Another round of County Championship fixtures concluded yesterday, and there was mixed news, some of which impacts on the England side. Yesterday was also a big day for this blog, courtesy of this post – do read it if you haven’t already.
Overall the weather won the last round of fixtures quite convincingly. However, Middlesex’s incompetence with the bat (a gritty first innings 50 by Gubbins apart) enabled Hampshire to win by seven wickets with over a day to spare in that one. In the other match in that group barely one eighth of the total scheduled playing time was actually usable, Surrey reaching 206-4 v Somerset before the weather made it’s final intervention. Essex played splendidly to account for Derbyshire, making up for huge rain delays by racking up 412-3 declared from 76 overs, Dan Lawrence with 150, and then bowling Derbyshire out twice, with Harmer taking 12 wickets in the game, including a career best 9-80 in the first innings. In the other game in that group Durham thrashed Worcestershire, temporarily going top of the group, although two of the teams in hottest pursuit of them have a game in hand. Derbyshire are now 26 points adrift at the bottom, more than a maximum points win, with just four games to play. Sussex v Kent ended in a tame draw when Kent declined to set Sussex a run chase on the final afternoon even though a draw could do them no good whatsoever. In that Kent second innings Leaning scored a ton, while Crawley and Oliver Graham Robinson each made scores of 85. The other match in that group was also drawn, Carlson steering Glamorgan away from potential danger with an unbeaten 88 in their second innings.
THE ENGLAND ANGLE
The ECB have let it be known that players who were involved in the IPL are unlikely to feature in their squad for the NZ test series which will be announced on Wednesday. Also Jofra Archer is out of that series because his elbow flared up during the Kent second innings, restricting him to just five overs. My opinion on this latter is that England now need to handle Archer with great care – they can probably do well without him in English conditions, so the focus should be on ensuring that he will be fit to travel down under for The Ashes. Also uncertain is Dominic Sibley, recovering from injury. The ECB have said they will announce 16 names, so I present my own options, a front 14 and two back up names:
- Dominic Sibley – right handed opening batter. If he is fit he plays and on that basis he should be in the list.
- Rory Burns – left handed opening batter. he has a bit to prove, but a strong start to the domestic season with Surrey suggests that he deserves continued selection.
- Zak Crawley – right handed top order batter. He has some recent good form, and talk of dropping him is premature to say the least.
- *Joe Root – right handed batter, captain, occasional off spinner. England need their skipper and they need him batting in his preferred position at no4.
- Ollie Pope – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. In the pink of form for Surrey, he has to play.
- +Ben Foakes – right handed batter, wicket keeper.
- Three possibilities for this position depending on one’s attitude: Ryan Higgins, right handed batter, right arm medium pace, would be the genuine all rounder if one wants five front line bowling options available. Matt Critchley is having a great season with the bat for Derbyshire and bowls occasional leg spin which might be good for a few overs in a test match. Finally, the cautious option is to accept having only four genuine bowling options and play Dan Lawrence, in great form with the bat, in this position.
- Two possibilities here: Oliver Edward Robinson, right arm fast medium and a decent lower order batter is possibly favourite for the position, but Craig Overton, also a right arm fast medium bowler and probably a better bat than Robinson will also have his advocates.
- Olly Stone – right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. With Archer unavailable, Stone who has been bowling well for Warwickshire is my choice for the out and out speedster role.
- Jack Leach – left arm orthodox spinner, left handed batter. With due respect to Parkinson, Carson and Virdi who have all done good things with the ball for their counties recently ‘the nut’ still has to be first choice spinner for England.
- James Anderson – right arm fast medium, left handed tail end batter. The experienced leader of the attack who will be expected to take the younger pace bowlers under his wing and pass on tips of the trade to them.
The above if you have followed carefully comprises 14 names, so we need two more. One of those has to be a top order batter, and for me although others will have their advocates the fact that James Bracey could also don the gauntlets if needed gives him the nod. My 16th name to complete my own squad given the circumstances, is Matt Parkinson, the Lancashire leg spinner, as acknowledged second choice spinner.
My usual sign off…