Some Thoughts About Possible England Cricketers

Some thoughts about the possible make-up of the England team against Ireland later this year.

INTRODUCTION

In this post I will be looking at the claims of some potential England cricketers and at the end I will list those who at present would featurie in my plans for the summer. There will be some new names, because although it is only one match I believe that the game against Ireland represents an opportunity to give people a start at test match level, and I would prefer not to have give someone a debut against Australia, who are next up. Before looking at ‘potentials’, it is time clear the decks by first listing the…

SPINE OF THE TEAM

This, given the recent international retirement of Sir Alastair Cook and the lack of success of certain others comprises four names:

  • Rory Burns – He deserves more time to show what he can do at this level (here today, gone tomorrow selections plagued the 1990s when England were an aboslute embarrassment), so one of the openers slots is still his.
  • *Joe Root – The captain and finest batter in the side (and one of the finest in world cricket), his place is assured
  • +Ben Foakes – The best wicketkeeper around and averaging over 40 with the bat in his brief test career to date, I would regard his omission as a disgrace.
  • James Anderson – England’s all-time leading wicket taker and the leader of the bowling attack. As well as his bowling he should be working with the younger bowlers in the squad giving them the benefit of his vast experience and knowhow.

With these four names in mind we now have to decide on the rest, and the next section sets out what is…

REQUIRED TO COMPLETE THE SQUAD

We have two specialist batters and a wicket keeper, and to augment them we need three more specialist batters and an all-rounder or four more specialist batters, one of whom is a regular opener. Only one bowler is listed, and we need a new-ball partner for him, at least two further pace bowlers and two front-line spinners so that we can pick an attack to meet all conditions. With this in mind I am going to start with the…

OPENING BATTER

As far as I am concerned Mark Stoneman and Keaton Jennings have both been found wanting at the highest level, so I strike them straight out. Not many openers have done big things in the first two rounds of county championship matches. Three who merit consideration are Haseeb Hameed who fared well against India before he was injured, but who has had two successive very poor seasons before coming into some runs against Middlesex to start this season, Zak Crawley who has had a superb match for Kent against Warwickshire, although his overall average is only just above 30 and his century in the match just completed was only his second in first-class cricket (from 39 innings) and Dominic Sibley whose 132 for Warwickshire in that same match was fifth century in as many games. Also worth a thought is Middlesex’s Nick Gubbins, who averages 34.92 in first class cricket with seven centuries from 61 innings, and who was one of the few Middlesex players to fare decently with the bat against Lancashire. Of these four my pick would be 25 year-old Gubbins, but with a note to look out for the scores of Hameed, Crawley and Sibley – if any of these start producing big scores on a consistent basis they could still challenge. However, I am not massively convinced by any of these potential openers, and continue to espouse the radical solution I have suggested elsewhere of giving Tammy Beaumont a go amongst the men.

THE NUMBER THREE SLOT

There are fewer options here – not many people have been scoring big at number three. I see the following possibilities:

  1. Persuade Joe Root to go in at number three, enabling an extra middle-order batter to be selected, which could work, but may end up adversely affecting Root’s performances.
  2. Treating him principally as a batter who will sometimes bowl short spells at high pace see if the new, responsible Ben Stokes can handle the number three slot.
  3. Picking him as a specialist batter give Jonathan Bairstow this slot.
  4. Although he does not bat there for his county cross one’s fingers and pitch Joe Clarke straight in at number three.
  5. Gamble on youth by selecting Ryan Patel of Surrey, whose 100 not out was the sheet anchor of their first innings against Essex, guiding them from 75-1 to 395 all out. Fine performance though it was, it was also his first first class hundred, though he is only 21. 

My personal order of preference for these options is as follows: 3, 2, 5, 1, 4 – I regard promoting Root as too much of a gamble and think that expecting someone who is not a regular no 3 to start doing that job at test level would be a big ask, and I think Patel needs a few more big performances be can be seriously entertained, but he is on my radar. 

THE REMAINING BATTERS/ ALL ROUNDERS

With the top four slots filled and a wicket-keeper in place we need either two more specialist batters or a specialist batter and an all-rounder. My possibles are as follows:

  • Joe Clarke – averages over 40 with the bat, started this season splendidly with 112 and 97 not out against Yorkshire, although he then failed twice against Somerset. I believe a place must be found for him, and that number five would be a good position for him to begin his test career from.
  • Ben Stokes – A position in the middle of the order would probably suit him better than number three, and having an all-rounder if they are genuinely good enough is always valuable. 
  • Ollie PopeThe Surrey man’s 251 in the Champion County game showed that he is the form of his life and made his case all but irrefutable.
  • Tom Abell – The Somerset captain has played two valuable innings this season, the 49 in the first innings against Kent and the hundred against Nottinghamshire when his side looked in trouble, but ended up going on to win by an innings.
  • Kiran Carlson – A sparkling century to start his season against Northamptonshire, albeit on a featherbed of a pitch (there were over 80 runs per wicket in that drawn match), and it was only his fourth in 49 first class innings. The 20 year-old is clearly very promising but he needs to do more to earn a place.
  • George Bartlett – Twice in their two matches this season Somerset were deep in trouble and on both occasions Bartlett was instrumental in hauling them out of it. In the second innings of their opener against Kent his 63, backed by some hefty blows from Jack Brooks at number 11 gave them something to bowl at and they duly dismissed Kent, while against Nottinghamshire he came in after the top three had all been dismissed cheaply and with his team initially looking down both barrels produced 133, his maiden first-class ton (note that Carlson was cashing in after two of his team mates had already smashed tons). The fact that he has twice made runs when they were desperately needed suggests that he has the right temperament, so he is definitely in the reckoning.

PACE BOWLERS

We are looking for two or three guys to back up Anderson in this department. I see the following as especially worthy of consideration (in addition to Stuart Broad, whose claims need no amplification here):

  • Lewis Gregory – 5-18 in the second innings of the first match to bowl Kent out, 6-68 in the first innings against Nottinghamshire and a quick fifty to help boost the Somerset total past 400 in that same match. The 26 year old now has 223 wickets at 27.03 in first-class cricket from 76 matches and seems to have stepped things up a notch this season, with a total of 14-145 from two matches, average 10.36 per wicket.
  • Sam Curran –  after the way he burst on the scene against India last year he should feature strongly again. He has not been involved in the early county matches because he is currently playing IPL cricket in India (and has some good performances there to his name).
  • Mark Wood – A bowler who propels the ball at over 90mph, though he is injury prone. I think England need at least one bowler of extreme pace in their attack, and after his efforts against the West Indies he is the prime contender. If he gets injured than my choice in this role would be…
  • Olly Stone –  The Norfolk born quickie takes his wickets at 24 each in first-class cricket, and has the kind of extreme pace that only Wood among the others can match. 
  • Tom Bailey – The Lancashire fast-medium bowler has 161 wickets from his 48 first-class games at 26.15 each, including 5-67 in the Middlesex first innings this season, when his illustrious tem mate Anderson bagged three. The fact that he and Anderson have experience of bowling in tandem could be useful as well. 
  • Henry Brookes – He is just 19 years old, and his seven first class matches have brought him 24 wickets at 26.08 although he has yet to record a five-for. Also hbis ten first class innings have produced three fifty-plus scores, including a career best 84 against Kent that saved his side from an innings defeat, although Kent did manage to chase down the 124 they needed to win, an average of 29.33. He could well develop into a genuine allrounder and definitely merits consideration as a potential no 8.

From the bowlers I have named in this section Stuart Broad, Sam Curran, one out of Wood or Stone and Brookes are the ones I consider serious possibilities. I would consider Brookes if the conditions were such that I thought no spinner was warranted, in which case I would be picking four front-line quick bowlers, otherwise the question would be who missed out in the toss-up between Broad and Curran, and that would be Broad for my money, because he and Anderson are both nearing the end of their great careers, and I think Anderson can support the younger bowlers on his own. I would expect Anderson and Curran to share the new ball, with Mark Wood (if fit) or Olly Stone (otherwise) coming on first change, and Henry Brookes as fourth seamer if the pitch was a green top.

THE SPINNERS

Jack Leach with his 6-36 against Nottinghamshire made his case, strengthened by a maiden test five-for in Sri Lanka, irrefutable. In the absence of any other spinners pulling up trees Adil Rashid who also produced a maiden test five-for over the winter is the choice for the second spinner should conditions warrant such (unlikely, but in July when the next tets match takes place not impossible). Moeen Ali misses out for two reasons – he is not good enough in either department, a bits and pieces player rather than a true all rounder, and he is an off-spinner, and Joe Root (who should be encouraged to trust himself more in this area) can bowl a bit of off-spin if needed. Meanwhile I will be on the look out for a serious option to replace Rashid. Dominic Bess may get himself back into the reckoning as the season goes on, but for the moment two front-line spinners remains enough.

THE FINAL RECKONING

My squad is as follows, starting with the likely first eleven assuming normal conditions:

  1. Rory Burns
  2. Tammy Beaumont
  3. Jonny Bairstow
  4. *Joe Root
  5. Joe Clarke
  6. +Ben Foakes
  7. Ben Stokes
  8. Sam Curran
  9. Jack Leach
  10. Mark Wood/ Olly Stone according to fitness.
  11. James Anderson

The reserves and circumstances in which I would consider picking them are:

  • Adil Rashid – plays if two spinners are needed.
  • Henry Brookes – plays on a green-top if no specialist spinner is deemed necessary.
  • George Bartlett – plays at no7 if Stokes is unavailable, on the understanding that his off-spin will come into the equation.
  • Stuart Broad – slots into his accustomed role as Anderson’s new ball partner if Sam Curran is injured, would also replace Anderson as senior bowler if he was injured, and may start if neither of our extra-fast bowlers is available.
  • Ollie Pope – in the event of injury to any of my suggested nos 3-6 he is the next cab off the rank.
  • Dominic Sibley – if one of my preferred openers is injured he gets the nod.

PHOTOGRAPHS

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100 Cricketers – First X1 Bowlers and introducing the second X1

Continuing my “100 cricketers” series and taking the opportunity to say 750 thankyous.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to the latest post in my “100 cricketers series“. In this post I complete the coverage of my first XI (see here, here and here for the other posts about this XI) and introduce my second XI in batting order. However, before I get to the main part of this post I would like to say…

750 THANKYOUS

This blog has been steadily gaining followers, and today the milestone of 750 was reached. I am honoured that so many of you take an interest in an eccentric personal blog. I have been blogging for almost eight years now, and that comprises two very distinct periods. From when I started in 2011 through to the first part of 2014 I was producing blog posts but was not doing anything else. Then from the second part of 2014 I learned from the good examples of other bloggers, such as Anna, and started to interact more, visiting blogs and leaving likes and where I deemed it appropriate comments. I have gone in the second period of my blogging life from being a plain blogger to being part of a blogging community, and the latter is much more satisfying. Now back to my cricketers…

JACK LEACH

When England won the series in Sri Lanka at the back end of 2018, their first victory in that part of the world since 2001, it was notable because it was achieved largely by England’s spinners outbowling their Sri Lankan counterparts in their own backyards. Part of this achievement saw Jack Leach record his first five wicket innings haul in a test match, and with 20 wickets at 24.90 from the four test matches he has played so far he seems certain to have a fine international career ahead of him. With all due respect to Moeen Ali, who fared reasonably well in the losing series against the West Indies, I believe that England’s first two choices for spinner’s roles at the moment should be Leach and Adil Rashid, who also recorded his first test match five-for against Sri Lanka. A further candidate who may force himself back in to the picture is Leach’s Somerset team mate Dominic Bess who may yet form a long standing England partnership with Leach, given that Rashid and Ali are both closer to the end than the beginning of their careers.

It is also possible that a new spinner will emerge from somewhere to make a case for themselves, but at the moment, unless the match is being played on a green-top and a spinner is clearly not going to be required Jack Leach would be my first choice as the front line spinner.

JAMES ANDERSON

When he first appeared on the scene James Anderson sported some ridiculous hairstyles (though never one quite as awful as Pietersen’s 2005 “Dead Skunk” effort) and recorded some quite horrible looking bowling figures. For a few years he was good if the ball swung and absolutely innocuous if it did not.

In the second phase of his career, starting with the 2010-11 Ashes series, he was absolutely magnificent in all circumstances, and it was a great moment when he finished England’s 4-1 beating of India (who only a few months later beat Australia in Australia) by becoming the all-time leading test wicket taker among pace bowlers, moving ahead of Glenn McGrath.

2019 could be his last home season as an England bowler (he is now 36 years old, and a home Ashes series would be a great stage on which to make his final curtain call), but so long as he remains fit and motivated he should definitely be among the first names on the team sheet. He has earned the right for his career to end at a moment of his own choosing.

I hope that as well as continuing to bowl well he uses his vast experience to assist younger swing bowlers such as Sam Curran, passing on the knowledge he has built up over the course of 15 years in international cricket.

OLLY STONE

This pick is a look to the future. The Norfolk born paceman has 116 first class wickets at 24.20, and is well capable of propelling a cricket ball at 90mph and above. Having seen how Mark Wood shook the West Indies up in the last match of what was otherwise a shocking series for England and also how Jasprit Bumrah and Pat Cummins both impacted the Australia v India series with their extra pace I feel that England need some serious pace at their disposal, as well as crafty swing bowlers like Anderson and Sam Curran, and of course in appropriate conditions spinners such as Leach and Rashid. 

Incidentally, although Norfolk has never been a first class county a number of Norfolk born players have achieved high honours in the game – five members of the Edrich family, led by Bill and John of that ilk, played first class cricket, Middlesex stalwarts Peter Parfitt and Clive Radley (test avergae 48.10) were both Norfolk born, and going back to the very early days, the leading batsman of the 1830s and 40s, Fuller Pilch, was also Norfolk born.

INTRODUCING THE SECOND XI

Preparing the ground for the continuation of this series, here in batting order is my second XI

    1. SMRITI MANDHANA
    2. CHRIS GAYLE

 

  1. SACHIN TENDULKAR
  2. *ALLAN BORDER
  3. AMELIA KERR
  4. IAN BOTHAM
  5. +SARAH TAYLOR
  6. SHANE WARNE
  7. WASIM AKRAM
  8. WAQAR YOUNIS
  9. MUTTIAH MURALITHARAN

I came up with the cricketers who will feature in this series of posts during one of my recent spells in hospital, and because I want this series to be fully authentic I am sticking to the choices I made then, and presenting them in the order in which I made them. As this series continues to unfold I offer a couple of challenges to those who follow it sufficiently closely:

  • Once I have presented the full 100 players pick your best Men’s XI
  • Your best Women’s XI
  • And your best mixed XI 

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here are a couple of of my photographs for those who have made it through the entire post:

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