Thoughts About The Ashes Squad

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

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

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

FOUR SELECTION HOWLERS

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

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

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

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

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

AN XI FOR THE GABBA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time for my usual sign off:

A Plan for Australia

A detailed look at possibilities for The Ashes.

With the last test of the series against India cancelled officially due to a Covid outbreak in the Indian ranks and unofficially due to the Indian players and board prioritizing the IPL over test cricket, I offer up detailed suggestions for the upcoming Ashes tour.

A BIG SQUAD NEEDED

In view of the situation, with Covid still very much with us, and Australia unlikely to allow reinforcements to be flown in mid-series England will need a large squad to give themselves a chance of getting through the tour. Thus the bulk of this post will look at 22 players who I have arranged into two teams who might contest a warm-up match. Before I get into that part of the post I need to clear up a few details, and after I have finished I will mention a couple of other players of promise.

PLAYERS NOT COVERED
IN THIS POST

There are some well known names who for various reasons do not feature in the main part of the post:

  • Players who are hors de combat for various reasons: Jofra Archer and Olly Stone are both definitely unavailable due to injuries, and even if Stuart Broad recovers in time to make the tour an away Ashes series is probably not advisable for someone coming back from a serious injury. Ben Stokes must also be regarded as unavailable at present – until and unless he himself states that he is ready to return to the side he should not be a factor in anyone’s calculations.
  • Players who are surplus to test requirements: I have seen enough of Moeen Ali, Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow to be certain that none of them belong in the test arena. Ali averages less than 29 with the bat, almost 37 with the ball and appears to be on the decline into the bargain, Bairstow had one good 12 month period starting in December 2015, but either side of that has consistently averaged in the mid 20s in a career that spans nine years, while Malan has produced one major test innings in his life and is now in his mid 30s.
  • Players I do not think need to play a warm up fixture, though they will be in the squad: Joe Root and Jos Buttler. The former would give whichever side he was part of a huge advantage, while we all know what the latter is capable of.

TEAM ABELL

  1. Tom Haines: Sussex, left handed opening batter. This season has been a breakout one for the youngster (23 years old), with him averaging close to 50 with the bat for his county.
  2. Alex Davies: Warwickshire (leaving Lancashire at the end of this season), right handed opening batter, occasional wicket keeper. He has had two strong seasons in a row (is avergaing 48 this season), and the fact that in retaliation for his decision to move to Warwickshire Lancashire have been vindictive enough to drop him (a classic example of cutting the nose off to spite the face) should have no bearing on whether or not he gets picked for this party.
  3. *Tom Abell: Somerset, right handed batter, occasional medium pace bowler, captain. He has been superb for Somerset this season and is an excellent skipper.
  4. Harry Brook: Yorkshire, right handed batter. The 22 year old Yorkshireman has a modest overall record but has been excellent this season and appears to have a fine temperament.
  5. Ollie Pope: Surrey, right handed batter, occasional keeper. Has an awesome record for Surrey but has yet to translate this to a higher level, though he did score 81 in the first innings of the last test at his home ground, and appears one of two genuine candidate for this slot.
  6. Oliver George Robinson: Kent, wicket keeper, right handed batter. The 23 year old is one of a number of talented young keeper batters that England have available to them.
  7. Matt Critchley: Derbyshire, right handed batter, leg spinner. His bowling does not quite allow him to be called an all rounder, but he has been batting well for Derbyshire of late, and his leg spin is not entirely to be disregarded.
  8. Craig Overton: Somerset, right arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter. As Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett showed a decade ago extra height can be a valuable asset in Australia, and the giant Devonian has it in spades. He is also a more than handy batter to have coming at eight.
  9. Mark Wood: Durham, right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter. With Archer and Stone both hors de combat he is the only express bowler England can seriously consider (Brydon Carse, his Durham team mate, is just as quick but has an uninspiring red ball record, and I have come to hate seeing players picked for test cricket based on white ball performances).
  10. Jack Leach: Somerset, left arm orthodox spinner, left handed lower order batter. He is the only current England spinner with a respectable test record (62 wickets in 16 matches at 29.98 – so almost four wickets a game and an average the right side of 30). In first class cricket there are a couple of spinners with cheaper averages than his 26 per wicket, but they have many fewer wickets than he does. It is one of the great absurdities of the last couple of years that he has not been England’s first choice spinner on a regular basis.
  11. James Anderson: Lancashire, right arm fast medium bowler, left handed lower order batter. England’s all time leading wicket taker. He was the leading wicket taker in the series last time England won in Australia a decade ago, and there is little sign of his powers waning for all that he turned 39 during this season

This side contains a solid top five, a talented keeper/batter at six, a player in good batting for at seven, and a well balanced front four bowlers, with support available from Critchley’s leg spin and Abell’s medium pace. Now it is time for a look at the opposition…

TEAM BURNS

  1. *Rory Burns: Surrey, left handed opening batter, captain. Only one English batter not named Root has scored a test ton in 2021, this man. He also has two fifties in his last three innings and is showing signs of forming a successful opening partnership with…
  2. Haseeb Hameed: Nottinghamshire, right handed opening batter. Having begun a renaissance after moving from Lancashire following a couple of lean seasons he announced his return to form to a wider audience when he scored a ton for the County Select XI v The Indians. His subsequent recall to the test ranks has seen two fifties in three innings back, both coming in century stands with Burns.
  3. James Bracey:Gloucestershire, right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. A typical moment in recent England selection history saw this man make his test debut in his second favourite role and batting way out of position at number seven. Not altogether surprisingly he fared poorly on that occasion, but he deserves another chance, this time in his proper position and preferred role.
  4. Liam Livingstone: Lancashire, right handed batter, occasional purveyor of both off and leg spin. Has a good FC record, although he is better known for his white ball exploits.
  5. Dan Lawrence: Essex, right handed batter, occasional off spinner. He and Pope are the principal contenders for the no5 slot, and both have shown promise with neither staking an unassailable claim to the place.
  6. +Ben Foakes: Surrey, right handed batter, wicket keeper. The best English keeper currently playing the game and a fine middle order batter. I put him at six to insulate him just a bit from batting with the tail – nos 7 and 8 can both be counted as all rounders and the no9 is better than most lower order batters.
  7. Chris Woakes: Warwickshire, right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. With the colossus Stokes having to be regarded as hors de combat this man is the best all rounder available to England, and he would walk into almost any test side. His return to test action against India at The Oval saw him take a good haul of wickets, score a 50 and offer some decent resistance in the second innings when England were slumping.
  8. Liam Patterson-White: Nottinghamshire, left arm orthodox spinner, left handed batter. He recently reached a maiden first class hundred at the expense of Somerset, and his wickets in that match took his bowling average below 30. His temperament appears to be excellent as well. He has less FC experience than anyone else in either side.
  9. Oliver Edward Robinson: Sussex, right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower middle order batter. He has had a sensational start to his test career, and as a bowler who uses his great height to cause opponents problems he may well enjoy bowling in the homeland of Glenn McGrath. His batting can also be valuable.
  10. Matt Parkinson: Lancashire, leg spinner, right handed lower order batter. After 29 first class games the young leg spinner has 93 wickets at 23.95. That average is excellent, but there is a concern over the relatively low wickets per game ratio. Nevertheless I feel that he deserves a place in this tour party – no current English spinner with over 5oFC wickets has taken them more cheaply than the Lancastrian.
  11. Saqib Mahmood: Lancashire, right arm fast medium bowler, right handed lower order batter. He has 70 wickets in FC cricket at 26 a piece and is quite sharp.

This side contains a good top five, one of the greatest of all wicket keepers, genuine all rounders at seven and eight, a bowler who can bat at nine and two excellent bowlers to round out the XI.

I conclude this section with a graphic:

ODDS AND ENDS

This section looks at a few other players who may be on the radar before long:

  • English off spinners have generally struggled down under (even Graeme Swann paid almost 40 per wicket in 2010-11, and failed to make it through the 2013-14 series), which is why none feature in my selections. There are two whose current records suggest they may make the grade eventually: Jack Carson of Sussex and Amar Virdi of Surrey.
  • Dan Moriarty, a left arm orthodox spinner, has a remarkable record in his fledgling first class career and may well be a candidate for elevation in the near future.
  • Luke Hollman, a leg spinning all rounder, has recently recorded a ten wicket match haul for Middlesex, and he may be a candidate in future.
  • When qualified for England Ricardo Vasconcelos of Northamptonshire will be a candidate for a top order berth.
  • Various fast medium bowlers whose chief weapon is accuracy have been overlooked because bowlers of that type rarely make much impact down under: Ben Coad, Sam Cook, Jamie Porter and Ben Sanderson are four who have very fine county records.

Please feel free to comment with suggestions of your own.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Well done for making it to the end of this post and enjoy my usual sign off…

Looking Ahead to Australia

Some ideas for the Ashes tour, a couple of links and some photographs.

This post is prompted by the recent behaviour of Engkand’s test selectors, and my increasing certainty that big changes are needed.

INJURIES AND REJECTS

Various players are hors de combat with injuries or due to other issues. Archer and Stone both have long term injuries that will keep them out of the Ashes, Broad is also injured and may not be able to play the Ashes, Stokes and Buttler have to be treated as not available for the Ashes given that Stokes has already said he is taking time out and Buttler does not want to be away for months on end with his wife about to have their second child. Also I do not believe that any of Ali, Bairstow, Crawley or Malan should be considered for this most demanding of all tours. The last of these four may yet convince me, having just been drafted into the squad, but at the moment that decision just looks like the latest in a series of regressive, backward looking calls the selectors have made recently.

THE CAPTAINCY

I think that Root needs to be relieved of the captaincy, and would at this point give the job to Rory Burns as a temporary measure, hoping that Tom Abell (my choice for number three and Somerset’s current captain) can establish himself at test level and then be given the captaincy.

THE BATTING

This of course is the biggest area of concern for England at present. With Sibley out of form and confidence I see little alternative to Burns and Hameed as openers, Abell would be my choice at three, and Root at four. Number five for me is between Lawrence and Pope, with my preference for the first named. I would give the gloves to Foakes with Buttler not available, with Bracey in the squad as reserve keeper. Foakes would bat six, putting an extra batter between him and the tail. At number seven I would want Chris Woakes in the all rounders role in most conditions. Bracey is cover not only for the keepers gloves but also the number three slot. On my radar as reserve batters are Liam Livingstone, Harry Brook, Jordan Cox, Matt Critchley and, as a gamble on a youngster who seems to have the right temperament, Lewis Goldsworthy. Critchley might be selected at seven in place of Woakes if a second spin option looks like being useful (he bowls a bit of leg spin).

THE BOWLING

Of the bowlers I am prepared to consider available (Wood is injured and there is no way of knowing how long he is out for, so although I am not absolutely ruling him out as I have some others I am for the moment placing him on the sidelines) my first choices are: Overton, Robinson, Leach and Anderson (I want at least one genuine spinner and Leach is first choice in that department). I hope Mark Wood will be recovered in time to make the trip. Other seam back up could be provided by Saqib Mahmood, George Garton or Sam Curran (he has looked fairly unthreatening with the ball of late which is why I have him well down the pecking order). The spin situation, partly dictated by the fact that English off spinners have only rarely done well in Australia, is less happy looking. Although it would be unlikely that he and Leach would be picked in the same XI the next nearest thing England have to a spinner in Leach’s class is Matt Parkinson, the Lancashire leg spinner who currently has 86 FC wickets at 23.69, though his wickets per game rate is on the low side at just a tick over three. Direct back up for Leach is not really available unless one gambles on four first class appearances telling a true story and name Dan Moriarty in the party. However, Liam Patterson-White has a respectable record, and can bat, which would give England two ways of selecting two spinners of differing methods without both being bunnies with the bat – Either Critchley at seven and Leach at 10, or a 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 of Woakes, Patterson-White, Robinson, Anderson, Parkinson.

WRAPPING IT UP

Until and unless they get tried there is no way of knowing whether the above ideas will work, but the selectors continuing with their current approach has one likely result in terms of The Ashes: 5-0 to Australia.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

TFL have recently produced a piece titled ‘Sightseeing on the Northern Line‘, an effort which missed more than it found and prompted me to produce my own version.

Now it is time for my usual sign off…

Possible England Bowling Attacks For Australia

A look ahead to Ashes, focussing especially on the bowling.

This piece was prompted by a little discussion on twitter this morning about this subject. Somebody who tweets as The Slog Sweeper was advocating the selection of five specialist bowlers, Archer, Stone, Wood, Leach and Anderson, all of whom I firmly believe should be in that tour party if fit, in the team at one the same time. I can understand the logic, but it seems to me to be too high risk, with virtually no runs coming from the second half of the innings. I am going to look at possible combinations for that series in more detail here.

THE ROLE OF THE SPINNER

Jack Leach is established as England’s no1 test spinner. Given that English off spinners have generally fared poorly in Australia and the paucity of options with even respectable first class records the only remotely likely choice for the role of second spinner would be Matt Parkinson (FC bowling average 25). Back for Leach in the role of left arm orthodox spinner is hard to find at present, unless Sophie Ecclestone gets offered her chance to try her stuff alongside the men. I have examined the role of left arm slow to medium paced bowlers in successful Ashes campaigns down under elsewhere on this blog. The only regular test venue in Australia that is remotely likely to warrant the selection of two specialist spinners is Sydney. It could well be the case that no spinner is selected in Perth, and at the other three venues Leach will be the chosen spinner.

BALANCING ATTACKS TO SUIT LOCAL CONDITIONS

At the Gabba for the series opener the right bowling attack would feature two out and out speedsters, Leach and Anderson. At Adelaide, where pitches are often favourable for batting there might be a case for slightly weakening the batting order in an effort to get 20 wickets and playing Woakes at seven, two of the speedsters, Leach and either Broad or Anderson depending on form and fitness. At Perth I might well gamble on all three out and out speedsters and a toss up between Leach and Broad for the fourth specialist bowler. The MCG is the one Aussie ground where I would be happy without two out and out speedsters and would pick whichever of the three is bowling best, both veterans and Leach, or possibly Woakes in place of one of the veterans. At the SCG I am either going two out and out speedster and two spinners (Parkinson coming in) or possibly two out and out speedsters, Anderson and Leach.

POSSIBLE XI FOR THE GABBA

The questions if any are over the top of the order. However, unless either:

a) Haseeb Hameed, with a test average before injury interrupted his career of 43, has an epic season and positively demands selection or

b)One of the younger openers hits their straps in the early part of the county season and establishes themselves at international level during the summer

I think that it will be a case of hoping that the existing top order can function well down under – it would be a huge ask of an opener to make their international debut in an away Ashes series. Thus my Gabba XI in batting order reads as follows:

  1. Dom Sibley
  2. Rory Burns
  3. Zak Crawley
  4. *Joe Root
  5. Ben Stokes
  6. Dan Lawrence
  7. +Ben Foakes
  8. Mark Wood/ Jofra Archer (dependent on form and fitness)
  9. Olly Stone
  10. Jack Leach
  11. James Anderson

With two out and out speedsters, the skill and experience of Anderson, Leach and Stokes in the x-factor role I have considerable confidence in this side taking 20 wickets, and while the batting order would not be the deepest England have ever fielded it should be capable of producing enough runs.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Looking Ahead To The Ashes: Spinners

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.

All Time XIs -The Underappreciated Ashes

My latest variation on the ‘all time XIs’ theme – enjoy!

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to another variation on the ‘All Time XIs’ theme. Today I create two teams to do battle for the little urn, but with a twist. The players featured today are players of whom more should have been seen. There is one player of the 22 who did not get to play test cricket, but I believe I can justify his inclusion. At the other end of the scale is a player who eventually played 79 times at the highest level, but who had to wait a long time for the call to come. We start with…

ENGLAND’S UNDERAPPRECIATED XI

  1. Jack Robertson – the stylish Middlesex opener was selected for 11 test matches, all between 1947 and 1952, and he scored 881 runs in those games, at and average of 46.36, with a highest score of 133. He missed the 1950-1 Ashes, when until Reg Simpson scored 156 not out in the final match only Hutton had contributed serious runs from the top of the order.
  2. Cyril Walters – another stylist, the Glamorgan and Worcestershire opener was selected for 11 test matches between 1933 and 1939, in which he scored 784 runs at 52.26, including one century and seven fifties.
  3. David Steele – ‘The Bank Clerk Who Went to War’ – the gritty Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire man played eight tests in 1975 and 1976, against Australia and the West Indies, averaging 42.06 (672 runs in 16 innings, no not outs).
  4. Clive Radley – the Hertford born Middlesex middle order man of the 1970s who like Steele only got to play eight times at the highest level. He scored 481 runs at 48.10 with a highest of 158, and another century versus Pakistan.
  5. Eddie Paynter – the Lancashire left hander’s record reads: 20 test matches, 31 innings, 1,540 runs at 59.23, 591 of them at 84.43 in Ashes matches. Among those who have played 20 or more games for England only Yorkshire’s Herbert Sutcliffe (60.73) has recorded a higher test average.
  6. +Ben Foakes – the Surrey man is the best current English wicket keeper, any doubt about that status being removed by the retirement of the marvellous Sarah Taylor. The measly five test matches he has thus far been given have yielded him 332 runs at 41.50 including a century and also 10 catches and two stumpings. I hope that the selectors will see sense and render him ineligible for selection in future sides of this nature. For the moment, he holds this position as he keeps wicket – summa cum laudae.
  7. Harold Larwood – The Notts express who was the star of the 1932-3 Ashes, and never picked again after that series through a combination of Aussie whinging and appalling behaviour by the English powers that be. Number 7 may look high in the order for him, but he did score 98 in his last test innings and made many useful contributions for Nottinghamshire with the bat.
  8. Frank Tyson – The Northanptonshire super fast man 76 wickets at 18.56 in his 18 test matches. He like Larwood was the hero of an Ashes triumph down under – in 1954-5. Many years after his prime he played in a charity game in which he bowled at Keith Fletcher (Essex), then an England regular, and he produced a delivery that Fletcher reckoned to be the quickest he faced that season.
  9. *Johnny Wardle – 28 test matches, 102 wickets at 20.39 with his left arm spin (he could bowl both orthodox and wrist spin). The Yorkshireman was often passed over in favour of Tony Lock, which rankled in “God’s own county”, especially since Lock’s action in the period in question was rarely as far above suspicion as Caesar’s wife. He fell out with Yorkshire over their appointment of 40 year old amateur Ronnie Burnet as skipper in 1958, and Yorkshire vindictively warned other counties against signing him, which effectively terminated his chances of further international recognition as well. I have done what Yorkshire would not in 1958 and named as captain of this team.
  10. Sydney Barnes – 27 tests, 189 wickets at 16.43, 77 of them in 13 matches down under. He played in under half of the matches contested by England between his first and last appearances, which irrespective of the fact that he was an awkward blighter (if he were to dispute this assessment it would only be as a matter of principle) and chose to play most of his cricket in the leagues rather than in the county championship is simply absurd. Also, there were various times when people considered him a possible post World War 1, including as late as 1930 when some people believed he was the man to take on Bradman who was running riot (2,960 runs at 98,66 for the tour, 974 of them at 139.14 in the test matches). West Indian legend Learie Constantine who faced Barnes for Nelson vs Rawtenstall in the Lancashire League when Barnes was 59 years old said after that match (in which he made 90) “if you wanted to score off Barnes you had to score off good bowling”.
  11. Charles ‘Father’ Marriott – (Lancs and Kent) A ‘one cap wonder’. He was selected in the final match of the 1933 series against the West Indies, took 11-96 in the match and that was his international career. He was known to be a liability except when actually bowling (his 711 first class wickets comfortably beating the 574 runs he scored at that level).

This team has a splendid looking top five, a superb glove man well capable of batting at six, and five excellent and well varied bowlers, all of whom save Marriott are capable of making useful contributions with the bat (Barnes was a regular run scorer in the leagues where he generally plied his trade and played one clearly defined match winning innings in a test match, at Melbourne in 1907 when he came in with 73 needed and two wickets standing and was there on 38 not out when the winning run was scored. Now it is time to look at…

AUSTRALIA UNDERUSED XI

  1. Sidney George Barnes – 13 test matches, in which he averaged 63 with a highest score of 234 (at Sydney in the second match of the 1946-7 Ashes). A combination of World War II (six years of his prime gone), and run-ins with the authorities meant that he played ridiculously little for such a fine batter. I would want ‘Blowers‘ at the mic when Sydney Francis Barnes bowled to Sidney George Barnes – there would surely be some priceless commentary moments!
  2. Chris Rogers – averaged 42.87 in the 25 matches he played, having amassed over 15,000 first class runs before the call came. He hit his peak at just the wrong time, when Australia had a dominant side that they were understandably reluctant to change.
  3. Mike Hussey – what is a man who played 79 tests doing here? He had been playing first class cricket and amassing mountains of runs in that form of the game for over a decade before getting to don the baggy green (‘Mr Cricket’ eschewed the other classic Aussie insignia, the chip on the shoulder). Yes, 79 tests is a fine achievement, as his average in that form of the game, but it could so easily have been 159 test matches, and it is for that reason that I include him.
  4. Martin Love – his peak coincided with Australia’s most dominant period, with the result that his test record amounts to 233 runs at 46.60 with one century. At almost any other time, or in almost any other country he would be an automatic selection for most of his career.
  5. Adam Voges – although the one trough of his brief test career (he was in his mid 30s when it began) coincided with the 2015 Ashes he averaged 61.87 in his 20 matches, an output that cannot be ignored.
  6. *Albert Trott – all rounder and captain (also captain of the ‘what might have been XI’ when I come to present that). His test career was in two parts – for Australia in the 1894-5 Ashes, and then for England against South Africa in 1899. Between them they amounted to five matches in which he scored 228 runs at 38.00 and took 26 wickets at 15.00. It was also in 1899 that he achieved a thus far unrepeated feat – he struck a ball from fellow Aussie Monty Noble that cleared the Lord’s pavilion, hitting a chimney pot and dropping down the back of the building. He was a right arm spin bowler. His test debut in 1895 was remarkable – 38 and 72 not out with the bat and 8-43 in the second England innings.
  7. +Graham Manou – the most skilled glove man in Australia during his career, but Brad Haddin was generally preferred on ground of his belligerent batting. Manou played in only one test match, unusual for an Australian (there are about 70 English members of this club).
  8. Eddie Gilbert – right arm fast bowler and the most controversial of my 22 picks today. He never played test cricket, but in his brief domestic career he sometimes caused carnage, including inflicting on Don Bradman “the luckiest duck of my career”. He might have been selected during the 1932-3 Ashes had Australia adopted a ‘fight fire with fire’ approach. He was an aboriginal, which might explain his scurvy treatment by the Australian cricket powers that be – it would be until Jason Gillespie that a player of proven aboriginal ancestry would don the baggy green.
  9. Laurie Nash – another fast bowler who could have been used as part of the ‘fight fire with fire’ option in 1932-3. He claimed that he could have stopped ‘Bodyline’ in two overs given the chance. His two test caps yielded 10 wickets at 12.60. What might have happened at Australia taken the ‘fight fire with fire’ approach? My reckoning is that there would probably have been one absolute war zone of a test when both teams gave it both barrels, and then the method would have been abandoned, because the English professionals who could not afford to risk their livelihoods would have insisted on it.
  10. Stuart Clark – a tall fast-medium who took 94 wickets at 23.86 in his 24 test matches. Injury problems and a chap by the name of McGrath kept him from featuring more often than he did.
  11. Jack Iverson – mystery spinner (subject of Gideon Haigh’s book “Mystery Spinner”) whose test career amounted to the five matches of the 1950-1 Ashes series, in which he took 21 wickets at 15.23. Many reckoned that he would have been even deadlier in England (although he bowled wrist spin he was effectively a very accurate off spinner) – which creates an interesting counter-historical speculation. Had he gone to England in 1953 Australia may well have retained The Ashes, which would almost certainly have meant that the grumblers who had never liked the notion of a professional captaining England would have got their way and Hutton would have been replaced by an amateur, which would almost certainly have also meant no 1954-5 triumph with ‘Typhoon’ Tyson.

This team has a strong looking top five, a potentially match winning all rounder at six, a magnificent keeper at seven and four top quality bowlers.

THOUGHTS ON HOW THIS ASHES CONTEST MIGHT GO

Barring an emerald coloured pitch and/or heavy cloud cover that you are prepared to bet on remaining in place for long enough to cash in on the toss winner would be heavily advised to bat first and get their runs on the board (trying to score runs against Trott and Iverson in the fourth innings does not look like fun, and this is even more the case vis a vis Wardle, Barnes and Marriott). I reckon that Larwood and Tyson are a quicker pair (thought not by much) than Gilbert and Nash. Where England definitely shade it is that irrespective of conditions Barnes is likely to more dangerous than Clark. I would expect it to be close – in a five match, play to a finish series I would back England to win 3-2, while I would expect England’s margin to look a little more comfortable with draws in the equation because I reckon Steele and Radley could each be counted on for at least one match saving rearguard action,  while ‘Mr Cricket’ would probably probably save one game for the Aussies, so factoring in draws I make it 2-0 to England. Glenn McGrath would probably utter his reflex “5-0 to Australia’ line!

Given the characters on show we need some good officials in charge. I am going for Bucknor and Dar as on field umpires, Venkataraghavan as TV Replay umpire and Clive Lloyd as match referee. For commentators I have already indicated that ‘Blowers’ has a role to play, and as his colleagues I choose Jim Maxwell (Australia) and Alison Mitchell (who has a foot in both camps) – sorry ‘Aggers‘, no gig for you this series. For expert summarisers I have no strong preferences other than that Boycott is absolutely banned.

A TWITTER THREAD AND PHOTOS

I have set the stage for my Ashes series between two teams of often overlooked players, but there remains one more thing to do before my usual sign off – I have an important twitter thread about Coronavirus to share with you, from Lainey Doyle, please click on screenshot to view the whole thread:

Lainey TT

We end with the usual photographic flourish:

Neglected Ashes
The contending XIs in tabulated form.

P1310744 (2)P1310745 (2)P1310748 (2)P1310758 (2)P1310762 (2)P1310763 (2)P1310764 (2)P1310766 (2)P1310767 (2)P1310769 (2)

P1310771 (2)
Sitting out in my bit of garden is providing plenty of opportunities for camera work (all bar two of the remaining pics in this post were taken while sitting outside, which I was also doing for most of the time spent typing this post).

P1310772 (2)P1310773 (2)P1310774 (2)P1310775 (2)P1310776 (2)P1310777 (2)P1310778 (2)P1310779 (2)P1310780 (2)P1310781 (2)P1310782 (2)P1310783 (2)P1310785 (2)P1310787 (2)P1310788 (2)P1310789 (2)P1310791 (2)P1310793 (2)P1310794 (2)

 

 

 

England Players And Selectors Both Fail

An account of England’s defeat at Old Trafford, the loss of The Ashes and the subsequent failure of England’s selectors to take necessary action. Credit to Australia, who are worthy winners of both this match and The Ashes (and, almost certainly, the series as well).

INTRODUCTION

There are two threads to this post – the first is the loss of the 4th test match at Old Trafford and with it The Ashes, and the second is the unsurprising but very disappointing decision of the England selectors to name an unchanged squad for the fifth test match.

HOW THE DEFEAT PANNED OUT

England were eventually dismissed with just fewer than 15 overs to be bowled for 197 to lose by 185 runs. Denly made a half-century that was firmly in the “too little, too late” category. Craig Overton, in the side for his bowling skills, produced a display that should have brought blushes to the cheeks of most his supposed betters in the order by holding out for almost three hours before the inevitable happened, and Jack Leach lasted almost an hour with him in the ninth wicket stand that was England’s last gesture of resistance. Broad, the man with more test match ducks than any other England cricketer, escaped adding to his tally by being left 0 not out when Overton finally fell to end proceedings. That Overton and Leach were able to resist for as long as they did on this final day was a damning indictment of England’s top order (Burns and Root both got beauties from Cummins on the 4th evening, and Roy was on the end of a good ‘un as well, although his choice of shot certainly contributed to his downfall) who save for Denly failed to provide anything that could be described as an innings of substance (and even he nearly holed out at deep midwicket during what was supposed to be a resistance act). At Edgbaston in the first match Australia were 122-8 on the first day before Smith and Siddle rescued them and they went on to dominate that match. At Lord’s England had marginally the better of a drawn game, and save only for those amazing closing stages England were behind all the way at Headingley, while this match was pretty much all Australia as well. Thus Australia deserved their win, and deserve to have retained the Ashes. A win at The Oval would make the series 3-1 to Australia, and that would be a fair reflection of how the two sides have played. Were England to somehow win at The Oval and level the series 2-2 even I as an Englishman would have to say that it would be a travesty of cricketing justice, but I cannot see that happening with this same group of players named again. The full scorecard for this match can be viewed here.

CONSISTENCY OR STUBBORNNESS FROM ED SMITH AND FRIENDS?

I certainly do not want a return to the scattergun approach of the 1990s when players were in and out of the side at the drop of a hat, but naming this same group of players when at least four (Denly, Roy, Buttler and Bairstow) have simply failed to produce to the required standard seems to me to be veering from consistency (a degree of which should be maintained) into stubbornness if not pigheadedness. The bowlers are not to blame for the debacle that this series has been, and I would not make many changes there (I went into detail about my squad for The Oval yesterday – please visit that post for a look), but the specialist batting and the wicketkeepers position need changing. I hope that the England selectors will start afresh when naming the winter tour parties. Then the new players can be given this winter and the next home season to prove themselves. With all due respect to the Somerset giant, that Craig Overton batted longer than anyone else in England’s second innings points up the problems that rout (67 all out) in the first innings at Headingley so devastatingly revealed. A slightly less scathing assessment of England at present can be found here. Although I will not reproduce any of the substance of yesterday’s post, here is the 13 I suggested for The Oval, just for purposes of comparison with the inertia of the England selectors:

  1. Rory Burns
  2. Tammy Beaumont
  3. Dominic Sibley
  4. *Joe Root
  5. +Ben Foakes
  6. Ben Stokes
  7. Lewis Gregory
  8. Jofra Archer
  9. Stuart Broad
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Helen Fenby
  12. Ollie Pope
  13. Craig Overton

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

P1270107 (2)P1270108 (2)P1270135 (2)P1270135 (3)P1270137 (2)P1270138 (2)P1270140 (2)P1270142 (2)P1270143 (2)P1270144 (2)P1270145 (2)P1270147 (2)P1270148 (2)P1270149 (2)P1270150 (2)P1270152 (2)

P1270153 (2)
Three rare shots – a cormorant in the Gaywood river (the Great Ouse is home to many cormorants, but I have never previously seen one in the Gaywood).

P1270154 (2)P1270154 (3)P1270155 (2)P1270156 (2)P1270157 (2)P1270158 (2)P1270159 (2)P1270160 (2)P1270161 (2)P1270164 (2)P1270165 (2)P1270166 (2)P1270167 (2)

Ashes Gone -What Should England Do Now?

Conceding the fourth test, and with it The Ashes, this post looks ahead to the fifth test at The Oval, with various changes to the England squad suggested. There are also lots of my photographs.

INTRODUCTION

England’s defeat at Old Trafford has yet to be officially confirmed, but barring serious rain it seems inevitable, and that will mean that Australia have retained The Ashes. Even if England somehow escape with a draw (which would be undeserved) they would need to win at The Oval and that looks unlikely given Australia’s overall superiority thus far in the series (save for a few sessions at Lord’s and the amazing final stages of Headingley Australia have been bossing things all through this series). Based on three matches and four days of the fourth cricketing justice demands that Australia retain The Ashes. Thus this post looks at the future and suggests changes for the fifth test based on The Ashes being already gone, though I would still recommend that they make these changes regardless. Having started this post just before play begins on day five there is a question of which will be completed first – this post or Australia’s victory – and my lack of confidence in England’s remaining batting is such that am not betting on which happens first!

THE STORY OF DAYS 1-4

Australia racked up 497-8 declared in their first innings, Steve Smith helping himself to a double century, his third in test cricket, all of them at England’s expense (only Don Bradman, with no fewer than eight, has scored more against England). England just avoided the follow-on, Burns and Root playing substantial innings – the former in the process becoming the first opener not named Cook to score three fifties for England in a series since the retirement of Andrew Strauss. Then Australia went out for quick runs, and got enough to declare yesterday evening, setting England just over 380 to win, Smith by his standards failing, managing a measly 82 (nb – I have had plenty to say regarding his personal conduct, but I have never criticised his batting.). Then Burns and Root fell in successive deliveries in the first over of England’s 2nd innings. Denly and Roy saw things through to the close, but barring more heroics from Stokes, it has hard to see England batting out today.

ENGLAND’S PROBLEMS

Burns’ successes have resolved one of England’s top order problems, but still required there are a)another opener who can do it against the red ball and b) someone who is comfortable at no 3 against the red ball. Additionally I think that Buttler (his first innings effort here notwithstanding) and Bairstow both need replacing, with a genuine frontline batter and a wicketkeeper-batter respectively). The bowling is in a much better state, but at The Oval a second spinner is likely to be needed alongside Leach, and somehow they have to find out a way of getting Smith out.

SORTING THE BATTING

I do not believe that either Roy or Denly belong in a test XI, and even big scores for both of them today will be too little too late as far as I am concerned. I have been arguing in posts since August 31st 2018 for Tammy Beaumont to be given her chance alongside the men, and I stick to that line. At no 3 I opt for a third regular opener, Dominic Sibley, and then Root back where he really belongs at no 4. As wicketkeeper and no 5 I select Ben Foakes, with Ben Stokes rounding out the top six. I then go for all-rounder Lewis Gregory at seven, Jofra Archer at eight, Stuart Broad at nine, Jack Leach at ten, and at 11 my second spinner, to whom I dedicate the next subsection of this post…

HELEN FENBY – THE MYSTERY OPTION

I was alerted to this possibility in a match in which she took four cheap wickets and also surprised all the commentators with her action – if it is a new one on them then perhaps it will be a new one on Steve Smith (all orthodox selections seem to have drawn a blank, so let’s try an unorthodox one). While this would be envisaged XI I would also have in reserve in case conditions warrant it 1) an extra batter, in this case Ollie Pope of Surrey, and 2) a reserve pace bowler, Craig Overton. Thus, my full squad for The Oval would be (all names in hyperlink form):

  1. Rory Burns
  2. Tammy Beaumont
  3. Dominic Sibley
  4. *Joe Root
  5. +Ben Foakes
  6. Ben Stokes
  7. Lewis Gregory
  8. Jofra Archer
  9. Stuart Broad
  10. Jack Leach
  11. Helen Fenby
  12. Ollie Pope
  13. Craig Overton

FURTHER SUGGESTIONS TO COMPLETE A TEST TOUR PARTY

I want another three players to complete a test touring party, and I reckon that they should be a batter, a pace bowler and a spinner. My three choices for these roles are George Bartlett of Somerset (a look to the future, with a youngster who is better suited in both style and temperament to playing long innings against the red ball than to biffing the white one around – his county colleague Abell and Joe Clarke of Nottinghamshire both also merit consideration), Anderson if he is fit, and if not whoever out of Mark Wood and Olly Stone is fit and Dominic Bess (since I have a left arm spinner and leg spinner in my squad I opt for the off spinner Bess in preference to leg spinner Matt Parkinson).

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

P1260930 (2)

P1260932 (2)
A bit like too many of England’s recent batting efforts – a variety of ducks (the big one with the red face is a Muscovy duck).

P1260933 (2)P1260934 (2)P1260935 (2)P1260936 (2)P1260937 (2)P1260938 (2)P1260940 (2)P1260941 (2)P1260942 (2)P1260943 (2)P1260944 (2)P1260945 (2)P1260946 (2)P1260947 (2)P1260948 (2)P1260949 (2)P1260950 (2)P1260951 (2)P1260952 (2)P1260953 (2)P1260954 (2)P1260956 (2)P1260957 (2)P1260958 (2)P1260960 (2)P1260961 (2)P1260962 (2)P1260963 (2)P1260965 (2)P1260966 (2)P1260968 (2)P1260970 (2)P1260971 (2)P1260972 (2)P1260973 (2)P1260974 (2)P1260975 (2)P1260976 (2)P1260977 (2)P1260978 (2)P1260979 (2)P1260980 (2)P1260981 (2)P1260982 (2)P1260983 (2)P1260984 (2)P1260985 (2)P1260986 (2)P1260987 (2)P1260989 (2)P1260990 (2)P1260991 (2)P1260992 (2)P1260993 (2)P1260994 (2)P1260995 (2)P1260996 (2)P1260997 (2)P1260998 (2)P1260999 (2)P1270001 (2)P1270002 (2)P1270003 (2)P1270004 (2)P1270004 (3)P1270005 (2)P1270006 (2)P1270007 (2)P1270008 (2)P1270009 (2)P1270010 (2)P1270014 (2)P1270015 (2)P1270016 (2)P1270017 (2)P1270018 (2)P1270019 (2)P1270020 (2)P1270021 (2)P1270022 (2)P1270023 (2)P1270025 (2)P1270093 (2)P1270094 (2)P1270095 (2)P1270096 (2)P1270097 (2)P1270097 (3)P1270098 (2)P1270099 (2)P1270100 (2)P1270103 (2)P1270103 (3)P1270106 (2)

PS – contrary to the mischievous comparison made in the introduction to this post England have not lost a wicket thus far today.

England’s Prospects at Old Trafford

My thoughts on the changes to the England squad for the upcoming 4th Ashes Test and lots of photographs (do let me know of any you think calendar worthy!)

INTRODUCTION

England have made a couple of changes for the upcoming (and crucial) fourth Ashes test match at Old Trafford. This post looks at those changes and at England’s hopes, and optimistic as ever, discounts in the interests of simplicity the possibility of the Manchester weather emerging victorious.

SETTING THE SCENE

This is probably the most important Manchester test since the equivalent match in the 1902 series (when Australia won by 3 runs to clinch the Ashes). Again, a win for Australia would secure them the Ashes, since as holders a drawn series is enough for them, and that would be all England could do, while a win for England would leave them needing a draw at The Oval to secure the urn (as in 2005, when thanks to the second most significant 158 by a South African born England batter – Basil D-Oliveira’s 1968 effort being #1 in that category the necessary was achieved). In 1956 England needed a win at Manchester to secure the Ashes and Australia, thoroughly spooked by Jim Laker, failed to capitalize on the assistance of a number of weather interruptions, the final margin being an innings and 170 runs in England’s favour. In 1981 England were 2-1 to the good going into the penultimate match at Old Trafford, and won courtesy of Ian Botham’s second ton of the series. Finally, for the historical comparisons, in 1964 a draw was all Australia required from the equivalent match, being one up and holders, and on a pitch which needed white lines down the middle Bobby Simpson ensured that quite literally off his own bat, not being dislodged until the third morning of the match, for 311 in 762 minutes. Australia eventually declared at 656-8, England replying with 611 (Barrington 256, Dexter 174) and the few overs that remained before the draw could be officially confirmed were bowled by Barrington and Titmus with an old ball.

ENGLAND’S CHANGES

Jason Roy and Joe Denly have changed places in the batting order, Denly moving up to open and Roy dropping to no 4, while Craig Overton of Somerset replaces Chris Woakes. While I think switching Roy and Denly was the least England could do in the agttempt to address the problems at the top of their batting order I do not believe it goes far enough (readers of this blog will be aware of my own radical solution, first proposed a year ago when Cook as approaching retirement and Jennings’ inadequacy was all too obvious), and I feel that a no 3 has also to be located somewhere, as Joe Root is clearly not relishing the position. Overton for Woakes is uncontroversial, though I would have preferred another Somerset man, Lewis Gregory, to have got the nod. Denly has a low initial bar to clear – get England’s batting off to a better start than they have been managing of late – a three-legged elephant would probably have a chance of clearing a bar that low. Having made their calls, England need to back their judgement, and if they win the toss they should choose to bat first and hope to score enough to put Australia under pressure. If the Denly-Roy switch works out (and it can hardly turn out worse than the previous arrangement!), then a big total is a genuine possibility. As England have been discovering lately it is hard if you are starting each innings effectively already two wickets down. If England win they will go to The Oval as favourites, a draw still leaves them with a chance (look up 1926, 1930, 1934 and 1953 for examples of an Ashes deciding victory happening at The Oval) but defeat means curtains. However, even a defeat might be used to benefit England in the long term – with the Ashes gone it would be an opportunity/ necessity for England to experiment (I would expect a second front line spinner to be named in the squad for that match regardless of the result of the upcoming one, because pitches in South London so often offer turn).

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

P1260658 (2)P1260661 (2)P1260662 (2)

P1260662 (3)
This azure damselfly seems an appropriate picture to use to point out that I am thinking about pictures for use in the aspi.blog 2020 wall calendar – I have a few ideas already, and would welcome suggestions from readers.

P1260662 (4)

P1260663 (2)
A red dragon fly in flight.

P1260664 (2)P1260665 (2)P1260666 (2)P1260667 (2)P1260668 (2)P1260671 (2)P1260673 (2)P1260676 (2)P1260677 (2)P1260678 (2)P1260679 (2)P1260679 (3)

P1260680 (4)
A two for on damselflies! (five pics to choose from)

P1260680 (3)P1260680 (2)P1260680 (5)P1260680 (6)P1260681 (2)P1260682 (2)P1260683 (2)P1260684 (2)P1260685 (2)P1260687 (2)P1260689 (2)P1260690 (2)P1260691 (2)P1260692 (2)P1260693 (2)P1260733 (2)P1260734 (2)P1260735 (2)P1260736 (2)P1260737 (2)P1260738 (2)P1260739 (2)P1260740 (2)P1260742 (2)P1260747 (2)P1260747 (3)

P1260927 (2)
Not often in easy view – a water vole seen near the centre of King’s Lynn today.

P1260883 (2)P1260883 (3)P1260884 (2)P1260885 (2)P1260908 (2)P1260909 (2)P1260910 (2)P1260911 (2)P1260912 (2)P1260917 (2)P1260924 (2)P1260925 (2)P1260926 (2)

The Headingley Heist

My own thoughts about the amazing “Headingley Heist” and the remainder of the Ashes series, plus links and of course photographs.

INTRODUCTION

This post features my thoughts on the incredible test match that has just finished at Headingley. I also have a couple of other things to share at the end of this post.

A LATE TWIST

England looked to have destroyed their Ashes chances when they slumped to 67 all out after having dismissed Australia for 179. Australia reached 246 all out in their second dig, with Labuschagne once again their top scorer. This meant that England needed 359 to win, which if achieved would be the highest total they had ever scored to win a test match, beating the 332-7 at Melbourne in 1928-9 (Herbert Sutcliffe 135, Jack Hobbs 49, and a crucial piece of advice to promote Jardine if he or Sutcliffe got out that evening – he did and Jardine, with the pitch still difficult, chiselled out a crucial 33) that secured that series for England. Roy failed again as opener, underlining his unsuitability for that position in red ball cricket. Burns was also our fairly early, but Root and Denly batted well for a time, before with the close of play for the day approaching Denly who had reached 50 surrendered his wicket. That brought Stokes to the crease, and he and Root were still there at the close. Root was out early on the 4th morning for 75, and although Bairstow batted well, Buttler, Woakes, Archer and Broad were all out fairly cheaply. England were 286-9 when Jack Leach walked out to join Stokes and the game looked well and truly up, though England had made a fight of it. Then Stokes, who had spent a long time digging himself in before beginning to score freely, started to really lash out, one over from Hazlewood being clonked for 19 including two huge sixes. As England got closer and closer Australia started to panic, and first skipper Paine burned their last review on an L.B.W appeal when the ball was obviously missing leg very comfortably, then Lyon failed to hold a return when had he done so Leach would have been run out by a country mile. Then an L.B.W appeal was turned down, and had Australia had a review left sending it upstairs would have won them the match at the last gasp. Leach got off the mark with the most important single he will ever score, off Cummins, which brought the scores level and put Stokes back on strike. Cummins bowled to Stokes….
and Stokes creamed it for four, and England had pulled off a truly spectacular heist, and Ashes 2019 was back on with a vengeance.

Here are some extra follow-up links:

  • The full scorecard of this truly extraordinary match.
  • Video highlights of those amazing final stages.
  • Some of the social media comment on Stokes’ innings.
  • On a lighter note, the Beard Liberation Front have given Ben Stokes a free pass to the final shortlist for “Beard of the Year” – surely given his Christchurch birthplace and that country’s attitudes towards its larger neighbour he is also nailed on for “New Zealander of the Year 2019”?!

DON’T USE YESTERDAY TO PAPER OVER THE CRACKS (OR CHASMS?!)

England pulled this one out of the fire, but their batting was badly exposed in the first innings, and they benefitted from more than a little good fortune in the closing stages. England made an escape to send Harry Houdini green with envy, and it is highly likely that the next match decides the fate of the Ashes – if Australia win it they have retained them, and if England win it they will go to The Oval 2-1 up, and those of us who remember 2005 and 2009 know what happens when England reach The Oval still in control of their own destiny. Thus, although yesterday’s events made a nonsense of the title of my previous post I hold firm to the arguments made therein (half-decent batting efforts from Denly and Bairstow not being sufficient to change my mind on that score). My reasoning and selected squad for the next test match are reproduced below:

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

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

I add a little coda to the above – if Anderson is fit he should of course play.

For the moment: game on – oh, and Aussies you really need to brush up on DRS, you messed up big time in that department.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Two links for you first:

  1. A reminder about the petition to ban driven grouse shooting, which is now about 4/5ths of the way to 100,000 signatures.
  2. The results of a large survey about Autism – they make interesting, and for some of you, challenging reading.

Now for my usual sign off…

P1260593 (2)P1260594 (2)P1260595 (2)P1260596 (2)P1260597 (2)P1260598 (2)P1260599 (2)P1260600 (2)P1260601 (2)P1260602 (2)P1260604 (2)P1260605 (2)P1260606 (2)P1260607 (2)P1260608 (2)P1260609 (2)P1260610 (2)P1260611 (2)P1260612 (2)P1260613 (2)P1260614 (2)P1260615 (2)P1260617 (2)P1260618 (2)P1260620 (2)P1260620 (3)P1260622 (2)P1260622 (3)P1260623 (2)P1260624 (2)P1260624 (3)P1260642 (2)P1260643 (2)P1260644 (2)P1260645 (2)P1260653 (2)P1260655 (2)P1260656 (2)P1260657 (2)