Since there will be no cricket, or any other sport come to that, for a while I am going to fill the void by playing selector for a few all-time squads. Since I grew up in south London I will start with Surrey.
MY SURREY XI EXPLAINED
Jack Hobbs – more first class runs and more first class hundreds than anyone else, also still has the England record for Ashes runs – 3,636 of them, including another record, 12 centuries in those matches. He was also a more than handy bowler of medium pace and a brilliant fielder at cover point. His claim to an opening slot is unanswerable.
John Edrich – the left hander was one of three strong contenders for this slot, and both of the other two, Andrew Sandhamand Tom Hayward, actually did open the innings with Hobbs, but although I see the value of…
An account of two and a half extraordinary days of cricket at Adelaide.
The first test between Australia and India in the latest series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy has ended after only half the allotted time, with Australia winning by eight wickets. Two and a half days proved ample time for some extraordinary happenings as we shall see…
This match was a day-nighter which made it slightly easier to follow from the UK (the BBC have rights to Australian radio broadcasts for three years, so there was live commentary on 5 Live Sports Extra) – just a very early morning start as opposed an all-nighter. Both sides had questions over their opening pairs due to injuries. For India Prithvi Shaw got the nod to open with Mayank Agarwal, while with both Warner and heir apparent Pucovski hors de combat for Australia they opted for Matthew Wade, who had never previously opened a first class innings, never mind a test one to partner Joe Burns. The other question was over India’s choice of keeper, and they opted for the superior keeper, Wriddhiman Saha rather than deepening their batting by selecting Rishabh Pant.
India won the toss and chose to bat. The second ball of the game exposed a gap between Shaw’s bat and pad through which an HGV could have been driven, leading to the ‘death rattle’ and India were 0-1. Agarwal also fell cheaply, before Chesteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli stabilized things. Pujara batted well up to a point, but did not do quite enough to keep the scoreboard ticking. Ajinkya Rahane now joined Kohli and for a time all was rosy for India, as the pairing prospered. The falling sweep twitter account piped up to mention that Rahane had never been run out in a test innings, to which I could not resist responding with a question as to whether that related to good running or an ability to ensure that his partners lost their wickets when mix-ups occurred. A few moments after this exchange Rahane proceeded to stitch his skipper up, and India were four down. Rahane himself followed not long after, and Hanuma Vihari also fell cheaply, bringing R Ashwin into join the keeper Saha. None of the remaining members of the batting order, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami could lay claim to any real batting skill, although Bumrah had just notched his maiden first class 50 in a warm-up game against Australia A. Saha and Ashwin made it to the close with the score at 233-6.
The second day began with a flurry of wickets, as India were quickly rounded up for a total of 244. Australia made this total look quite respectable, and it was only a fighting 73 not out from captain/ wicket keeper Tim Paine that kept their deficit to 53. India missed a cartload of chances as well – officially five catches went down, and there was more than one incident of an edge falling short of a fielder who had positioned themselves too deep to make the catch. Among thos reprieved was Paine himself on 25.
India began their second innings 25 minutes before the cut-off time at which stumps had to be drawn, which I thought represented a case for promoting Pujara to open in place of the clearly vulnerable Shaw (check my twitter account and you will see that I posted to this effect at the time). India felt otherwise and in to bat trooped Shaw and Agarwal. This time Shaw did get off the mark, but with four to his name he was bowled in pretty much identical fashion to the first innings, the ball going through a veritable chasm between bat and pad to hit the stumps. Bumrah was then sent in as nightwatchman, and managed to see things through to the close at 9-1.
For some reason known only to themselves the BBC were not joining the broadcast of the third day’s play until 40 minutes after the start, so I missed the beginning of the end, the commentary being joined just as Kohli was dismissed to make it 19-6. I heard commentary on the dismissals that I had missed, as playbacks were presented during the coverage of what remained, and I heard the end of the Indian innings and the entire Australia chase. Agarwal and Bumrah took the score to 15 before Bumrah was out, the first of four successive wickets, the others being Agarwal, Pujara and Rahane to fall with the score at 15. Saha and Ashwin fell in successive balls as well, and that was 26-8. At 31 Vihari, the last recognized batter was ninth out, and five runs later Shami was struck on the arm and retired hurt, leaving the Indian 2nd innings all over for just 36, their lowest ever test score (previously 42 versus England). Australia thus required 90 to win. Burns and Wade batted well, before Wade was run out with Australia 20 short of the target. Labuschage holed out with eight still needed. The end came with Joe Burns hitting a six that also took him to a half century.
His 73 not out, captaincy and excellent wicket keeping, including a fistful of catches in that second Indian innings earned Paine the man of the match award.
THE INDIAN 2ND INNINGS
Normally when a team is out very cheaply there is at least some culpability on the part of the batters. When England sank for 46 to lose a match they had been ahead in at Trinidad in 1994 the rout began with Atherton padding up to the first ball and being plumb LBW, Ramprakash falling in the same over, also to a dismissal that suggested a player and a team in a funk. Here, apart from Shaw at the end of day two, the wickets all seem to have fallen to magnificent bowling, Cummins (four wickets, including his 150th in test cricket) and Hazlewood (five, at one stage 5-3, 5-8 by the end of the innings, including his 200th test wicket) bowling a perfect line and length and benefitting from some good fortune which both thoroughly deserved, as they found numerous edges and each edge was pouched, mostly by the keeper, some by other fielders. 36 all out in a test is a shocker, but here any honest observer has to credit the bowling, not blame the batting.
One crumb of comfort for India: immediately after the 46 all out I referred to earlier, and which I regard as a worse collapse, for all that England then scraped up 10 more runs than India managed this time, England travelled to Barbados where the West Indies had not been beaten in 59 years, and proceeded to win comfortably, Alec Stewart notching a century in each innings.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Obviously India have a mountain climb, and the fact that Kohli is leaving to be with his wife as she gives birth and Shami is in jeopardy due to his injury today makes it even steeper, but they must not give up. The next game is at the MCG, where they won comfortably last time they were in Australia, and Bumrah in particular will have fond memories of that match. At the start of the 1902 Ashes Australia were bowled out for 36 in a single innings, albeit then being saved by the weather, and rebounded to win the series 2-1, with England’s lone victory coming in the final match at The Oval. I await the match in Melbourne with great interest, having enjoyed this one very much.
I will start with the winning team:
Matthew Wade – given a job to do that he had never previously done he can be proud of his contribution to a low scoring match. 6/10 Joe Burns – many were questioning his presence in this team, and his first innings effort was far from encouraging. He also struggled in the first part of his second innings, but in the end emerged with flying colours. 7/10 Marnus Labuschagne – a gritty effort in the first innings when the rest of the Aussie front line batters all fell cheaply, and he fell in the second innings when trying to speed Australia over the winning line. 7/10 Steve Smith – R Ashwin demonstrated in the first innings that the least elegant but most effective batter in the game can be dismissed cheaply, and he did not the opportunity to make a noteworthy contribution to the 2nd innings. 3/10 Travis Head – an anonymous match for him. He failed in his only batting innings. 2/10 Cameron Green – a hugely exciting young all rounder of whom I expect to be hearing much more. He did enough in this game to demonstrate that he belongs at the highest level. 5/10 Tim Paine – a gritty innings, some fine keeping and good captaincy (although his use of the DRS still needs plenty of work). His player of the match award was well merited. 9/10 Pat Cummins – the right arm quick demonstrated why he is currently ranked the no1 test bowler in the world, bowling very well in the first Indian innings and magnificently in the second. 9/10 Mitchell Starc – good with the ball in the first innings, not much needed in the second. 7/10 Josh Hazlewood – a superb bowling effort in the second innings in tandem with Pat Cummins, and adequate in the first innings. 8/10 Nathan Lyon – the off spinner was out bowled by his rival Ashwin, but in a match where the quicks were more prominent he was far from failing. 7/10
Now we turn the Indians:
Mayant Agarwal: not a match the established opener will look back on with any pride. 4/10 Prithvi Shaw: a nightmare for the youngster who has a magnificent record in Indian domestic cricket but is not yet established as a test player. I cannot see him continuing as an opener – it is an early wicket every time for the Aussies if he does, but he may have a role in this series nonetheless as there will be a vacancy at no4, where he will be less exposed. 1/10 Cheteshwar Pujara: he did a solid job in the first innings, although he should have done more to keep the scoreboard ticking. Failed in the second innings. 4/10 Virat Kohli: before being stitched up by Rahane in the first innings he looked nailed on for a century. 7/10 Ajinkya Rahane: played well in the first innings, but a lot of the good he did for his side with his personal score was negated by his role in Kohli’s dismissal and his own subsequent dismissal shortly afterwards. Including the run out of Kohli the last 16 Indian wickets plus Shami retired hurt raised just 89 between them. 3/10 Hanuma Vihari: two failures for the youngster. 2/10 Wriddhiman Saha: kept superbly as usual, and looked to have done a valuable job with the bat in the closing stages of the opening day. 4/10 R Ashwin: good work with the bat near the end of the first day, but dismissed right at the start of the second when a decent morning’s batting could have put India out of reach in the match. Bowled beautifully in the Australian first innings and was rewarded with four wickets. 7/10 Umesh Yadav: bowled respectably in the first Australian innings. 5/10 Jasprit Bumrah: bowled impressively and commanded respect from all the Aussies. It must be said that there was little evidence of his much vaunted improvement with the bat and using him as nightwatchman was probably a mistake (if India were going to protect any of their major batters it should have been Shaw, which they could have done by promoting Pujara one place). Still, he did little noticeably wrong, and did manage the nightwatchman’s first task of surviving to the close of play. 6/10
Looking at the players India have available for the second match I would suggest that they select Shubman Gill to open with Agarwal and fill the temporarily vacant no4 slot by moving Shaw down from his current opening berth.
If you wish to see a scorecard and some more recognized views about this match, click here.
A look at the innovations featured in the tenth edition of the Big Bash League and a visit to all-time XI territory, with place names the link on this occasion.
A two-parter today, first looking at the innovations featured in this year’s Big Bash League and then, inspired by something I noticed during commentary on today’s weather hit game a revisit to all-time XI territory.
The current version of the Big Bash League, the tenth running of said tournament, features three innovations, and I shall touch on each in turn:
Power Surge: instead of a straight six overs of power play and then 14 of standard fielding restrictions there are now four overs of power play, and then a Power Surge of two overs, to be claimed at any time after 10 overs at the behest of the batting side. This has been a really successful innovation, with a lot of thought going into to when to take it. Ideally you would want two set batters at the crease to maximize the potential gain, and also to be quite close to the end of the innings to use it as a kind of springboard into a big finish. I can see the possibility of claiming it for overs 11 and 12 if the openers are still together, on the understanding that a big hitter will be promoted to cash in on it if one of the openers falls. If that is not an option then if two batters are going well at the end of the 15th over, claiming it for overs 16 and 17 with a view to really making the final quarter of the innings pay would appeal. I do not share TMS Commentator Simon Mann’s view about taking it for the last two overs of the innings being a good notion.
Bash Bonus Point – a bonus point is awarded to the team who score more from their first 10 overs, while three are awarded for the outright win. This has led to some interesting situations where teams knowing that overall victory is effectively out of the question go all out for being ahead after 10 overs in an effort to salvage something, as opposed to concentrating on surviving the full 20 overs so that their net run rate does not take a hammering. I consider this to be a success, although I could see a situation where a team gets knocked out due to this innovation, and fans would not be happy with that.
The ‘x-factor’ sub: players designated for this role before the game may be brought in (no more than one per side) after a maximum of ten overs of the first innings of the match. The substituted player must not have batted and may not have bowled more than one over (sensible caveats which prevent a specialist batter being used and then replaced by a specialist bowler, and vice versa). I have witnessed only two matches (via TMS commentaries) in which these players have been used, one of them today’s no-result. I have waited until I had actually seen the usage of such players before commenting on the innovation, but I have seen nothing to alter my initial thinking that if you actually pick your best XI at the start you should not need to make use of this option, and the fact that uptake of it has been very limited is itself a comment on the innovation. Thus I score these innovations at two out of three.
A PLACE NAMES XI
One of the players who featured in today’s match was Joel Paris, a left arm pace bowler, which started me thinking about players who have places in their names. I set myself rules that the place name must be the whole of on the player’s names, not part thereof, and that it must be spelt the same way (as you will see later this latter was germane). After I have been through the batting order I will explain some of those who missed out for one reason or another.
Sir Leonard Hutton – right handed opening batter, occasional leg spinner. Hutton is a place in Essex, on the edge of Shenfield.
Sidney George Barnes – right handed opening batter, occasional leg spinner. A combination of World War Two and the fact that he and the authorities did not always get on limited his test career to 13 matches, in which he recorded an average of 63. Barnes is near Putney, either southwest London or Surrey depending on who you consult.
Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close fielder. Woolley is a small village, almost precisely equidistant between Barnsley and Wakefield in Yorkshire.
Ken Barrington – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. Upper and Lower Barrington are a matched pair of villages in Gloucestershire (Marcus Berkmann mentions them in one of his books about life in cricket’s lower reaches).
Victor York Richardson – right handed batter, fine fielder, occasional wicket keeper. A fine test batter in the 1920s and 30s, and grandfather of two others, Ian and Greg Chappell, his middle name gets him into this team.
*Warwick Armstrong – right handed batter, leg spinner, captain. I rated him the finer of the two regular test captains in this line up, and anyway I wanted Hutton free to concentrate on his batting. In the 1905 tour of England he scored over 2,000 runs and took over 100 wickets in first class matches.
+Jack Blackham – right handed batter, wicket keeper. He played in each of the first 17 test matches ever contested and is regarded as one of the greatest of all keepers. Blackham is a small village almost exactly equidistant between East Grinstead in Sussex and Tunbridge Wells in Kent.
Washington Sundar – off spinner, left handed lower order batter. The 21 year old Indian has been making a name for himself in T20, but he also has a more than adequate FC record, averaging 31.29 with the bat and 26.93 with the ball in that format.
Joel Paris – left arm fast medium bowler, left handed lower order batter. His first class averages are just the right way around – 23.38 with the bat and 23.25 with the ball.
Sydney Francis Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. In the case of Sidney Barnes the batter I had to use his surname as the place name, but this greatest of all bowlers qualifies twice over, since his first name Sydney is spelt the same way as Australia’s largest city.
Ian Peebles – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. Peebles is due south of Edinburgh.
This team has a deep batting order, a very varied and strong bowling attack, and would definitely give a good account of itself. Now for some honourable mentions:
William Maldon Woodfull, a fine opening bat and captain for Victoria and Australia would qualify by virtue of his middle name, which is a place in Essex and also the place in Victoria where he was born. Anthony William Greig, an attacking middle order bat good enough to average 40 in test cricket and a decent bowler of both medium pace and off spin missed out by a single letter – the Cornish seaside village of Antony not having an H in its name. Rahkeem Cornwall might have replaced Washington Sundar without unduly weakening the team (he is also an off spinner and more than useful lower order batter). Had I allowed myself to reach back a few hundred years to a long antiquated spelling of a place near York, which is now always spelt Bootham, as it is pronounced, I could have accommodated Ian Terrence Botham – the single o spelling was once a thing. Arran Brindle, a batter for England women who has at least one century in men’s club cricket to her name, could have got in via her first name. Ian Peebles’ place in the XI could have gone to either of two other leg spinners, Richie Benaud, whose name derives from a village in France, but who I would have heading the commentary team, and Amanda-Jade Wellington. Finally, I was tempted to find a place for Mike Gatting who shares a surname with a legendary former UK constituency. The old Gatting constituency, disenfranchised in 1831, contained one grand house, and it happened on one occasion that the butler had a quarrel with the master of the house and stood against the master’s son (the master by this time considering himself to old to be a candidate). The master voted for his son over the butler and that was that.
Rory Burns is missing because his wife is about to give birth, and Stokes among those being rested. No issues with those two omissions. However, Jonathan Bairstow should be nowhere near selection for an England test squad, likewise Moeen Ali, who was never actually that great, and has not done anything in red ball cricket for some time. As I indicated in my previous post making my own picks I would also have left out the veterans Broad and Anderson as neither have great records in Sri Lanka and this tour should have been used to experiment. I would also have left out Dom Bess. James Bracey should be in the main squad, not listed as a reserve, ditto Matthew Parkinson and Amar Virdi.
On the plus side, Stone and Wood are both in the main squad, as is Daniel Lawrence. I am also glad to see that Ben Foakes is there, although whether he actually gets selected remains to be seen.
Three of the official reserves, Craig Overton, Ollie Robinson and Mason Crane should not have been picked, Overton and Robinson because their bowling methods are unsuited to Sri Lankan conditions, Crane because he is a proven failure at the highest level, and England needing to be looking forward not back.
This England party has been picked with eyes fixed firmly on the past. From the players listed in the main squad and the reserves I would pick as my starting XI for a match in Sri Lanka: Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, James Bracey, *Joe Root, Daniel Lawrence, Chris Woakes, +Ben Foakes, Sam Curran, Mark Wood, Jack Leach and Matthew Parkinson. This combo is a little light on batting with Woakes and Foakes at six and seven, but absent Stokes it is the only way to accommodate a back up seam option while still playing two genuine front line spinners, and Sri Lanka tends to be a place where games are fairly high scoring, so I err on the side of having more bowling options, as that is where the principal difficulty is likely to be.
SPIN OPTIONS FOR ENGLAND
I have indicated that I would start with Leach and Parkinson, with Virdi as a back up spinner. Lewis Goldsworthy, an all rounder who bowls left arm spin, may well be worth a pick in the not too distant future, if he can build on his good showing for England U19s. Liam Patterson-White has made a promising start to his career at county level. Finally, there is the radical option I have touched on previously: give Sophie Ecclestone a chance to play alongside the men. The spin bowling cupboard is not massively well stocked at present, although a few youngsters besides those I have named have made appearances at county level, but even in its current state it does represent a reason for bringing back average performers (Moeen Ali at test level) or worse still proven expensive failures (Mason Crane).
Overall, while acknowledging that they faced difficulties due to various players not being available, I have to say that the selection of this touring party represents a clear failure on the part of the selectors. I award them 3 out of 10.
I don my selector’s hat to name my suggested tour party for the test tour of Sri Lanka in January. Also, as usual there are some photographs.
The dates for the England’s two test matches in Sri Lanka have been confirmed. The first test will take place from 14-18 January and the second from 22-26 January. In this post I name the tour party I would pick given the circumstances. This is not, repeat not, an attempt at prediction. Jofra Archer is confirmed as an absentee, and Jos Buttler is possibly also going to be rested, and I have made this my assumption. Ollie Pope is a doubt due to injury, and Stokes may choose to miss the tour for personal reasons. Here I have assumed that Pope is not available but that Stokes is, though I also explain who I would select as Stokes’ replacement and why. I have two supplementary sections after going through my chosen squad, one explaining the biggest of the unexplained omissions and a controversial footnote.
MY ENVISAGED STARTING XI
My thinking here is informed by several factors: Sri Lanka are currently not one of the strongest of international outfits which means that this could well be a good first tour for youngsters, classic English fast medium bowlers do not tend to fare all that well in Sri Lanka, and the spin options are somewhat limited for England. The scene set, here we go:
Dominic Sibley – right handed opening batter, very occasional leg spinner. There are question marks over his ability to handle spinners, and he could well have difficulty against Sri Lanka’s best current bowler, Dananjaya (bowling average 24.33) but his overall record since his elevation means that he warrants selection. I do not expect him to increase his meagre tally of four first class wickets on this tour.
Rory Burns – left handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. He is also happier against seam than spin, but like Sibley deserves his continued presence in the side.
Zak Crawley – right handed batter. The youngster has been a revelation since his elevation to international level, with his monumental 267 vs Pakistan an obvious highlight.
*Joe Root – captain, right handed batter, occasional off spinner. The skipper has been somewhat short of runs lately, but England will need his experience.
Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The one member of this England squad one cannot even attempt to find a like for like replacement for. If he does pull out it will be a crippling blow for England even considering the less than stellar opposition.
Daniel Lawrence – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. He deserves his chance at the highest level, is known to play spin well, and his bowling is by no means negligible (I would certainly have him ahead of Root in the bowling pecking order). For more on my thinking here see my earlier post arguing against a test recall for Jonny Bairstow.
+Ben Foakes – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Since the retirement from top level cricket of Sarah Taylor his status as England’s finest contemporary keeper has been unchallenged, he had a splendid tour of Sri Lanka last time England were here, and he should be given another opportunity.
Sam Curran – left handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. His left handedness increases the variety available to the bowling attack and he is also a more than useful lower/ middle order batter.
Mark Wood – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Archer is not available for this tour, and I want at least one bowler of serious pace in the side.
Jack Leach – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. I think two genuine spinners are needed on Sri Lankan pitches, Bess has struggled of late, failing to build on his good tour of South Africa, and England are not massively spoilt for choice in this department.
Matthew Parkinson – right handed batter, leg spinner. Deserves a chance to establish himself at the highest level.
We now turn our attention to the reserves. This is a very short tour, but Covid-19 necessitates having plenty of cover available, so I name seven designated reserves, and mention a couple of others.
Liam Livingstone – right handed batter, occasional bowler of both off spin and leg spin. Primarily selected on the basis of his batting, but his bowling may well get some use as well.
James Bracey – right handed batter, wicket keeper. He is more batter than keeper, but he is good enough at the latter role to be designated official reserve keeper as cover for Foakes while also covering a batting slot.
Jordan Cox – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. A hugely promising youngster, having scored a double century for Kent against Sussex while still in his teens. I admit that in making this call I am influenced by the success that his county colleague Crawley has enjoyed since his own elevation.
Will Jacks – right handed batter, off spinner. He probably has more bowling pedigree than Moeen Ali did when he was first selected to bowl spin for England, although he is undoubtedly more batter than bowler. He is as close to an all rounder who bowls spin as England have at the moment.
Chris Woakes – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. He is much better in England than he is overseas, but his all round skills would enable him to cover any vacancy save in the wicket keeping department without massively weakening the side.
Olly Stone – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Cover for Wood, and might replace Curran to give the attack extra pace, although that would give England a decidedly long tail.
Amar Virdi – right handed batter, off spinner. Specialist spin cover, chosen instead of Bess.
Ollie Pope – right handed batter, occasional keeper. Obviously he makes the trip if fit, in which case Lawrence reverts to being a reserve, he is the first of two conditional names here, the other being…
Lewis Gregory – right handed batter, right arm fast medium. Should he pull out Stokes cannot be replaced, and in view of the frequency of high scoring games in this part of the world I feel that bowling depth is more needed than batting depth, so the man who would take Stokes’ place in the event of him pulling out is someone who is more bowler than batter.
1100 TEST WICKETS OVERLOOKED?
I have mentioned elsewhere that Sri Lanka is not a happy hunting ground for fast medium bowlers, and that applies in spades to Stuart Broad, whose record there is quite frankly dreadful. James Anderson has a less bad record in Sri Lanka than Stuart Broad, but it is hardly one to shout about. I therefore feel that England can be best served by not selecting the two veterans, and instead giving younger bowlers a chance to flourish against one the less strong test match outfits. In the future England are due to tour India and Australia, and one would rather not have players making their first test match tour to either of those countries. Also, neither Leach nor Parkinson, my two envisaged spinners, are up to much with the bat, and while I do not subscribe to selecting bowlers based on their batting it has to be said that an 8,9,10, 11 of Broad, Leach, Anderson, Parkinson as it would presumably be looks very fragile.
A CONTROVERSIAL FINISH
I have noted that England are not hugely well equipped in the spin bowling department, and I think that recalling either Adil Rashid or Moeen Ali to the test squad would be a retrograde step, especially in view of the fact that this is a tour where youngsters should be getting a chance. One potential solution is someone who has a phenomenal record at both domestic and international level, just not in men’s cricket: Sophie Ecclestone. I have not named her in my envisaged tour party, but I could see her doing the job.
Time for my usual sign off – to see a photo at full size please click on it:
Three all-time England T20XIs selected with differing criteria in response to a twitter challenge from The Cricket Men, some photographs and a video.
This post is a response to a challenge thrown out on twitter yesterday by The Cricket Men. I have extended their brief, and rather than one XI will be naming three: one made up exclusively of T20 players, one which features two past greats who methods I believe would have been especially suited to T20, and one which is made up entirely of past greats.
CONVENTIONAL T20 XI
Kevin Pietersen – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. An explosive batter, just right for opening a T20 innings.
+Jos Buttler – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Possibly the finest limited overs batter England have ever had, and a shoo-in for this XI.
Dawid Malan – left handed batter, occasional left arm spinner. Officially the highest rated T20I batter ever, with 915 points following his amazing series against South Africa.
Jonny Bairstow – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. One of the most devastating of short form batters around. His 86 not out in the first match of the series against South Africa first kept England in the contest and then led them to victory.
Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Explosive with the bat, and a golden arm with the ball, though probably seventh bowler in this combination.
Andrew Flintoff – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. A must for this XI.
Sam Curran – left handed batter, left arm medium fast bowler. His stocks went through the roof in this year’s IPL, and his performances against South Africa confirmed his advancement.
Chris Woakes – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. A big hitting batter and a crafty operator with the ball.
Adil Rashid – right handed batter, leg spinner. He is superb in this form of the game, economical with the ball even when he is not picking up wickets.
*Graeme Swann – right handed batter, off spinner. I preferred him to Moeen Ali for the second spinner’s role because he was a much better bowler, although not as good in his secondary role.
Jofra Archer – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. With all due respect to Messrs Flintoff and Stokes, likely sixth and seventh bowlers in this combination, we need some genuine pace at our disposal, and for me Archer is the man to provide it
PAST GREATS INTO THE MIX
My second XI involves the addition of two blasts from the past who I consider would have been particularly effective in this format:
*Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Jessop was the fastest scoring top line batter the game has ever seen, and bear in mind that for most of his career a ball had to go right out of the ground as opposed to just over the ropes to count six. He was also a highly skilled quick bowler who once bowled unchanged through a first class innings conceding just three runs (v Northants in 1907, in a total of 12 all out – George Dennett 8-9, Jessop 2-3). Finally, he was what is now termed a ‘gun’ fielder to the extent that most reckonings of his contribution in this department have him effectively coming to the crease already 30 not out. I have also named him as captain, a job he did for Gloucestershire for some years.
Derek Underwood – right handed batter, left arm slow medium bowler. He was famously miserly at the bowling crease, and his style of bowling, with taking the pace of the ball so often being desirable at T20, would seem well suited to this format.
BLASTS FROM THE PAST
My final selection comprises entirely players from the past:
*WG Grace – right handed batter, right arm bowler of varying types, excellent close catcher, captain. With his range of skills and forceful personality he just has to feature.
Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, brilliant fielder. His attacking brilliance with the bat makes him well suited to the no3 slot in this team and he would also be full value in the field.
Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. Capable of scoring all round the wicket.
+Les Ames – right handed batter, wicket keeper. In the 1930s the Walter Lawrence trophy, awarded to the scorer of the fastest first class hundred of the English season, was launched. In two of it’s first three seasons it went to Les Ames, the only recognized keeper ever to score 100 first class hundreds. He holds the record for career first class stumpings – 418 of them in total.
Percy Fender – right handed batter, leg spinner. The scorer of the fastest competitive first class century (35 minutes vs Northants, there have been a few instances of players getting to the mark quicker against bowlers deliberately feeding them runs to bring about a declaration), a brilliant fielder, and a regular wicket taker. Also, although no one could usurp the mighty WG for the captaincy, I acknowledge his skills in this area by naming him vice captain of the XI.
George Hirst – right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. One of the greatest all rounders ever to play the game, and his attacking approach would be well suited to short form cricket. Like Jessop he was what we now call a ‘gun’ fielder, in his case usually patrolling mid off.
Billy Bates – right handed batter, off spinner. He had a remarkable record, including a 55 and two seven-fors in the same test match, at Melbourne in 1883. Playing for the Players against the Gentlemen in 1881 he had a spell of 17 overs for eight runs (so much for those carefree, all-attacking amateurs!), so he could certainly keep it tight.
Bill Lockwood – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. Variation of pace was mentioned in the context of certain earlier bowlers, notably Alfred Shaw and the Australia FR Spofforth, but the first bowler about whom the phrase ‘slower ball’ was regularly used was this man, and his version appears to have been the deadliest to see the light of day until Franklyn Stephenson came on the scene almost a century later. Given the role the slower balls play in the armoury of T20 bowlers I suggest that one of the great early masters of the craft has to be included.
William Mycroft – right handed batter, left arm fast bowler. His extraordinary record (863 wickets in 138 first matches at 12.09 apiece), the fact that he could move the ball as well as propel it at great pace and his the fact that he bowled left handed all militate in his favour.
BRIEF ANALYSES OF THE XIS
My pure T20 squad has good batting depth, with everyone in it having some degree of skill with the bat, and seven genuine bowling options. It is well equipped to handle every challenge and would give a good account of itself.
The second squad has even greater bowling depth, and although it features one genuine tailender in Underwood the bowling depth is awesome.
My final offering, the blasts from the past combination, is simply awesome, with recognized batting talent all the way down to Lockwood at no9, and so much depth and variety in the bowling that Compton, by no means poor in that department, would probably be 10th choice bowler on most surfaces.
A FEW OF THE MISSING
These names all relate to the blasts from the past. Alfred Shaw, the man who bowled more first class overs than he conceded runs, was one I would have loved to include, while two fast medium bowlers who hit the ball miles when they batted, Jim Smith of Middlesex and Arthur Wellard of Somerset also commanded attention but could not quite get in. Cecil Parkin of Lancashire, with his penchant for bowling six different types of delivery per over, would have been good in T20, and I nearly selected him ahead of Bates. The great SF Barnes would have been formidable at any form of the game but I think he would have found being limited to four overs per innings insupportable, so he missed out. Some of you will doubtless have your own ideas, and I hope you will post them in the comments.
A very contrasting set of photographs, featuring yesterday’s snow and today’s far more benign weather.
To finish, here is a video of the snow falling yesterday (a rare happening in King’s Lynn):
A look back at the recently concluded T20I series between South Africa and England, a petition, a link and some photographs.
The T20I series between England and South Africa ended last night, and what an ending it was! This post looks back at that series.
MATCH 1: BEURAN HENDRICKS’ HORROR SHOW
South Africa bossed this match for most of its duration, but in the 17th over of the innings Beuran Hendricks lost his bearings completely and in so doing lost South Africa the match. England had needed 51 off the last 24 balls to win, but by the time Hendricks had reached the end of his over, taking nine deliveries instead of the regulation six to do so, that had become 23 of 18, and England were suddenly in full control, and duly completed their victory with four balls and five wickets to spare.
MATCH 2: NGIDI’S PYRRHIC VICTORY OVER MALAN
Once again England were behind for large parts of this match, and with three overs to go in the chase they needed 28, which looked a tough proposition on a slow pitch. Ngidi;s final over was the 18th over of the chase, and although he dismissed Malan with the fifth ball of it the previous four had been dispatched for 14. The dismissal was immediately followed by a wide and then two off the extra delivery necessitated by the infraction, which reduced the target to 11 off 12 balls. South Africa opted for Nortje rather than Rabada to bowl the 19th, and by the end of it England needed just three to win, and gamely though he tried not even Rabada could prevent that.
MATCH 3: THE MALAN MASTERCLASS
South Africa won the toss and batted. After 10 overs they were 66-3, by the end of the 15th this had improved to 107-3, and then Rassie van der Dussen and Faf du Plessis went crazy in the last five overs, plundering no fewer than 84 further runs to finish on 191-3, a daunting looking total.
Roy made 16 before holing out, which brought Dawid Malan, the world no1 ranked T20I batter, in to join Buttler. Malan hit 10 off his first two balls, and simply kept on going. Buttler supported him well, and by the end of the 10th over England were 85-1, needing 107 in the remaining 10 to complete a 3-0 sweep. By the end of the 15th, such was the onslaught they now launched, this target had been reduced to 29 in the final five overs, and in the 18th over Malan hit his fifth six to move to 94 and put England within six of the target. The next delivery was a wide, and then Malan hit a four to level the scores. Off the fourth legal delivery of the over Malan took the match and series winning single, finishing unbeaten on 99 off 47 balls. This victory took England to the top of T20I rankings, and Malan’s innings saw him become the first T20I batter to have a rating of over 900 points – 915 to be exact. In his 19th T20I it was tenth score of 50 or more, and his average in the form of the game now stands at 53. Before this match began, for all his ranking, there were those still questioning whether Malan was worth his place in the team. He provided the most emphatic of affirmative answers to that one, and I trust we will hear no more of such nonsense.
The first two matches of this series were closely fought, with the result in doubt until quite close to the end, but this was every bit as much of a shellacking as a margin of nine wickets with 14 balls to spare suggests. Less than eight hours after this game finished Australia set out to make at a 3-0 sweep of an ODI series against India, and failed to deliver, going down by 13 runs, the hitherto dominant Steve Smith (rapid centuries in both the first two matches) contributing just seven.
Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK has put up a post titled MMT: a primer, which I heartily recommend you to read. If you want to explore the subject in greater detail, as I hope, then as well as Richard’s blog I recommend that you get hold of a copy of Stephanie Kelton’s “The Deficit Myth”.
The case against the proposed recall to the England test squad of Jonny Bairstow.
Apparently England are considering recalling Bairstow to the test squad due to an injury to Ollie Pope. In this post I set out the reasons why they should not be doing so.
TRIED AND UNTRUSTED
Bairstow was dropped from the test squad because he was consistently failing to deliver in that format. His brilliance in limited overs cricket is unquestionable, but the case of Jason Roy should serve as a warning. Roy had a fantastic 2019 World Cup, and was drafted into the test squad off the back of it. Save for one good innings against Ireland at Lord’s he never looked like making the grade as a test batter. Not only that, the knock that his confidence took through his failures in test cricket has impacted on his international white ball form to the extent that his place in the squad is now in jeopardy.
DANIEL LAWRENCE AND JAMES BRACEY
On any rational assessment Daniel Lawrence and James Bracey should be ahead of Bairstow in the queue for a test place. Both have fine recent first class records, both made runs in intra-squad games in the preparation for the Covid-hit 2020 home international season. I would probably opt for Lawrence of the two, but fully acknowledge the case for Bracey. Lawrence and Bracey are both very much players for the future, and the upcoming series in Sri Lanka would give them a chance to stake a long term claim, whereas Bairstow would be a very regressive selection.
The proving ground for long format players is supposed to the county championship, and even in the abbreviated 2020 season, where Essex and Somerset played six matches each and everyone else five more than one youngster accepted opportunities that came their way. The inclusion of Bairstow in a test squad would smack of ‘closed shop’ practices and look suspiciously like a slap in the face not just for the players I have actually named above, but for the County Championship. Jordan Cox of Kent had an amazing season, especially for someone who was still in his teens at the time (he has just turned 20), and has every right to expect a test call to come sooner rather than later, and like Lawrence and Bracey he would be more deserving of such than Jonny Bairstow.
The other alternative route the selectors could go down given his recent success with the bat is to promote Buttler to no 6 and give the wicket keeper’s role to Foakes. This too would be superior to the non-solution of a recall for Bairstow, especially if given the nature of Sri Lankan pitches they plan to elevate Matthew Parkinson, the young leg spinner.
Accounts of three very different cricket matches, an important link and some photographs.
From the beginning of the first of these matches to the end of the third a grand total of 31 and a quarter hours elapsed. Before I get in my detailed coverage of each game I have one other thing to do…
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GAME 1: AUSTRALIA V INDIA
This one was a 50 overs per side runfest notable also for the spectacularly slow over rate – from the start of coverage on the radio to the final delivery over nine hours elapsed. Australia batted first, and Aaron Finch and Steve Smith each ran up centuries, while Glen Maxwell produced a spectacular cameo at the end. This left Australia with 374 to defend, as only Mohammad Shami among India’s bowlers managed to exercise any kind of control over the scoring rate.
India began the chase brightly, helped by some early waywardness on the part of Mitchell Starc, but then Josh Hazlewood took three wickets in very rapid succession, and although they continued to score at a decent rate India never really got back into the contest. Leg spinner Adam Zampa picked up four wickets as India got desperate.
Australia ended up with a comfortable victory and India looked to be lacking depth in both batting and bowling – they had only five regular bowlers at their disposal, and the fifth wicket pair were faced with the double challenge of maintaining a rapid run rate and staying together until quite deep into the innings due to a lack of batting to come.
The umpires were far too lax on time wasting, allowing Steve Smith a ridiculous number of changes of batting gloves to give just one example. I understand that some disciplinary action has been taken, but the problem will only be properly addressed if a)the umpires are absolutely rock hard on time wasting, being prepared to do things like telling Steve Smith that no he cannot have a 27th new pair of batting gloves for the innings, he must make do with his current pair, and b)failure to bowl ones allocation of overs in the allotted time is punished by a fine of runs – I suggest ten per unbowled over or twice the batting side’s scoring rate, whichever is the greater (this latter being to ensure that the measure is actually punitive).
GAME 2: SOUTH AFRICA VERSUS ENGLAND
This was a 20 overs per side match. England had to decide which of the four batters they had who habitually bat in the top three in limited overs cricket would go down the order, and they opted to place Bairstow at number four, going with a top three of Buttler, Roy and Malan (the current no1 T20 batter in the world). They also opted for only one genuine spin option, Rashid, with Moeen Ali missing out. England gave themselves two major bowling variations besides Rashid’s leg spin: the left arm of Sam Curran and the extra pace of Jofra Archer, which latter proved a doubtful asset on a slow surface. For South Africa Nortje was injured, while George Linde, a left arm spinner, was given a debut.
Morgan won the toss and chose to field first. England began very well, and after three overs SA were 12-1. The next three overs went for 45 however, so that at the end of the powerplay South Africa were 57-1 and headed for a big total. Rashid was respectably economical, but unthreatening, finishing with 0-27 from his four overs and never really looking like taking a wicket. Sam Curran was the best England bowler, taking 3-28 from his four overs. Unfortunately Tom Curran blotted the family copybook by racking up the wrong kind of half century – 55 being belted from his four overs. A final total of 179-6 was good but less substantial than it had looked like being at times.
South Africa commenced in the field by reinventing the cricketing wheel, starting with the left arm spinner Linde in partnership with Rabada, a combination of left arm slow and right arm fast that was popular a century and more ago (Kent won four county championships using Colin Blythe and Arthur Fielder, just such a combination, and Lancashire at the same period habitually used Briggs and Mold, another combination in the same mould). The bold move (especially bold given that the spinner Linde was on debut) paid an immediate dividend when Linde got Roy with the second ball of the innings. Buttler and Malan also fell cheaply, and at that stage England were well behind the rate, a situation that was still the case when Linde finished his bowling stint with 2-20 from four overs, a truly remarkable effort by the debutant. When he then caught Ben Stokes England looked in trouble. After 16 overs England had got to 129-4 with Bairstow going well, answering every question about his ability to handle batting at no4. The 17th over of the chase was the fourth and last of Beuran Hendricks’ (left arm fast medium) allocation, and he proceeded to lose his team the match. The over contained nine deliveries in total, and between the wides, one of which raced away to advance the score by five and several juicy legal offerings no fewer than 28 accrued to England, reducing a daunting looking 51 off 24 balls to a stroll in the park 23 off 18 balls. This also saw Hendricks join Tom Curran in the ‘wrong sort of half century’ club, leaving him with 0-56 from his four overs. Bairstow, appropriately given his innings, ended proceedings by hitting the second ball of the final over for six to take England to 183-5. It was also appropriate if England were to win that the other England star of the day, Sam Curran, was there at the death.
George Linde deserved better for his magnificent debut effort than to finish on the losing side, and he has my sympathy. I also feel sorry for South African skipper Quinton De Kock who made a bold move at the start of the England innings, and should have seen it bring victory. I can see no case for Hendricks playing any further part in the series. I would also look closely at the involvement of Jason Roy whose recent international form has been very poor.
Other than Hendricks the other let down of the day was the Talk Sport 2 commentary team, who failed to do justice to an excellent game.
GAME THREE – MELBOURNE STARS V SYDNEY THUNDER
This was the final of the Womens’ Big Bash League, which tournament has been very enjoyable. It also duplicated Australia’s oldest internal rivalry, the one that led to the creation of Canberra, since neither of the two biggest cities would countenance the other being named capital.
Melbourne Stars won the toss and batted first, but that win of the toss was the only thing that went right for them. Shabnim Ismail, the South African who is probably the quickest bowler in the women’s game at present, bowled one of the greatest spells in T20 history, by any bowler, either male or female. She bowled her four overs straight through at the start of the innings, finished with 2-12 and would not have been flattered by a five-for. She put Melbourne Stars firmly on the back foot, a position from which they never extricated themselves. They eventually limped to 86-9 from their 20 overs, Sammy-Jo Johnson just improving on Ismail’s figures by taking 2-11 from her four overs. Lauren Smith, an off spinner, went for 18 from two overs, but England captain Heather Knight filled in the remaining two overs, taking 1-9. The top scorer was another England star, Katherine Brunt who finished with 22 not out, just topping Annabel Sutherland’s 20.
This total of course was never remotely defensible, and Sydney Thunder won by seven wickets, with 6.2 overs to spare. There were useful contributions from Tammy Beaumont (another England star), Rachel Trenaman, Heather Knight (26 not out, the highest individual score of the day), and skipper Rachel Haynes.
Quite rightly Shabnim Ismail’s magnificent bowling earned her the player of the match award.
I responded on twitter, but there is a limit to how much detail one can go into there, so I am now putting up a blog post to provide a fuller explanation of my thoughts (I thank CricBlog for setting a tough but fun challenge and inspiring me to create a blog post – a combination of an English late autumn/ winter and lock down is not exactly ideal for providing inspiration!).
The 12 test playing nations are: Australia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, England, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe. Some of these nations have many current greats to choose from, others have very few players to merit consideration. I also wished as far as possible to pick players in appropriate places in the batting order and to have a properly balanced side.
THE SQUAD FROM 1-12
Dominic Sibley (England) – an opening batter who knows how to bat for a long time. He has impressed considerably since his selection for England, which was earned the old fashioned way by scoring shedloads for his county.
Babar Azam (Pakistan) – he often bats no3 in long form cricket, but he can also open, his class is unquestionable, and his attacking inclinations make him a suitable partner for the solid Sibley.
Kane Williamson (New Zealand) – one of the finest long form batters the game has ever seen, and certainly in the top handful of contemporary batters whatever the format.
Virat Kohli (India) – Another all time great.
Angelo Matthews (Sri Lanka) – Averages 45 with the bat and is also a potential sixth bowler with his medium pace. Sri Lanka are not especially strong at the moment, limiting one’s options in terms of selecting a team of this nature.
+Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh) – A fine wicket keeper and worth his place as a middle order batter as well, the little Bangladeshi can be counted as one of two genuine all rounders in the XI.
*Jason Holder (West Indies) – lower middle order batter, quick bowler and captain. He has a test double century to his name and has also taken some major wicket hauls, including a six-for to start the first test series of the 2020 English season. Although the West Indies ended up losing that series I was overall impressed by Holder’s captaincy and had little hesitation over giving him that role in this team. As an aside, England owe the Windies big time for this summer and should have reciprocal tours of that part of the world high on their priority list.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan) – an outstanding leg spinner and a useful lower order batter, he was the easiest selection of all for this squad, so far above his compatriots does he stand.
Mark Adair (Ireland) – pace bowler, useful lower order batter (he averages over 25 in first class cricket). He was impressive with the ball at Lord’s in 2019, his only test to date.
Kagiso Rabada (South Africa) – pace bowler. The quickest bowler in the squad, and the best of the three pace bowlers I have named.
Nathan Lyon (Australia) – the best current off spinner (only Murali among off spinners I have seen in action ranks as an unquestionably better bowler – sorry Swanny), and a suitable ‘spin twin’ for Rashid Khan.
Brendon Taylor (Zimbabwe) – Zimbabwe has few stand out names at present, but as a 12th man a wicket keeper who is also a good enough willow wielder to average 35 in test cricket is a pretty decent option.
THE TEAM ANALYSED
This team has a well matched opening pair, an outstanding no 3 and 4, a no 5 who has a very respectable record, an excellent keeper/batter, and Holder filling the all rounders slot at seven. The bowling line up, with Rabada taking the new ball alongside Holder or Adair, a third high class pacer and two outstanding and contrasting spinners in Rashid Khan and Nathan Lyon is also formidable. I would fully expect this team to give a good account of itself in any conditions. For more about my ideas on selection policies and team balance you can look at my ‘All Time XIs‘ series and/or at my ‘100 cricketers‘ series.
EXTENDING THE CHALLENGE
Please feel free to use the comments to indicate your own selections, sticking to the brief of one player per test playing nation. Those who fancy a really serious challenge are invited to pick a XII on similar lines to go up against mine (without thinking too hard I can identify nos 4, 5, 6 (or 4, 5, 7 or 4,6, 7) and 11 of such a combination and would be interested to see if these names feature).
I finish this post with some photographs (to view an image at full size please click on it):