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:
Haseeb Hameed (Crawley’s time at the top level is done)
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.
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 look ahead to the Ashes tour that will end a very hectic year for England, with a particular focus on the spin bowling aspect. Also some photographs.
At the end of this year, after two more tests in India plus a busy home summer, England head to Australia for what Huw Turbervill in a book of that name called “The Toughest Tour” – an away Ashes series. With nothing else of significance happening in the cricket world today I am going to look ahead to that tour, and in what will be a long piece show what England should do spinners wise.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LEFT ARM SLOW TO MEDIUM PACED BOWLERS
Only once in all of England’s successful tours has the party not included a left arm bowler in the slow to medium pace bracket, the very first ever in 1882-3. In 1884-5 and 1887-8 and again in 1894-5 two left arm orthodox spinners in Bobby Peel and Johnny Briggs were present and both were test regulars during those tours. In 1903-4 Wilfred Rhodes, another left arm orthodox spinner, was a key performer, including a 15 wicket match haul at Melbourne (with eight catches dropped off him into the bargain!) In 1911-2 the bowling was largely dominated by Frank Foster and Syd Barnes, but Frank Woolley, an all rounder whose bowling stock-in-trade was left arm orthodox spin was far from insignificant. In 1928-9, JC ‘Farmer’ White, a left arm orthodox spinner was crucial to England’s success, bowling huge numbers of overs (130 across the two innings of the Adelaide match alone), going at around two an over and taking a good haul of wickets. In 1932-3, although Harold Larwood was the dominant bowling force, Hedley Verity, a left arm orthodox spinner played in four of the five test matches and skipper Jardine was at pains in his own book about that tour, “In Quest of The Ashes” to emphasize his importance to England. In 1954-5 Tyson and Statham were the dominant bowlers, but Johnny Wardle a left arm spinner who could bowl either orthodox or wrist spin (although Hutton’s conservatism as captain meant he was largely confined to the former on that tour) took 10 wickets at 22.9 a piece in a support role. In 1970-1 John Snow was England’s key bowler, but Derek Underwood bowling left arm slow-medium with cut rather than spin as his principle weapon was an important part of the supporting cast. In 1978-9 Philippe-Henri Edmonds, left arm orthodox spin, had a bust up with skipper Brearley and did not play any test matches, with the spinning roles entrusted for those games to Emburey and Miller. In 1986-7 Edmonds was there again in partnership with Emburey and was very important to England’s success, snagging the prize scalp of Border five times in the series. In 2010-11 England used off spinner Graeme Swann in a holding role, in which he took 15 wickets at 39 a piece, but only went for 2.5 an over, while left arm orthodox spinner Monty Panesar was kept on the sidelines, although he was part of the tour party. England have not won down under since that tour.
In 1946-7 England lacked a test class left arm slow to medium bowler, and at one point in that series Bill Voce, left arm fast medium, was asked to attempt orthodox spin as England were getting desperate – scoreline Aus 3, Eng 1, 1 high scoring draw (Morris for Aus and Compton for Eng notching a brace of centuries a piece in that one at Adelaide). In 1962-3 three off spinners were selected in the tour party and no one else who could bowl high class spin (Barrington’s leg breaks would have been the next highest ranking spin option), and England drew the series, not enough to get the Ashes back. In 1982-3 once again three off spinners carried the slow bowling burden – Marks, Miller and Hemmings, with only Hemmings selected purely on the basis of his bowling, and ironically he would produce the highest individual score any of the three managed in the series – 95 in the final match at Sydney as nightwatchman, and England lost the series after having won three successive Ashes contests, and they were to win the next two after it as well.
Thus, there have been only three occasions on which England have won down under without a left arm slow to medium pace bowler playing for them in at least some test matches, and only once, in 1882-3 when they have done so without such a bowler in the party.
Therefore, a bowler of that type can be considered necessary. Jack Leach, left arm orthodox spin, now has 56 wickets from 14 test matches at an average of 30.37, and is obviously improving, so he has to be first pick for a spinner’s berth in the tour party assuming he is fit to play. There are few obvious like for like substitutes for him, but Liam Patterson-White if he plays a full season and does well (at the moment after five first class games he has a bowling average at that level of 21.00) could well be a strong candidate, and Lewis Goldsworthy, a left arm orthodox spinner who can also bat, has had a good Under 19 World Cup and has fared well in the few senior games (all T20s) that he has been given. I hope he gets a full season this summer, and maybe if he performs brilliantly he will merit a place in the tour party. The person with the best first class average among English spinners who have played more than a handful of matches at that level is leg spinner Matt Parkinson, and I would think he should travel as designated second spinner, although only Sydney and Adelaide of Australian venues are remotely likely to produce surfaces justifying the selection of two specialist spinners.
1932-3: A TEMPLATE FOR SUCCESS IN THE 21ST C.
In 1932-3 England travelled with a battery of pace bowlers, two specialist spinners (Verity, left arm orthodox, and Tommy Mitchell, leg spin). They won the series 4-1, with Verity playing in four of the matches (nos 1,3,4 and 5). Mitchell was a less significant figure but what he was asked to do he did well. Incidentally, the one match Verity was not selected for demonstrates that Australia were not the innocent victims they like the world to believe that they were in that series: the pitch for the state game (yes, young folk, back in the day touring teams played matches against local first class sides as well as international fixtures) at Melbourne had been super fast, so when the second test was played there Jardine left Verity out to play a full battery of pace bowlers, Bill Bowes coming in for the only time of the series. On the first morning a delivery from Harold Larwood broke through the rolled top surface of the pitch and raised a puff of dust. By the fourth innings the pitch was turning square and Ironmonger (left arm orthodox spin) and O’Reilly (leg spin) were basically unplayable.
A standard England attack in Australia with their current resources could feature two out of Archer, Stone and Wood, one of Anderson and Broad, and Leach as the spin option, with Woakes also in the equation if one wants to avoid an overly long tail. In the unlikely event of a pitch requiring two specialist spinners Parkinson would come in for one of the quicker bowlers.
I will be keeping an eye out over the coming home season for Lewis Goldsworthy and Liam Patterson-White among others to see if they can genuinely force their way into the equation, but at the moment it is hard to see anyone other than Leach as first choice spinner in Australia, with Parkinson designated second spinner. I will make on cautionary remark in the context of Goldsworthy, and also the young opener Tom Lammonby who may well be in the reckoning if he has a second straight good season: if you are going to select people so early in their careers for international tours they will need careful management – Brian Close was selected for the 1950-1 Ashes tour when not much more than a boy and badly mishandled on that tour, setting his career back years.
A LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS
My attention was drawn earlier today to calls being made on the government to support Eurostar, the most climate friendly means of travelling between this country and continental Europe. You can sign and share by clicking here, and below is the infographic that accompanies the text on wearepossible:
Now for my usual sign off. I had to put in a prescription request, and used the longer, parkland route home, as it being half term the schools were closed.
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.
An injury to Zak Crawley forces a rejig of England’s batting line up, and in the face of continuing hype for a Moeen Ali recall I once again point out the flaws with that idea.
With the first India v England test match due to get underway in Chennai in 33 hours time news has come through of an injury to Zak Crawley. Better news is that Ollie Pope is definitely fit, while the ridiculous news is that Moeen Ali is till being hyped for a test comeback.
REJIGGING THE ENGLAND BATTING ORDER
With Pope returning and Crawley injured, Dan Lawrence who made a decent start to his international career in Sri Lanka will come into the side. For me he goes in at number three, while Pope makes his return at no6. Thus, the team I expect to see is now: Sibley, Burns, Lawrence, *Root, Stokes, Pope, +Buttler, Bess, Archer, Broad, Leach and the team I would personally pick from those in India is: the same top six, and then +Foakes, Archer, Leach, Anderson, Parkinson. I explained in yesterday’s post why I favour the elevation of Parkinson, but I will not be especially annoyed if Bess retains his place, and I would accept a dogged insistence on strict rotation policy for the veterans. I will be furious if Moeen gets selected. Such a move would be doubly flawed: his record shows him to not be worth a place with either bat or ball, and it is a retrograde step bringing back an oldster.
TWO SPINNERS NEEDED
There is more than a possibility that India will have three front line spinners in their ranks, with the most likely trio being R Ashwin (off spin), Kuldeep Yadav (left arm wrist spin) and Axar Patel (left arm orthodox spin), although Washington Sundar (off spin) is also in the reckoning. Thus, for England to go with only one front line spinner plus Moeen as back up would be foolish, especially given that Root or Lawrence could bowl off spin if such was definitely warranted. The presence of two part time off spinners among the batters is a further reason for favouring the Parkinson/ Leach combo, maximizing the variation available to England. Without Parkinson playing the nearest England have to a leg spin option is Sibley, with a princely tally of four first class wickets to his name.
If England are up for a real gamble, and want to suggest a potential career development path to Bess, they could select all three spinners (Bess alongside Leach and Parkinson) and have Bess come in at number seven – he has shown some skill with the bat and I suspect a move up the order, maybe not so dramatically as the legendary Wilfred Rhodes, is in his future. Moeen Ali does not have enough to offer as a bowler, and very much belongs to the past. At no seven, as third spinner, where I am suggesting Bess he would be less of a disaster, but if he is at no8 in a team aiming for a more conventional balance England will be in trouble – you can only win a test match if you can take 20 wickets. It is time for my ‘spinners’ infographic to get yet another run out:
I look at England’s options ahead of the series in India which gets underway on Friday, with a particular focus on spin.
Before I get into the main meat of this post, a note on the coverage of this series: radio commentary is in the hands of talksport2, which means a less good commentary team than if TMS had the rights, while TMS will be running what they call a ‘cricket social’, which does not work anything like as well as commentary, and for TV fans the big news is that UK broadcasting rights have gone to Channel Four, the first time since 2005 that a terrestrial broadcaster has had such rights in this country. Radio coverage (the way I will be following the action) begins at 3:45AM on Friday our time, with the first ball scheduled to bowled at 4:00AM.
INS AND OUTS
Rory Burns is back from paternity leave, Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer are both available after missing the Sri Lanka tour, and the spin situation remains in flux. Burns will open with Sibley, with Crawley reverting to the number three slot from which he hit 267 against Pakistan not so long ago. Root will be at four. England seem to be being absolutely rigid in their rotation policy re Anderson and Broad, so his heroics in the second match in Galle notwithstanding Anderson is likely to be on the sidelines for this match. The most likely top six given continuing uncertainty over Pope’s shoulder, although he is with the tour party, would seem to be: Sibley, Burns, Crawley, Root, Stokes, Lawrence. Foakes is finally going to get another chance with the gloves, although probably not until match 2, with Buttler available this time, and that leaves the bowling to sort out. England will probably select two spinners given that the pitch at Chepauk Stadium, Chennai will take spin late in the game, which almost certainly means that Archer will be paired with Broad to take the new ball, though I would personally retain Anderson rather than be quite so dogmatic about the rotation policy with the veterans. This leaves the spinners to sort out.
ENGLAND’S SPINNING WOES
Current incumbents Jack Leach and Dominic Bess each had their good moments in Sri Lanka but each also looked innocuous at times, and Bess in particular struggled to keep things tight enough when nothing was happening as he bowled too many loose balls. Amar Virdi and Matt Parkinson are in India, officially as reserves, and also in India is Moeen Ali, a man in his middle thirties whose record (60 test matches, batting average 29, bowling average 37) is that of someone who is not up to the task in either department. There have been rumblings about a test recall for him, including an article published on the usually sensible Full Toss blog making what was supposed to be the case for his recall. Whatever the right answer to England’s spinning woes is it is not selecting an ageing mediocrity such as Moeen Ali. I expect that the selectors will persevere with Leach and Bess, but myself, for all that it makes the England lower order look a bit shaky I would be inclined to promote Parkinson (leg spin, FC average 25.22) from the reserves to partner Leach, with off spin if it is deemed necessary being bowled by either Lawrence or Root (skipper, please not the order in which I have listed these two options!). In the longer haul, rather than looking backwards to Moeen Ali, England need to look forwards, and in addition to Parkinson I suggest that Virdi, Liam Patterson-White and Daniel Moriarty as being worthy of attention, with Simon Harmer, now eligible for England, being considered as a stop gap solution so long as he accepts coaching younger spinners as part of his England duties. I might also consider whether Sophie Ecclestone’s left arm spin could prove as effective among the men as it has in the women’s game. Looking to the future, left arm spinning all rounder Lewis Goldsworthy will be worth keeping an eye on. Finally, England might not struggle so much to find spinners if counties who produced turning pitches did not find themselves the subject of sanctions from the ECB.
TWO ENGLAND XIS
I offer in infographic form two XIs for the match starting on Friday, the one I think we will actually see, and the one I would pick from those available:
Some thoughts on the second Ashes test at Lord’s and a lot of photographs.
The weather-hit second Ashes test at Lord’s ended yesterday evening, with Australia undoubtedly the happier of two sides to come away with a draw. This post contains my thoughts on the match and today’s announcement of an unchanged England squad for the third test, which gets underway on Thursday.
A GREAT TEST MATCH
A third of this match was lost to the weather and yet it was not far away from providing a definite result even so. England scored 258 in the first innings, Burns and Bairstow making fifites, and Denly producing a classic “Vince” – a well compiled 30. England bowled well to claim a slender first innings lead. Jofra Archer struck Smith a blow to the head, from which he briefly resumed, before getting out for 92 (progress for England after he had scored twin tons in the first test match). Smith did not take the field for England’s second innings and his place in the batting order was taken under the concussion rule by Manus Labuschagne. England did not start well – Roy and Root (who does not look to be relishing the no3 slot) both fell cheaply, Denly had a second “Vince” of the match, 26 this time round, and Burns fell for a gritty 29. However, Stokes in the company of first Buttler and then Bairstow dug England out of a hole and then propelled them to a declaration, being on 116 not out when England declared to set Australia 267 off 48 overs (a little overcautious – surely the declaration should have coincided with Stokes reaching the hundred). Archer was electrifying with the ball on this final afternoon and evening and Leach confirmed the rightness of selecting him as first spinner by taking three cheap wickets and comfortably outbowling Lyon, an absolute reversal of what happened with Moeen Ali in the first test match. Australia finished on 154-6 when Aleem Dar called time with three balls left in the match and four Aussie wickets standing (evidently he felt there was no chance of someone being stumped off a wide, then followed by a hat trick to finish it – and I can’t argue with that). A combination of overcaution on England’s part and the fact that, good is he is, Leach is no Underwood saw to it that the impossible did not quite come to pass, but this was still the second best match to take place at Lord’s this season.
England’s huge improvement in this match should not mask the fact that several problems remain in their line up. I am going to run down the list player by player with my thoughts (click on the player name to view their cricinfo details:
Rory Burns – his fighting efforts in both innings here, following his Edgbaston ton confirm that he has arrived at the highest level, meaning that there is now only one problem in the opening slots.
Jason Roy – I believe that it is right for England to persevere with him, but I do not see him as a test match opener – no3 or 4 is more like it. Both his dismissals in this match were down to bad batting and not good bowling.
Joe Root – it was right for England to move him up to no3, and such moves should be given a fair trial, but I for one will not surprised to see him back at no4 before too long.
Joe Denly – batted decently for a time in both innings but then got out (again his wickets were given rather than being taken, in both innings). If he has a longish term future at test level (bear in mind that he is already 32, ) I think it more likely to be as opener than no 4, however he would not be part of my long term plans.
Ben Stokes – his second innings century was a quite magnificent knock, starting cautiously, with England in trouble and then opening out as prospects of defeat faded. If England can accept that at test level he is not a front-line bowler, but rather someone who may bowl a few overs here or there I could see him batting higher up the order – he is technically excellent and has a full range of scoring shots at his disposal. Only Root in the current squad is definitely ahead of him on batting ability.
Jos Buttler– he played well in the second innings, when England badly needed it.
Jonny Bairstow – He had his best test match with the bat in some time, and there were no huge howlers behind the stumps. I still rate Foakesahead of him in both departments, but his return to form is welcome.
Chris Woakes – bowled well, and made a solid effort with the bat in the first innings.
Jofra Archer – a magnificent test debut, he was electrifying with the ball in his hand. He has taken to test cricket the way ducks took to 1990s England scorecards!
Stuart Broad – In the absence of Anderson (likely to be out for the series) he is leading the bowling attack, and his performance in this match was one of which he can be proud.
Jack Leach – He bowled well in this match, with his three second innings wickets being less than his bowling merited. As mentioned earlier he outbowled Lyon in this game, confirming along the way his status as England’s no 1 spinner.
England still have to find a second opener alongside Burns (Dominic Sibley has to be considered, there is still time to try my ultra-radical solution and as another outside bet, young George Bartlettof Somerset has had a fine season, plays fast bowling well and is better suited to long form cricket than limited overs stuff), unless Root starts delivering from there soon no 3 also remains a problem. There is also the question (and in the not distant future England will be playing somewhere where such a bowling attack is mandatory) of who will be second spinner (depending on how radical you are prepared to be I suggest either Matthew Parkinson, or for an attempt at a ‘mystery bowler’ option Helen Fenby). I would like to see Sam Curran and Lewis Gregory accommodated somehow as well. However, unquestionably after this performance England are looking in better shape than they were a few days ago.
An account of yesterday’s triple header opening to the Women’s Super League and a highly controversial suggestion re England men’s team spin difficulties.
Yesterday was the opening day of what will be the final season of the Women’s Super League and featured three matches, all of which were excellent in their different ways. This post looks at all three and also stirs the pot a bit in relation to events from the third match.
GAME 1: SOUTHERN VIPERS V LANCASHIRE THUNDER
This matchwas largely dominated by two players, both turning out for the Southern Vipers. Tammy Beaumont, my controversial pick for the vacant opening slot in the men’s XI (see here for more detail), made a superb half-century and pouched two fine catches in the field. Dani Wyattalso scored a half-century, pouched a catch and also collected two wickets with her off-spin. WithStafanie Taylor also making 40 the Southern Vipers won by a comfortable 34 runs. In amongst the carnage of that Southern Vipers innings left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone took 1-12 from her four overs. Also noteworthy was fellow spinner Alex Hartley’s 2-34 from her four. All the bowling figures for the Southern Vipers were good, with 18 year old Lauren Bellrecording 2-19 from her four.
GAME 2: LOUGHBOROUGH LIGHTNING V WESTERN STORM
This was a low scoring match. Loughborough Lightning scored a modest 125-7, which would have been far worse but for Amy Joneswho made 65. Obviously in a total like that no one got really clobbered, but in a continuing theme the most economical bowler was a spinner, Deepti Sharma, who had 1-17 from her four overs. Western Storm knocked the target off with seven wickets and three whole overs to spare. No bowlers had headline making performances in this innings, but 19 year-old Sarah Glenn had 2-13 from three overs, while Kirstie Gordon, yet another young spinner, bowled her full allocation, going for 27.
GAME 3: SURREY STARS V YORKSHIRE DIAMONDS
This was another low scoring affair. The Surrey Stars batted first, and were restricted to 130-9. The highlight of this innings was the bowling of 20 year old legspinner Helen Fenbywho, bowling legspin with a very unusual action, removed both openers during the powerplay overs and then came back to bag another two wickets late in the innings, giving her the remarkable figures of 4-20 from her four overs. Linsey Smith, yet another in the phalanx of young spinners on display during the day also bowled her full allocation, taking 1-21, Katie-Ann Levick, a more experienced legspinner had 0-18 from three and Leigh Kasparek, an off-spinner had 3-25 from her four.
Remarkably, that modest Surrey Stars total proved sufficient as Yorkshire Diamonds were bowled out for 121. Mady Villiers, yet another young spinner, had 1-21 from her four overs, while veteran off-spinner Laura Marsh collected 3-17 from her four, while South Africa legspinning allrounder Dane Van Niekerk had 1-27 from 3.5 overs. Nat Sciver produced the only really good bowling figures from a pacer on the day, 2-25 from her four.
ENGLAND WOMEN’S SPIN GLUT AND A HIGHLY CONTROVERSIAL SUGGESTION
In addition to all the English spinners mentioned above there is Sophia Dunkley who has international experience. This gives by my count seven spinners in their teens or early twenties plus Levick (28) and Marsh (32), discounting Bell about whose bowling I know little and Wyatt who is mainly a batter. The England women thus have far more spinners than they can ever accommodate in a team, whereas this is an ares where the men are short. When arguing the case for Tammy Beaumontas opener I noted wicketkeeping and spin bowling as areas where the women could quite possibly match the men, as well as batting. Given that no one seems able to pick Helen Fenby because of her action, and that England are somewhat short of male spinners I am tentatively adding her to my list of potentials for playing alongside the men (even if only to give Steve Smith something he has never seen before). Leach, Bessand Parkinson remain my preferred front-line options, and Amar Virdi warrants consideration, but a fifth name between a test spinner’s berth and Moeen Alican do no harm. Should England lose at Lord’s next week putting them two down with three to play, then the necessity to gamble in an effort to retrieve the situation will make the case for Fenby a little stronger. At any event, England cannot afford Moeen Ali to be anywhere near test match consideration – the last two days at Edgbaston showed that only too clearly.
PETITION AND PHOTOGRAPHS
The LGBT community in Poland is under vicious attack, and there is a petitionabout this which I urge you all to sign and share be clicking the screenshot below:
Some possible ways to incorporate two spinners into the England test team.
This post is inspired by a post that appeared this morning on Toby’s Sporting Views. He was writing about an excellent bowling performance by Somerset’s spinners against Nottinghamshire on day two of their match, and I am looking specifically at an aspect he raised relating to this, namely two spinners playing for England in the Ashes tests this summer.
I am basing all my possible XIs around five specialist batters with Ben Foakes at six and wearing the gloves. The other fixed position, since he is indispensable in test cricket at present is James Anderson at no 11 and as one of new ball bowlers. Therefore the positions up for dispute are 7, 8, 9 and 10, which will be filled by two spinners and two quicks. Thus form my purposes each permutation will involve four cricketers, as I need not mention the others. Neither Adil Rashid nor Moeen Alihave done enough with the ball of late to merit consideration, and Lancashire’s Matthew Parkinson while promising is not as yet ready for elevation, so the two spinners would be Leach and Bess, becoming a latter day Lock and Laker.
1: THE PURE ENGLISH
In so far as such a line-up can be typical English this one is. It features Lewis Gregoryat number 7, Sam Curranat number 8 and sharing the new ball with James Anderson, with Bess and Leach the two spinners at nos 9 and 10.
2: EXTRA PACE I
This one dispenses with Curran, and brings in either Jofra Archer or Mark Wood to bowl outright fast, sharing the new ball with Anderson.
3: EXTRA PACE II
This one dispenses with Gregory, having Curran move up to seven and playing one of Archer or Wood along with the two spinners and Anderson. This is more of a gamble as it misses out on Gregory’s batting, which is better than that of any of the others.
4: THE OUTRIGHT GAMBLE
This one dispenses with both Curran and Gregory, and brings in both of the super-speedsters Wood and Archer, one of whom would perforce come on first change. This would likely mean Archer at no 7, Bess at no 8, Leach no 9, Wood no 10 and Anderson no 11, which is where the gamble is – there is no one who can really be called an all-rounder here, just five bowlers.
5: ANOTHER GAMBLE
My final possibility features picking Ben Stokes as a front-line batter and fill-in pacer, and having only four top-line bowlers, Curran, Bess, Leach and Anderson. If one of Curran or Anderson were to break down this side would then be using Stokes as a new-ball bowler, which makes it a very high risk strategy.
Overall I would like one out and out ‘blitzman’ bowler in the team, and picking only two top line pacers for a test match is too rich even for my blood, so with all respect to Sam Curran I am going for Extra Pace I as my bowling combo. Injuries not intervening a possible line-up for match 1 if I was doing the selecting would be:
The final South Group games in the Royal London Cup, a brief mention of Tapping House and loads of photographs.
We have reached the halfway stage of the last set of matches in the South group of the Royal London Cup. By the end of today we will know who two of the semi-finalists are and who will be playing off for the right to join them. Before looking at today’s matches it is time to reveal all about…
This is what happened in yesterday’s matches:
Northamptonshire v Nottinghamshire – Northamptonshire 325-7 from 50 overs, Nottinghamshire 328-9 from 49.3 overs, Nottinghamshire won by one wicket.
This one went down to the wire. In the end a magnificent innings by Samit Patel (136 not out) saw Nottinghamshire home. Tom Sole bowled only two overs for Northants (0-17), and my first prediction failed.
Derbyshire v Worcetsershire – Derbyshire 351-9 from 50 overs, Worcestershire 353-6 from 48.2 overs, Worcestershire won by four wickets.
130 off 62 balls from Ricky Wessels put Worctesreshire in control of this chase, and with Tom Fell(49 off 56) and Callum Ferguson (103 off 95) also performing well they emerged comfortable winners, spoiling another of my predictions.
Leicestershire v Warwickshire – Leicestershire 340 all out from 49.3 overs, Warwickshire 304 all out from 47.1 overs, Leciestershire won by 36 runs. Ed Pollock (57) and Robert Yates (66) both got going for Warwickshire, but neither produced a really big score, and nor did anyone else. Tom Taylor ensured that there could be no arguments over player of the match by following his 98 not out with 3-58 and a fine catch. Other than Taylor, Callum Parkinson(brother of Lancashire’s Matt Parkinson) took 1-55 from 10 overs of slow left-arm, and part time spinners Ateeq Javidand Colin Ackerman hac a combined 1-38 from nine, suggesting that they could have been profitably given more overs, just as Warwickshire had missed a trick regarding the offspin of Yates and Banks. I called this one correctly.
Durham v Yorkshire – no result, Durham 182-2 from 34.2 overs. The rain settled this one, ending Durham’s involvement in the competition.
I had one correct prediction and two wrong ones, putting me on 27/45 overall.
Somerset v Surrey– Surrey 289-9 from 50 overs.
Surrey batted well, but could never get right away. Dean Elgar made 64, Ben Foakes46, Jamie Smith 40 and Ryan Patel 41 not out off 32. FI expect or Somerset the best bowling came from the Overtons, Jamiewith 4-64 off nine overs and Craig, continuing his excellent form in the competition, 3-48 from 10. Slow left-armer Roelof Van Der Merwe was economical, recording 1-45 from 10. I predict that Surrey will defend these.
Kent v Middlesex – Middlesex 380-5 from 50 overs. A massive score for Middlesex, dominated by Max Holden, a 21 year-old who bats left handed and bowls right-arm offbreaks, who scored 166 off 139 balls. The other main score was 94 from Kiwi Ross Taylor. No Kent bowler fared at all well. I expect Middlesex to win this with plenty to spare.
Essex v Gloucestershire– Essex 293 all out from 49.5 overs.
From a batting point of view this was all about Varun Chopra who scored 156. Leg spinning all-rounder Rishi Patel was next best with 26. Slow left-armer Tom Smithwas the pick of the bowlers, emerging with 1-44 from his 10. With Simon Harmer, Tom Westley and possibly Dan Lawrence available to bowl spin of various kinds in addition to Patel I expect Essex to defend these.
Thus my predictions are for wins for Surrey, Sussex, Middlesex and Essex.
BACK TO TAPPING HOUSE
I attended my physio session at Tapping House today and everything went pretty well. We were doing ‘strength and power’ exercises today. Anyway, it was good to get back there, not having been able to go last week.