England’s Prospects at Old Trafford

My thoughts on the changes to the England squad for the upcoming 4th Ashes Test and lots of photographs (do let me know of any you think calendar worthy!)

INTRODUCTION

England have made a couple of changes for the upcoming (and crucial) fourth Ashes test match at Old Trafford. This post looks at those changes and at England’s hopes, and optimistic as ever, discounts in the interests of simplicity the possibility of the Manchester weather emerging victorious.

SETTING THE SCENE

This is probably the most important Manchester test since the equivalent match in the 1902 series (when Australia won by 3 runs to clinch the Ashes). Again, a win for Australia would secure them the Ashes, since as holders a drawn series is enough for them, and that would be all England could do, while a win for England would leave them needing a draw at The Oval to secure the urn (as in 2005, when thanks to the second most significant 158 by a South African born England batter – Basil D-Oliveira’s 1968 effort being #1 in that category the necessary was achieved). In 1956 England needed a win at Manchester to secure the Ashes and Australia, thoroughly spooked by Jim Laker, failed to capitalize on the assistance of a number of weather interruptions, the final margin being an innings and 170 runs in England’s favour. In 1981 England were 2-1 to the good going into the penultimate match at Old Trafford, and won courtesy of Ian Botham’s second ton of the series. Finally, for the historical comparisons, in 1964 a draw was all Australia required from the equivalent match, being one up and holders, and on a pitch which needed white lines down the middle Bobby Simpson ensured that quite literally off his own bat, not being dislodged until the third morning of the match, for 311 in 762 minutes. Australia eventually declared at 656-8, England replying with 611 (Barrington 256, Dexter 174) and the few overs that remained before the draw could be officially confirmed were bowled by Barrington and Titmus with an old ball.

ENGLAND’S CHANGES

Jason Roy and Joe Denly have changed places in the batting order, Denly moving up to open and Roy dropping to no 4, while Craig Overton of Somerset replaces Chris Woakes. While I think switching Roy and Denly was the least England could do in the agttempt to address the problems at the top of their batting order I do not believe it goes far enough (readers of this blog will be aware of my own radical solution, first proposed a year ago when Cook as approaching retirement and Jennings’ inadequacy was all too obvious), and I feel that a no 3 has also to be located somewhere, as Joe Root is clearly not relishing the position. Overton for Woakes is uncontroversial, though I would have preferred another Somerset man, Lewis Gregory, to have got the nod. Denly has a low initial bar to clear – get England’s batting off to a better start than they have been managing of late – a three-legged elephant would probably have a chance of clearing a bar that low. Having made their calls, England need to back their judgement, and if they win the toss they should choose to bat first and hope to score enough to put Australia under pressure. If the Denly-Roy switch works out (and it can hardly turn out worse than the previous arrangement!), then a big total is a genuine possibility. As England have been discovering lately it is hard if you are starting each innings effectively already two wickets down. If England win they will go to The Oval as favourites, a draw still leaves them with a chance (look up 1926, 1930, 1934 and 1953 for examples of an Ashes deciding victory happening at The Oval) but defeat means curtains. However, even a defeat might be used to benefit England in the long term – with the Ashes gone it would be an opportunity/ necessity for England to experiment (I would expect a second front line spinner to be named in the squad for that match regardless of the result of the upcoming one, because pitches in South London so often offer turn).

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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This azure damselfly seems an appropriate picture to use to point out that I am thinking about pictures for use in the aspi.blog 2020 wall calendar – I have a few ideas already, and would welcome suggestions from readers.

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A red dragon fly in flight.

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A two for on damselflies! (five pics to choose from)

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Not often in easy view – a water vole seen near the centre of King’s Lynn today.

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Tammy Beaumont and Women Playing Alongside Men

A radical suggestion for dealing with the England men’s teams top order batting woes…

INTRODUCTION

Having introduced my new series about cricketers in my last post I now move on to an opening batter who provides a springboard for plenty of other ideas.

VALE ATQUE AVE

The 2015 English cricket season started with the news of the dropping and subsequent international retirement of Charlotte Edwards after a long and illustrious career (she features later in this series). Who was going to fill the monster sized vacancy that her departure left at the top of the England women’s batting order? 

The first England women’s squad post the dropping and retirement of Edwards featured an opening pair of Tammy Beaumont and Lauren Winfield. Beaumont immediately began making big runs in her new role at the top of the order, and remarkably a fairly seamless transition from one era to the next took place.

OPENING WOES IN THE MENS TEAM

Meanwhile in the ranks of the England men’s team a gaping hole was emerging at the top of the batting order. Alastair Cook, so long an absolute rock in that position, seemed to have gone into irreversible decline and none of those selected to partner him looked remotely good enough. Mark Stoneman went after a sequence of test matches that brought him four 5o plus scores but never saw him get as far as 60 (and he had several lives in the course of his top score of 59). He was replaced by Keaton Jennings who has scored two test hundreds but who is also looking at an average of 25.86 after 16 test matches (at least 15 runs per innings light for a specialist batter at that level). 

When Cook announced that he was retiring from international cricket the problem became greater still. Rory Burns of Surrey was an obvious candidate for one slot at the top of the order, having scored far more runs than anyone else in the English season. For the the other England faced a difficult decision between the following:

  1. Stick with the underachieving Jennings and hope for miracles.
  2. Revert to Stoneman with even less chance of success
  3. Bring in a second brand new opener and hope that (at least) one of the newbies hits their straps right from the start.
  4. Faced with an assortment of unappealing options as listed above go for someone who has been making stacks of international runs at the top of the order and give Tammy Beaumont her chance to play alongside the men.

In the event England took option one, and one big score for him in Sri Lanka apart it has not worked out either for them or for Jennings. In the test match currently under way at St Lucia England are doing well, but they have not had many top order runs to work with, although Burns batted a long time in the first innings. In the first two tests of this series England were roundly defeated, and the less said about their batting efforts, the better. 

COULD A WOMAN PLAY ALONGSIDE THE MEN?

The short answer is yes. I would not expect a female fast bowler to be able to hold their own as power is so important in this department, but in batting, fielding, wicketkeeping and slow bowling, where there is less of a premium on pure power I see no reason why a female could not hold their own with the men, and my suggestion relates specifically to an opening batter. 

If some new opener makes a succession of centuries in the early part of the English season , thereby forcing themselves on the selectors my current thinking may be modified, but at the moment I remain convinced that the best solution to the England Mens team’s opening woes is to give Beaumont her chance and see what happens.

THOMAS SQUAD FOR 1ST ASHES MATCH

I have misgivings about someone who is almost 33 starting a test career from fresh, but Joe Denly’s 69 in St Lucia would seem to have earned him an extended run, so it is on that basis that he features in my squad for the first Ashes Match. I will list the names, and then append some explanations:

  1. I Beaumont
  2. Rory Burns
  3. Joe Denly
  4. Joe Root*
  5. Joss Buttler
  6. Ben Foakes+
  7. Ben Stokes
  8. Sam Curran
  9. Adil Rashid
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Mark Wood
  12. James Anderson
  13. Olly Stone

I have named 13 because the exact make up the bowling unit will depend on the nature of the pitch and the conditions. I regard Anderson, Wood and Stone as essential for the seam attack (two outright quicks, and England’s all-time leading wicket taker), with Leach and Rashid in that order of precedence as spin options should conditions warrant it, and Curran as a fourth front-line seamer (possibly batting at 7 in place of Stokes) should conditions warrant that option. Bairstow at no 3, as a specialist batter, is also an option but would seem shockingly inconsistent given the Denly has produced a significant score in St Lucia, which is why he is not there in my list.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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A recent acquisition, which has also featured on my London Transport themed website.

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