This looks exciting folks. Out now I believe!
WARNING: I’ve become the pessimistic cynic that I used to criticise!
Jason Roy won’t do any worse than those who have been chewed up and spat out before him but is he really going to do any better?
He’ll likely average 27 but is also likely to be more Aaron Finch than David Warner, in Tests anyway. Roy is a player with no recent history of playing First Class cricket let alone opening the batting. He was all at sea against a moving ball in the World Cup final and should he score a few breezy thirties will that really be of benefit? Will he score Test hundreds more often than Keaton Jennings (Once every 8.5 Tests!)?
Yes Ed Smith and co. have gone down this route before with Jos Buttler and credit to both because it’s worked so far. This selection however is even more cavalier. How will Roy approach it? Like it’s an ODI or will he cramp up like Hales and try to play a game he has no recent history of playing?
I consider myself a realistic optimist (Or optimistic realist) when it comes to English cricket but appreciate that I sound pessimistic regarding the selection of Surrey’s Roy. I’ll back nearly everybody who is picked for England but just like I put my head on the line by advocating my proposed selections of players that others would dismiss as preposterous, I’ll equally express my opinion when I’m not convinced by the ones that we have selected. I expect our Selection Panel to be practicing what they preach and analysing every potential selection in extreme detail.
Will Roy pull his hamstring, not be able to field then not be authorised to open the batting meaning that Joe Root has to move up to three anyway? If you’ve spent a career running 100 metre sprints then suddenly try to run a marathon then you’ll likely get injured. Roy has spent a career, or at least the latter part, playing One-Day and T20 cricket and has recently struggled to fulfil those requirements. Now we’re expecting him to last five days!
I sincerely hope that Jason Roy has a long and fruitful Test career averaging forty plus home and away and I’ll be the first to provide an honest assessment and say well done… but he wouldn’t be my pick!
England have also selected Lewis Gregory but what is the Somerset man’s point of difference? His selection seems reminiscent of recent eras where early season form precedes consistency over the years. Gregory might currently be doing a bit better than Ben Coad, Jamie Porter or even Chris Rushworth but is he really a long-term solution, is he really better than those players? It’s the same as picking Mark Stoneman because he averaged 80 one year in a career of averaging 30 but ignoring James Hildreth for only averaging 40 most years. The odd peak amongst troughs wins selection over year on year consistency. The Somerset man’s selection smacks of a token “Yes we value county cricket” by the selectors. They’ve rested the likes of Buttler and Ben Stokes and feel that they can get away with bringing in a bowling all-rounder who’s topping the domestic charts for one-match (Keep county fans happy) against Ireland. Don’t forget that Sam Curran is capable of batting higher than he has done.
Lewis Gregory is a fine player whose all-round abilities can be of use to England but I’m just uninspired by these unoriginal selections. England have also selected Olly Stone. If I’m questioning Jason Roy’s fitness then…
If these players perform against Ireland in home conditions does that tell us that they’re good enough to be Test cricketers? Will the same people that malign Woakes as a horse for a course celebrate these players as the finished article based on a fifty of fifer against a country that has just three domestic teams? What message does these selections send to opening batsman out there or domestic bowlers who perform year on year? They can only beat what’s in front of them!
I’m sorry. I’ve become the negative, cynical hypocrite that I never wanted to be but so be it. That’s what being an England cricket fan will do to you. It’s not by choice!
Here’s my suggested England Test squad for the match against Ireland and ultimately the start of the Ashes…
Joe Root (Captain)
Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)
Mark Wood/Jofra Archer
James Anderson/Chris Woakes
The suggestion is that Archer and Woakes have injuries that need managing and may have to wait their turn. Of course Anderson is currently out of action and Wood is not going to play five consecutive Tests. Extremely good players are going to have to miss out and that may be the case for Sam Curran. I think that variety is essential in an attack but with slow left-armer Leach meriting selection ahead of Moeen that doesn’t help fellow leftie Curran’s case. I still believe in Moeen but he’s gone AWOL as a batsman and Leach should’ve played in West Indies. His batting and fielding have come on too. Moeen would be best served getting some county cricket under his belt. If somebody in the top/middle order fails after a few Tests then the others could be shuffled to accommodate Moeen as a second spinner or even allow Curran to come into the side. He himself is capable of batting at least as high as six.
On the batting front, Sibley merits selection. His ‘form’ isn’t just that. His sensational run started last year and included a hundred overseas. He clearly has a lot of ambition and concentration and could be just what England need. I’d have no concerns about tempo from the openers. Test matches last five days!
I also firmly believe that Malan is good enough to succeed at this level but his optimum batting position is number four. That’s why Root must move to three and embrace it. He might not like it but he’ll have a better team for it. Yes Malan has played before and averaged 27 like everybody else but he hinted at being good enough and is knocking the door down with an axe. You only have to look at the likes of Mark Butcher, Justin Langer and Marvan Atapattu, even Jonny Bairstow for players that came back stronger and age wise look at Mike Hussey, Kumar Sangakarra and Misbah-ul-Haq, even Andy Flower. Malan could yet have his peak years ahead of him. His inclusion helps maintain a good left-hand/right-hand balance throughout the batting order.
The likes of Gary Ballance and Toby Roland-Jones as well as Dom Bess could all be hitting form at the right time to keep incumbents on their toes. Sam Northeast is another one for whom a place in the XI is a genuine possibility. Like I say though, good players will have to miss out. That’s theory of numbers. Coad, Gregory, Porter, Denly and Roy etc, you cant squeeze them all in.
Regarding Roy, he simply can’t be trusted to be fit enough to field long enough to be allowed, in accordance with the rules of the game, to open the batting thus rendering his inclusion pointless if everybody else has to move higher up the order than they want too.
One more thing. What a shame that the England Lions players as well as most county squads can’t watch the World Cup final. Who scheduled this?!
Having reached the halfway point of the round robin stage of the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship, here are some statistical highlights from our performances. Remember that we lost to Scotland in our opening match but have gone onto beat Canada, USA, Ireland and Netherlands.
Highest Team Total: 493-8 dec vs. USA at Edgbaston
Highest Individual Innings: Haseeb Hameed – 154 vs. USA at Edgbaston
Highest Batting Average: Joe Root – 52.25
Leading Run-scorer: Joe Root – 418
Most Catches: Jonny Bairstow – 41 (Forty-One!!!)
Best Bowling (Innings): Sam Curran – 6-26 vs. USA at Edgbaston
Best Bowling (Match): Sam Curran – 10-127 vs. Canada at Ottawa Oval
Best Bowling Average: Sam Curran – 13.50
Leading wicket taker: Sam Curran – 28
Snowcapped mountains, palm trees and Warnesque spin bowlers. Quite what part of the Netherlands we were in we still have no idea but it hosted some thoroughly good cricket!
On the first morning (Or afternoon, it was a day/nighter) we were untroubled at 54 without loss just one ball before the beverage break and looked destined for a big first innings total. Ben Duckett, not content with just liquid refreshment, couldn’t resist a nibble however and out of nowhere we were one wicket down. His replacement at the wicket, another Ben in the form of the recalled Ben Stokes then went on the attack to carry us to 102-1. In the blink of an eye though that became 108-4! Stokes dragged on after striking a punchy 39, Jos Buttler (4) executed an awful leave for the second time in the competition and Haseeb Hameed, who made 39 in 56 deliveries more than it took Stokes, was caught both in two minds and behind. Moeen Ali looked in excellent touch once again but fell for 34 before captain Joe Root and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow batted brilliantly to brighten our outlook.
The Yorkshire pair lifted us from the wreckage of 158-5 to 287-5 when Root (62) was bowled courtesy of a Buttler-like leave soon after tea. That was Root’s sixth half-century of the North Western Hemisphere Test Championship (A competition best) but his top score remains 77 not out.
Bairstow’s batting bloomed however and the white rose flowered amongst the tulips. His innings of 104 was a composed and truly masterful innings that in part made you frustrated at how poor his batting returns have been in the competition up to this point. Let’s celebrate the now though. It was a class knock that demonstrated ability, intelligence and application.
Sam Curran (10) and Stuart Broad (1) joined YJB in departing in a hurry before we declared on 345-9 from 75 overs. Chris Woakes finished unbeaten on 16 alongside debutante Jamie Porter on 5.
The Dutch openers, not a fifty in sight in their Test careers to date, then danced to the floodlit wicket. Darren Toonen, top score 16 and averaging 4.25 in four Tests was worked over by England’s new new ball pair of Broad and Anderson prototype Porter but got off the mark with an edge for four.
Having reached an average enhancing 7, he nicked via pad towards Root who sprinted forward from the slips and helped Essex man Porter become a Test match wicket-taker. Our hosts had reached 32-1 when at 9pm the floodlights were switched off to conserve energy. The NWHTC actively supports and promotes efficient energy usage and environmental respect.
On day two Netherlands progressed to 67-1 before opener Shaun Mortier, having compiled a career best 42, was outstandingly caught behind by Jonny Bairstow off the bowling of Ben Stokes. Due to a lack of bounce on the wicket, Bairstow was stood up to the stumps but somehow managed to cling onto the pink ball high to his left. Nobody had expected to have to wait until round five for Ben Stokes to claim his maiden NWHTC wicket but he was finally up and running. Keen to make up for lost time the Durham tyrant then had Dutch captain Warren Beelen caught by Bairstow again for a second ball quack quack.
From 67-3 Netherlands moved onto 75 before the controversial episode that sent shockwaves throughout the cricket community. Batsman Bryan Long, on 1 at the time, pulled the ball behind square and never left his crease. Moeen simply lobbed the ball back towards the stumps and by accident rather than design it dislodged the bails. There was no appeal from our team but the umpires took the decision upstairs. Despite replays clearly showing that Long was in and had never left his ground, ‘OUT’ appeared on the big screen. Captain Joe Root, backed by his teammates, politely but passionately protested with the umpires. This is not how we want to take wickets! Umpire Symons insisted that Long must leave the field of play however and despite further protestations from our players, Netherlands slumped to 75-4. I’d like to reiterate that none of our players appealed for the wicket and the team were unanimous both at the time and now that Long should not have been given out. It was disappointing officiating and a unnecessary stain on the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship.
Feeling aggrieved, the bottom of the table side regained their composure and recovered to reach 107-4 before Moeen, legitimately, accounted for Maxwell Rabe. Rabe batted well for 18 but nicked behind a ball that spun off the blades of green grass protruding terra firma more than the blades on a Dutch windmill! Broad then gave Bairstow yet another dismissal when he tempted Pluto Schmidt to play away from his body and edge behind. Pluto might not be a planet anymore but Schmidt’s bowling (3-48) was out of this world. Unfortunately his batting failed to launch!
Our hosts then displayed some Dutch courage with a partnership of 61 between the defiant Shuman Engels (19) and Bradley Claessens (91). Ahhh, the classic inverted innings! Engels was athletically caught at short leg by Moeen off Sam Curran before Claessens suffered his heartbreak. Having passed fifty for the first time in Test cricket, the left-hander was within sight of a hundred when a bowling change caught him off guard. To the second ball of a new Stokes spell, he edged to Hameed in the slips to end his dreams of a Test ton, for now anyway. Shane Snater (5) then fell in the same over, a fifth catch for Bairstow to give him more NWHTC dismissals than some of the Dutch batsmen have runs! Last men standing Klassen (17 not out) and van Meekeren (2) lifted the Netherlands to a respectable 212 before Jamie Porter (2-55) terminated the innings. Stokes was by far the pick of the bowlers with figures of 4-55 and wickets taken at crucial times.
Come our second dig, messrs Duckett and Hameed, as has been the case many times before, looked at ease in reaching 44-0 before Duckett fell in the first over of spin. The left-hander looked sprightly in making 24 and executed a glorious reverse sweep for four before being dismissed the very next ball. He looked good, built up everybody’s hopes but got out. It was all too familiar and Ben will now be better served returning to domestic cricket. That is the harsh truth but we can persist no more.
Stokes was then superbly caught and bowled by van Meekeren for just 6 before Hameed and Root set about repairing the damage. The pair combined for 61 before Root (32) dragged on in Toonen’s first over. Unfortunately there then followed a horrible little episode late in the day. Hameed, struggling with injury, was slow to get on his bike and thus run out for 61 before Buttler (7) fell in single figures again. After a promising start to the competition, he’ll need a good showing in the first stage of the Global ODI Invitational to be in with a chance of retaining his Test spot. Moeen (8 not out) and Bairstow (4 not out) survived until the close. We finished day two on an underwhelming 147-5 but a healthy 280 runs to the good.
The following morning was pretty inglorious with Moeen soon run out for 29. Run outs have crept into our batting and need eradicating quickly. Bairstow (23) was then caught behind off a horrendous swoosh off Snater. Woakes (13) also edged to Engels and Broad was caught and bowled for 1 with both men falling to van Meekeren (3-70). We were keen to get on with things on day three, what with the threat of rain and an opportunity to potentially have an extra couple of days rest ahead of the ODIs but our batsmen could’ve applied themselves better. Thankfully Sam Curran (27 not out) and Jamie Porter (11 not out) lifted us to 239-9 and we declared at drinks. Curran’s innings included an all run five! Netherlands were left requiring 373 for a duck breaking win in the competition.
As in the first innings the home team made some sort of start by reaching 22 without loss before messrs Broad and Porter accounted for openers Mortier (11) and Toonen (12). Then in the first over after lunch, captain Root handed the ball to Sam Curran. Curran, our leading wicket-taker in the competition but a little quiet in recent innings, promptly clean bowled first innings hero Bradley Claessens (5) with his and the session’s first delivery, had the luckless Long caught in the slips for a golden duck and despite Rabe negotiating the hat-trick ball, Curran sent him back to the pavilion for just 2 with the final delivery of the over. Curran didn’t stop there, soon trapping Dutch captain Beelen (9) plumb LBW before Stokes got in on the act when Schmidt (20) nicked behind. Schmidt had lifted the homeside from the wreckage 47-6 to a slightly more respectable 76-7 and looked a good player on both sides of the wicket.
Snater (11) then dug in with Engels to help the hosts pass three figures before being clean bowled by Moeen. Next man Klassen didn’t dig in as like Curran, Moeen (2-22) struck twice in as many deliveries.
Curran then returned to claim his third five-wicket haul (5-29) of the NWHTC. Van Meekeren had held out for seventeen deliveries but edged to Bairstow for only 1 in the first over under lights. Gloveman Engels, who applied himself extremely well, was left undefeated on 38 from 83 balls. Netherlands were all out for just 112 meaning a crushing 260-run win for us. It was another positive result for us but we’d still like our batsmen to kick on more and apply a little gloss to our victories.
Our fourth consecutive win leaves us 10 points behind the unbeaten Scots and 10 ahead of Ireland at the halfway stage of the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship. Netherlands remain winless and on course for the wooden spoon. We now take a respite from the rigours of the longest format and turn our attention to the early rounds of the Global ODI Invitational. Look out for our squad announcement soon.
Matthew Wade’s Test record is ordinary. If you don’t believe me…
He has however been tearing it up on the Australian domestic circuit in recent seasons and does appear to have genuinely improved as a player. The wicketkeeper by trade is focusing on his batting in order to get back in the national side and wielding the willow as high up the order as possible.
On the Australia A-team’s tour of England he’s made back to back hundreds (117 & 155) in the two List A games played so far…
Admittedly the bowling attacks of Northamptonshire and Derbyshire aren’t comparable to England’s. It’s still not going to be easy for the thirty-one-year-old to force his way into Ashes reckoning but if he carries on like this then you just never know.
Following a hard fought win against Ireland we now travel to the Netherlands for round five of the inaugural North Western Hemisphere Test Championship. After defeat in our opening match we’ve since won three games on the bounce. We’re keen to get another win under our belt before switching our attention to the newly announced Global ODI Invitational.
Our squad for the NWHTC match in the Netherlands is as follows:
Joe Root (Captain)
Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)
Ben Stokes returns to the side and will bat at three with Ben Duckett moving to his preferred position of opener. Essex’s Jamie Porter comes into the squad for his Test debut and will take the new ball alongside Stuart Broad. Porter replaces James Anderson who is rested as a precautionary measure following injury sustained against Ireland.
Liam Livingstone returns to the full England squad and provides strong cover should injury or illness occur. Liam is a versatile all-round cricketer capable of batting in a variety of positions, bowling both leg and off-spin and is an excellent fielder. Craig Overton also returns to the Test squad on the back of consistent contributions at domestic level. We envisage both players pushing for a place in the team during the Global ODI Invitational.
Unfortunately Rory Burns drops out of the squad. The door is not closed on Rory and it’s up to him to churn out the runs in the County Championship during the Global ODI Invitational in order to make a case to regain his Test spot. Liam Dawson, having acted as 12th man for the Ireland fixture, returns to Hampshire to get some game time ahead of our white-ball adventures.
We’re expecting a soft grassy pitch devoid of cracks in Northern Europe. It’s a tricky one in terms of selection but bring it on!