27 Tests

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27 Tests. That’s how long it took Australia’s Steve Waugh to record his maiden Test hundred. That’s Steve Waugh, a man who has 10,927 Test runs at an average of 51.06 to his name. Oh and the century tally… 32!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/player/8192.html

Do you think that any England batsmen debuting in the near future will be provided 27 Tests to score their first century?

Keaton Jennings scored one on debut just four Tests ago but already many people seem to want rid of him. Sam Robson then Adam Lyth each recorded a century in their seven (Not 27) Tests but it wasn’t enough to provide them with an extended run in the team.

England don’t really seem to know what they want at the moment, stoic resilience or explosive attacking? The selectors, coach and captain don’t appear to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Captain Joe Root campaigned for Gary Ballance, Dawid Malan clearly appeals to coach Trevor Bayliss, Tom Westley has demanded selection but needed injury to another to receive it and all the while the likes of Mark Stoneman and Daniel Bell-Drummond await their turn, not to mention Ben Duckett, Haseeb Hameed and… Sam Robson, again!

Unless somebody rocks up and averages 65.00+ from the get go and maintains those numbers then the England batting merry go round looks set to continue. I can’t help but think England’s Test summer isn’t structured in the best possible way to get the country’s premier batsmen on the plane to a land Down Under this winter. English willow wielders are currently struggling against a strong South African attack. If they’re dropped then newbies will come in against (No disrespect) a less threatening West Indies attack and surely have an increased chance of doing well but though they may gain confidence from doing so, will facing the likes of Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph and Miguel Cummins (No disrespect) really prepare them for the Ashes?

We’re five Tests away from the Ashes (If they go ahead?!) and the identity of Alastair Cook’s opening partner and the number three position remain anything from certain. Throw in an injury or some other misfortune to messrs Cook or Root and cue panic among the England selectorial Gods!

Short Term Memories

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Warning! The following article strays into rant territory.

So Joe Root’s first England Test squad has been announced and all hell has broken loose on the bottom of BBC Sport, Cricinfo and the likes’ web pages.

Even on commentary of the ODC Final yesterday, former England batsman James Taylor was querying why Keaton Jennings has been moved from three to opener and you’d think that Mark Stoneman had a fan club who’ve been campaigning for his selection for years. Funny that, I haven’t heard many people push for Stoneman to be in the England squad before but half a season of runs and everybody claims they’ve wanted him in since time began.

“What’s Liam Dawson doing in the squad?” many people are asking.

“Gary Ballance has had enough (Two) chances. It’s a step backwards” is the sort of thing that people are saying.

“Why isn’t Mason Crane in the squad?” they ask.

I’m relieved that we’ve got selectors who sit down and discuss things thoroughly before selecting a squad, otherwise we’d have a different XI for every match.

Let’s clear things up. Keaton Jennings opened for England in their last two Tests. He scored a century on debut and a fifty in the next match. We’ve selected and dumped enough opening batsmen (Even ones that have scored centuries). Let’s stick with one for a change!

Hameed hasn’t scored a First Class fifty all season. He doesn’t merit selection.

Mark Stoneman averaged 32 in First Class cricket before this season. To put that in perspective, his fellow Surrey opener Rory Burns averages in excess of 40. Have you ever heard anyone call for Burns to be selected for national honours?

Stoneman is a good player and having just turned thirty years of age, it may be that he’s put everything he’s learned together and is ready to be the new Mike Hussey. Hopefully age wasn’t a factor in his omission as some people have suggested. He could have at least five or six years scoring thousands of runs in the international arena but at this moment in time there simply isn’t a requirement to select him because we’ve already got two openers. Cook doesn’t deserve to be dropped and neither does Jennings. Jennings has done okay not brilliant in domestic cricket this year but as I said before, we’ll be changing the XI every match if we’re making decisions based solely on domestic form. Some of the same people that want Stoneman selected on form and Jennings dropped on form want out of form Hameed selected on potential!

In the case of the middle order vacancy then domestic form does come into the equation because there’s a vacancy! Gary Ballance is by far and away the player that merits selection and the fact he has played Test cricket before is a positive not a negative. He’s got four Test hundreds for goodness sake! He was actually quite harshly dropped the first time. We’re looking for a middle order batsman not an opener so correctly the selectors have selected Ballance not Stoneman. The likes of Steve Waugh and Jacques Kallis didn’t just rock up to Test cricket and average 55.00 from the get go. English fans always seem to want the new but when they don’t average 60.00 with the bat or 20.00 with the ball then they move onto their new favourite toy.

In the case of Dawson, he scored 66 not out on Test debut in England’s last Test. Maybe, just maybe the England selectors think that two players (Jennings and Dawson) scoring fifties in the team’s last match are the sort of performances that keep you in the team not get you dropped. Shall we just drop every player that doesn’t score a century or take a five-for?

As for Mason Crane, his last two First Class matches (For Hampshire and England Lions) have been against South Africa A and South Africa and how many wickets did he take?… 0 (Zero), none, zilch!

When and if Hameed, Stoneman and Crane get their chance, I’ll back them to the hilt. They’re all good enough and deserve a shot but the selectors have pretty much picked the right squad. We’d all pick a different team. I like the variety of having a left-armer in the attack but nobody can deny that Toby Roland-Jones deserves a chance. He hasn’t been in sparkling form recently but it’s not about form. Form often clouds the mind of people. It’s about ‘Is this person good enough for international cricket?’. If the fact that this week’s match is on his home ground has come into the equation then good. England need to rotate their pacers anyway so let’s maximise the chances of players performing well and England winning.

Maybe I’m a hypocrite, just another person putting forward his team but I’ve seen it all before, the fickle nature of the fan. All those campaigning for Stoneman and Crane, as soon as those players don’t do well then they’ll move onto shouting out for somebody else and later say “Oh we can’t pick them again, it’s a retrograde step”.

The selectors have done their job, now let’s back the chosen ones.

Disclaimer: Well there we go. I’ve probably just alienated myself from about two thirds of England’s cricket fan base. Though to be fair, if two thirds of England’s fan base are following this blog then I have come a long way!

Chasing Hope

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The West Indies made it to within one over of a series draw against Pakistan before the Angel Gabriel had his wings clipped by Yasir Shah.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/west-indies-v-pakistan-2017/engine/match/1077955.html

The hosts’ failings were all too familiar. Batsmen failing to make significant scores (I know how you feel boys!) and despite having an array of spin bowlers possessive of outlandish First Class bowling averages, Devendra Bishoo only really came to the party late in the day… and just to ruin the farewells of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan!

I’m not convinced that opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite should be playing ODIs. It compromises his strength, that is to occupy the crease in the longest form of the game. He failed to pass 50 and averaged sub 17 in the series.

Kieron Powell’s flame flickered. He made starts but like Brathwaite failed to find 50. An average of 26.83 tells its own story. He made starts but failed to go on. That’s no fifty in sight for Windies openers across 12 innings. Of course maybe if things had been handled differently then KB and KP could have been opening for WI for years already. A few years ago they contrasted well and could have developed into a lethal pair. KP got disillusioned then and it will be interesting to see if the selectors persist with him. They’ll probably have to and should do because they might feel it necessary to make changes elsewhere in the order.

20-year-old Shimron Hetmyer clearly has talent but he also has only one First Class century. He’s a very attack minded player. Was first drop the right place to baptise him on the international stage? His top score: a quarter century at an average of 16.00. Even if he’s not retained for the time being his time can come again.

Domestic dominant and Zimbabwe slaying Shai Hope did at least at last record a maiden Test half century, a 90 in fact. In his five other innings he totalled 59 runs combined.

Vishaul Singh was supposed to be the middle order rock. The middle order sandcastle with the tide coming in fast more like. He made 32 runs in one innings but only 31 across the other five. He’s 28 years old and his First Class batting average is an underwhelming 33.45. His conversion rate is good though: 6 centuries to 9 fifties but can he get to fifty in the international arena in the first place? His First Class strike rate is literally 34 runs slower than Hetmyer’s. Call me old fashioned but maybe they would have each prospered had they been positioned the other way around.

Wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich made 56 in one innings but didn’t total 56 across the other five. There’s a theme developing here isn’t there? These guys have got the ability but not the consistency, not yet anyway.

Then there’s Roston Chase. Wow, just wow! How good is this guy? Ten Tests into his career and he’s got three hundreds to two in the First Class game. Some people just thrive the tougher the challenge. He’s averaging 48.53 as well as claiming a more than useful 17 wickets at 52.23 apiece. At the risk of raining on the parade, I’m going to hazard a guess that in a year’s time that figure of 48.53 will have dipped. I hope that it doesn’t but he’s really going to have to excel to maintain such a strong start.

Where WI go from here, who knows? Actually, it would appear not very far, they’re hosting Afghanistan for some T20Is and ODIs. Then post Champions Trophy they take on England. Jermaine Blackwood could come back in but the others out there in the domestic game all seem much of a muchness, averaging in the mid twenties. That’s even the case for Jason Mohammed despite his success in recent ODI fair. Vishaul Singh had stepped up to the plate in A and Board or Chairman XIs but didn’t deliver against Pakistan. Remember though that both Hetmyer and Singh have had far better starts to their Test careers than five time Test double centurion Marvan Atapattu. I think that the West Indies selectors will do well to persist with these players and provide them further opportunity. Even the likes of Jacques Kallis, Steve Waugh and Matthew Hayden didn’t hit the ground running in the Test arena.

The West Indies might not be Singhing but they can always Chase Hope!

Family Roots

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Some people say that it’s not easy to be the younger sibling of a superstar. Fortunately I don’t have a younger sibling so no poor sod has to carry that burden!

Billy Root however has to try and carve out a career of his own in the shadow of his elder brother, England Test captain Joe Root. Billy hit the headlines last week when brother Joe smacked him for six to win a one-day game but actually Root Jnr. is starting to scratch out a decent career for himself at Nottinghamshire.

Will he make his home county Yorkshire curse the fact that he’s not on their books?

Maybe being away from home territory and his elder brother isn’t a bad thing. He’s already got a First Class hundred to his name, made for Leeds/Bradford MCCU against Sussex and today he tonked 107 not out from 93 deliveries (10 fours, 2 sixes) against a Warwickshire attack that included Rikki Clarke, Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel. Root compiled more runs than Michael Lumb, Riki Wessels, Samit Patel and Brendan Taylor combined.

Whether or not Billy can become the Mark to Joe’s Steve remains to be seen (That’s a Waugh reference by the way!) but regardless, he’s at least hinted that a decent domestic career could lay ahead.

Don’t get carried away Billy. Stay grounded or… rooted you might say!