It has been confirmed this morning that Moeen Ali has been added to England’s squad for the second test against India. In this post I explain just how flawed this move is.
Moeen Ali has been going well in The Hundred, an ultra short form competition massively removed from the long haul of test cricket. He has also been especially notable for his batting successes, coming in high in the order and throwing the bat as one has to in that competition. His bowling in that competition amounts to combined figures of 4-115 in five matches, and it is as a spinner that England will play him if they do play him. In other words, he has been succeeding in the form of the game furthest removed from test cricket and not in the department in which England would make most use of him at test level.
England are not short of bowling options but are suffering at the top end of the batting order, with Crawley definitely proven as inadequate at test level, Sibley questionable and even Burns not bombproof. Moeen Ali is therefore a ‘solution’ to a ‘problem’ that exists only in the minds of the England selectors.
DISRESPECT TO SPINNERS ALREADY IN THE SQUAD
England already have two front line spinners available to them, Jack Leach and Dom Bess. Bess is a slightly questionable inclusion in the squad, but Leach from the mere 16 matches he has been given has 62 wickets at 29.98, 3.875 wickets per match. For comparison, Ali takes 3.1 wickets per match and pays 36.24 a piece for them. Frankly the way England’s #1 spinner (Leach) is being treated by the selectors is nothing short of a disgrace.
AS WELL AS RETROGRADE
Additionally, one must look ahead to England’s next tour, which is the toughest of all – Australia. As I demonstrate in this piece, English off spinners have historically been of limited value in Australia, while left arm orthodox spinners have been very important. England’s two best ever Ashes tours, in 1928-9 and 1932-3 both featured a left arm spinner and a leg spinner in the party (Farmer White and Tich Freeman in the first, Hedley Verity and Tommy Mitchell in the second). Leach is the principal candidate for the left arm spinner’s role, while Matt Parkinson (86 FC wickets at 23.69) is the obvious candidate for the leg spinner’s place. Dan Moriarty with 31 wickets from four FC games at 19.77 a piece is a left arm spinner who might be in the mix, and Liam Patterson-White, who takes his FC wickets at 30.13 and averages 23.12 with the bat may yet make the grade. Also in the wings is Lewis Goldsworthy of Somerset. As a more radical idea, Sophie Ecclestone at the age of 22 has 125 international wickets across formats at 19.49 each. I would rather see any of the players I have just named than yet another recall for Moeen Ali. The latter’s last test was against India in India, and although he took wickets in the end he also bowled England into a losing position by leaking almost five an over in conditions that were helpful to a bowler of his type.
ENGLAND XI FOR THURSDAY
From the players in the squad I select as follows:
- Rory Burns
- Dom Sibley
- Haseeb Hameed (Crawley’s time at the top level is done)
- *Joe Root
- Dan Lawrence
- +Jos Buttler
- Sam Curran
- Ollie Robinson
- Mark Wood
- Jack Leach
- James Anderson
If one wants more batting depth, Overton could replace Wood, and then there would be a 7, 8, 9 of Curran, Overton and Robinson, which should be depth enough for anyone. I prefer Wood because his presence provides some express pace to go with the seam and swing options, which with Curran’s left arm and Robinson’s extra height are well varied (Broad was ordinary in the first test, so I rest him rather than Anderson for this one). There is also England’s best spinner in there, as there should be.
My usual sign off…
2 thoughts on “England’s “Selection Policy” Goes From Dumb To Dumber”
Yes and no – Moeen Ali has taken 56 wickets at 25.69 apiece in his last 11 tests and over a 12 month period in 2018/9 was the leading wicket taker in test cricket over the previous 12 months. That he endured a fractured relationship with Ed Smith is well known. That he needs to feel wanted is equally well known. Nevertheless he brings something to the party! It is not the fault of either the selectors nor Moeen that he is currently playing in the 100. The real problem with Moeen’s return is that only one out of Bairstow, Buttler, Ali and Curran can bat at 7. As my son said when lumbered with captaining the village’s midweek friendly XI “you cannot all bat at five”.
In support of your argument, a little known fact is that Ollie Robinson can bowl respectable off spin, so along with Root we have that discipline covered to some extent. The SLA/leg spinner argument for Australia is distorted as you’ve named some of the great spinners. We are not currently blessed with spin bowlers of that calibre (unless and hopefully Carson turns out to be the real deal) and fining Somerset for producing Taunton turners is short sighted in that regard.
Other than Root you could change every batter and end up with something like Dent/Burns, Hameed, Abell, Root, Hildreth, Malan, Foakes/(if injured Brown or Cox), Ali, Robinson, Broad, Anderson. It is a bowler light, so we’ll need some overs from Abell but if you cannot trust the batters that is inevitable!
Abell is currently recovering from an injury, but I want to see him at no3 for England. For me Hameed and Sibley are fighting for one slot long term, with Hameed probably favourite given Sibley’s recent struggles. Buttler actually bats better at six than seven, while Bairstow has done nothing serious at test level for several years.