England Test XIs With Two Spinners

Some possible ways to incorporate two spinners into the England test team.

INTRODUCTION

This post is inspired by a post that appeared this morning on Toby’s Sporting Views. He was writing about an excellent bowling performance by Somerset’s spinners against Nottinghamshire on day two of their match, and I am looking specifically at an aspect he raised relating to this, namely two spinners playing for England in the Ashes tests this summer.

SETTING PARAMETERS

I am basing all my possible XIs around five specialist batters with Ben Foakes at six and wearing the gloves. The other fixed position, since he is indispensable in test cricket at present is James Anderson at no 11 and as one of new ball bowlers. Therefore the positions up for dispute are 7, 8, 9 and 10, which will be filled by two spinners and two quicks. Thus form my purposes each permutation will involve four cricketers, as I need not mention the others. Neither Adil Rashid nor Moeen Ali have done enough with the ball of late to merit consideration, and Lancashire’s Matthew Parkinson while promising is not as yet ready for elevation, so the two spinners would be Leach and Bess, becoming a latter day Lock and Laker.

1: THE PURE ENGLISH

In so far as such a line-up can be typical English this one is. It features Lewis Gregory at number 7, Sam Curran at number 8 and sharing the new ball with James Anderson, with Bess and Leach the two spinners at nos 9 and 10.

2: EXTRA PACE I

This one dispenses with Curran, and brings in either Jofra Archer or Mark Wood to bowl outright fast, sharing the new ball with Anderson.

3: EXTRA PACE II

This one dispenses with Gregory, having Curran move up to seven and playing one of Archer or Wood  along with the two spinners and Anderson. This is more of a gamble as it misses out on Gregory’s batting, which is better than that of any of the others.

4: THE OUTRIGHT GAMBLE

This one dispenses with both Curran and Gregory, and brings in both of the super-speedsters Wood and Archer, one of whom would perforce come on first change. This would likely mean Archer at no 7, Bess at no 8, Leach no 9, Wood no 10 and Anderson no 11, which is where the gamble is – there is no one who can really be called an all-rounder here, just five bowlers.

5: ANOTHER GAMBLE

My final possibility features picking Ben Stokes as a front-line batter and fill-in pacer, and having only four top-line bowlers, Curran, Bess, Leach and Anderson. If one of Curran or Anderson were to break down this side would then be using Stokes as a new-ball bowler, which makes it a very high risk strategy.

THOMAS’S PICK

Overall I would like one out and out ‘blitzman’ bowler in the team, and picking only two top line pacers for a test match is too rich even for my blood, so with all respect to Sam Curran I am going for Extra Pace I as my bowling combo. Injuries not intervening a possible line-up for match 1 if I was doing the selecting would be:

  1. Beaumont (see here for more on this controversial choice)
  2. Burns
  3. Roy (no 3 has been difficult for some time and Roy is at least in splendid form)
  4. *Root 
  5. Buttler
  6. +Foakes
  7. Gregory
  8. Archer
  9. Bess
  10. Leach
  11. Anderson

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Ashes Selections

On Ashes selections…

INTRODUCTION

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:

Normal conditions: Cook, Stoneman, Westley, Root (C), Dan Lawrence, Stokes, Bairstow (WK), Moeen Ali, Roland-Jones, Broad, Anderson.

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).

 

 

A Tale of Two Cricket Matches

An account of two recent cricket matches involving England and South Africa, first the England men’s humiliation at Trent Bridge, and then the nailbiter of a Women’s World Cup semi-final at Bristol.

INTRODUCTION

Both of the matches of my title were cricket matches between England and South Africa. The first was the test match between the men’s teams, and the second was the women’s world cup semi-final. A couple of notes about links in this piece:

  1. All cricket related links are to cricinfo, and…
  2. Some links are in red – these are to video footage.

IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES

England had won the first test match of the series handily, with Joe Root scoring 190 in his first innings as England captain and Moeen Ali being player of the match for his first inning 87 and match haul of 10-112. Among England’s male players only Ian Botham with 114 not out and 13-106 v India in 1979 has topped Ali’s all-round haul in a single game (Enid Bakewell was the first player of either sex to combine a match aggregate of 100 runs with a haul of 10 or more wickets, hence the earlier caveat). 

Thus at Trent Bridge England should have been strong favourites. South Africa won the toss, batted first and made 335 in their first innings and England by bad batting handed South Africa a lead of 130, South Africa extended this to 473 with two days to play before sending England back in, messrs Elgar and Amla having demonstrated how to make runs on this pitch, each batting a long time. England’s second innings was quite simply shambolic, with batter after batter handing their wickets away. Four wickets down by lunch on the penultimate day it worse afterwards, with England being all out for 133 at approsimately 3PM. South Africa, having given themselves two days to dismiss England a second time had required less than two full sessions and were victors be 340 runs. 

ENGLAND’S MISTAKES

The first mistake England made was with the selection of the side. According to the powers that be Moeen Ali is happier as a second spinner than as either a sole spinner or as first spinner. However I find it hard to believe that even he could really consider himself no2 to Liam Dawson. Dawson is an ill thought out selection reminiscent of the dark days of the 1990s. For his county he averages in the low thirties with the bat and the high thirties with the ball, so even at that level he comes out as clearly not good enough in either department to warrant selection – the reverse of the true all-rounder. If a pitch warrants two spinners (and no Trent Bridge pitch in my lifetime ever has) the other spinner should be a genuine front-line option such as Dominic Bess (first class bowling average 19.83 per wicket – what are you waiting for selectors?). The other logical alternative would have been to bring in an extra batter (there are any number of possibilities) to strengthen this department. England’s batting in both innings smacked of panic. Other than Root whose 78 in the first innings was a gem and Cook who played well for a time in the second no England batter is entitled to be other than embarrassed by the way they played in this match. The scorecard, in all it’s gory detail, can be viewed here.

IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES

On what should have been the final day of the men’s test match but for England’s spinelessness the women’s teams convened at Bristol for a world-cup semi-final. The final will be played at Lord’s and is already sold out. South Africa batted first and were restricted to 218-6 from their overs, Mignon Du Preez top scoring with 76 not out, and Laura Wolvaardt making 66. South Africa bowled better than they had batted, and the outcome remained in doubt right to the end. Anya Shrubsole who had earlier finished with 1-33 from her 10 overs settled things by hitting her first ball, the third-last possible ball of the match through the covers for four. Sarah Taylor’s 54 and a brilliant wicket-keeping performance highlighted by the spectacular stumping of Trisha Chetty off the bowling of Natalie Sciver earned her the player of the match award. Sciver incidentally is the pioneer of a shot that in honour of her first name and the f**tballing term ‘nutmeg’ commentator Charles Dagnall has dubbed the ‘Natmeg’, one example of which she played in this match. Video highlights of this amazing match can be seen here (runs for just under five minutes), while the scorecard can be viewed here.

THE ROLE OF EXTRAS

To set the scene for the rest of this section here are the extras (a cricket term for runs scored not off the bat) from both innings:

When South Africa batted: 

Extras (w 4) 4

When England batted

Extras (b 5, w 17, nb 3) 25

A note on the designations within extras: Byes (b) stands for runs scored when there is no contact made with the ball but either the batters are able to take runs, or the ball goes to the boundary unimpeded, legbyes (lb), of which there were none in this match, are runs scored when the ball hits the pad but not the bat. Wides (w) are deliveries that are too wide for the batter to be able to play, and no-balls are deliveries that are ruled illegal for some other infraction (bowler overstepping the crease, high full-toss etc). The 21 run difference between the two tallies shown above is of major significance given that England reached the target with just two balls to spare, and there is yet a further point.

WIDES AND NO-BALLS – WHAT APPEARS IN PRINT DOES NOT TELL THE FULL STORY OF HOW EXPENSIVE THEY ARE

England bowled four wides in the match, South Africa 17 and three no-balls. That is a 16-run difference, but the actual costs are likely be even more different because:

  • When a delivery is called wide, as well as incurring a one-run penalty an extra delivery must be bowled to replace it. Thus a wide costs the original penalty, plus possible extras (if it goes unimpeded to the boundary it costs 5, the original 1, plus four foir the boundary) plus any runs scored off the seventh delivery of the over, which the bowler had they been disciplined would not have had to bowl
  • When a delivery is called a no-ball, the batter can still score off it, the delivery immediately following it is designated a ‘free-hit’, meaning that the batter cannot be dismissed off it, and as with a wide an extra delivery must be bowled to replace it. Thus a no-ball actually costs the original penalty, any runs hit of that delivery, the lack of a wicket-taking opportunity on the next delivery and any runs of the seventh delivery of the over (which would otherwise not have needed to be bowled). 

Therefore the discrepancy between the sides in terms of wides and no-balls is probably much greater than shown on the score-card, and this in a very close match. Sarah Taylor certainly deserved her player of the match award, but the much tighter discipline shown by England’s bowlers than their South African counterparts was also crucial to the result.

PHOTOGRAPHS

After over 1,100 words those of you are still with me deserve some pictures, so here we are:

Bee1Bee2

Puppet theatre
This puppet theatre is in town for the Lynn Festival

Purfleet1Moorhen chick

Greyfriars
Greyfriars Tower
Library
King’s Lynn library

Squirrel

Red Mount Chapel
The Red Mount Chapel
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The unedited Red Mount chapel picture.
Guanock Gate
The Guanock Gate

Moorhen and algaeStationPollinator

CH1
The first of three pictures featuring the Custom House

CH2CH3Boat1Boat2Gulls

West Lynn Church
West Lynn Church
Bee3
Just as a bee pic was worthy start to this series of photos, another bee pic is a worthy finish to it.