Test Cricket returns tomorrow when England host West Indies at Southampton. Whether or not it should really be classed as Test status is debatable. Yes, Test cricketers will be playing but they’ve prepared by playing intra-squad matches and there’ll be no spectators in the ground. It is of course arguable that fans could attend and maintain social distancing however it’s more the getting there (Unnecessary risks on public transport etc) and getting in and out of the ground that are the problem.
West Indies are short of a few players. It’s perfectly understandable that some players, at least one of whom has suffered tragedy in his life, doesn’t want to tour England. Two of the absent players hail from Guyana where until recently at least, there hadn’t been many deaths. That may have changed as Coronavirus gains a grip on the Americas but it’s easy to comprehend that they didn’t want to visit a country where there’ve been thousands upon thousands of deaths, even if a little digging might suggest that a lot of those deaths have been in care homes. Of course BAME personnel do seem to be more vulnerable.
England will also be deprived of a player in the shape of their captain Joe Root. That possibly earns Joe Denly a reprieve and means that England’s batsmen will be competing against each other. Ben Stokes will lead England against a West Indies side who have some exciting young players in and around their squad.
West Indies have been written off before, only to show England up. Let’s hope for some competitive cricket to feast upon once again. Whether or not there’ll be artificial crowd noise like in the football we’ll have to wait and see.
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The results are in but there’s not much to choose between incumbent Joe Denly and the 2019 County Championship’s leading run-scorer Dominic Sibley.
57% of you voted for Warwickshire’s Sibley to stroll straight into the opening slot whilst 43% want Kent’s Denly to retain his position. Of course if Sibley does open alongside Rory Burns in New Zealand then Denly is still likely to retain a place in the XI at number three. Captain Joe Root is almost certain to yo-yo to number four once more.
Needless to say that Zak Crawley, another Kent man, will need to outperform the competition in the warm-up matches if he’s to convince http://www.sillypointcricket.com followers that he should play in the first Test.
Many thanks for voting and look out for my next poll soon.
Having been reprieved by the woeful Marcus Harris, a player so out of his depth that it’s almost unimaginable that he’s here, Denly went onto make 94. The drop was a sliding doors moment if ever there was one. Denly actually had a second sliding doors moment when Australia opted not to review an LBW decision when he’d reached 54. Ultimately he didn’t quite make it to a ton and yes he benefited from some fortune but so did Brian Lara when making his famous 501! Many batsmen have benefited from drops and incorrect umpiring decisions during the history of cricket. They’re nothing to feel guilty about.
There was some chirp during Denly’s knock from the likes of Matthew Wade and Steven Smith. Smith apparently suggested that the pressure was off Denly (Some England fans made the same accusation) now that Australia had retained the urn. That suggests that Smith isn’t too bothered about the result of this match which is both odd and unprofessional. It also suggests that he’s got little understanding of the consequences of this innings on Denly’s future prospects. As for Wade, he’s surely in the same boat as Denly was, one innings away from the end of his international career. The boisterous left-hander would be best served learning from Denly’s attitude and application to find a way to prolong his own Test lifetime.
Like many players adapting to a higher level, Steven Smith included, former Middlesex man Denly needed time to adapt but has now made fifties in each of the last three Tests. Despite National Selector Ed Smith’s fandom, a double failure here could’ve been terminal. As it is the Kent veteran remains the man in possession ahead of tours to New Zealand and possibly South Africa. That’ll frustrate the likes of Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and some England fans but at the age of 33, Denly could still have a useful year or two alongside an increasingly assured Rory Burns at the top of the order. The right-hand/left-hand contrast of England’s incumbent opening pair is particularly welcome. Sceptics may use the term stop gap about Denly but many players have bloomed post thirty years of age and if it allows others to develop further before gaining selection then that’s great.
Denly will likely continue to get worked over and look uncomfortable at times yet sprinkle his innings with glorious strokes and somehow find a way. He’ll certainly be brimming with confidence now following his recent run. To axe him after he’s strung together a string of scores superior to any alternative England have tried in recent times would be idiocy. Sibley, Crawley and company will have to wait for now.
Warwickshire’s Dominic Sibley is making an almost irresistible case to be the next man to open the batting for England’s Test side. The twenty-three-year-old Epsom born bat has notched up six First Class tons in as many matches spread over this season and last. He’s currently averaging 83.00 in the County Championship having clocked up a total of 249 runs. Crucially those runs have been scored in Division One.
Right-handed Sibley hit the headlines early in his career when compiling an innings of 242 for home team Surrey but felt it necessary to seek new pastures in order to guarantee first team cricket. He set sail to Warwickshire and joined former Yorkshire player Will Rhodes at the top of the order. The pair didn’t quite hit it off at first but have developed into a reliable opening pair for the Edgbaston outfit.
England Selector Ed Smith should know as well as anyone that form doesn’t always translate to Test quality but Sibley has maintained his standards for some time now. If he can continue his run-glut then he could debut against Ireland at Lords later this summer.
Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed has shown signs of a resurgence albeit in Division Two meanwhile Nottinghamshire recruit Ben Duckett is settling into life at new home Trent Bridge. Neither are getting anywhere near Sibley’s consistency however. Uncapped Middlesex left-hander Nick Gubbins could also come into the equation though like Hameed he’s playing in Division Two and like Duckett he’s often to be found batting first drop. Of course both positions are up for grabs in England’s Test side. Incumbents Keaton Jennings and Joe Denly could yet be saved if England are reluctant to blood or bring in from the cold, two batsmen in the top three one Test before the Ashes.
Sibley can only keep churning out runs on all pitches against a variety of opposition and await the call.
Following a frustrating injury hit first campaign with his adopted county, former Kent captain Sam Northeast commenced the new season with an impressive knock of 169 for Hampshire against Essex.
It’s easy to assume that Northeast has fallen down the pecking order in terms of England selection but if he can back up his opening knock with more of the same then there’s no reason why he couldn’t gatecrash the Ashes. Incumbent Joe Denly is currently sat on the bench at the IPL. He is very much an Ed Smith selection however. Denly made 69 in his last Test innings but then James Vince made 76 in his. With Northeast performing at three and Vince opening, could the Hampshire duo both make England’s next Test squad?
Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth made runs too. He’s a very good player but the fact that previous Test shortcomings occurred against Australia in England will probably count against him. There’ll be a clamour for Joe Clarke who let his cricket do the talking when making a debut ton for Nottinghamshire meanwhile Haseeb Hameed registered a double century against the students.
Ultimately the early season signs are that unlike recent seasons, England might have some difficult selection choices to make but in a good way.
Burns extinguished and England genuinely left without a clue as to who should bat in the top three come the Ashes!
Still, it should make for an exciting start to the county season and inspire England’s white-ball batsmen as well, not that they should need any further inspiration. The ODI World Cup precedes the Ashes and good form in big matches could result in a Test call-up.
It’s such a shame for Burns who has passed 1000 First Class runs in each of the last five seasons. Like many previous incumbents, he’s hinted at what he’s got to offer but certainly hasn’t nailed down his place.
It’s not even worth mentioning names and we’ve got one Test against Ireland to fix things! What if we pick a debutante and he gets a pair? Will he keep his place for the Ashes opener?
Disclaimer: At the time of writing, messrs Jennings and Denly are not out, so might cement their places for the Ireland encounter at Lords… might!
Only England are capable of regularly finding Test match opening batsmen capable of scoring Test hundreds (Compton, Lyth, Robson) but not actually capable of succeeding at Test match cricket!
Keaton Jennings is the latest to be dropped by England and he’s been replaced by Joe Denly (Not actually an opener) for the second Test against West Indies. The decision is both logical and illogical all at the same time. Jennings looks like a square peg in a triangular shaped hole but to have persisted with him this far! The fact that Adil Rashid has left the tour could be an argument for bringing in fellow leg-spinner Denly but with Jack Leach likely to return to the XI that’s stretching it a bit.
Jennings has been found wanting against pace once again and it’s hard to see a third way back… unless others don’t grasp the opportunity and we’re touring Asia… so we’ll probably see him again soon!
Denly has had a torrid time on tour (SL & WI) but now likely has two Tests to enjoy. He’ll open the batting but there’s that release of pressure of knowing he’ll be involved with the ball at least a bit too. His selection at the top of the order is likely to be a stop-gap selection. He needs to go out there, take the rough with the smooth and enjoy himself. He’ll likely need a Test hundred, ideally in the second Test then to open in the County Championship and absolutely plunder runs to keep his place for the Ashes.
Who opens the batting for England come this summer’s marquee series is anyone’s guess. If Rory Burns doesn’t deliver during the rest of the series then it really will be a shoot-out in the County Championship… which will be great for the competition.
I had hoped that KJ would find a way but it wasn’t to be. Wishing Joe Denly the very best of luck on Test debut and beyond!