Continuing with the all-time XIs, today is the turn of Essex.
Welcome to the latest post in my All Time XIsseries. Today we are dealing with Essex.
ALL TIME ESSEX XI
Graham Gooch – A huge run scorer over a very long period. In 1985 he made 196 at The Oval to ensure that England would regain The Ashes. In 1986 he made centuries against both India and New Zealand. In 1988 he scored 459 runs in a series against the West Indies that they won by four matches to nil (the series opener was drawn due to the weather), in 1990 he scored over 1,000 test runs in the home summer, the first (and to date) only time that such has ever been achieved, including 752 runs in a three match series v India (333 and 123 in the opener at Lords, 121 and 2 in the second and 88 and 85 in the third). In 1991 at Headingley he scored 154 not out against the West Indies in a team total of 252.
Alastair Cook – England’s all time leading test run scorer by some margin, the left handed opener’s greatest series was against the Aussies in their own backyard, in 2010-11 when he helped England to a 3-1 series triumph (a scoreline that frankly flattered the Aussies) with 766 runs at 127.66. After digging England out of some trouble at Brisbane with 235 not out he scored 148 in the win at Adelaide, contributed a half century at Melbourne after Australia had been rolled for 98 in their first innings and finally at Sydney responding to a modest Aussie total he batted for over eight hours scoring 189 to set England up for another innings victory, a unique third in an Ashes series.
Percy Perrin – a big run scorer at a time when Essex as a whole were not the strongest of sides. He hit 68 fours in making 343 not out, a boundary count rivalled only Brian Lara who hit 62 fours and 10 sixes in his 501 not out, against Derbyshire at Chesterfield in 1904. Unfortunately for Perrin, this innings was ultimately unavailing as Derbyshire ended up winning by nine wickets (Essex 597 and 97, Derbyshire 548 and 149-1).
*Keith Fletcher – the man who captained Essex to their first county championship in 1979, and until Gooch overhauled him Essex’s leading first class run scorer.
Nasser Hussain – a big run scorer through the 1990s, also the captain who initiated England’s climb back from bottom of the world test rankings, where they found themselves in 1999 after losing a home series against New Zealand in the immediate aftermath of a humiliating exit from a home world cup (in those days there was less separation between red and white ball cricket). Like many of his era he was mishandled at test level in the early stages of his career, which had an adverse effect on his overall career figures.
Stan Nichols – an attacking left hand bat and right-arm fast bowler (does that remind you of any all-rounders of more recent vintage? hint – think Durham in county terms) whose first class career brought him over 17,000 runs and 1,800 wickets.
+James Foster– a useful middle order batter and one of the finest wicket keepers ever to play the game.
Peter Smith – a legspinner and a lower order batter who once scored 163 coming at no 11 (he and Frank Vigar, a rather more sedate type of player put on 218 for the tenth wicket, turning 199-9 into 417 all out).
Simon Harmer – a South African born off spinner who played five test matches for his native land before deciding that English cricket offered brighter prospects he has been a key part of Essex’s recent successes, not just with his wickets, but also with some useful lower order runs at vital times.
Charles Kortright – one of those whose name gets mentioned in discussions about just who was the quickest bowler ever. He produced what today would be described as an ‘epic burn’ when he cleaned up W G Grace, a notoriously reluctant leaver of the crease, with a snorter of a ball, saw that worthy look at the wreckage and head, face like thunder, towards the pavilion and chimed in with “You’re not going already are you Doctor? There’ s still one stump standing”.
Walter Mead – a crafty medium pacer who still holds the record match figures for an Essex bowler – 17 wickets in a tour match against The Australians in 1893.
The decision that was most difficult in selecting this XI was who to have at no 6. As well as Nichols, Johnny Douglas and Trevor Bailey, both England regulars in their day had very obvious claims, but I went for Nichols both because of his left handed batting and his more aggressive approach in that department. Bowling wise this team has the pace of Kortright and Nichols, medium pace from Mead, off spin from Harmer, leg spin from Smith, with Gooch as a sixth option, while there are five top of the range batters, an all-rounder, a keeper-batter plus the possibility of runs from Smith, Harmer and Kortright.
I launched this series with an introductiona while back and devoted a stand-alone post to Tammy Beaumont. Now after a some delays I continue with the remaining specialist batters from my first XI. I will deal with them in chronological order, starting with…
I saw the last day of test cricket in the English season of 1990 live at The Oval. England were battling to save the game and thereby secure a series win, and the not out batsmen overnight were Mike Atherton and David Gower.Atherton did not last long that morning, but Gower batted magnificently through the day, finishing on 157 not out. John Morris kept him company for a good while but failed to reveal the stroke play that had earned him what was to a brief chance at international level. Allan Lamb then made a half century to ensure that no embarrassments could happen. Robin Smith had time to play one cut shot before the end. However, all of these players, and indeed the Indian bowling attack, were merely supporting cast for a day that belonged to Gower.
There would be only two more years of Gower at international level before he was passed over for a tour of India (an unqualified disaster for England, although Graeme Hick and Chris Lewis each had moments in the sun during that series) and announced his international retirement.
In the course of his test career David Gower scored over 8,000 runs at an average of 44, and he scored them in all circumstances and against all opponents. At Perth in 1978 while Geoffrey Boycott was taking 454 minutes to score 77 (one all-run four, but no boundary hits) Gower scored his maiden Ashes century. At Edgbaston in 1979 he took 200 not out off India. At Jamaica in 1981 he secured a draw for England by defying possibly the most fearsome pace quartet ever seen in cricket history (Garner, Croft, Marshall, Holding) for eight hours and an undefeated 154 – England would wait seven more years and ten straight defeats before they next shared the honours with the West Indies. In the 1985 Ashes he made three scores in excess of 150, two of which contributed to innings victories by England. Even in the 1990-1 Ashes down under, when England were crushed by an Australian side that knew itself to be the best in the world he made two centuries in the series.
A David Gower innings would stick in the memory. It never looked like he had really hit a ball until you saw it speeding to the boundary. It was precisley because he was so very good that his dismissals often looked absolutely terrible – how could such a player produce a shot like that?
Fast forward 15 years to 2005 but stay at The Oval, and again a final day of the test match season started with England needing to secure a draw to win the series. This was an Ashes series, and since 1989 when a combination of injuries and a rebel tour to Apartheid South Africa saw England surrender the Ashes (only the weather prevented Australia from making history by winning all six matches in a six match series) the urn had been firmly in Australian possession. Kevin Pietersen (three fifties but as yet no century in his debut series) was dropped early in this innings by Shane Warne (who had a magnificent series overall), but England were definitely struggling at lunch time.
Post lunch Pietersen decided that attack was the only form of defence and went after the bowlingn to spectacular effect. Paul Collingwood for an hour and Ashley Giles for two and a half hours played crucial supporting roles. By the time Pietersen was out for 158 England were well and truly safe.
Pietersen went on to play many more fine innings for England, although his career eventually ended in somewhat controversial circumstances, but if he had never scored another run after that day in 2005 he would have done enough to ensure imperishable fame. No one who witnessed that innings will ever forget it.
England’s all-time leading run scorer, whose career started with a fifty and century against India in 2006 and ended in the same fashion 12 years later. In between times it included the most successful visit to Australia by anyone named Cook since Captain James of that ilk was in his prime. Having saved the first match at Brisbane with 235 not out he then contributed 148 at Adelaide, Pietersen making 227 and finally ensured that England would win the series by scoring 189 at Sydney. In total the series brought him 766 runs, second only for an English batter in Australia to Hammond’s 905 in the 1928-9 series.
As well as making big runs all the way through his career Cook also managed to be fit and available every time England needed him, a remarkable feat of longevity and endurance when so much cricket is being played.
Having covered the specialist batters from my first XI I will next be considering the all-rounders, including the wicketkeeper.
A ‘farewell to Alastair Cook’ post, with some suggestions for the future.
As well as this current match I will be looking to the future (and inevitably back to the past).
ENGLAND IN COMPLETE COMMAND
Alastair Cook has ensured that tomorrow’s sports pages will feature one story and one story only by reaching a century in his final test innings (it is not quite a duplication of Greg Chappell’s ‘full circle’ act of scoring centuries in his first and last test innings, because Cook reached his maiden ton in the second innings of his debut match, but it is a unique bookending double for Cook because he scored a fiftty and a century on debut and has now done the same in his final test match. The hundred was brought up courtesy of Jasprit Bumrah’s KP impression – shying wildly at the stumps with no chance of a run out even if he had hit and seeing the ball race away for four overthrows, allowing Cook the rare distinction of completing his hundred with a five. Cook has just gone for 147. His aggregate of 218 in his final match is not a record – that belongs to Andy Sandham who at the age of 39 scored 325 and 50 against the West Indies at Sabina Park (in a match that was abandoned as a draw after two days were washed out and England then had to catch the boat home). For the home series against Australia England reverted to the regular opening combo of Hobbs and Sutcliffe, and as fortune would have it Sandham never played again, while second in that roll of honour is Bill Ponsford who scored 266 and 23 the Oval in 1934, helping Australia to clinch the Ashes with victory by 562 runs. Among the welter of records generated by this final innings Cook is now established as the most prolific test match left hander of all time, having moved ahead of Kumar Sanggakkara. Cook finishes with 12472 runs at 45.35 and having occupied the crease in test match cricket for just over 621 hours in the course of his career (103.5 days play = batting for the equivalent of just over 20 of his 161 test matches).
The fairytale script for the rest of this match has Anderson moving ahead of McGrath to become the leading wicket taking seamer in test cricket history, preferably with the history making wicket being that of Virat Kohli. Given the size of England’s lead and the amount of time left in the game the victory is pretty much nailed on.
Thanks to their policy of sticking with Jennings long past his sell by date England now need two new openers. I see the following options for England now:
The cowardly (and in my view indefensible) option of sticking with Jennings and recalling Stoneman so that they have an opening pair who have both played test cricket.
The “safe” option of going with one of Stoneman/ Jennings and presumably one out of Rory Burns or Nick Gubbins
Go for a complete fresh start with Burns and Gubbins both debuting at the top of the order. Preferable in my view to either 1 or 2 but hardly ideal.
The left-field option that I have mentioned in previous posts (herefor example) of giving Tammy Beaumont who has been scoring bucketloads in international cricket the opportunity to play alongisde the men and giving the other opening slot to either Burns or Gubbins.
Option 1 if taken would see me breathing fire, option 2 would be disappointing but unsurprising, I would applaud the taking of option 3, while I recognize that there is basically zero chance of option 4 being taken I would love to see it happen.
Apart from the retired Cook and the (I hope) dropped Jennings I would include the other nine from this match, Ollie Pope, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood in the touring party to Sri Lanka, add in Bess as an extra spinning option (likely to be needed in that part of the world), certainly give consideration to further beefing up the spin department with Amar Virdi, and pick top order batters Beaumont, Burns and Gubbins envisaging the first two as regular openers and Gubbins as back-up in case of injury. Certainly three genuine openers are needed, and as far as I am concerned if either Stoneman or Jennings feature the selectors will have failed in their duty. England have seven matches to develop a settled side before the Aussies come calling next year, and need to use them properly – and picking two openers who are proven failures at the highest level would not be doing that.
BACK TO THE PRESENT
While I have been writing this England have reached tea with their lead already past 400. The final session should go as follows: cram on as many runs as possible in 1st hour after tea and then declare if not all out, and then get stuck into India hoping to knock the top off their second innings before the close. Being greedy, and tomorrow being a work day, I hope Anderson gets his three to move ahead of McGrath tonight, as if he doesn’t I will almost certainly miss that historic moment.
If, as now seems likely, England win this series 4-1 will they have deserved it? Absolutely – yes India had good chances at times of four of the five matches in this series but save at Trent Bridge they could not close things out. In match 1 England were 87-7 in their second innings, only 100 to the good, but the last three wickets more than doubled their score to set a target that India could (and ultimately did) get in trouble chasing, in the second game England dominated from start to finish, while in the third India did likewise, in the fourth England were 86-6 in the first innings and recovered to reach 246, and in this match England were 181-7 and then 214-8 in the first innings before India let things slip to such an extent that England tallied 332 in the end, and since that late order revival they have been in control (although India’s tail staged a minor wag of their own to restrict the first innings advantage to a mere 40).
My composite Ashes XI with reasoning and justification. Also some photographs.
A common feature of final days of series is the selection of a composite XI based on performances in said series. This is my effort for the current Ashes series. I am going to name my team in batting order first and then explain/amplify/justify these selections.
My team in batting order (England player names in dark blue, Aus in green):
Steven Smith (Captain)
Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)
The openers need no justification – the only major contribution from an opener not named Warner in the series was Cook’s monumental innings at the MCG. Number three is a thorny one. James Vince has demonstrated clearly that he does not belong there, and his huge score here at the SCG notwithstanding I remain skeptical about Usman Khawaja, hence my decision to promote England’s leading run scorer in the series to a position he occupies for his county. Number four, and with it the captaincywas the easiest selection of the whole lot. Shaun Marsh has not put a foot wrong since being called up to replace the inadequate Handscomb at number 5, and I regarded him as a must pick. Jonny Bairstowand Tim Paine have both had good series with the gloves, but I have opted for Bairstow as definitely the superior batsman. Mitchell Marsh has had a magnificent series, and was an absolute shoe-in at number 7, especially as Moeen Ali has had a terrible series – he has batted poorly in every match and his bowling average reads like a Bradman batting average. Of the specialist bowlers I have picked those at number 8,9 and 10 in the batting order are absolute stand outs. Number 11 was tricky, since Anderson with virtually no support has had a good series, and the better supported Hazlewood as also had a fine series. Accepting that even were it possible vivisection is not permissible (though ‘Anderwood’ is only one letter removed from a former test great!) I have opted for Anderson as I rate his the greater achievement.
Looking at the makeup of the team (and accepting that Hazlewood for Anderson and Khawaja for Malan would both be valid changes), Australian picks predominate in both batting and bowling, though it is especially the bowling, which in my team comes out at 4-1 (including all-rounder Mitchell Marsh) to Australia and is reality more like 4.3-0.7 (rating my selection of Anderson over Hazlewood as a 70:30 pick) which has split the sides. England have collected barely more than half of the 100 wickets that were available to them at the start of the series, whereas Australia assuming that they take the six England wickets that remain in this match will have managed 90, failing to take 20 opposition wickets only on the MCG pitch.
I always like to include a few photographs in my blog posts, so I end with these recently taken pictures:
Some thoughts on the recent test match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, solutions to my lest set of puzzles and some photographs.
This is a two part post – first of all a bit about the test match that finally ended in a draw at about 6AM UK time, and then the companion to piece to “Puzzles and Pictures“, answering the puzzles posed there.
England had the better of Australia in the fourth test match of this Ashes series, but neither team stood a chance against the real winner of this drab affair – the MCG pitch which offered no assistance to any kind of bowler and was also so slow that batsmen could not play their strokes. Alastair Cook ended his poor run of form emphatically, with an innings demonstrating once again his astonishing powers of concentration. Australia without Mitchell Starc and on a pitch that was utterly lifeless looked an ordinary bowling unit.
At lunch on day 1 Australia were 102-0 with Warner going well and Bancroft surviving, but that was the only session of the game that Australia unequivocally won. Although wickets were in short supply on that opening day Australia reached the close at 244-3 – a definite failure to build on that fast start. The second day belonged to England – Australia were all out 327, losing their last five wickets for 13 runs and England in response reached 192-2, Cook 104 not out, Root 49 not out. The third day was also England’s – 491-9 at the end of it, with Cook 244 not out. On the fourth day rain intervened. Anderson lost his wicket to the first ball of the day, giving Alastair Cook yet another place in the record books – highest score by anyone carrying their bat through a complete test innngs, beating Glenn Turner’s 223 not out v West Indies. Bancroft and Khawaja were both out fairly cheaply, but when the rain finally halted proceedings for the day Australia were 103-2 with Warner and Smith in occupation. On the final day Warner fell 14 short of his second hundred of the game. Smith did reach his own hundred, after seven and a quarter hours, and then declared which officially ended the game as there was no time left for England to chase to 100 they would have needed to win.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground has a huge seating capacity, and the Boxing Day test is for that reason the best attended of all test matches. In particular, the Boxing Day Ashes test is habitually hugely attended. Because of the failure to produce a proper pitch the biggest crowds test cricket ever sees got a game that was not worthy of the occasion, and that is not acceptable. The MCG need to sort this out – on proper pitches test cricket can be the most fascinating of the three forms of the game, but on lifeless rubbish such as the MCG groundsman produced for this match it is a poor spectacle. The ICC (cricket’s global governing body) should come down on the MCG like the proverbial ton of bricks.
Alastair Cook’s epic innings deservedly gained him the player of the match award. A full scorecard and links to further detail about this match can be found on cricinfo. The final match of this series is in Sydney, starting on January 4th, and I sincerely hope that they produce a better pitch (they cannot produce a worse one – such a thing does not exist).
As we switch focus the the puzzles I presented a couple of days ago, here are some bird pictures from yesterday:
PUZZLE 1: LOGIC
As I said when I set it, this one is very straightforward. The key is that person B has said “I am the Knave”. The Knight cannot say this as it would be a lie, and the Knave cannot say it as it would be true, so the only person who can say “I am the Knave” is the Jester. Therefore the Jester is person B (note that both Knight and Knave can say “I am not the Knave”, so we cannot say which of A and C is which).
PHOTOGRAPHS – THE GREAT OUSE
PUZZLE 2: AREA CHALLENGE
The red sgements in the four corners of the shape are each half the size of the red segments along the sides of the shape, which in turn are each half the size of the blue shapes in the middle of the pattern. Thus counting the smallest segments as 1 there are (4 x 1) + (8 x 2) red segments = 20 red segments. Each blue shape in the middle comprises four segments and the are four of them = 16 blue segments. Thus the ratio of red area to blue is 20:16 = 5:4
PHOTOGRAPHS: THE WALKS
The Walks was still flooded yesterday, although less than it had been when I took my last set of pictures there two days previously.
PUZZLE 3: EVEN AND ODD
Instinct suggests that the answer should be no, but this is one of those occasions when one should mistrust one’s instinct. To demonstrate a solution (one of many along these lines), I choose as my three even numbers 6, 8 and 4 in that order. Six divided by eight is 0.75, and 0.75 x 4 = 3 = an odd number.
PHOTOGRAPHS: MUSCOVY DUCKS 1
The Muscovy duck that I had seen in The Walks recently was not there yesterday, so I finished my walk by heading towards the place where I had firstseen the species. I waqs rewarded when just on across Littleport Street from that location I saw the entire flock. Here are some of the pictures.
Christmas report on the England men’s team, and some Muscovy duck pictures.
While the England Women’s team have had a fabulous year, thoroughly deserving to win Team of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards (and had there been any justice Anya Shrubsole would have been Sports Personality of the Year) life has been tougher for the men. The confirmation in the early hours of Monday morning UK time that the Ashes had been lost (yes folks, I was listening to TMS right to the bitter end) lies behind this post (going up now through a combination of thinking before I wrote and work commitments yesterday). I end as usual with some of my own photographs.
THE FIRST THREE TEST MATCHES
Gritty fifties from Stoneman and Vince on the opening day notwithstanding Brisbane was a bad match for England. The ease with which Warner and Bancroft knocked off the 170 needed to win in the second innings, and the immovability of Aussie skipper Smith in their first innings were the most worrying sings.
Adelaide kicked off with Joe Root deciding to field first when he won the toss. An Australian tally of 442-8D in the course of the first day and a half made that decision look worse than it was (it was still poor, though not down there with Nasser Hussain at Brisbane 2002). England were then all out for 227, and as this was as a day-night test with the night session due to start it seemed mandatory to enforce the follow-on, but Steve Smith declined to do so. Australia stuttered under the lights to 50-4, and England’s best bowling effort of the series so far continued the following morning reducing Australia to 138 all out, leaving England 354 to get. England made a decent fist of things, and at 170-3 it looked like they might just get them. Unfortunately both for England and for cricket as a whole (there are a lot of captains these days who almost automatically decline to enforce the follow-on, and had England chased down this target of 354 it might have made those people think) a wicket just before the close of day 4 and then a clatter the following morning put paid to that.
So it was on the Perth for the last Ashes game to be staged at the WACA (a new stadium just across the road will stage future Perth tests), a venue where England had only one once, way back in 1978. Precedents for a comeback from 0-2 down in a five match series are equally thin on the ground – the only successful example being Don Bradman’s 1936-7 Aussies (Bradman himself produced scores of 270, 212 and 169 in the third, fourth and fifth matches of that series, and also produced a tactical masterstroke in those days of uncovered pitches in that third test when faced with a terror track he sent in tail-enders O’Reilly and Fleetwood-Smith to miss everything until the close of that day – Bradman emerged the following day at 97-5 to join regular opener Jack Fingleton who had come at no 6, and with the pitch now eased they put on 346 for the sixth wicket to settle the issue), although 42 years earlier Australia had won the 3rd and 4th matches after being 0-2 down before England won the final game of that series.
England batted first in Perth, and at 131-4 a familiar pattern seemed to be emerging, but then Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow got going, and both made hundreds. Malan went on to 140. Once their 237 run partnership was broken the rest of the innings subsided quickly, but 403 still seemed a respectable total. When Australia were 248-4 England still looked in with a shout, but by the end of day 3 Australia were 549-4, Smith having set a new career best and Mitchell Marsh in front of his home crowd turning his maiden test hundred into 181 not out. Smith and Marsh both fell quickly the following morning, and Starc was also out cheaply, but Tim Paine and Pat Cummins made useful contributions, and Australia declared at 662-9, leaving England four and a half sessions to survive for the draw. By the close of that fourth day Bairstow and Malan were together once more, with the only convincing batting effort up to then having come from Vince, who played very well for his 55 and was unlucky to get an absolute brute of a ball from Starc.
It rained overnight, and the covers at the WACA proved inadequate, leaving a wet patch on a good length at one end, which delayed the start of the fifth day’s play. Root argued for an abandonment, while Smith of course tried to hasten the start of play. I fully understand why Root tried to get play abandoned, but actually I am glad he failed in the attempt – to keep a series alive in that fashion would have been deeply unsatisfactory. At Headingley in 1975 a delicately poised final day (Australia 220-3 needing 445 to win, and Rick McCosker five away from what would have been a maiden test hundred) was abandoned after protesters sabotaged the pitch (“George Davis is innocent” – according to Peter Chappell, namesake of two members of that Australian team, but not according to the courts, or his future record – released from that sentence for armed robbery, he was soon back inside for another armed robbery to which he pleaded guilty).
Once the game finally commenced it was soon obvious which way the wind was blowing, and for the third time in the space of a year (following two occasions against India last winter) England had managed to lose by an innings margin after tallying 400 first up.
ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER
Alastair Cook: 150 tests, the last 148 of them in sequence – remarkable longevity. At the moment he is having a rough trot, and when Cook is having a rough trot (as he did in the early part of 2010) it is often hard to imagine where his next run is coming from.
Mark Stoneman: some gritty performances thus far, but he needs to start turning those fifties in to hundreds some time soon.
James Vince: to put it mildly a controversial choice for the crucial number three slot, and notwitshstanding two fine innings so far, one in Brisbane and one in Perth, he has not yet done enough to convince – see my closing comment about Stoneman.
Joe Root: would seem to be the latest in a long line of England players to suffer captaincy-itis, not only he is failing to make runs, he is getting out in un-Rootlike ways. England need his batting to be at its best, so perhaps someone else should be made captain (see later for my controversial suggestion).
Dawid Malan: his 140 at Perth and fighting effort in the second innings as well confirms his arrival as a test batsman of quality. Also, while it never looked threatening his part time leg spin was at least economical.
Jonny Bairstow: other than his first innings performance at Perth not thus far a great series for the wicketkeeper-batsman.
Moeen Ali: Fulfils a useful all-round role, although England offspinners have rarely been successful in Australia (the chief exceptions being Laker in 1958-9, Titmus in 1962-3 and Emburey in 1986-7). Also, if England do decide that Root needs to be replaced as captain to enable him to concentrate solely on what he does best – his batting – then Moeen would be my choice for the job.
Chris Woakes: Save for his bowling in the second innings at Adelaide he has not looked very threatening in this series. That game was also the scene of his only significant batting effort of the series so far. Right-arm medium fast when the ball is not deviating (and it generally doesn’t in Australia) simply will not trouble good batsmen.
Craig Overton: Looks like he belongs at this level, but my comments about Woakes’ style of bowling in Australian conditions also apply to him.
Stuart Broad: A nightmare series for him, not because he has bowled especially badly, though he has consistently been pitching it too short, but because he has looked completely unthreatening and has bowling figures that reflect that.
Jimmy Anderson: continues to climb the wicket taking charts. His 12 wickets at 25 apiece in this series, while all his colleagues have been taking drubbings is a remarkable effort in the face of adversity. I fully expect that in the early stages at Melbourne he will move ahead of Courtney Walsh in the wicket takers list (current Anderson 518, Walsh 519), leaving only Glenn McGrath among the quick bowlers ahead of him. He has bowled beautifully this series but with Broad off the boil his ‘support’ has simply not been up to standard.
THE REST OF THE SERIES
Before I get into this section let me clear that I do not believe for an instant that had the likes of Ben Stokes, Mark Wood and Toby Roland-Jones been available England would be doing a whole lot better. Certainly to be deprived of the services of three such excellent cricketers simultaneously is unfortunate but England are 3-0 down because they have been outclassed throughout this series (only in Adelaide to England ever look close to making a game of it – the Malan-Bairstow partnership in the first innings at Perth was the only other major period in the series to date in which England had the whip hand).
The good news for England is that their records at Melbourne and Sydney are better tahn their records elsewhere in Australia. While the batsmen need to score more runs, it is the bowlers who (Anderson apart) really need to pick things up – England have not yet taken 20 wickets in a match in this series, and at Perth they failed to even take 10.
I think England can pick themselves up and win at least one of the two remaining matches. In many ways it would be an injustice to Australia were England to win both and make it look respectable at 3-2 – this England side does not deserve better than 4-1 (though I also think it does not deserve worse – it is not as shambolic as Flintoff’s 2006-7 squad who really did deserve to be on the wrong end of a 5-0, as in the end they were.
The take home message of the three matches played so far is one that England should already have learned a long time ago – a bowling ‘attack’ of four right-arm medium-fast bowlers and an offspinner will not cut the mustard in Oz.
A little while back I reported sighting some birds which turned out to be Muscovyducks (Cairina moschata). Well, I have seen another (this time a single bird), this time in The Walks.
The cricket section of the BBC website gives you a chance to pick your XI for the opening ashes match this winter. It is not a free selection – they give you a pool of names to pick from, which is why I am producing this post.
MY SELECTION ON THE BBC WEBSITE
Restricted by the BBC website I selected the following XI:
Cook, Stoneman, Joe Clarke, Root, Liam Livingstone, Stokes, Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Roland-Jones, Anderson, Leach – yes I overlooked Stuart Broad, but I was being deliberately controversial…
VARIOUS POSSIBLE XIs
In actual fact, depending on conditions my selections could vary considerably. England spinners have rarely enjoyed themselves at Brisbane, so in practice I would probably not select two spinners for that particular match, while at Perth I might even consider leaving out Moeen Ali. At Adelaide, where the pitch tends to be exceedingly batsman friendly I would want more bowling options, and if the pitch was obviously going to favour spin then Moeen might even be third spinner in the XI. Thus here are some possible XIs, unerestricted by the BBC website’s preselections:
Fast bowlers’ paradise (Perth would be a possible): Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow, (WK), Woakes, Roland-Jones, Broad, Anderson.
On a ‘bunsen’ (rhyming slang, bunsen burner = turner) – unlikely in Oz but you never know: Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow (WK), Moeen Ali, Dominic Bess, Jack Leach, Anderson (this is a colossal gamble, relying on Anderson and Stokes to do all the fast bowling between them, a more cautious approach still catering for lots of spin would see Broad retain his place and Ali and Bess or Bess and Leach have the spin bowling roles).
For the batsman’s paradise (e.g Adelaide, or the Bellerive Oval, Hobart): Cook, Stoneman, Root (C), Lawrence, Stokes, Moeen Ali, Bairstow (WK), Roland-Jones, Bess, Broad, Anderson (note that to play the extra bowler I move Ali up two places, keeping Bairstow at 7 – there is a reason why Gilchrist never moved up from number 7 in Australia’s great days).