England Women Poised For Series Win Over Kiwis

An account of yesterday’s second ODI between the England and New Zealand women’s teams plus some recent photographs.

There is no cricket happening today (except in that two-bit tournament taking place in Dubai), bu yesterday saw the second of five One Day Internationals between the England and New Zealand women’s teams. This post looks back a wonderful, low scoring contest.

THE PRELIMINARIES

Katherine Brunt was rested by England for this match, Danni Wyatt coming in to the side to make her 200th appearance in an England shirt. New Zealand won the toss and put England in.

THE ENGLAND INNINGS

The innings began with a maiden bowled by Jess Kerr to Lauren Winfield-Hill. In the second over Tammy Beaumont cracked three boundaries against Sophie Devine before deciding to shoulder arms to the final ball which came back off the pitch just enough to hit the stumps. Knight joined Winfield-Hill and the prospered for a time, until Knight fell for 18. Thereafter wickets fell at regular intervals, and at 146-9 England looked doomed. At that point Tash Farrant joined Wyatt who had shown signs of finding her best form, and now did so with a vengeance. Farrant scored 22 and helped the last wicked to put on 51. Wyatt on her return to ODI action scored 63 not out, with the only other score above Farrant’s 22 being 39 from Winfield-Hill. Hannah Rowe and Leigh Kasperek took three wickets each.

THE NEW ZEALAND INNINGS

Suzie Bates started as though this was going to be easy for New Zealand, but at 40, of which she contributed 28 she was well caught by Wyatt off Kate Cross. The decision went upstairs, but the catch was definitely clean. Sophie Ecclestone got Maddy Green in her first over to make it 63-2, and in the very next over Cross accounted for Lauren Down (22) to make it 64-3. Sophie Devine and Amy Satterthwaite put on 21, but Satterthwaite never got going, and at 85 her innings ended for 1, a third wicket for Kate Cross. Brooke Halliday joined Devine, and at 111-4, 87 needed for victory, the rain got heavy enough for the umpires to take the players off. The players returned to the field with New Zealand facing an adjusted target of 183 from 42 overs, meaning that they needed 72 from the last 18 to win. Natalie Sciver produced a superb delivery to bowl Devine for 28, making it 114-5. Then Charlie Dean, a 20 year old off spinner making just her second international appearance accounted for Katey Martin (6), Hannah Rowe (7), the big scalp of Halliday (29) and Kasperek (10), and New Zealand were 161-9, with nos 10 and 11 Lea Tahuhu and Jess Kerr together at the crease. With one ball of the 39th over to go the score had inched up to 169, at which point Tahuhu aimed a drive at Tash Farrant and succeeded only in chipping the ball straight to extra cover where Heather Knight made no mistake, and England were home by 14 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method. Charlie Dean had 4-36 from eight overs, an outstanding performance which settled the match. The Player of the Match Award went to Danni Wyatt who had followed her 63 no out that gave England an outside chance of winning with an immaculate fielding performance. Ultimately, given that four kiwis reached 20, but Brooke Halliday was their top scorer with 29 this was the right call, and in one it was fitting that on a landmark day for her Wyatt got the award, but also Charlie Dean’s outstanding spell deserved recognition and there was certainly a case for at least a shared award. England lead the series 2-0 and will have a chance to take an unassailable lead tomorrow in the 3rd ODI. There are not many innings in which she bowls in which Ecclestone is other than the most threatening spinner on show but yesterday against New Zealand was definitely one. Full scorecard here.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England’s “Selection Policy” Goes From Dumb To Dumber

A look at the latest craziness to emanate from the ECB’s ivory tower – the naming of Moeen Ali as a spin bowling option in the test squad based on his recent form in The Hundred.

It has been confirmed this morning that Moeen Ali has been added to England’s squad for the second test against India. In this post I explain just how flawed this move is.

RECENT SUCCESS
DOUBLY IRRELEVANT

Moeen Ali has been going well in The Hundred, an ultra short form competition massively removed from the long haul of test cricket. He has also been especially notable for his batting successes, coming in high in the order and throwing the bat as one has to in that competition. His bowling in that competition amounts to combined figures of 4-115 in five matches, and it is as a spinner that England will play him if they do play him. In other words, he has been succeeding in the form of the game furthest removed from test cricket and not in the department in which England would make most use of him at test level.

TACKLING THE
WRONG PROBLEM

England are not short of bowling options but are suffering at the top end of the batting order, with Crawley definitely proven as inadequate at test level, Sibley questionable and even Burns not bombproof. Moeen Ali is therefore a ‘solution’ to a ‘problem’ that exists only in the minds of the England selectors.

DISRESPECT TO SPINNERS ALREADY IN THE SQUAD

England already have two front line spinners available to them, Jack Leach and Dom Bess. Bess is a slightly questionable inclusion in the squad, but Leach from the mere 16 matches he has been given has 62 wickets at 29.98, 3.875 wickets per match. For comparison, Ali takes 3.1 wickets per match and pays 36.24 a piece for them. Frankly the way England’s #1 spinner (Leach) is being treated by the selectors is nothing short of a disgrace.

SHORT SIGHTED
AS WELL AS RETROGRADE

Additionally, one must look ahead to England’s next tour, which is the toughest of all – Australia. As I demonstrate in this piece, English off spinners have historically been of limited value in Australia, while left arm orthodox spinners have been very important. England’s two best ever Ashes tours, in 1928-9 and 1932-3 both featured a left arm spinner and a leg spinner in the party (Farmer White and Tich Freeman in the first, Hedley Verity and Tommy Mitchell in the second). Leach is the principal candidate for the left arm spinner’s role, while Matt Parkinson (86 FC wickets at 23.69) is the obvious candidate for the leg spinner’s place. Dan Moriarty with 31 wickets from four FC games at 19.77 a piece is a left arm spinner who might be in the mix, and Liam Patterson-White, who takes his FC wickets at 30.13 and averages 23.12 with the bat may yet make the grade. Also in the wings is Lewis Goldsworthy of Somerset. As a more radical idea, Sophie Ecclestone at the age of 22 has 125 international wickets across formats at 19.49 each. I would rather see any of the players I have just named than yet another recall for Moeen Ali. The latter’s last test was against India in India, and although he took wickets in the end he also bowled England into a losing position by leaking almost five an over in conditions that were helpful to a bowler of his type.

ENGLAND XI FOR THURSDAY

From the players in the squad I select as follows:

  1. Rory Burns
  2. Dom Sibley
  3. Haseeb Hameed (Crawley’s time at the top level is done)
  4. *Joe Root
  5. Dan Lawrence
  6. +Jos Buttler
  7. Sam Curran
  8. Ollie Robinson
  9. Mark Wood
  10. Jack Leach
  11. James Anderson

If one wants more batting depth, Overton could replace Wood, and then there would be a 7, 8, 9 of Curran, Overton and Robinson, which should be depth enough for anyone. I prefer Wood because his presence provides some express pace to go with the seam and swing options, which with Curran’s left arm and Robinson’s extra height are well varied (Broad was ordinary in the first test, so I rest him rather than Anderson for this one). There is also England’s best spinner in there, as there should be.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

A “Rest XI”

In this post I envisage myself selecting a ‘Rest’ XI to play England in an old style ‘test trial’ match. One of my XI had played test cricket, but qualifies by virtue of not being official first choice for his position.

This post harks back to the days of ‘test trial’ matches, a common example of which was England v The Rest. In it I select, with explanations, my opposition XI if such a game was to played in the run up to the first test against New Zealand. There is one player in this XI who has test experience, while the rest have none. I also name a couple of reserves.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

Hassan Azad (Leics): Left handed opening batter, now averaging 43.89 in FC cricket, with five centuries at that level. His career best 144 not out came against Surrey this season, with his side needing to bat out the match to avoid an innings defeat, and his innings ensured that they accomplished that mission.

*Ricardo Vasconcelos (Northanmptonshire): Left handed opening batter, occasional keeper, captain. Two 150+ scores so far this season, one of them 185 not out in a monster run chase, have seen his FC average move above 40. Although both openers are left handed Vasconcelos is much more attacking than Azad who is very much a sticker.

Tom Abell (Somerset): Right handed batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. He has contributed significant knocks to all three of Somerset’s wins so far this season. Somerset have opted for three Toms at the top of their order this season, Lammonby and Banton opening and Abell at three. Lammonby has struggled so far in this, his first full FC season, having been touted as an England possible based on 459 runs at 51.00 with three centuries from his first six FC matches and is at present further from England consideration than he was at the start of the season, though that could easily change. Banton is miscast as a first class opener – he has a fine record opening the batting in short form cricket, but has not looked anything approaching convincing opening against the red ball. My own feeling is that if he is going to make the grade in first class cricket it will be batting somewhere in the middle of the order rather than at the top.

Matt Critchley (Derbyshire): Right handed batter, leg spinner. He has been in good form lately, although his county are not faring especially well.

+Ben Foakes (Surrey): Right handed batter, wicket keeper. I include him in this side because officially he is not England’s first choice test keeper, due to the continuing indulgence of Jos Buttler. Buttler is one of England’s finest ever white ball batters and a decent keeper, but in red ball cricket he should not be keeping Foakes out.

Lewis Goldsworthy (Somerset): Right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The very definition of a bolter, with one FC appearance to his name. However, his performance in the fourth innings when he and Steven Davies steered Somerset home with them having been in some trouble showed that he has a superb temperament.

Ryan Higgins (Gloucestershire): Right handed batter, right arm medium fast bowler. After 42 first class appearances he has 1,965 runs at 33.87 and 151 wickets at 20.84. In Gloucestershire’s last game (see here) he took a good haul of wickets and played a crucial cameo innings that put his team ahead of the clock, enabling them to bring home a superb run chase. For my money, with Ben Stokes crocked, Cap 698 should be his.

Oliver Edward Robinson (Sussex): Right arm medium fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. Before I get on to his record a point of clarification: there are two Oliver Robinsons playing county cricket at present, and both like to go by Ollie, so when writing about them I use full names to make it clear which one I am talking about – Oliver Edward Robinson is the bowler and useful lower order batter who plays for Sussex and Oliver Graham Robinson is the keeper/batter who plays for Kent. Our Ollie Rpbinson, the Sussex bowler, has 270 FC wickets at 21.22 and has also scored 1,570 FC runs at 21.50, putting his averages just the right way round (credit balance 0.28). This season he achieved a new career best innings figures of 9-78 (match 14-135). He was rested for Sussex’s last outing to manage his workload, which suggests that an England cap is very much on the table (I have him down for number 699 as we are currently at 697 and Robinson comes after Higgins in the alphabet).

Jack Carson (Sussex): Off spinner, right handed lower order batter. The 20 year old has played eight first class matches, in which he 33 wickets at 22.03 a piece. He is a future prospect rather than someone likely to feature immediately – Jack Leach is first choice spinner, and England probably won’t select two for a home test, while Australia is not traditionally the happiest of hunting grounds for England off spinners, so the earliest time he is remotely likely to figure is summer 2022, but I would want a look at him in a game of above county standard anyway..

Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire): Right arm fast medium bowler. Until now, while possessing plenty of bowling variety this side his not offered up any real pace, and the young Lancastrian provides that. He has had some international white ball experience but has yet to receive a test cap.

Matt Parkinson (Lancashire): Leg spinner. 80 wickets at 23.53 in FC cricket for the young leg spinner, including a career best 7-126 this season to inflict an innings defeat on Kent. Unlikely to feature in tests this summer unless Leach gets injured, but absolutely should travel to Australia for The Ashes, and although I believe nos 698 and 699 are spoken for, Cap no 700 could be his.

This side has decent batting depth, with everyone down to no8 capable of significant contributions, a wealth of bowling options: three front line seamers of differing styles in Mahmood, Robinson and Higgins, with Abell available as fourth seamer if needed, a leg spinner, an off spinner and a left arm orthodox spinner, with Critchley’s leg spin also a legitimate bowling option. It also has the best keeper currently in the business, since he is not officially his country’s first choice. Now for the…

RESERVES

I am naming three reserves, an opening batter, a bowler who can bat well and a spinner:

Sam Evans (Leicestershire): Right handed opening batter. Azad’s regular opening partner, and really coming to the party this season as well.

Craig Overton (Somerset): Right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower middle order batter. He has already played four test matches, but has been out of favour after struggling at that level. This season he has found a yard of pace from somewhere which gives his bowling genuine menace, and he has been scoring important runs as well. His FC averages are just the wrong way round, 21 with the bat and 23 with the ball, but he should be on the radar, hence my naming him among the reserves.

Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire): left arm orthodox spinner. She has 106 wickets in Women’s international cricket across the formats at an average of 19.41 each, and is only 21 years of age. I for one would like to see her given her chance to play alongside the men, and to keep that thought in people’s minds I mention her here.

Feel free to use the comments to indicate who you would pick for a side of this nature.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Just a few pics today (the weather has not been conducive to photography in the last couple of days)…

All Time XIs: A Women’s XI For International Women’s Day

An international women’s day special, selecting an XI of the finest contemporary female cricketers, with a couple of extra features.

Today is International Women’s Day, and as a cricket fanatic I am commemorating it by selecting an XI comprising the finest talents from contemporary women’s cricket.

THE XI IN BATTING ORDER

  1. Laura Wolvaardt – right handed opening batter. The 21 year old South African already has over 2,000 ODI runs at an average of 46. She forms one half of an opening partnership that blends youth and experience and could confidently be expected to function superbly. A career best 149 and one other hundred indicate that she can go big.
  2. Tammy Beaumont – right handed opening batter. Just a few days short of her 30th birthday, the experienced England opener is in the form of her life at the moment, reflected by her status as the no1 ODI batter in women’s cricket. She averages a run per innings less than Wolvaardt, but has played rather more. Seven centuries in ODIs confirm her ability to go on and get big runs.
  3. Smriti Mandhana – left handed top order batter. She normally opens for India, but should also go well at number three. An ODI average of 42, including four centuries at that level indicates a player of high class, and she is also one of the most aesthetically pleasing of all international batters, especially when driving through the covers.
  4. Amelia Kerr – right handed batter, leg spinner. At the age of 20 she has a personal highlights reel at international level that includes a double century and a five wicket haul. In the one victory New Zealand recorded over England in their recent series she starred with 72 and four wickets.
  5. Ellyse Perry – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. The 30 year old Aussie is the most complete all rounder in the game. Her eight test appearances have yielded her a batting average of 78 and a bowling average of 18, in 112 ODIs she averages 52 with the bat and 24 with the ball, while in 120 T20Is she averages 28 with the bat and 19 with the ball. She has also found time to feature in the later stages of a football world cup along the way – she is an all rounder in more than one sense!
  6. +Amy Jones – right handed batter, keeper. Her batting is improving, and her keeping at its best can be reminiscent of great predecessor in the role, Sarah Taylor.
  7. Deepti Sharma – left handed batter, off spinner. She averages 38 with the bat and 27 with the ball in ODIs.
  8. Katherine Brunt – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. She regularly bats seven for England, having massively improved that area of her game over the years, but it is her bowling that makes her worth her place.
  9. Sophie Ecclestone – left arm orthodox spinner, right handed lower order batter. 106 international wickets at less than 20 each and she is still only 21. For more detail on her please visit Inside Edge Cricket’s post on her produced specially for today as this post is, by clicking here.
  10. Poonam Yadav – leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. A complete contrast to her predecessor in the order, who is very tall, the leggie is the smallest member of the XI, and bowls very slow, high tossed spinners. She has many remarkable spells to her credit, perhaps the most outstanding being against Australia in a world T20 cup match, when the latter were seemingly cruising to victory when she was brought on and nailed on for defeat by the time she had bowled her four overs.
  11. Shabnim Ismail – right arm fast medium, left handed lower order batter. The veteran South African is bowling as well now as she ever as and will be an excellent new ball partner for Brunt. She had a superb tournament in the most recent running of the Women’s Big Bash League.

This team comprises a stellar top five, two of whom are genuine all rounders, a splendid keeper/batter at six, a genuine all rounder at seven, a top quality bowling all rounder at eight and three superb specialist bowlers. Brunt and Ismail with the new ball, Perry as third seamer if needed and spin quartet of Ecclestone, Yadav, Sharma and Kerr provides a bowling attack that should be comfortably able to meet all eventualities. Below is the team in infographic form:

LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Just the one link before my usual sign off, a tweet which fits the international women’s day theme – it is a list of rape prevention tips, which rather than being the usual victim-blaming c**p such things usually are actually addresses those who need to be told – the men. It was posted by Theresa Drennan, and can be viewed it’s original niche by clicking here.

Now it is time for my latest photographs…

England Women Dominate T20 Opener in New Zealand

England came into the T20 series having won the ODI series very impressively, and further boosted by the news that Tammy Beaumont’s magnificent series had seen her rise to the top of the Women’s ODI batting rankings.

A MAGNIFICENT TEAM BOWLING PERFORMANCE

England bowled first, and a magnificent bowling performance it was too. Brunt, Sciver, Ecclestone and Glenn each took two wickets, Mady Villiers 1. Glenn went for just 11 from her full four overs, Ecclestone 18 from the same, and Brunt who got the final scalp with the fourth ball of her final over had gone for just 13 as. Freya Davies bowled one over for three runs. Villiers had 1-16 from three overs. Only Sciver who conceded 28 was somewhat expensive. The fielding was of a standard to match the bowling. New Zealand were all out for 96, with only wicket keeper Katey Martin (36) having any real success with the bat.

AN EFFICIENT CHASE

Danni Wyatt who had had a thin time in the ODI series, Tammy Beaumont, Natalie Sciver and Amy Jones all made positive contributions, with only skipper Knight failing, as England made light work of the chase, winning by seven wickets with four overs to spare. Jones had earlier shown that she had learned a good deal from her time as Sarah Taylor’s understudy by pulling off a super smart stumping in the Kiwi innings. A full scorecard of the match can be viewed here, while a highlights package is available on the following link: https://www.ecb.co.uk/video/2051616/highlights-england-cruise-to-victory-in-series-opener-new-zealand-v-england-first-it20?tagNames=England-highlights&utm_source=TWITTER&utm_medium=englandcricket&utm_content=100001880092520%2B&utm_campaign=England+women+in+NZ

Tomorrow is an early start for serious cricket fans living in the UK as live coverage of the final test of the India v England series commences at 3:45AM, with an early opening of a cricinfo tab to check for advance news highly recommended. The below image shows my preparation:

With the additional precaution of moving my computer into the bedroom when I go to bed tonight so that I can follow the first session from in bed before properly getting up during the lunch break the alarm setting above gives me time to open up cricinfo, open up the talksport2 coverage and log on to twitter to check in with other die-hard fans and be ready for the day’s action.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

England Women Secure Series Victory With A Game To Spare In New Zealand

A brief look at events in New Zealand where one England cricket team is doing well, and a revisit to my radical suggestion for sorting the men’s teams problems with finding good enough spinners.

This post looks briefly at goings on in New Zealand, and then explores a favourite theme of mine. First of all however, a brief…

NEWSFLASH

At 10:55 this morning I received my first Covid-19 jab. I barely felt the needle go into my arm and have as yet experienced no serious side effects. The second jab will be a minimum of four weeks from now and could be as much as 12 weeks. Contrary to what pro-government propaganda sources would have you believe my situation does not count in any sane view as ‘vaccinated’ – I have begun the process of getting vaccinated, but until I have had the second jab I am not actually vaccinated. Also, the government deserves very little credit for the vaccination program – the hard yards are being done by NHS workers, and the extent of government involvement for me was sending me a link I could not use, and a very inefficient helpline system which when I finally got through advised me to contact my surgery, who duly booked me a slot. The government have bungled all along the line, and their lockdown easing plans seem set to continue that trend, going too far too early.

ENGLAND WOMEN GO 2-0 UP WITH ONE TO PLAY IN NZ

A disciplined all round bowling performance, highlighted by Nat Sciver’s 3-26 from nine overs restricted NZ to 192 off 49.5 overs. Tammy Beaumont played the anchor role in the chase, finishing unbeaten on 72, while Sciver completed a fine day’s work by scoring a rapid 63, and keeper Amy Jones completed the job with an equally rapid unbeaten 46. England had seven wickets and 12.2 overs in the bank when they reached the target. Sophie Ecclestone failed to add to her haul of international wickets but did only go for 33 from her 10 overs, an economy rate bettered only by Sciver. Katherine Brunt and leg spinner Sarah Glenn each picked up two wickets and Kate Cross had one, while there were two run outs. Full scorecard here.

The men are struggling in India, but the women are going well, which leads me on to my theme…

ENGLAND MEN’S
SPIN PROBLEMS

In yesterday’s post I argued for the promotion of Parkinson and Virdi from the reserves to the full squad for the final test match, advocating a spin trio of Leach, Virdi and Parkinson. England do not have many other male spinners whose records inspire much confidence. Thus, I suggest that England offer Ecclestone the opportunity to play alongside the men. For those wondering about the women, in addition to Glenn who I have already mentioned here is a sextet of decent spin options available to the women: Linsey Smith, Kirstie Gordon, Sophia Dunkley, Alex Hartley, Helen Fenby and Danielle Gregory. If she bowls well in a few men’s county games, then given her 100+ international wickets she could be fast tracked into the England men’s team and possibly be part of the Ashes campaign at the end of this year.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Cricket and Controversy: Day 1 in Ahmedabad

An account of day 1 in Ahmedabad and some related matters. Plus a few photographs.

This post looks at day 1 of the day-night match in Ahmedabad and at certain issues relating to that day’s play. As a disclaimer before moving into the main meat of the post I wish to make it clear that I India are in the driving seat firstly and mainly because they have played far superior cricket. That does not mean that certain complaints about luck, the pitch and some of the umpiring are invalid.

ENGLAND PAY FOR OVERLONG TAIL

England’s selection for this match showed four changes from the second test of the series in Chennai, with Crawley, Bairstow, Archer and Anderson replacing Burns, Lawrence, Ali and Stone. This resulted in an XI of: Sibley, Crawley, Bairstow, *Root, Stokes, Pope, Foakes, Archer, Leach, Broad and Anderson. My own pre-match feelings were that this was a high risk selection, with such a long tail, and with the selection of three specialist pace bowlers. Ali was not available for selection, and it was always unlikely that Bess would be recalled, which with the refusal to promote either of Parkinson or Virdi from the reserves dictated that only one spinner would play. I would have retained Burns and Lawrence, moving Lawrence back down the order and away from no3, would from the 17 England had named in advance have gone with Woakes at eight, would have retained Stone after his good performance in the second test, and Leach and Anderson were virtually mandatory picks in the circumstances. India opted to strengthen their batting, bringing Washington Sundar in for Kuldeep Yadav and relying on Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma for the pace bowling, with Axar Patel and R Ashwin to bowl spin, and the latter, coming off a century in Chennai quite possibly to bat at number nine. The first news other than the selections was the toss, which England won and chose to bat.

Sibley got a good one and fell without scoring. Crawley was playing nicely, but Bairstow could not pierce the field, and the very first delivery by a spinner, Axar Patel in this case, pinned him LBW for 0, and Bairstow then burned a review, a call by him that was bad enough to warrant the label ‘Watsonian’ in honour of a certain Aussie batter of the not too distant past. For a time Root and Crawley went reasonably well, but then both got out with lunch approaching, and England were 80-4, 53 of them off the bat of Crawley. Immediately after lunch things got worse for England as Pope was dismissed to make it 81-5, and then Stokes fell cheaply as well, leaving Foakes to bat with the tail. It was 98-8 at low water mark, but Foakes, Broad and Anderson inched the score up to 112, off 48.4 overs, before Foakes was last out. Axar Patel had bowled 21.4 overs and had 6-38, following up his five in the final innings at Chennai. R Ashwin had three and also bowled superbly. England were psyched by the fact that there was turn on day 1, and a number of their wickets fell to balls which actually went straight on. Save for Crawley no England batter even managed 20.

INDIA’S RESPONSE

England did not bowl badly, although they did not have the right attack for this pitch, and they were unlucky on several occasions, and there were also two very poor pieces of work by the third umpire. First Shubman Gill edged Broad to Stokes and it was given out on field but then referred upstairs, and the third umpire overturned it very quickly indeed without due care and attention – he may have got it right but if so it was by luck not judgement, and in a test match that is not acceptable. The second incident of poor third umpiring saw Rohit Sharma reprieved for the third time in as many innings, all being controversial. Foakes executed a stumping of Leach, with to all appearances Rohit Sharma’s foot behind the crease but in the air, and it was sent upstairs and again after looking at one replay for a very short period the third umpire overturned it. I am absolutely certain that this one was a wrong call, and the failure to follow protocol even if the call by some chance had been right was unacceptable. In the event Gill’s did not cost much, as he got out not long after to Jofra Archer, being caught by Crawley, too far off the ground for even this third umpire to think of intervening. Leach got Pujara, an LBW that was so plumb that it was not sent upstairs, and just before the close Kohli who had two escapes, first when Pope just failed to pull off what would have been a miracle catch and then when the same player missed a more straightforward effort off a less than impressed Anderson, was bowled by Leach. Rohit Sharma however was still there on 57 not out, with India 99-3, a mere 13 short of matching England’s first innings. Leach currently has 2-27 from 10 overs, meaning that the combined figures of the left arm orthodox spinners on day one of a test match are 8-65 from 31.4 overs. Two days before the start of play this pitch had a respectable covering of grass, but by the day before every last blade of grass had been shaved off, and with nothing to bind it it is already breaking up, and never mind day 5, I would definitely not bet on there being a day 4 and would make it no more than even money that there will be a day 3.

WHERE NOW FOR ENGLAND?

With this test match, and with it, England’s hopes of making the World Test Championship final, effectively gone already, barring miracles, I would go experimental for the third test, promoting Virdi and Parkinson from the reserves with a view to selecting at least one and possibly both, I would rest the veterans Anderson and Broad, probably selecting Woakes and Stone as my new ball pairing if I even picked two front line pacers. Out would go Bairstow, who as regular readers of this blog know would not have been in my tour party anyway, and I would move Stokes up to three, bringing Lawrence back in the middle order. A drawn series, especially when it ushers Australia into the final of the WTC, is less appealing than looking to the future even at the risk of sustaining another defeat. England have mishandled several things in this series, but most egregious has been the Bess/ Moeen Ali situation, where because of Covid (he actually had the disease) and his need to return home to see his family between the test and limited overs legs of the tour Ali was available for just one match, and England were so eager to play this 33 year old who averages 29 with the bat and 36 with the ball that they dropped Bess in a rather insensitive fashion. Even worse, they then allowed it to become public knowledge that they had begged Moeen to change his plans and stay on for the remainder of the series. This left them either to pick Bess with his head not in the right place or, having announced 17 names from which the XI for this match would be selected, to go in with only one specialist spinner. They took the latter option, and we were treated to the sight of four bowlers of above medium pace bowling on a spinning track, as Root was not willing to swallow his pride and acknowledge that England’s chosen bowling attack was unfit for purpose by bringing himself on.

Looking further ahead, to the home season and beyond there are several things that need addressing:

  • The County Championship cannot keep being shoe horned into the worst times of the season for spinners.
  • Counties who dare to produce turning surfaces should not be punished, but rather applauded for offering a wider variety of surfaces for cricket to be played on.
  • England need to find new spinners. Other than Leach and the out of favour Bess only Parkinson and Virdi among the men are remotely close to having records that would justify elevation, which is why I recommend what I am now going to call the ‘Ecclestone Experiment’ – just see what Sophie Ecclestone, with 101 wickets at 25.90 in international cricket at the age of 21 can do playing among the men.
  • England also need to improve their batting against spin. Elizabeth Ammon, who tweets as legsidelizzy, has pointed out that England had a spin bowling camp in Sri Lanka, but no ‘batting against spin bowling camp’, and that that needs to change.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Just a few photographs today…

England – Third Test And Going Forward

Looking at a possible England line up for the test match that gets underway tomorrow and a radical solution to their current paucity of spin bowling options. Plus some photographs.

This is my preview post for the third test match of the India v England series which starts tomorrow morning UK time. I also take the time to salute another fine performance by England’s women and, prompted by a comment on twitter from The Cricket Men, to revisit one of my more radical solutions to England’s spinning problems.

ENGLAND XI FOR TOMORROW

Crawley has been declared fit to play, and it seems Burns and Pope are going to be given chances to score runs, though both must be running out of road. This virtually sets the top six as Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Pope, and Foakes is also inked in as keeper, which leaves the bottom four to be decided. Some are making much of the fact that the pitch which previously had some grass on it has been shaved today, but for me, especially with the selectors having ruled out promotions for Parkinson or Virdi, I still see no reason to select Bess, and although I can understand why people want to see Archer I prefer to give Stone a chance in less unfavourable conditions after his fine efforts in the second test match. Thus, with Anderson a mandatory selection for a pink ball test and some justifiable concern over the lower order, I pick Woakes rather than Broad for the no8 slot, thus arriving at Sibley, Burns, Crawley, *Root, Stokes, Pope, +Foakes, Woakes, Stone, Leach, Anderson.

ENGLAND’S SPIN ISSUE

Overnight England’s women played an ODI in New Zealand, and won by eight wickets. They restricted the hosts to 178, Sophie Ecclestone with her left arm spin collecting 2-36 from a full allocation of ten overs. Tammy Beaumont (71) and Heather Knight (67 not out) then ensured that this wonderful bowling effort would not go to waste. Ecclestone now has 101 wickets in all forms of international cricket, at 25.90 a piece, and she is still only 21 years old. Other than Leach and Bess, the latter of whom is currently under a cloud the number of male English spinners who have played at least 10 first class matches (basic filter against freak happenings), are still active at that level and pay less than 30 a piece for their wickets totals precisely two: Matt Parkinson (62 wickets at 25) and Amar Virdi (91 wickets at 28). Thus, encouraged by some comments I have seen today (see intro), I am once again going to suggest that Ecclestone deserves to be given a chance to show what she can do playing alongside the men and should be part of England’s elite spin group going forward. For the Ashes tour at the end of the year she could be one of three specialist spinners to travel alongside Leach and Parkinson (unless Bess at his new base of Headingley has a splendid season I cannot see him as a member of that tour party, especially given how poorly English off spinners have generally fared in Oz – see here).

A radical solution to the spin woes of England’s men’s team?

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Moeen Ali and England Spinners

A look at England’s spinning options in the wake of the announcement that Moeen Ali will play as a front line spinner in the second test match.

England have named the 12 from whom the XI for the test match will be picked before the toss tomorrow morning. Jofra Archer has a niggle and will miss the match. Foakes, as we knew, is in for Buttler, and Broad replaces Anderson who is being rested ahead of the day-night 3rd test, while Archer’s place will be taken either by Olly Stone or Chris Woakes. Stone is the like for like replacement, an out and out quick bowler, and is more likely to be effective on this pitch (I have seen preview pictures of it, and it is set to be a raging bunsen) than Woakes, so I would be inclined to opt for him. The disgraceful news, and the reason for this post, is that Dominic Bess has been dropped, and Moeen Ali will play as, allegedly, a front line spinner.

THE PROBLEM AND THE NON-SOLUTION

With Archer out, and Bess dropped due to inconsistency, and two spinners an absolute must, England needed to work out how to replace Bess’s lower order runs. The options other than naming Moeen were two: promote one of Parkinson or Virdi from the reserves and go with Woakes rather than Stone if worried about the lower order, or promote one of Parkinson or Virdi from the reserves, and risk a last four of Broad, Stone, Leach, Parkinson/Virdi. Selecting Moeen Ali, now approaching 34, and with a test bowling average of 36.5 to go with his batting average of 29 is foolish – Sundar got the nod for India in the first match because of the possibilities he offered with the bat, batted well, but was ineffective with the ball, and India were soundly beaten. Ali takes almost exactly three wickets per test match that he plays, somewhat better than his overall first class record of less than two wickets per match, but not enough to qualify as a genuine front line bowler. If you do not take large numbers of wickets, and Ali’s stats show that he does not, you have to be economical so that at least you are providng something. Ali, has as high bowling average of 36.5 shows, is not. For Worcestershire, his county, Ali has always been a top order batter whose bowling is very much a second string – his overall first class bowling average is almost 38 per wicket as against his test average of 36.5 per wicket.

There are two reasons I would favour Parkinson over Virdi: Parkinson has a somewhat better FC bowling average – 25.22 as against 28 for Virdi, and also Parkinson is a leg spinner, posing a different kind of challenge to opposition batters. This is particularly relevant with an Ashes tour coming up, since in the home season it is unlikely that any pitch will warrant two specialist spinners and Leach will have the first berth for bowlers in that category. Since Australian pitches started to improve from the crude nature of their earliest pitches, in the mid 1890s, the record of English off spinners in Australia is not great: Only Laker in 1958-9, a series England lost heavily, Titmus in the drawn 1962-3, and Emburey twice in series when Australia were depleted, firstly due to Kerry Packer and then due to Ali Bacher have had really good series bowling off spin for England in Australia. Left arm orthodox spinners of the Leach type fare better, with Peel, Rhodes, ‘Farmer’ White, Verity and Wardle among those to have had very successful visits to Australia. England have traditionally fought shy of leg spinners, but many of the most successful Aussie spinners have been of that type: ‘Ranji’ Hordern, Mailey, Grimmett, O’Reilly, Benaud, Warne, MacGill.

Whatever the correct answer, it is not recalling an ageing proven failure.

SPINNING OPTIONS AND LOOKING FURTHER AHEAD

England’s spin cupboard is not massively well stocked at the moment (hint, just in case someone in a position of influence is reading this, it does not help to punish the only county that dares to prepare spin friendly surfaces for its bowlers). Other than Leach, Parkinson and Virdi (we will ignore Bess, since the statement about his dropping made it fairly clear that he is not coming back any time soon), there are Liam Patterson-White (FC Bowling average 21.00, but only five matches at that level), Daniel Moriarty (17 wickets at 20.11 from two first class appearances) and no one else whose figures bear any kind of close scrutiny. There is still the radical option of giving Sophie Ecclestone, whose figures are extraordinary, a chance alongside the men and seeing how she goes. The young all rounder Lewis Goldsworthy has yet to play First Class cricket, but was excellent in the Under-19 World Cup, and may yet develop into the genuine article. His three senior appearances, all in T20s, have given him 38 not out in his only innings and five wickets at 17.20. He is one to watch for the future.

I would suggest that for the home season England keep Leach as the first choice spinner, with Parkinson to play if a pitch warrants two specialist spinners. I also suggest that those monitoring pitch preparation watch more for green seamers and for absolute roads than for turners. Unless he has significantly backslid in the course of the home season and/or someone has emerged from nowhere with astonishing figures, Parkinson should go to Australia as officially the second choice spinner behind Leach. I would like to see him play a test or two before then, because making a debut against Australia in Australia would be tough, although Reginald ‘Tip’ Foster with 287 in the first innings at the SCG in 1903 did not find it so.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Test Cricket Returns to Pakistan and England Spinners

Looking at the resumption of test cricket in Pakistan and at the question of England spinners, as news arrives of a potential test recall for Moeen Ali.

This post contains two parts, a look at current goings on in Pakistan and a look at England spinners ahead of the upcoming tour of India. The feature infographic provides a brief version of why I less than impressed by news of a possible test recall for Moeen Ali, and I will cover it more fully in the second part of this post. All player details come from cricinfo.com.

SOUTH AFRICA IN TROUBLE

The first test match to be played in Pakistan for some considerable time is under way. South Africa, the visitors, batted first, and did not make a particularly good fist of it. No one in their top six scored less than 13, but only Dean Elgar with 58 managed to get beyond 23. It took a late 35 from George Linde to get South Africa to 220. Five of the top six (where most of the runs should come from) getting into double figures but not even reaching 25 suggests carelessness, and reports I have read of the wickets confirm that more of them were given than were taken.

Pakistan looked to faring even worse when South Africa reduced them to 33-4 by the close of the first day. However, Fawad Alam dug in, and found some good support from the middle and lower order. Alam ground out a determined century, with no8 Faheem Ashraf (fairly new to test cricket, but averaging 31 with the bat and 27 with the ball in first cricket) scoring 64. By the time stumps were drawn at the end of day two, Pakistan were 308-8, a lead of 88. I don’t think it will happen, but personally just for the psychological impact of telling the opposition “you had us 33-4 and now we reckon we have enough of an advantage to win” I would recommend an overnight declaration. It was not all bad for South Africa today however – their women recorded an impressive win in an ODI against Pakistan, Laura Wolvaardt scoring 58 – perhaps the men should give her a bell, as their top order could do with a bit of stiffening.

ENGLAND SPINNERS

Leaving aside Simon Harmer, now technically eligible for England but apparently not in the selector’s minds, England have a number of spinning options they could look at, and Moeen Ali, touted for a test recall in some quarters, is not in my opinion one of them. He pays 36.59 per wicket in test cricket, a marginal improvement on his first class bowling average of 37.94. His batting, which his supporters turn to next demands two retorts: firstly picking people for bowling slots based on what they can do with the bat is flawed, unless they have very similar bowling stats to someone with much less batting skill, and secondly at test level it does not pass muster anyway – while his first class batting average is a respectable 36.72, his test batting average is 28.97, at the good end of ‘bowler who bats’ territory but definitely nowhere close to all-rounder status. In other words England are thinking of recalling someone whose bowling is in the ordinary range of ‘batters who bowl’ (Hammond, who averaged 58.45 with the bat at test level took his wickets at 37.80 for example) and whose batting is at the good end of the range for ‘bowlers who bat’.

Dom Bess, one of the current incumbents, pays 29.46 for his first class wickets, and just over 30 each for his test victims. Sophie Ecclestone, a very successful bowler for England Women, averages 26.28 across the three international formats (the women play so little long form cricket that one has to look across the spectrum) – and yes, I would certainly rate her a better option for a spinner’s berth than Ali. Jack Leach pays 26.06 a time for his first class victims, and averages just over 30 per victim in test cricket. Matt Parkinson, yet to be given his chance at test level pays 25.22 per victim at first class level. Liam Patterson-White has played just five first class matches to date, but has 20 wickets in them at 21.00 a piece. Amar Virdi has paid 28.08 each for his 91 first class wickets. Finally, if you absolutely insist on someone with all round qualities, Lewis Goldsworthy had an excellent under 19 world cup, though he has yet to play first class cricket (it would not be entirely unprecedented for someone to make their first class debut in a test match). Moeen Ali sits firmly in the category of proven failures at the highest level, and any of the players I have listed would be better selections than him – all are young enough to improve, whereas he is not. My personal vote would go to Parkinson, the leg spinner, to support Jack Leach, with Bess coming in if the pitch looks it warrants three spinners (Bess takes wickets when the ball turns, but when there is no assistance for him he leaks too many runs for comfort due to his tendency to bowl the odd loose ball). Whatever the right answer is, it is most definitely not an ageing player who cannot be deemed worthy of a place with either bat or ball.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…