This post is prompted by the recent behaviour of Engkand’s test selectors, and my increasing certainty that big changes are needed.
INJURIES AND REJECTS
Various players are hors de combat with injuries or due to other issues. Archer and Stone both have long term injuries that will keep them out of the Ashes, Broad is also injured and may not be able to play the Ashes, Stokes and Buttler have to be treated as not available for the Ashes given that Stokes has already said he is taking time out and Buttler does not want to be away for months on end with his wife about to have their second child. Also I do not believe that any of Ali, Bairstow, Crawley or Malan should be considered for this most demanding of all tours. The last of these four may yet convince me, having just been drafted into the squad, but at the moment that decision just looks like the latest in a series of regressive, backward looking calls the selectors have made recently.
I think that Root needs to be relieved of the captaincy, and would at this point give the job to Rory Burns as a temporary measure, hoping that Tom Abell (my choice for number three and Somerset’s current captain) can establish himself at test level and then be given the captaincy.
This of course is the biggest area of concern for England at present. With Sibley out of form and confidence I see little alternative to Burns and Hameed as openers, Abell would be my choice at three, and Root at four. Number five for me is between Lawrence and Pope, with my preference for the first named. I would give the gloves to Foakes with Buttler not available, with Bracey in the squad as reserve keeper. Foakes would bat six, putting an extra batter between him and the tail. At number seven I would want Chris Woakes in the all rounders role in most conditions. Bracey is cover not only for the keepers gloves but also the number three slot. On my radar as reserve batters are Liam Livingstone, Harry Brook, Jordan Cox, Matt Critchley and, as a gamble on a youngster who seems to have the right temperament, Lewis Goldsworthy. Critchley might be selected at seven in place of Woakes if a second spin option looks like being useful (he bowls a bit of leg spin).
Of the bowlers I am prepared to consider available (Wood is injured and there is no way of knowing how long he is out for, so although I am not absolutely ruling him out as I have some others I am for the moment placing him on the sidelines) my first choices are: Overton, Robinson, Leach and Anderson (I want at least one genuine spinner and Leach is first choice in that department). I hope Mark Wood will be recovered in time to make the trip. Other seam back up could be provided by Saqib Mahmood, George Garton or Sam Curran (he has looked fairly unthreatening with the ball of late which is why I have him well down the pecking order). The spin situation, partly dictated by the fact that English off spinners have only rarely done well in Australia, is less happy looking. Although it would be unlikely that he and Leach would be picked in the same XI the next nearest thing England have to a spinner in Leach’s class is Matt Parkinson, the Lancashire leg spinner who currently has 86 FC wickets at 23.69, though his wickets per game rate is on the low side at just a tick over three. Direct back up for Leach is not really available unless one gambles on four first class appearances telling a true story and name Dan Moriarty in the party. However, Liam Patterson-White has a respectable record, and can bat, which would give England two ways of selecting two spinners of differing methods without both being bunnies with the bat – Either Critchley at seven and Leach at 10, or a 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 of Woakes, Patterson-White, Robinson, Anderson, Parkinson.
WRAPPING IT UP
Until and unless they get tried there is no way of knowing whether the above ideas will work, but the selectors continuing with their current approach has one likely result in terms of The Ashes: 5-0 to Australia.
LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS
TFL have recently produced a piece titled ‘Sightseeing on the Northern Line‘, an effort which missed more than it found and prompted me to produce my own version.
Now it is time for my usual sign off…
12 thoughts on “Looking Ahead to Australia”
I must say, I always enjoy your cricket posts. You clearly know a lot about the game. The thing that puzzles me the most is why Chris Woakes only has 38 Test caps when his peers, such as Moeen Ali, have double that. And yet, when one looks at the stats, Woakes has far superior averages than Curran, Wood, Archer…even Boad and Anderson in England. He achieved 100 Test wickets and 1,000 Test runs quicker than either Flintoff and Stokes and yet the media never seem to blow his trumpet, in direct comparison to Sam Curran ‘he makes things happen,’ or Wood ‘electric pace’. At best, Woakes gets a somewhat disrespectful ‘he goes under the radar’. Well, if you know that, change the record and talk about how good he is. He is a new ball bowler who never gets the new ball, which goes someway to explaining his performances away. However, even there, he is treated unfairly as he barely gets a game abroad. Indeed, he has actually taken 7 wickets in his last two away performances, at 25 each, but the media never mention this. Real cricket fans, I feel, need to take up the Chris Woakes band-wagon and demand that he play more Test cricket as his figures clearly show he is the glue in the team. Since being awarded Player of the Year 2020, he has not played a single Test, which perhaps gives an indication of why England are currently so bad. Can you imagine any other sport whereby the Player of the Year was ignored? The media would be demanding to know why. However, in the case of Woakes, they are silent on the matter. Why? Bobby Smith, author and Test cricket lover supreme.
You are spot on about Woakes being criminally undervalued. He has had some injury issues, but he is now fit again and should play the last two tests of this series, while, especially with Stokes out until further notice he should be one of the first names inked in for The Ashes.
Thank you Thomas for your kind words. The problem is, no matter how well he bowls, he always goes to the back of the queue for the next Test series and only gets in when someone is injured. With his figures (average 35 with the bat and 22 with the ball in England) he should be one of the first players in the team. He took 3-34 in 15 overs in the current second 11 game against Worcester (who are playing their first team) so hopefully he will be fit for the 4th Test. If Sam Curran is picked ahead of him I will despair.
Yes indeed. There are a lot of very strong ‘Second XIs’ in action at the moment – I saw Middlesex’s team yesterday and counted six first XI regulars in the line up.
Whilst I am a big fan of Woakes, at this exact point in time dropping one of the current four seamers looks quite difficult. Let’s see how the second innings goes, but sharing ten wickets and dismissing India for 78 is hardly droppable form. Yes, one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but this feels a ‘not now Kato’ moment! This might be a microcosm of Woake’s England career, just as he returns to fitness two bowlers that has previously looked questionable picks suddenly step up.
Meantime a couple of points. First one is only two bowlers can take the new ball, so inevitably one/two bowlers who take the new ball in County cricket will be first/second change for England. I’ve pointed out some stats previously about Moeen’s form when he was dropped, but when doing a peer(?) contrast and compare with Woakes bear in mind spinners are often asked to hold up an end for long spells. Perhaps the most worrying thing about Woakes seemingly being peripheral to England’s thinking is that not being a gobshite may have worked against him. The same has been said about Hildreth.
Some interesting points. However, Curran now has 3 wickets at about 65 in the series – not exactly world beating. He is the new Chris Lewis in my eyes. I actually think they will rest Anderson for the 4th Test, given that he has played all of the Tests this summer, so Woakes could play ahead of him. The oft-mentioned rumour about Woakes’s omission stems from the last Ashes when, allegedly, he asked Root, on behalf of the other bowlers, to listen more to Anderson and Broad, when it came to setting the field. Root, apparently, saw this as a direct threat to his captaincy and has been ‘cold’ on Woakes ever since. This rumour is very strong in the West Midlands. The Ashes bowling line-up should be: 7 Woakes, 8 Robinson, 9 Wood 10 Leach, 11 Anderson. This assumes Stokes is fit to bat at five. Sadly, I can see a case whereby they do not pick Woakes due to his perceived weakness against the short ball and the media obsession about his away form. I say that as Broad averages over 60 away in India but you never heard that once during commentary in the recent away series. The media have their favourites. Incidentally, I see Broad was in the press (as usual) saying how much he is looking forward to playing in Australia. The sheer arrogance of the man is breath-taking – he averages 40 per wicket this year and is not an automatic pick for me, not even for the squad. England, however, seem to like ‘edgy’ characters, such as Curran and Robinson, rather than decent professionals who play the game correctly and with a smile on their face. You reap what you sow, as we have seen with the histrionics on display in this series.
Interesting, resting Anderson for what may be a decider is going to be a big shout.
Yes, Curran has had a poor series overall, but if he was picked for this one, how do you drop him now he has chipped in?
Yes, Broad’s and Anderson’s assumption that they play whenever fit and available has been an irritant for over a decade. Probably before your time, but I often wonder what former players like Mike Hendrick and Chris Old (who were in and out of the test side like nobody’s business) made of such security of sekection. To be fair you can see it in other sports (for example to me the GB Olympic hockey squad seems ring fenced from the club game) and in cricket central contracts probably perpetuate that attitude.
Outside the West Midlands I’ve not heard that rumour!
As a Sussex follower I knew Robinson had been a bit of a dick at Yorkshire, but the texts were something of a bolt from a blue. Okay, we now know he has history, but beyond normal fast bowler stuff, I cannot think of anything since he joined Sussex that makes Robinson ‘edgy’. He always seems to have put the club and team first (he’ll resort to his off spin if asked) and to be settled with his family away from the game. Maybe I’m a softy but I’d like to believe in redemption, so I’d be interested in examples of him being ‘edgy’ since he say turned 21.
Before taking two wickets yesterday in that rout of India’s batting which featured many self inflicted dismissals (three at least of the top four, KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, played terrible shots to lose their wickets) Curran had 1-171 for the series. His bowling yesterday does not fundamentally alter the point about his toothlessness with the ball at test level. The bowling unit is of course England’s strength, but I would definitely prefer Woakes to Curran. Burns and Hameed batting so well together is huge news – regular poor starts with the bat have been England’s bane at least since the tail end of Cook’s long career at that level. We will have to see what the rest of this match brings, but as you say things are going very well so far. My envisaged 1, 2, 3 of Burns, Hameed, Abell is looking quite good at present (Malan was IMO a poor selection, being in his mid thirties and having exactly one major test innings to his credit, at Perth in 2017).
Let’s take the Malan point before he bats, as one innings will neither prove nor dis-prove the ‘poor pick’ comment. What I would ask is were England any further forward as they left the field at Lords two weeks ago than when they dropped Malan after the 2018 Edgbaston test? My answer is they had gone backwards, so with Abell injured, we are at least back at par. That’s not great, but better than the alternative.
One thing that irritates me with Robinson is his whooping with delight in the batsman’s face whenever he takes a wicket. One would have thought, given his errant words from times past, that he would want to adopt a low profile. Incidentally, I am 53 so I do remember Old and Hendricks. One of my favourite cricketers from that era was the New Zealand seamer, Lance Cairns, a very decent player indeed who would have made mega-bucks in these T20 days.
Well if that annoys you about Ollie Rob we could be here all day listing bowlers that annoy you!
There’s quite a few who would have been T20 stars – Franklyn Stevenson for example. Given T20 is a format familiar to midweek club cricketers since w ay back it is surprising it took the counties so long to catch up.
That made me laugh – thanks. I must confess I don’t really see the attraction of 20/20. And don’t get me started on the Hundred.