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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New Shoes and England Looking Down Both Barrels

More (as promised) on my new shoes and an account of England’s Ashes Woes, as well as lots of photographs.

INTRODUCTION

In my previous post I included a picture of my new shoes, bought in Holt on Wednesday along with a challenge to my followers. In this post I complete that story and look at England’s current woes in the Ashes series.

THE SHOES

First up, the picture from my previous post and its accompanying challenge:

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The pair of shoes – can you identify their many plus points from this picture (all will be revealed in my next post)?

Here are the particularly good points of these shoes as I noted them:

  • Soft and padded leather uppers
  • user-friendly and sturdy laces
  • soles that are a) thick, meaning that they should last a long time and b) rubber, meaning that they will provide good grip even in wet conditions
  • Also, an advantage that is often available to me as a man with size seven (40 in Continental Europe) feet, they were massively discounted – £49 instead of £125.

Well done if you identified all the above. Here are some more pictures looking more closely at some of the features identified:

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The full underside
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The Ecco name

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See what I mean about the thickness of the soles?

I wore the shoes for a couple of hours on Wednesday to get an early feel for them, and was pleased. Yesterday I put them to a stiffer test, because my physio session was cancelled due to staff sickness. Thus I decided that a long walk was in order (see the photos at the end of this post), and used it to give the new shoes their first real test. They passed with flying colours – my feet were aching by the end of the walk, but that was tiredness, not because the shoes had caused them any problems.

ENGLAND’S ASHES WOES

After a magnificent bowling effort yesterday, spearheaded by Jofra Archer (6-45) accounted for Australia for 179 (and that after they had been 136-2) England’s batters proceeded to throw away the good start, slumping to 67 all out, with only Joe Denly (12) making double figures. Broad has claimed an early wicket in Australia’s second innings, but given that short of rain of ‘ark building’ intensity a draw is now a virtual impossibility it has hard to see how England can keep their Ashes hopes alive. At minimum they need a superlative bowling effort after having had a mere 27.5 overs respite and then a jolly sight more application in their second innings to have a chance.

All of the problems in this innings (most of the wickets were given rather than being taken) are ones we have seen before. The following are the most obvious needs for this squad (and with the Ashes likely gone the last two tests should be used for experimentation):

  1. An opening batter alongside Burns (Roy is not suited to this role in red ball cricket, though he may be able to handle no 3 if the openers see off the new ball). Absent anyone who has made a really commanding case I once again suggest the radical solution of dropping Tammy Beaumont a line and seeing if she is up for having a go alongside the men (I first suggested this about a year ago).
  2. Roy or Stokes (if you fancy a calculated gamble) at no 3, to enable…
  3. Root to revert to no 4 where he really belongs.
  4. Ollie Pope in at no 5 to stiffen up the middle order (he is fresh off the back of a double century, and has a first class average of almost 60).
  5. Stokes down a place to no 6 if you don’t put him at no 3, otherwise Ben Foakes to bat here as keeper
  6. If Stokes is at no 6, then Foakes bats 7, otherwise Roy (if deep batting is needed) or Lewis Gregory (if you want five genuine bowlers possibly with Stokes as 6th).
  7. No change needed at nos 8-11 – the bowlers acquitted themselves well, though Sam Curran has to be considered, and a second spinner (for my money either Matthew Parkinson or Helen Fenby depending on how radical you are prepared to be) should be in the squad.

Thus my 13 for the 4th match would be: Burns, Beaumont, Stokes, *Root, Pope, +Foakes, Roy, Woakes, Archer, Broad, Leach, Gregory, Fenby, with the first 11 names listed likely to play unless conditions warrant Gregory for Roy or Fenby for Roy if two spinners are warranted. As for Denly, he has had too many nearly innings, most of them given away by ill-judged shots and has to go. Australia’s new opener Harris has just fallen to Jack Leach making Australia 36-2. Eight more wickets and then some much better batting now the requirement.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

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I have noticed huges numbers of flies that mimic wasps in King’s Lynn this year, including a numnber that I photographed yesterday.

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A swallow captured in flight…
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…and cropped much closer

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