England Test XI

IMG_2121

Please ignore any previous suggestions for England’s Test XI. Like any good selector, I’m prone to the odd wave change though of course some will criticise England’s selectors for not changing the side but now the selectors themselves are changing!

Here’s my England Test XI for the start of the summer. This does of course highlight the fact that I’m not picking a team based on the first few weeks of the First Class season.

Opening Batsmen

Haseeb Hameed and Ben Duckett

I genuinely think that the defensive/offensive contrast of messrs Hameed and Duckett could blossom for England. That’s not to say that I don’t think Hameed is capable of attacking when necessary and Duckett can’t survive when he has too. Yes I’ve criticised England for not preparing properly for New Zealand and Duckett is currently injured but he can be England’s David Warner. He has the ability to make big hundreds. He struggled in Asia but in home conditions against subcontinental opposition is the perfect scenario in which to just let him at ’em!

Number Three

Moeen Ali/Liam Livingstone

This is a tough one because I’ve always wanted Moeen to have a run in his domestic role but such has been his ineptitude recently that Livingstone is pushing his case. Both offer something with the ball to support my number one spinner (We’ll come to him later) but it’s for batting alone that we need to select a number three, though Livingstone is a bloody good fielder. Both are attacking batsman and could help England really get themselves ahead of the game by the time Joe Root comes to the crease. Joe Clarke and Daniel-Bell Drummond will be waiting in the wings should Mo and Livingstone fail to deliver.

Middle order

Joe Root and Dawid Malan

Move them back to four and five for goodness sake!

Root doesn’t want to bat at three and Malan has delivered at five so I just don’t understand the logic of moving them each up a position. Based on the XI that I’ve selected, I’m sticking with Root as skipper. If the top three can perform as I believe they can then the burden and pressure on Root will be eased. The captain can come out and play, enjoy himself and not just have to look to survive. With Hameed, Duckett and Moeen/Livingstone up top, Root can come to the crease with the score more 100-2 not 20-2, sometimes at least.

Malan performed well in Australia but must now back it up. I’m very content with him staying at five. I guess that it’s the easiest place in the order for a specialist batsman but he’s earned that right. There’s still enough to come after him for him to be able to make big scores.

Late Middle Order

Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes

A fully fit and focused Stokes at six helps England immensely with bat and ball. Now is the time for him to deliver some Flintoffesque performances.

Jonny Bairstow has been efficient behind the stumps and if he can transfer his ODI batting to the Test side, not that he’s been performing that badly in Tests, then England are in for a treat.

The higher Chris Woakes bats the more England will get from him. Like Moeen, it’s about mentality and if you bat higher and closer to your domestic position then you’re more likely to bat appropriately. In England against India and Pakistan should be the sort of summer that Woakes enjoys with the ball.

Opening Bowlers

Ben Coad/Mark Footitt and James Anderson

James Anderson can and should still lead the line for England. His skill coupled with his current fitness mean that there’s no need to rush to replace him. I’ve dropped Stuart Broad. He could be recalled based on domestic form and rotating of the pacers. He could also very likely be in my ODI and possibly T20I side but I’d start the summer without him in the Test XI.

I see Ben Coad as a Josh Hazlewood type bowler. I mean this in the sense that he can go a little under the radar when batsman are worrying about Mitchell Starc, James Anderson or have been with Ryan Sidebottom at Yorkshire. I’m sure that lots of people would campaign for others. In fact Toby Roland-Jones would be mighty close and probably come into the equation during the summer.

I’ve campaigned for Footitt before. The variety of a left-armer in the attack would be welcomed by Joe Root. I’d just leave Sam Curran for now, probably introduce him in ODIs. I don’t see Footitt playing every Test or taking hundreds of wickets but as an occasional option to turn to from time to time, he could be invaluable. Yes he would leak a few runs but that can be tolerated if Anderson and Woakes etc are keeping it tidy and Footitt can deliver three or four unplayable wicket taking deliveries to see off opposition batsmen. Craig Overton is a little unlucky to miss out but would also be considered for ODIs. I don’t see Mark Wood as our saviour.

Spin Bowling

Jack Leach

He’s earned it, had more than just one good season now, returned from technical changes and should be provided the entire summer to take the rough with the smooth. There’s enough batting to not be concerned about that. So he took some tap in Australia on tour but so did Nathan Lyon. If anything, Leach’s main threat may come from his Somerset teammate Dom Bess but come trips to the subcontinent or West Indies, pairing the two of them together is the same applied logic as Dele Alli playing behind Harry Kane for England’s football team… although that’s a poor comparison because I’m hinting that Alli hasn’t really performed recently (Start a football blog Paul!).

There it is:

Hameed, Duckett, Mo/LL?, Root (C), Malan, Stokes, Bairstow (W), Woakes (VC), Coad/Footitt, Anderson, Leach

I’m certain that many people will scoff at the notion of players such as Duckett, Coad and Footitt being anywhere near the England team but I don’t want this new selection panel to sit on fences. They need to make big and brave calls. I believe the selectors should be seen more than they are. I mean that rather than television and newspaper reporters interviewing the coach it should be the selectors, the one at the top at least, that are interviewed. They should be very open and honest about players, those in the team and those that are not and players should be able to deal with what the selectors say in public.

That’s my team and I’d stick and run with it for the summer, only rotating one pacer every Test or two which I think is necessary.

Now let’s all watch Mark Stoneman score a century and Moeen Ali, Craig Overton and Stuart Broad each score fifties and take a five-for in the second Test in New Zealand!

Over to you Craig!

Craig Overton.JPG

There’s a major flaw in regard to my cricket blog. It’s that I don’t actually watch much cricket! I don’t have a TV and I certainly don’t have BT Sport or Sky Sports. I don’t spend all my days camped at county cricket grounds either. When I woke up this morning and checked the score of the second Ashes Test, I realised that being a day/night match and a delayed weather interrupted one at that, that if I popped around to my parent’s house I could catch plenty of the action. I gained authorisation from the wife and got in the car (Having got dressed obviously!). I’d missed Cameron Bancroft’s cricket class day one dismissal but saw David Warner’s impatience and necessity to keep scoring cost him his wicket. What the silly little jump was for I don’t know! I then saw Mark Stoneman drop a catch. I like Stoneman’s phlegmatic demeanour but the drop was a shocker and had Usman Khawaja made 150, would Rocky have been ruffled come his turn to bat? Fortunately James Anderson did for Khawaja straight after the interval, courtesy of a smart catch by Hampshire’s James Vince. Then came the moment. I remember watching cricket on TV during my teenage years. I remember Dominic Cork’s knock against West Indies, Ryan Sidebottom being robbed of an LBW against Pakistan and Usman Afzaal celebrating an Ashes fifty as though it were a double hundred. I remember being in a small cabin in Scotland watching Geraint Jones hold ‘that’ catch via a tiny, fuzzy, black and white TV. I’m honoured to say that Craig Overton’s maiden Test wicket, that of Steve Smith clean (Or dirtily?!) bowled in Adelaide will live with me forever. In a world where footballers are yellow carded for celebrating, the unbridled joy on Overton’s face, the reaction of his teammates confirmed that sport is a better place for a show of emotion. Had Anderson or Broad claimed that wicket, England would have been cock-a-hoop but not in the way that they were for the Somerset man. Of course it will never be the same for Overton. You only take your first Test wicket once and he may never take another. Whatever happens in his life though, he will have that moment to share with the grandkids!

Transfer Saga

IMG_2978

This guy only ever played for one club, in reality and virtuality. The same can not be said of others.

More than ever, domestic cricket in England seems to be following its football counterpart, particularly in regards to the transfer market. I believe that there was a time, long before I discovered an interest in cricket, in fact long before I was even born, that players remained loyal to one county for the entirety of their career. Of course some still do but it is no longer necessarily the norm. That’s not to say that transfers didn’t happen in the past, of course they did but they’ve become far more frequent in modern times. More than a decade ago now, Jimmy Ormond, whilst on tour with England, famously posed with his new Surrey shirt following his move from Leicestershire. I recall there being suggestions back then that the cricket transfer market was becoming like football’s and it’s certainly the case today.

Last winter we saw the likes of Scott Borthwick and Mark Stoneman depart Durham for Surrey. This season Angus Robson went on trial with Sussex whilst some mid-season transfers have tasted a little bitter. Tom Kohler-Cadmore agreed to depart Worcestershire for Yorkshire and though it wasn’t supposed to happen until next season, it was clear that Worcestershire had no interest in fielding TK-C when his future lay elsewhere and so the deal was brought forward.

Meanwhile one-time England squad member Mark Footitt has returned to Nottinghamshire from Surrey. He has also previously represented Derbyshire.

Former England cap Ajmal Shahzad must be one of the most serial county swappers. He can now list Yorkshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Sussex and Leicestershire as county teams for whom he has represented their first XIs.

Dominic Sibley, Will Rhodes and Adam Hose have all headed to Warwickshire while Rikki Clarke swapped with Sibley to go back to Surrey. Sibley wanted guarantees about batting in the top three in all forms of the game. Surrey’s Alec Stewart wouldn’t provide but Ashley Giles would and so Sibley arrived amid bitter frustration on Surrey’s part.

Jos Buttler of course moved from Somerset to Lancashire whilst my home county, Yorkshire, have acquired many players from other counties in recent years:

Gary Ballance (Derbyshire)

Jack Brooks (Northamptonshire)

Andrew Hodd (Sussex)

Tom Kohler-Cadmore (Worcestershire)

Liam Plunkett (Durham)

Ryan Sidebottom (Returned from Nottinghamshire)

David Willey (Northamptonshire)

Players such as six-hitter Ross Whiteley and England Lions spinner Ollie Rayner are among others to have migrated at one time or another during their playing days.

The midseason activity this term, complete with more than subtle hints of acrimony and contract squabbles seem to be taking the game of bat and ball firmly into football territory.

Should mid-season transfers be allowed at all?

Should loans be allowed?

Should squads have a maximum number of players like the Premier League?

Returning to Angus Robson, he was released by Leicestershire because they wanted play youngster Harry Dearden. After Dearden failed to set the County Championship alight he was firstly replaced by Arun Harinath who had arrived on loan from Surrey before another loanee, Michael Carberry arrived at Grace Road too. In a funny way, the domestic circuit is becoming like the England team with counties failing to invest in players and deciding it’s necessary to pinch from the competition… and don’t get me started on Hampshire! I’ve touched upon their South African acquisitions before and the effect it will have on local talent.

This is the point in the article where I’m supposed to provide some sort of summary but I’ll leave it to the cricket followers of the world to make of it what you will…?

… and who could forget Monty Panesar’s transfer sagas? (Errrr… Me!)