Thoughts About The Ashes Squad

A look at the England tour party for the upcoming Ashes and my selections for the Gabba.

A few days ago the England squad for the upcoming Ashes tour was announced. They opted for a squad of 17, and picked the following players:

In the rest of this post I will look at the problems with this party and then name the XI I would pick for the Gabba.

FOUR SELECTION HOWLERS

There are four players who certainly should not be in the squad. First is Jonathan Bairstow, a great white ball player whose test career comprises one fat year (Dec 2015 to Dec 2016) and eight lean ones. His place should have been given the Ben Foakes, who has been shamefully treated by the England selectors over the last few years.

Second is Dom Bess. English off spinners have generally struggled in Australia. Swann, the best English offie of my lifetime, paid almost 40 per scalp on the successful 2010-11 trip and broke down midway through the 2013-14 trip. Bess is nowhere near being in the same class as Swann, and is a disaster waiting to happen in Australia. This place should have been given to one of Matt Parkinson (pays 23.5 per first class wicket) or if you want more batting depth available Liam Patterson-White (left arm spin bowling all rounder) or Matt Critchley (batter who bowls leg spin and has had a fine season).

Third is Zak Crawley, a man who averages 11 in test cricket since his sole major innings at that level. Tom Abell should have been selected to fill the no three slot, with the bonus that he can offer some support in the bowling department with his medium pace and that if he manages to establish himself at test level he will be a serious candidate to replace Root as skipper when the time comes.

Fourth is Dawid Malan, a man now in his mid-thirties whose test average is rather less than his age. I would have selected Tom Haines as reserve opener in place of Malan.

I will not deem it a mistake but I also have concerns about two veteran seamers, Anderson and Broad both being named in the tour party. Neither have the greatest records in Australia and the likelihood of both of them being fit for the whole of a five match series seems small. Jofra Archer and Olly Stone are both crocked, but a gamble on the extra pace of Saqib Mahmood or Brydon Carse might have been taken.

AN XI FOR THE GABBA

Having laid out my most pressing concerns about the tour party and established the like the Irishman being asked for directions “I wouldn’t have started from here” it is time to select an XI for the Gabba:

The opening pair presents no problems – Burns and Hameed have two century stands in three innings and to break them up at this point would be positively frolicking with disaster.

No three is tougher, but since he is in the party it makes sense to stick with Malan for all my entirely justified misgivings about him.

No four is the one position that no one will argue about – Joe Root, the skipper, retains his regular slot.

Number five is a close call between two players who have yet to fully establish themselves at test level, and I opt for Ollie Pope over Dan Lawrence – Aussie pitches should suit Pope.

Number six is Jos Buttler, the keeper (no six is his best position, and the balance of the side also dictates that he should bat there).

Chris Woakes has to be at seven if one wants four genuine seam options and a spinner, and his record batting at seven in tests is stellar (albeit from a small sample size).

Ollie Robinson has inked himself into the side given the way he has performed in his test career to date, and he is well capable of batting at no eight.

Mark Wood is the only genuinely fast bowler in the squad, and the Gabba should suit him (I would spare him from the thankless task of attempting to extract life from the Adelaide Oval, as I suspect he will need a bit of nursing to get through the series).

There is only one spinner of genuine test standard in the squad, and with possibly exception of Perth he should play every match, so Jack Leach gets in at number ten.

At number eleven is England’s all time leading test wicket taker, James Anderson.

This side (Burns, Hameed, Malan, *Root, Pope, +Buttler, Woakes, Robinson, Wood, Leach, Anderson) is slightly short on batting, with two of the top five definitely unproven (Pope may change that, but I actually regard Malan as proven in the wrong way – provenly not good enough) but does have the bowling resources to take 20 wickets at less than ruinous cost with Anderson, the height of Robinson, the pace of Wood, the spin of Leach and Woakes as fourth seamer. Here courtesy of Wisden is a picture of my team:

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off:

England Dominant At Old Trafford

A look at the extraordinary developments in the test match at Old Trafford, a suggestion of a tweak to DRS regulations and some photographs.

INTRODUCTION

The second test match between England and the West Indies at Old Trafford is now approaching its climax. In yesterday’s post I outlined various scenarios that could lead to an England victory (see also Saturday’s post), though I acknowledged that it seemed unlikely. Now I take the story on.

SECOND HALF OF DAY FOUR – ENGLAND KEEP THEIR HOPES ALIVE

When the West Indies were 235-4 the draw would have been the heavy favourite with the bookies, with time seemingly set to run out on England. A spell by Ben Stokes of 11 overs, in which 57 of the 66 deliveries he bowled were bouncers softened the West Indies up, and then Broad, Woakes and Curran used the second new ball with devastating effect, and suddenly the West Indies were all out for 287 and England led by 182. With quick runs for a declaration the order of the day Stokes and Buttler were sent in to open the England second innings. Buttler was castled for a duck, putting his test future in jeopardy, Zak Crawley came in at three, and was out for 12 with five overs remaining in the day. Root came in at four, and he and Stokes were still in possession at the close with England 37-2, 219 runs to the good. That left England needing to make things happen fast on the final day. 7

THE FINAL DAY SO FAR

England needed quick runs for a declaration, and many (including me) reckoned that they needed to score them in at maximum 11 overs, which would give them 85 at the West Indies, which crucially would allow the use of a second new ball to polish off the tail if required. Stokes was dropped early off an absolute sitter and the West Indies swallowed up some time by spectacularly burning off their three reviews on three of the most blatant not outs you could imagine. Ten overs into the day the England lead stood at 299, and a declaration would have made sense. However, England batted on for one more over, boosting their lead to 311 and giving themselves the anticipated 85 overs to bowl the West Indies out. Broad and Woakes bowled splendidly with the new ball, and the West Indies were three down by lunch, a wonderful morning for England. Since lunch Broad has added the wicket of Roston Chase, giving him three for the innings, while Woakes picked up the other, the wicket of Kraigg Brathwaite, the big sticker in this West Indies line up. The West Indies are now reeling at 42-4, needing a purely academic 270 more to win, while England need six wickets. So far this day has gone perfectly according to England’s script, and from a draw being clear favourite mid afternoon yesterday it is now looking very like at an England win.

AN ADDITION TO THE DRS

Having seen the West Indies burning up their three reviews in the field this morning clearly as a device to soak up time I now think that a coda to current DRS regulations is required. This would be a ‘vexatious review’, whereby if the TV replay umpire from the evidence they see deems it clearly spurious (e.g sending an LBW upstairs when the delivery in question has pitched about a foot wide of leg stump and was going even wider) the culprit does not just lose that review, they lose their teams entire allocation of reviews for the innings.

PHOTOGRAPHS

IMG_1975 (2)IMG_1976 (2)IMG_1977 (2)IMG_1982 (2)IMG_1984 (2)IMG_1988 (2)IMG_1989 (2)IMG_1993 (2)IMG_1994 (2)IMG_1995 (2)IMG_1996 (2)IMG_2016 (2)IMG_2016 (3)IMG_2017 (2)IMG_2018 (2)IMG_2019 (2)IMG_2020 (2)IMG_2021 (2)IMG_2022 (2)IMG_2023 (2)IMG_2024 (2)IMG_2025 (2)IMG_2025 (3)IMG_2027 (2)IMG_2028 (2)IMG_2030 (2)IMG_2031 (2)IMG_2037 (2)