Thoughts on The Test Squad for New Zealand

My thoughts on the England test squad for New Zealand, announced earlier today.

INTRODUCTION

This post looks at the test squad for New Zealand, announced not long ago. There are also of course a few photos.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE MIDDLE

The test squad for New Zealand is as follows (click here for the cricinfo article about it):

Joe Root (capt), Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Saqib Mahmood, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Pope, Dominic Sibley, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes

I see one definite negative in this squad – the continuing selection of Buttler, although at least he will not be playing as a specialist batter, he will be keeping, one questionable retention (Denly), several non-controversial picks (Root, Archer, Broad – Anderson is still unfit, Curran, Stokes and Woakes), and several interesting newcomers (Sibley, Crawley, Pope, Parkinson, Mahmood). After a quick thank goodness for the absence from the red ball squad of Messrs Bairstow and Roy (retention of either would have been a disgraceful abdication of responsibility) and a brief lament for the continuing non-selection of Ben Foakes (best wicketkeeper around and averages over 40 in the few tests he has been permitted to play) and Lewis Gregory, I will devote the rest of this post to the five new names in the squad.

ZAK CRAWLEY

Opens the batting for Kent, he has 1,908 runs at 31.80 and three first class hundreds. These figures do not really warrant elevation to the status of test opener, and I would have preferred someone else to be picked in his place.

SAQIB MAHMOOD

Pretty much a pure bowler (he averages 14 with the bat in first class cricket), the young Lancashire quick  has 42 wickets at 28.90 in first class cricket (less impressive in other words than most of the younger pace bowlers I mentioned in my last post but one), however I am less unimpressed by this pick than I am by that of Crawley.

MATTHEW PARKINSON

A ‘ferret’ (he comes after the rabbits) with the bat – average 5.37 in that department – the young Lancashire legspinner has 60 first class wickets at 25.20 in his fledgling career. It is unlikely that a New Zealand pitch will warrant the selection of both him and Leach, but they should combine well together should that situation arise. I welcome this selection.

OLLIE POPE

The Surrey batter averages 57.55 in first-class cricket. His first exposure to test cricket last summer did not go well, because he was thrust higher up the order than he regularly batted for his county, but he is a much better cricketer now. He is that rarity among contemporary English batters, someone who is happy playing a long innings against the red ball. England’s middle order should benefit hugely from his presence.

DOMINIC SIBLEY

He has had a huge season for Warwickshire, which has seen his first class average move north of 40 (it currently stands at 41.55), and given England’s woes at the top of the order a failure to select him would have been an utter disgrace. His recent performance against Nottinghamshire when he scored 215 not out in the first innings and then 109 in the successful second innings run chase put him in rare company. Like Pope he is genuinely comfortable digging in for a long haul against the red ball, and alongside the now established Burns he should form the solidest English test opening pair since Strauss and Cook were in their prime nearly a decade ago.

Overall I consider this a respectable effort by the selectors and award them 7/10 for it.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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Thoughts for New Zealand and a Calendar Preview.

A few thoughts about the upcoming tour of New Zealand and a preview of the 2020 aspi.blog Wall Calendar.

INTRODUCTION

The England squad for New Zealand is due to be named soon, and I have some suggestions here. I also use this post to offer aspi.blog readers a sneak preview of the aspi.blog 2020 wall calendar, currently in production and due to arrive with me early next week.

SQUAD FOR NEW ZEALAND

It is unlikely that any surface in New Zealand will warrant the selection of two front line spinners, so for this tour I am selecting fewer spinners than I normally would. Seam and swing tend to be important in NZ just as they are in this country, so I do not regard a second out and out super quick alongside Archer, who should be used in short bursts. Finally, I do not think that even if both are fully fit England should be thinking of using Broad and Anderson in the same squad, so only one of those makes the trip. Batting wise I think the experiment of picking white ball specialists to play test cricket has been tried and found seriously wanting. I have argued for some time that Tammy Beaumont deserves her chance alongside the men and I continue to believe that this experiment is warranted, however uncertainty over Stokes’ ability to function as a full-time bowler in test cricket at present leads me to temporarily shelve that idea. Dominic Sibley has made an iron-clad case for selection as a test match opener, and Rory Burns has done sufficient to hang on to his own place, which leaves Ben Stokes my envisaged no 3, Root back at 4 where he scores much more heavily than at 3, Ollie Pope in at 5, Ben Foakes wicketkeeper at six, Lewis Gregory coming at seven (there could be few better places for a seam bowling all-rounder to begin a test career than New Zealand), Sam Curran at 8, Jofra Archer at 9, Jack Leach at 10 and Stuart Broad at 11 (unless Anderson is fully fit, in which he case he replaces Broad). My reserves would be a top order batter (Beaumont – see above), a middle order batter, possibly Dan Lawrence of Essex who has played at least one major innings recently or if you want someone grittier Somerset’s Tom Abell, an out and out fast bowler (Stone or Wood depending on fitness) and a second spinner (Matt Parkinson would be my choice, his lack of skill with the bat not being a serious issue since I am not expecting him and Leach to figure in the same XI). Note that with both Burns and Pope having some experience of the role a reserve wicketkeeper is not needed.

On the radar for the future I would have Josh Bohannon, the young Lancashire batter, if more spinners are required offspinners Bess and Virdi are immediately in the equation and Patterson-White of Nottinghamshire (who have collectively been utterly dreadful this season, making his small success all the more impressive) may develop into a replacement for Jack Leach when the time comes. In the seam bowling department Ollie Robinson and Jamie Porter will warrant consideration, and the emerging fast bowling talent of Worcestershire’s Josh Tongue should also see him being talked about in the right places. Finally, opener Zak Crawley has attracted favourable notices at times, but at the moment he needs to increase the number of major innings on his CV before really meriting consideration as a test opener.

THE 2020 WALL CALENDAR PREVIEW

13 pics here, the front cover and one for each month:

Ashes Gone -What Should England Do Now?

Conceding the fourth test, and with it The Ashes, this post looks ahead to the fifth test at The Oval, with various changes to the England squad suggested. There are also lots of my photographs.

INTRODUCTION

England’s defeat at Old Trafford has yet to be officially confirmed, but barring serious rain it seems inevitable, and that will mean that Australia have retained The Ashes. Even if England somehow escape with a draw (which would be undeserved) they would need to win at The Oval and that looks unlikely given Australia’s overall superiority thus far in the series (save for a few sessions at Lord’s and the amazing final stages of Headingley Australia have been bossing things all through this series). Based on three matches and four days of the fourth cricketing justice demands that Australia retain The Ashes. Thus this post looks at the future and suggests changes for the fifth test based on The Ashes being already gone, though I would still recommend that they make these changes regardless. Having started this post just before play begins on day five there is a question of which will be completed first – this post or Australia’s victory – and my lack of confidence in England’s remaining batting is such that am not betting on which happens first!

THE STORY OF DAYS 1-4

Australia racked up 497-8 declared in their first innings, Steve Smith helping himself to a double century, his third in test cricket, all of them at England’s expense (only Don Bradman, with no fewer than eight, has scored more against England). England just avoided the follow-on, Burns and Root playing substantial innings – the former in the process becoming the first opener not named Cook to score three fifties for England in a series since the retirement of Andrew Strauss. Then Australia went out for quick runs, and got enough to declare yesterday evening, setting England just over 380 to win, Smith by his standards failing, managing a measly 82 (nb – I have had plenty to say regarding his personal conduct, but I have never criticised his batting.). Then Burns and Root fell in successive deliveries in the first over of England’s 2nd innings. Denly and Roy saw things through to the close, but barring more heroics from Stokes, it has hard to see England batting out today.

ENGLAND’S PROBLEMS

Burns’ successes have resolved one of England’s top order problems, but still required there are a)another opener who can do it against the red ball and b) someone who is comfortable at no 3 against the red ball. Additionally I think that Buttler (his first innings effort here notwithstanding) and Bairstow both need replacing, with a genuine frontline batter and a wicketkeeper-batter respectively). The bowling is in a much better state, but at The Oval a second spinner is likely to be needed alongside Leach, and somehow they have to find out a way of getting Smith out.

SORTING THE BATTING

I do not believe that either Roy or Denly belong in a test XI, and even big scores for both of them today will be too little too late as far as I am concerned. I have been arguing in posts since August 31st 2018 for Tammy Beaumont to be given her chance alongside the men, and I stick to that line. At no 3 I opt for a third regular opener, Dominic Sibley, and then Root back where he really belongs at no 4. As wicketkeeper and no 5 I select Ben Foakes, with Ben Stokes rounding out the top six. I then go for all-rounder Lewis Gregory at seven, Jofra Archer at eight, Stuart Broad at nine, Jack Leach at ten, and at 11 my second spinner, to whom I dedicate the next subsection of this post…

HELEN FENBY – THE MYSTERY OPTION

I was alerted to this possibility in a match in which she took four cheap wickets and also surprised all the commentators with her action – if it is a new one on them then perhaps it will be a new one on Steve Smith (all orthodox selections seem to have drawn a blank, so let’s try an unorthodox one). While this would be envisaged XI I would also have in reserve in case conditions warrant it 1) an extra batter, in this case Ollie Pope of Surrey, and 2) a reserve pace bowler, Craig Overton. Thus, my full squad for The Oval would be (all names in hyperlink form):

  1. Rory Burns
  2. Tammy Beaumont
  3. Dominic Sibley
  4. *Joe Root
  5. +Ben Foakes
  6. Ben Stokes
  7. Lewis Gregory
  8. Jofra Archer
  9. Stuart Broad
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Helen Fenby
  12. Ollie Pope
  13. Craig Overton

FURTHER SUGGESTIONS TO COMPLETE A TEST TOUR PARTY

I want another three players to complete a test touring party, and I reckon that they should be a batter, a pace bowler and a spinner. My three choices for these roles are George Bartlett of Somerset (a look to the future, with a youngster who is better suited in both style and temperament to playing long innings against the red ball than to biffing the white one around – his county colleague Abell and Joe Clarke of Nottinghamshire both also merit consideration), Anderson if he is fit, and if not whoever out of Mark Wood and Olly Stone is fit and Dominic Bess (since I have a left arm spinner and leg spinner in my squad I opt for the off spinner Bess in preference to leg spinner Matt Parkinson).

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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A bit like too many of England’s recent batting efforts – a variety of ducks (the big one with the red face is a Muscovy duck).

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PS – contrary to the mischievous comparison made in the introduction to this post England have not lost a wicket thus far today.