A Plan for Australia

A detailed look at possibilities for The Ashes.

With the last test of the series against India cancelled officially due to a Covid outbreak in the Indian ranks and unofficially due to the Indian players and board prioritizing the IPL over test cricket, I offer up detailed suggestions for the upcoming Ashes tour.

A BIG SQUAD NEEDED

In view of the situation, with Covid still very much with us, and Australia unlikely to allow reinforcements to be flown in mid-series England will need a large squad to give themselves a chance of getting through the tour. Thus the bulk of this post will look at 22 players who I have arranged into two teams who might contest a warm-up match. Before I get into that part of the post I need to clear up a few details, and after I have finished I will mention a couple of other players of promise.

PLAYERS NOT COVERED
IN THIS POST

There are some well known names who for various reasons do not feature in the main part of the post:

  • Players who are hors de combat for various reasons: Jofra Archer and Olly Stone are both definitely unavailable due to injuries, and even if Stuart Broad recovers in time to make the tour an away Ashes series is probably not advisable for someone coming back from a serious injury. Ben Stokes must also be regarded as unavailable at present – until and unless he himself states that he is ready to return to the side he should not be a factor in anyone’s calculations.
  • Players who are surplus to test requirements: I have seen enough of Moeen Ali, Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow to be certain that none of them belong in the test arena. Ali averages less than 29 with the bat, almost 37 with the ball and appears to be on the decline into the bargain, Bairstow had one good 12 month period starting in December 2015, but either side of that has consistently averaged in the mid 20s in a career that spans nine years, while Malan has produced one major test innings in his life and is now in his mid 30s.
  • Players I do not think need to play a warm up fixture, though they will be in the squad: Joe Root and Jos Buttler. The former would give whichever side he was part of a huge advantage, while we all know what the latter is capable of.

TEAM ABELL

  1. Tom Haines: Sussex, left handed opening batter. This season has been a breakout one for the youngster (23 years old), with him averaging close to 50 with the bat for his county.
  2. Alex Davies: Warwickshire (leaving Lancashire at the end of this season), right handed opening batter, occasional wicket keeper. He has had two strong seasons in a row (is avergaing 48 this season), and the fact that in retaliation for his decision to move to Warwickshire Lancashire have been vindictive enough to drop him (a classic example of cutting the nose off to spite the face) should have no bearing on whether or not he gets picked for this party.
  3. *Tom Abell: Somerset, right handed batter, occasional medium pace bowler, captain. He has been superb for Somerset this season and is an excellent skipper.
  4. Harry Brook: Yorkshire, right handed batter. The 22 year old Yorkshireman has a modest overall record but has been excellent this season and appears to have a fine temperament.
  5. Ollie Pope: Surrey, right handed batter, occasional keeper. Has an awesome record for Surrey but has yet to translate this to a higher level, though he did score 81 in the first innings of the last test at his home ground, and appears one of two genuine candidate for this slot.
  6. Oliver George Robinson: Kent, wicket keeper, right handed batter. The 23 year old is one of a number of talented young keeper batters that England have available to them.
  7. Matt Critchley: Derbyshire, right handed batter, leg spinner. His bowling does not quite allow him to be called an all rounder, but he has been batting well for Derbyshire of late, and his leg spin is not entirely to be disregarded.
  8. Craig Overton: Somerset, right arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter. As Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett showed a decade ago extra height can be a valuable asset in Australia, and the giant Devonian has it in spades. He is also a more than handy batter to have coming at eight.
  9. Mark Wood: Durham, right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. With Archer and Stone both hors de combat he is the only express bowler England can seriously consider (Brydon Carse, his Durham team mate, is just as quick but has an uninspiring red ball record, and I have come to hate seeing players picked for test cricket based on white ball performances).
  10. Jack Leach: Somerset, left arm orthodox spinner, left handed lower order batter. He is the only current England spinner with a respectable test record (62 wickets in 16 matches at 29.98 – so almost four wickets a game and an average the right side of 30). In first class cricket there are a couple of spinners with cheaper averages than his 26 per wicket, but they have many fewer wickets than he does. It is one of the great absurdities of the last couple of years that he has not been England’s first choice spinner on a regular basis.
  11. James Anderson: Lancashire, right arm fast medium bowler, left handed lower order batter. England’s all time leading wicket taker. He was the leading wicket taker in the series last time England won in Australia a decade ago, and there is little sign of his powers waning for all that he turned 39 during this season

This side contains a solid top five, a talented keeper/batter at six, a player in good batting for at seven, and a well balanced front four bowlers, with support available from Critchley’s leg spin and Abell’s medium pace. Now it is time for a look at the opposition…

TEAM BURNS

  1. *Rory Burns: Surrey, left handed opening batter, captain. Only one English batter not named Root has scored a test ton in 2021, this man. He also has two fifties in his last three innings and is showing signs of forming a successful opening partnership with…
  2. Haseeb Hameed: Nottinghamshire, right handed opening batter. Having begun a renaissance after moving from Lancashire following a couple of lean seasons he announced his return to form to a wider audience when he scored a ton for the County Select XI v The Indians. His subsequent recall to the test ranks has seen two fifties in three innings back, both coming in century stands with Burns.
  3. James Bracey:Gloucestershire, right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. A typical moment in recent England selection history saw this man make his test debut in his second favourite role and batting way out of position at number seven. Not altogether surprisingly he fared poorly on that occasion, but he deserves another chance, this time in his proper position and preferred role.
  4. Liam Livingstone: Lancashire, right handed batter, occasional purveyor of both off and leg spin. Has a good FC record, although he is better known for his white ball exploits.
  5. Dan Lawrence: Essex, right handed batter, occasional off spinner. He and Pope are the principal contenders for the no5 slot, and both have shown promise with neither staking an unassailable claim to the place.
  6. +Ben Foakes: Surrey, right handed batter, wicket keeper. The best English keeper currently playing the game and a fine middle order batter. I put him at six to insulate him just a bit from batting with the tail – nos 7 and 8 can both be counted as all rounders and the no9 is better than most lower order batters.
  7. Chris Woakes: Warwickshire, right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. With the colossus Stokes having to be regarded as hors de combat this man is the best all rounder available to England, and he would walk into almost any test side. His return to test action against India at The Oval saw him take a good haul of wickets, score a 50 and offer some decent resistance in the second innings when England were slumping.
  8. Liam Patterson-White: Nottinghamshire, left arm orthodox spinner, left handed batter. He recently reached a maiden first class hundred at the expense of Somerset, and his wickets in that match took his bowling average below 30. His temperament appears to be excellent as well. He has less FC experience than anyone else in either side.
  9. Oliver Edward Robinson: Sussex, right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower middle order batter. He has had a sensational start to his test career, and as a bowler who uses his great height to cause opponents problems he may well enjoy bowling in the homeland of Glenn McGrath. His batting can also be valuable.
  10. Matt Parkinson: Lancashire, leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. After 29 first class games the young leg spinner has 93 wickets at 23.95. That average is excellent, but there is a concern over the relatively low wickets per game ratio. Nevertheless I feel that he deserves a place in this tour party – no current English spinner with over 5oFC wickets has taken them more cheaply than the Lancastrian.
  11. Saqib Mahmood: Lancashire, right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. He has 70 wickets in FC cricket at 26 a piece and is quite sharp.

This side contains a good top five, one of the greatest of all wicket keepers, genuine all rounders at seven and eight, a bowler who can bat at nine and two excellent bowlers to round out the XI.

I conclude this section with a graphic:

ODDS AND ENDS

This section looks at a few other players who may be on the radar before long:

  • English off spinners have generally struggled down under (even Graeme Swann paid almost 40 per wicket in 2010-11, and failed to make it through the 2013-14 series), which is why none feature in my selections. There are two whose current records suggest they may make the grade eventually: Jack Carson of Sussex and Amar Virdi of Surrey.
  • Dan Moriarty, a left arm orthodox spinner, has a remarkable record in his fledgling first class career and may well be a candidate for elevation in the near future.
  • Luke Hollman, a leg spinning all rounder, has recently recorded a ten wicket match haul for Middlesex, and he may be a candidate in future.
  • When qualified for England Ricardo Vasconcelos of Northamptonshire will be a candidate for a top order berth.
  • Various fast medium bowlers whose chief weapon is accuracy have been overlooked because bowlers of that type rarely make much impact down under: Ben Coad, Sam Cook, Jamie Porter and Ben Sanderson are four who have very fine county records.

Please feel free to comment with suggestions of your own.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Well done for making it to the end of this post and enjoy my usual sign off…

The Royal London Cup and England’s World Cup Squad

My thoughts on the early stages of the Royal London Cup and England’s world cup 2019 squad.

INTRODUCTION

The day games in today’s first set of Royal London Cup Fixtures are now at the half way stage (Hampshire v Kent is a day/night game, and did not start until 1PM), and I shall be looking at what has happened thus far and venturing predictions as to the outcomes. Also England released their world cup 2019 squad today and I shall be looking at that. We being with…

THE ROYAL LONDON CUP

This is a 50 overs a side tournament, and is being played over the next month. Today sees the opening fixtures of the tournament and the situations, with all matches bar one at the innings break are:

Durham v Northamptonshire Durham 342-5 from 50 overs
A good score for Durham, with Bancroft making 151 not out and Michael Richardson 102. The Northanmptonshire bowlers gave away almost two and half overs worth of extra deliveries. Bizarrely Luke Procter, the most economical Northamptonshire bowler with 1-33 from 7 overs did not get to bowl his full allocation. Although I would prefer to Durham lose every game at present due to their choice of captain this is a total that should be defensible – it will require a huge effort for Northamptonshire to get them, so my predicted result here is victory for Durham.

Yorkshire v LeicestershireYorkshire 379-7 from 50 overs
A big score for Yorkshire. Gary Ballance top scored with 156 off 133 balls, youngster Harry Brook made 103 off 105, wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall made 58 off 29 to boost the total at the end. The Ballance/ Brook efforts are notable because Yorkshire had lost three early wickets when they came together. Tom Taylor took 3-57 (the first three to fall) from his 10 overs, a notable achievement in such a score. Yorkshire really should be able to defend this total, so my prediction is victory for them.

Lancashire v WorcestershireWorcestershire 367 all out from 49.1 overs
A big total from Worcestershire. I do not set as much store by using all of the 50 overs as some, so I am not that bothered by Worcs being all out before the end of their allocation. Hamish Rutherford and Daryl Mitchell made centuries for Worcestershire and keeper/batter Ricky Wessels a rapid 72 (he does not share his father Kepler’s approach to batting). Matt Parkinson, a 22 year old legspinner, took 5-51 for Lancashire, a very fine achievement particularly in view of the size of the Worcs total. Worcestershire should win this with that total on the board and that is my prediction.

Gloucestershire v Surrey Gloucestershire 235 all out off 47.1 overs
A poor looking total for Gloucestershire in the match between the county of my birth and the one where I lived for most of formative years. Chris Dent made 75 and wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick 74, but no one else did anything significant. Rikki Clarke took 4-43 and Tom Curran celebrated his world cup call-up with 3-29 from 9 overs. Frankly Surrey should knock these off no bother at all, and such is my predicted result.

Glamorgan v Essex Essex 326-7 from 50 overs
A good looking total for Essex, but definitely chaseable in this day and age (especially given the scoring in the recent championship game at Cardiff). Varun Chopra played the anchor role with 111 off 133, while Tom Westley hit 69 off 54 and Dan Lawrence 56 off 37. Sir Alastair Cook scored 40 off 41 to give the innings a solid start. Graham Wagg with 2-49 and Michael Hogan 2-52 were the pick of the bowlers. Given the nature of the Cardiff pitch so far this season I back Glamorgan to chase this one down.

Kent v Hampshire Hampshire 183-3 after 32.4 overs
Hampshire look to be going quite well here. James Vince made 56, while Sam Northeast and Rilee Rossouw are 38 not and 37 not respectively and seem to be going well. Matt Milnes has 2-24 from 5 overs for Kent. It is too early to attempt to call this one, but if Hampshire have a good finish to their innings and get somewhere close to 300 they will have a chance, while if Kent bowl well and restrict Hampshire to somewhere in the region of 250 they will be favourites.

ENGLAND’S WORLD CUP SQUAD

Here courtesy of Test Match Special’s twitter account is England’s World Cup Squad:

World Cup Squad

I rate Sam Curran a better cricketer than his brother, and would prefer to see him in the squad, but I have no huge problems with the selected squad, which has all bases other than slow left-arm spin covered. Liam Dawson, who some might conisder to fill that niche is not good enough in either department. If Liam Trevaskis develops his bowling to set alongside his promising batting (albeit he made a blob today) he may come to fill that particular niche in future, but unless you are prepared to select a non-batting spinner in Jack Leach for limited overs cricket there is no one else at present. I am glad that the selectors have not rushed the newly qualified Jofra Archer straight into the squad – a world cup is not the place for a player to be starting their international career.

PHOTOGRAPHY

My usual sign off…

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