225 stumpings).
This side has a strong top five (Gatting, with a test average of 35.55, is probably the least impressive of the quintet as a batter), two genuine all rounders in Armstrong and Mynn, a trio of fine bowlers, two of whom can bat a bit and an excellent keeper. The bowling attack, with Garner, Smith and Mynn to bowl pace, Armstrong, Cornwall and Grace purveying slower stuff and Gatting and Cosgrove available as seventh and eighth bowlers is strong and varied, although there is no left armer. Thus, even given the selection criteria, this is a team that would take some beating.
SOLUTION TO YESTERDAY’S TEASER
I offered up this from brilliant yesterday:
Here is Liam Robertson’s solution:
My usual sign off…