Sliding Doors!

Joe Denly was dropped on 0 in this innings…

https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/19430/game/1152850/england-vs-australia-5th-test-icc-world-test-championship-2019-2021

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.

Well played Joe!

2nd Test – Day One Round-Up

A fantastic day for England’s cricketers at Lords as they batted throughout its entirety without losing a single wicket. Opening batsmen Rory Burns and Jason Roy looked untroubled against the Australian bowling attack in reaching the close of play undefeated and will hope to build tomorrow.

Alternatively:

A chastening day for England’s cricketers at Lords as they bowled throughout its entirety without claiming a single wicket. The likes of debutant Jofra Archer and spinner Jack Leach never looked like taking an Australian wicket so will desperately hope to come back stronger tomorrow.

Take your pick!

Burns Extinguished!

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!

Keaton Out… in the Cold!

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!

England Crumble to Chase in… Chase!

A massive well done to West Indies on comprehensively and deservedly defeating England in the first Test.

We could talk about selection until the cows come home but can’t you always?

There’s no doubt that England’s preparation was pathetic. These everybody has a bat affairs don’t promote competitiveness. It would be far better to have a couple of eleven-a-side First Class fixtures, actually breed some competition between the players and put some pressure on them for their place, as there should be in Test Cricket. There’s value in the new buzzword, destigmatising being dropped but some intensity between teammates is needed in order to be successful. There is of course an argument about volume of cricket and time with family but maybe this highlights the need for different squads for different formats and the longer form almost becoming a completely separate sport.

As is typical with English pundits, a player who took an eight-wicket haul still got criticised and derided for being nothing more than a village cricketer. Maybe England should select some village cricketers. If so, I’m available!

The selection of Darren Bravo doesn’t say a lot about the state of willow wielders in West Indies cricket. He was selected based on history but wasn’t primed to perform given how little regional four-day cricket he’s played in recent times. Having said that, it’s probably a bit rich for an England supporter to be criticising the home team’s batting. He’ll likely score a ton now in the second Test. What a Test match for debutant John Campbell to be part of too!

It’s hard to see Adil Rashid playing in the next Test and Sam Curran might be struggling too but please don’t write him off. Please don’t lump him in the “Only good in home conditions” category, after one underwhelming performance.

Keaton Jennings will probably survive as Joe Denly has hardly made a case…

… and the likelihood of Moeen Ali being promoted to open after a pair is slim. Rory Burns did at least make strides and can hopefully back that up during the rest of the tour.

Fingers crossed for a couple more fascinating Test matches in the Caribbean. Oh, should probably mention Jason Holder too… well batted!

A Story of Sir Alastair, Keaton and Rory

If England win this summer’s Ashes or/and World Cup, then we could have a host of new MBEs!

The chances of Keaton Jennings playing in the World Cup are slim. The chances of Rory Burns doing so are… even slimmer!

The likelihood of the pair playing in the Ashes and possibly earning knighthoods will be defined on the Test tour of West Indies. No disrespect to the current Caribbean collective but if you offered an opening batsman an away destination to cement their place in their own team then West Indies would currently be high on most player’s list.

Jennings was previously dropped on the eve of a home series against West Indies. He’ll hope not to be dropped post a Caribbean encounter this time. He played spin well in Sri Lanka and was razor sharp in the field but questions of his ability against pace linger. Based on the evidence and scars inflicted by South Africa, answering those questions against Australia won’t be easy!

Burns performed well in the second Test in Sri Lanka after a disappointing debut. He failed in the final Test however and his aesthetics aren’t to everybody’s pleasure. If he leaves the door even slightly ajar and some young gun plunders runs on the county scene or even Surrey teammate Jason Roy produces a run gluttonous World Cup then Burns will follow another Surrey man, his opening partner Mark Stoneman, back to the county game and with little chance of a Jennings style recall.

Should KJ and RB perform well in West Indies, help England regain the Ashes, go on to score a few thousand Test runs and even captain England (They’ve got experience) then maybe they could yet join Alastair Cook by having a new prefix!

Preparation Stagnation

England commence their long anticipated Test series in Sri Lanka very shortly but their preparation has lacked serious intensity. I appreciate that the climatic conditions have dealt an unfavourable hand but this scenario is nothing new to England’s cricketers.

I have always been in favour of a couple of official First Class matches on tour. These whole squad get involved matches are little more than a glorified net and are not treated as competitive matches. Whilst the individual element may seem like good prep, I strongly believe that an individual playing only one First Class warm-up rather than participating in two exhibition affairs, would be more akin to playing Test Cricket. Had Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings opened in the first of two official warm-up games in the knowledge that Joe Denly was to be presented with a chance in that slot in the second match, the pressure on them to perform would surely be more akin to actually playing Test cricket.

On the subject of Denly, he may well have played himself out of a Test debut with a shoddy performance in the warm-up matches. With mid-series tour matches almost eradicated, how do the likes of Denly or Ollie Pope restate their case for selection in situations such as these? This is a feeling that’s all too familiar to Gary Ballance!

As is often the case with any selection related article that I’ve scripted, either the landscape has changed very quickly or I was just completely misguided in my initial assessment. Surrey’s Ben Foakes now looks a likely Test debutant in the first Test and could really muddy the selection waters ahead of Jonny Bairstow’s return to fitness, by producing a good performance. Imagine if Jos Buttler falls twice to spin for single figure scores!

Somerset spinner Jack Leach also seems likely to return to skipper Joe Root’s XI and hopefully he and Foakes can convert consistent county career contributions to the international stage. England will be desperate to bounce back in Asia following their abysmal attempts in Bangladesh and India a couple of years ago.