England’s Four-Year Cycle, Botched

The last time England toured Australia we were slight favourites. We’d just beaten them 3-0 at home, albeit not as convincingly as the score suggests, and we had a settled team with fond memories of their last Ashes tour.

The spine of the team looked good: Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, a young Root, Prior, Swann, Broad and Anderson. A few of them were carrying some physical or mental baggage but overall life looked rosy and most fans were relatively optimistic.

And then we lost 0-5.

When disasters like this strike, the ECB have a responsibility to turn things around before the next Ashes tour. The Ashes are, after all, the most important event in the English cricketing calendar.

So how come, after a full four-year cycle, England are returning to Australia with a weaker side than the one they fielded at the SCG in 2014?

The ECB’s first job was to assess why things went so wrong last time. They failed. Rather than having a proper debate they decided to scapegoat the team’s most destructive batsman. Then they replaced a head coach who was slightly past his sell by date with one who had gone completely mouldy several years beforehand.

Only an complete imbecile would have thought that sacking Pietersen in a bungled manner, and then bringing back the much maligned Peter Moores, was a recipe for success … yet that’s exactly what Paul Downton did.

Meanwhile, James Whitaker was proving to be a complete liability as a replacement for the amiable Geoff Miller. Yet what did the ECB do? Nothing. Nada. Sweet FA.

Instead they compounded the mistake by hiring Gus Fraser, a man who was already a full time employee of Middlesex, and then compounding that mistake by appointing Mick Newell, a full time employee of Nottinghamshire. Perhaps someone should have explained what the term ‘conflict of interest’ means?

As a trio, Whitaker, Fraser and Newell, are about as inspiring as a holiday in Bognor. And they’ve performed so badly that Andrew Strauss considered sacking them last summer. What a shame that he decided not to. Heaven only knows why.

England’s selectors have had almost four years to find an opening partner for Cook and decent replacements for Trott, Pietersen, Prior and Swann. That’s five tasks in total. And they’ve completely botched four of them.

The only success story has been Jonny Bairstow, who is just as good if not better than Prior (in my opinionated opinion). Some might argue that Moeen is effectively Swann’s replacement but I disagree. He’s not a specialist spinner, and he’s not nearly as good … especially away from home.

When England field Stoneman, Vince, and Malan at Brisbane (injuries permitted), it’s basically an admission that our selectors have screwed the pooch repeatedly since 2013/14.

Stoneman will be playing just his third test – having been behind Robson, Lyth and Jennings in the past – whilst Malan will be playing just his sixth match after making his debut as something of an afterthought half-way last summer.

Meanwhile, James Vince has been recalled simply because the selectors have run out of original bad ideas. Therefore they’ve decided to recycle old ones. Maybe they think it’s good for the planet or something?

If one wanted to leap to the selectors’ defence – please don’t all queue up at once – one might argue that the cupboard is bare so it’s not their fault. Well in that case it’s the ECB’s fault. After all, they were the ones that scapegoated Pietersen rather than having a proper review and making changes that might have improved the team in the longterm.

Now before I sign off in a state of beleaguered bewilderment, it’s worth remembering that England haven’t actually lost the Ashes yet. The score is currently 0-0 and there’s everything to play for … in theory at least.

However, if England do somehow miraculously retain the Ashes – and Stoneman, Malan, and Vince miraculously turn into the new Chris Broad, David Gower and Michael Vaughan – it won’t be down to good planning. It will be down to pure luck. After all, these players aren’t the selectors guys; they’re not the players the selectors have clamoured for (and invested in) over a prolonged period of time.

The bottom line is that England’s new players are just metaphorical dung … the latest dung our groping selectors have hurled at the wall in the hope that some of it might stick. Their selections are based purely on hope rather than good judgement. It’s because they’ve basically tried everyone else at this point.

And so, with this in mind, I ask you all a question: do England actually deserve to win the Ashes? The ECB sure don’t.

James Morgan

2017-11-10T19:17:48+00:00November 10th, 2017|Ashes 17/18|64 Comments


  1. Jennyah46 November 10, 2017 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    Half way through this I was beginning to think that Maxie must have come out of the wood work and written the blog. Then I came to the bit about Vince possibly being imagined as good for the planet! Peals of laughter followed. Nobody does it like you James. Excellent points, so amusingly constructed. Nothing to argue with here, other than Malan being cast as an after thought. Cross face! 🙂

  2. muffin November 10, 2017 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    I’m hoping that Stoneman will establish his place at the top – currently (and for the last year or two?) Cook has been more of a worry. We’ll just have to cross our fingers for Vince and Malan (and Ballance?? – I would still prefer to see Buttler as part of the set-up).

    Perhaps Moeen’s injury will force Crane’s debut – I’d like to see what he can do.

    The BBC Sport website has the horrifying story of the last tour (entitled “Pomnishambles”,as I recall).

  3. Nick November 10, 2017 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    I am guessing people will be queuing up to get stuck in so will play devils advocate.

    England have changed the balance of the side so its harder to compare play to player, for me the actual picks don’t irritate me that much there have been successes Bairstow, Woakes, Moeen while not Swann is a big contributor. They gave plenty of batsmen a chance and none of them where able to establish themselves and they were unlucky to lose Taylor who they had invested in heavily in the Lions and was just starting to find his feet. If we want to pull them up for bad planning it is that England still don’t have a spinner to help them compete in India, no express pace.

    I do think its harder for batsmen making their debut now, there isn’t really anywhere to hide with 26 cameras on them and people are very quick to right off quirks at terminal flaws. If the winter doesn’t go well for the fringe players maybe it will be time to look younger so those players have time to go a way

    • Nigel November 11, 2017 at 11:39 am - Reply

      Fair point about Taylor.
      A (sporting) tragedy, and no one’s fault.

      For the rest, I can’t really argue with the judgment that selection has been pretty dismal.

  4. Benny November 10, 2017 at 8:56 pm - Reply

    You must be reading my mind. For now, I agree word for word. Will try to add something useful later.

  5. Doug November 10, 2017 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    To compound the problems Cook has been struggling for months and isn’t showing much form yet. I think Stoneman will do OK, but I don’t see reverting back to Balance and Vince will help anyone. They are not up to it, both mentally and technique wise. Problem is, who else is there? Yes quite, they’ve all been tried before and failed. And if Cook fails ,God help us.
    Add to this lack of pace in the bowling and injury woes and it looks pretty woeful. Maybe Crane is the secret weapon. We’ll need someone. If the selectors and the spivs, sorry ECB, had half a brain between them Plunkett would be included who has pace and bounce. Mmmmmm…

  6. Julie November 10, 2017 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    Wonder if Flower has still has anything to do with the state of English cricket. I would say , yes.

  7. Cricketcricketcricket November 10, 2017 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    Good luck getting anyone to admit that the ecb, who in turn tell counties (through money) where to prioritise player production.. then from counties it bleeds into amateur stuff.. which again, starts to mean you’ll only produce one type of player.

    Sadly, no one seems to get this and the great belief that hitting fests have raised standards is what they feast on.. after all, who doesn’t want to watch the same white ball game played millions of times ..

    • AndyB November 13, 2017 at 9:09 am - Reply

      And the white ball fetish is already contaminating the nursery of club cricket. I was at the league meeting for the Surrey League recently and one idiot (from one of the best clubs in the league) made a serious suggestion that the league should move to playing only 20/20 in order to encourage the colts!I informed them that my club would withdraw from the league and join an alternative if this even became a formal proposal.

  8. Colin Mehigan November 10, 2017 at 10:22 pm - Reply


    Spot. On.

    • DUGGERS November 10, 2017 at 11:21 pm - Reply

      I think we might all be in for a nice surprise! I think that Vince, Stoneman and Crane might each deliver some success and so long as we get no further injuries, and Stokes become a hero, then we’ll do pretty well. Your editorial is very entertaining James, keep it up.

  9. JohnB November 11, 2017 at 12:37 am - Reply

    To be fair to the England selectors, the team fielded at Sydney last time wasn’t too flash – it had Ballance, Rankin and Borthwick (remember him – topped his side’s test bowling averages) in it after all. And it wasn’t even the personnel so much as the way they played. Take out Broad’s and Stokes’ late runs in each innings (and Carberry’s runs in the second innings) and the innings totals were more like 50 than 100 – and the 2 completed innings took up one day’s worth of play (give or take 3 deliveries). Your lot can’t help but be better this time – given those factors, the selectors must have some sort of argument that things at least haven’t gone backwards on their watch.

  10. Marc Evans November 11, 2017 at 2:35 am - Reply

    Ok clever clogs, let’s hear your alternatives. It may just be that there are no obvious ones. Talent is usually a cyclical thing and there are plenty of fallow periods where no youngsters seem to be pushing themselves forward. I fail to see how the selectors, however ineffectual they may be, are responsible in any way for this. What we need to be concentrating on is the county coaching scene, so we can have a halfway house for the best of the rest to play in, more effective than the current desultory England Lions set up.
    I have long thought that if we could somehow have say an under 25 side playing separately in the county championship, selected, managed and coached by established international players, that would be a start. Of course this would mean compensating counties deprived of players, but would also allow other youngsters a quicker route into the 1st class game rather than languishing untried in the 2nd X1.

    • Cricketcricketcricket November 12, 2017 at 12:14 am - Reply

      Or you could play proper cricket in the top 3-4 divs of amateur cricket and raise the quite poor standards in amateur stuff.. make it an actual breeding ground for talent rather than what is effectively meaningless white ball slogging ??

      Who knows what gems may have been found.. and how many counties are producing test class batting or bowlers? All they are focussed on are white ball hitters and bowlers which change ups and chuckers for spinners.. amateur game is also dropping in standards and participation as it just resembles slog fests

      • Marc Evans November 12, 2017 at 11:47 am - Reply

        Good idea. My experience of county scouts lurking in club cricket is desultory at best, and non-existent at all but fee paying schools. If counties showed more of an interest with more coaching classes from top pro’s, much in the same way as premiership clubs encourage from their playing staff, I am sure more youngsters would be attracted into the game at club level. There is still a core of elitism out there pervading the game. If you don’t go to the right school or play for the right club you have almost no chance of being recognised.

        • Cricketcricketcricket November 12, 2017 at 5:23 pm - Reply

          There are many things affecting where players are produced. Simple fact is private schools invest in facilities and invest the time into their players from a young age. They also play longer format games and are taught to play long format Cricket. White ball stuff comes secondary but is taking over. The normal amateur game simply doesn’t have the facilities that are affordable and clubs don’t invest genuine time into players. Youth are just played in short format slog fests and so, guess what.. they put off players who would suit longer games and shock horror you produce hitters.. also, youth get bored of the dame game week in week out and so quit.

          The game needs two formats on Saturday, draw Cricket for talent creation and to produce cricketers and a 2020 system for those who don’t have time etc. That way, you have an avenue for both styles of players.

          All serious cricketers will play long format stuff and the more causal player will probably play 2020

          • Marc Evans November 12, 2017 at 10:58 pm - Reply

            It doesn’t matter how much you invest in facilities and time if the players haven’t the talent or application. My experience of public school cricket is that the raw material is no more talented than anywhere else. It is merely the lazy option for counties to go with. A brief experiment by Ted Dexter as he searched for young quick bowlers in the 1970’s unearthed a number of young players with potential outside the elitist system, but it was never properly persevered with, the counties merely giving trials to a few.

            • Cricketcricketcricket November 13, 2017 at 11:07 pm - Reply

              So the private schools who have dedicated coaches, multiple lanes, a Cricket wicket (non astro crap) and usually at least one bola and some now have Merlin… yeah sure, facilities mean nothing.

              Sure it’s not the be All and end All but it darn well helps

  11. Jomesy November 11, 2017 at 7:42 am - Reply

    Nice article James.

    One thing that bothers me is why Hales hasn’t been considered in the No.5 berth. Clearly he’s sidelined with the whole Stokes shenanigans but, even before this, none of the selectors appeared to have thought about him in the lower order. He’s not a “dasher” opener (we have learned that) but I think he could be a superb No.5

    • quebecer November 13, 2017 at 12:13 am - Reply

      We’ve had that conversation before, have we not? 🙂

  12. Neil November 11, 2017 at 8:41 am - Reply

    There is one major reason why we are weaker than four years ago, we just don’t have the players.
    Sadly I can’t argue with most of this and I’m expecting us to get tonked, but let’s be positive beforehand and save the post mortems for afterwards.
    Be optimistic and look forward to the Chris Woakes match saving hundred at the gabba

  13. Kevin November 11, 2017 at 8:58 am - Reply

    Strauss should sack himself, evey decision he’s made from the KP saga onwards has been wrong.
    When the ECB don’t care about 1st class county cricket, is it any surprise the test team is such a mess?
    Still at least we’ve got the joke of franchise T20 to look forward to.

    • Cricketcricketcricket November 12, 2017 at 12:16 am - Reply

      It’s ok., they’ll jut shorten test cricket and teams will bat like it’s a one dryer and the beer heads will love it.. then they’ll claim it’s great and how everyone likes it .. boom.. no need to produce test quality players anymore then.. win win

  14. Downatthirdman November 11, 2017 at 9:25 am - Reply

    Enjoyed the article but was looking out for the word ‘Flower’ until I reached this comment, because you cannot understand England unless you appreciate the continuing and deep influence of Flower.

    It is reinforced by the geography that centres around Loughborough and Leicestershire. Whitaker is the perfect foil and frontman for Flower, the relied on eyes of Bayliss, the mentor of Root (and before him of Cook) the ‘solid guy’ of Strauss and the model manager of Clarke. The structure is built around him to make him the pivot between selection and direction.

    Progress in cricket at every level is about development opportunities. You cannot succeed without them. One can have a belief in a player but the potential can only be realized by selection. Selection also exposes the judgement on that potential. But if you are not on the team sheet/ touring party or whatever progress cannot take place.

    For a very long time now, under both Flower’s direct and indirect influence, many development opportunities
    have been squandered on the wrong people. Flower is not a picker of cricketers, he is a picker of ‘culture fit’. This player has the right stuff. This player does not. He operates through his own view of ‘leadership’ and ‘leadership potential’, which often blinds him to the nature and extent of cricketing talent.

    The EC has placed him in the pivotal position as effectively director of talent and leadership. It is the area of cricket and of life in which he is both obsessed and misguided about his own ability.

    Flower has the final say on selection. The greatest influence of England ‘culture’ which is monotheistic. There is but one god and one priesthood, one type of novitiate, one type of taker of responsibility. There is but one type of fully flowered cricketer.

    The effects of this approach were best displayed in the last tour of Australia.

    • Nigel November 11, 2017 at 11:42 am - Reply

      Great comment.

      • JackieL November 11, 2017 at 12:50 pm - Reply

        I was looking for the same Flower – who was Director of Cricket at the time of the omni-shambles in Australia. He dodged everything last time and pinned the blame on his bete-noir. He then built his new empire in Loughborough and the Lions thus determining how cricket would unfold under his direction.

        He has many failings, not least his picking of personal favourites who have impressed him and who he “fosters” and talks up. He carries on doing that despite their lack of success at international level. It gives him a powerful role of influence, one who can bestow and remove favour, a bit like a medieval monarch or king-maker. His links with Essex and players like Gooch and Hussain only cements his influence. Hussain in particular just repeats the latest theory from Flower to support the players of his choice. Hence the “remarkable character” of Ballance which ensured his selection. The “Australia-suitability” of Vince who apparently is a horses for courses choice. They owe their Ashes selection to Flower’s promotion. But if they fail his judgement will not be questioned. He vanishes to take up another favourite another day. This is his modus operandi. Perhaps compulsion. He is obsessed with power and control which became very obvious during the last Ashes down under. Hence his intolerance with KP. He became consumed with trying to make him toe the line.

        Bell hasn’t been recognised as a victim. Bell was the hero of the 2013 Ashes, something you rarely see mentioned. Bell took the road of supporting KP and when questioned by the media said he believed that the England side was stronger with KP in it. This and his earlier support made him a target for Flower and Strauss – the latter had hardened his opinion about Pietersen as he later demonstrated. Perhaps Bell should have shook off the venom of Strauss and Flower – Strauss was nasty about Bell on TV as well as diatribes about KP – but Test cricket isn’t the place to fight lone battles. It is enough to fight the enemy. I think Cook was a reluctant participant in the whittling away of Bell’s confidence as Cook was in the sacking of KP. But Cook was too much under the control of Flower and Essex godfathers. No one asked Cook the question – “is the team stronger” etc.

        But it has all come to pass – the team is obviously weaker. Bell played a crucial role in the Edgbaston Test in the 2015 Ashes. His replacement is Vince. This is another consequence of that fatal clash between Flower and KP. Another is the ongoing mess stemming from wrong decisions taken for the wrong reasons.

    • Jomesy November 11, 2017 at 7:12 pm - Reply

      Correct Maxie

  15. Metatone November 11, 2017 at 10:23 am - Reply

    I didn’t predict a 0-5 for that series, but I knew we were in trouble when we couldn’t find a Tremlett replacement and I was very worried about Swann’s niggling injuries. (Little did I know that Swann would be effectively playing completely unfit.)

    Really, we’re just making the same old mistake again. Yes, the batting isn’t in great shape, but as always what kills us Down Under is no plan and no hope to take 20 wickets on those surfaces in those conditions. We didn’t face up to it 4 years ago, so we’ve done bugger all to develop our bowling to cope with those surfaces/conditions. And so it goes…

  16. Ian November 11, 2017 at 10:59 am - Reply

    Not keen on having the inquest before the series has even started! Clearly England will be hampered by unproven batsmen, lack of outright pace, injuries, and the absence of Stokes. However Australia have holes in their batting capabilities and overall are not the world beaters they once were. I think it could be a tightly contested series and am looking forward to it!

    • Marc Evans November 11, 2017 at 12:42 pm - Reply

      Agree whole heartedly. Australia are not world beaters. Stark is the main threat, but I’m sure the England team realise this are trying their best to counter it. Sick of the negativity, which has little to do with the poor players, who need all the support they can get. Don’t heap selectorial issues on the team. All we can do is play with what we’ve been given. Everyone out there will be motivated to try their best and no one will be underestimating the task ahead.
      I feel the inconsistency problem we have is not helped by consistent criticism, win or lose. The hysterical overreaction to Stokes’s absence is typical. We are not a one man team. Stokes is a match winning batsman, but his bowling, though useful, is not at a Flintoff level yet. On flat hard tracks with the ball coming onto the bat he could be expensive.

      • Tom November 11, 2017 at 1:40 pm - Reply

        I don’t think the significance of Stokes’ absence has been overstated. He brings balance to the XI. Without him, picking Ali as one of only four bowlers becomes riskier. Or if they pick Ali at 6 or 7, with four other bowlers alongside, then the question is whether the batting is too weak.

        • Marc Evans November 11, 2017 at 11:54 pm - Reply

          I agree Stokes is our best player, and provides an ideal balance, but I don’t accept he is the difference between us winning and losing the Ashes. We have enough talent available to beat this Aussie team. Playing cavalier innings against this attack is a different proposition than Stokes would have experienced before. To take the game away from them requires patience and not premeditated aggression. They would not have been intimidated by him the way lesser teams have been recently.

          • Tom November 12, 2017 at 11:13 am - Reply

            Well, I don’t think any player is “the difference between winning and losing a series”. That’s not to say Stokes isn’t a massive loss for the reasons discussed. How many Test-class players in their prime does each team have? Australia would point to Warner, Smith, Starc, Hazlewood and Lyon with some justified optimism about Khawaja, Handscomb and Cummins. England have Cook, Root, Bairstow and Broad. Anderson has a wonderful record overall but hasn’t done it in Australia and Ali remains an enigma. If you put Stokes in there, it’s basically even Stevens on paper. Without him, Australia firms significantly at home.

            • Marc Evans November 12, 2017 at 12:06 pm - Reply

              Correct me if I’m wrong but a couple of tours ago Anderson took about 25 wickets, when Cook was making his runs and he’s certainly a better bowler now than he was then.

              • TTomom November 13, 2017 at 1:21 pm

                Overall, his record in OZ is not good.

            • Cricketcricketcricket November 12, 2017 at 5:17 pm - Reply

              Stokes avg’s Merely 35..if we are calling that test quality batting hen it just about sums up the state of the game

              • Marc Evans November 13, 2017 at 2:47 am

                Few test batsman start their career with a 50 average. Stokes is making his way. I’m sure his career average will improve over time. He is a rare talent with power to add.

  17. Tom November 11, 2017 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    I’m all for sticking the boot into England but any critique of the past four years should at least acknowledge that they managed to pick a side that won back the Ashes. Australia’s wheels fell off in much the same way England’s did in the series before that but still, for all the invective hurled at the selectors after the whitewash Down Under, their side did manage to win back the Ashes. That counts for something surely?

    • Marc Evans November 12, 2017 at 3:15 am - Reply

      Stick the boot in when and where it belongs. The selected players are innocent until proved guilty. As England supporters we should all get behind the team till their performances warrant otherwise. At the moment we have yet to play a test in this series. It’s no good criticising players like Vince, Malan or Stoneham just because they appear iffy selections, before they’ve had a chance to justify themselves. This is not being a proper supporter, the role of which, by definition, is to support.

      • Tom November 12, 2017 at 11:16 am - Reply

        I’m not an England supporter. I’m Australian. As such, it seems strange to chalk up the entire four-year cycle as an abject failure for England when there was an Ashes victory in the middle.

        • Marc Evans November 12, 2017 at 11:59 am - Reply

          I appreciate that, but your views are unfortunately pretty typical of many who call themselves England supporters. It seems endemic in our character to run down success or failure in the same way. I can’t help feeling there is an indifference to our present Rugby success because we have an Aussie coach. It’s almost as though people are waiting for us to fail to stick the boot in so they can get on their soap box about the reasons why.

          • Tom November 13, 2017 at 1:22 pm - Reply

            But I’ve explicitly pointed out that England won an Ashes series in the middle.

      • Cricketcricketcricket November 12, 2017 at 4:26 pm - Reply

        However, these players have already failed. Just look how many of our ‘batsmen’ who are raved about average 40+?


        I’m all for supporting but when spoon fed that some of these are ‘test class’ or ‘world class’ it just stinks. Call a spade a spade and don’t bull crap it up. The Aussie side we will face is equally poor so has similar issues as they seem destined to over hype a few of their players.

        • Marc Evans November 13, 2017 at 3:00 am - Reply

          Apart from Stokes, I can’t remember a world class reference to any of the above. To me ‘world class’ implies that the player would be selected by any team in the world. Stokes certainly fits that category. That’s why he is the most expensive player in the IPL.
          Indeed their seems to be public doubt about all the above at test level, apart from him and Bairstow, who’s recent consistency justifies his test status rating, having forced his way onto the test side, prior to being considered a purely white ball specialist.

  18. AndyB November 11, 2017 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    I will give the current regime credit for one other thing; they (finally) gave Woakes a proper run in tests. Given that he has been the best English qualified all rounder for nearly 10 years and should have been in the test team from 2010, better late than never. And no, I have not forgotten Stokes. Woakes is a much better bowler and nearly as good with the bat. However, it is a shame that Stokes is out of the side as having both of them playing provides so many more selection options.

    • Tom November 12, 2017 at 11:22 am - Reply

      It’s a hard road for bowling all-rounders, particularly when England have had Stokes at 6 and Ali as the first-choice spinner. They probably feel that with those two all-rounders in there, they’re then obligated to pick the three best specialist fast bowlers to lead the attack. And Broad and Anderson have occupied two of those spots for 100+ Tests each.

    • Marc Evans November 13, 2017 at 3:12 am - Reply

      The thing about Stokes is that he’s a game changer, whereas Woakes is not. No one would expect Woakes to make a test century, but it is now expected of Stokes. He has a presence on the field and inspires a confidence in the other players, hence his vice captain status. Woakes is a good solid county player who has worked hard to make the most of his talent. Even as a bowler Stokes has that x-factor impact, if not yet the consistency. I am a life-long Warwickshire supporter and have watched Woakes improve over the years, but with the best will on the world he will never play at Stokes’s level.

  19. Doug November 11, 2017 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Sorry but I think Stokes is a far better all rounder than Woakes. He makes things happen, a rare gift. Losing him is losing two key players. Like Botham before him he’d be in the side for batting or bowling. Flintoff wouldn’t have been in just as a batsman. Woakes is good but he’s not Stokes. If we had Stokes and Plunkett I’d be a lot happier!
    The way the injuries are stacking up I’d expect to see both Curran and Crane at Brisbane.

    • AndyB November 11, 2017 at 5:31 pm - Reply

      Which does lead to an obvious question. Since Curran bowls slower than Woakes in his young days (and without the same level of control or movement) what has he done to deserve preference when Woakes could not get a sniff until in his mid 20s? And please do not tell me it is a matter of the competition. Onions and Bresnan were decent players but not world beaters, and certainly no better than some of today’s options. I watch Surrey a few times a year (living in Guildford) and like Curran – but he is much better at white ball.
      I really struggle with the ‘Stokes makes things happen’ line. You make things happen by being the best player. Ask any county bat who they would prefer to face with a new (or newish) ball – Stokes or Woakes – and they will opt for Stokes every day.

    • Cricketcricketcricket November 12, 2017 at 10:33 am - Reply

      Stokes isn’t even close to being a genuine selection pick as a bowler alone. Bowls 4 balls etc.. his batting is at most a number six when on fire but more like a 7 as he’s not consistent ( avg mid 30’s!)

      He’s just not as good as the media bull him up to be. Flintoff was a top bowler who had a 12-18 month period as a batter but tbh, wasn’t ever really close to being a genuine Test batter. I love flintoff but he’s another how was over hyped

      • AndyB November 12, 2017 at 3:05 pm - Reply

        Agreed. The three outstanding all rounders of the period since test cricket was standardised after WW2 are unquestionably Sobers, Kallis and Imran Khan. Neither Stokes or Flintoff begin to approach their standard (and neither does Botham, although he is the best England have had in that period).

    • Tom November 12, 2017 at 11:25 am - Reply

      I agree that Stokes is important but surely it’s an exaggeration to say he’d be picked as a specialist with bat or ball. Not even the great Jacques Kallis ticked those boxes.

      • Tom November 12, 2017 at 11:28 am - Reply

        To clarify, Kallis would have been picked as a specialist batsman but not as a specialist bowler. Very few players are good enough with both.

        • AndyB November 12, 2017 at 2:58 pm - Reply

          I think you do Kallis a disservice. Obviously he gets picked as a specialist bat with a test average of 55. But 292 test wickets at 32 (and economy under 3) makes him a serious choice as a specialist bowler when you consider he rarely if ever got the new ball (despite being capable of 90mph) and, prior to 2009 his test bowling average was 31 for 249 wickets. Imagine what that average would have been with a new ball rather than operating as 4th seamer.

          • Tom November 13, 2017 at 1:23 pm - Reply

            He wouldn’t have been picked as a specialist bowler.

            • AndyB November 13, 2017 at 10:49 pm - Reply

              Did you ever see him bowl in the late 90s when he was timed at 95mph? The only reason he did not bowl more (and with the new ball) was due to his batting workload. He would have been a shoo-in to be selected as a bowler at that time even if he had been a no11 bat. Donald, Pollock and Kallis – what a seam line up.

              • Tom November 14, 2017 at 2:11 am

                Stop exaggerating.

    • Marc Evans November 13, 2017 at 3:16 am - Reply

      Would you like to start a Plunkett for England petition. I will gladly sign up. None of these young pacemen selected ahead of him have proved anything significant, even at county level.

  20. SimonH November 12, 2017 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    “The Ashes are, after all, the most important event in the English cricketing calendar”.

    Trouble is the ECB don’t agree. They told us what their priority is back in 2015 and they meant it much more than anyone realised. Test cricket will never be the priority again. The only shift is going to be from prioritsing white-ball cricket generally to prioritising T20 specifically (or even T10).

    • Marc Evans November 13, 2017 at 3:27 am - Reply

      I fear you may be right. Professional sport generally seems to be dumbing itself down to appeal to corporate advertising and sponsorship. Everything is faster and louder, the corporate mantra today.
      Even test cricket has been invaded on the terraces by the lager louts with their fancy dress, beer snakes and Mexican waves, encouraged it has to be said by commentators. These lads have no real interest in the cricket, just promoting themselves as the centre of attention, in a day out boozing with their mates. They could be anywhere, doing anything, the cricket is incidental.

      • AndyB November 13, 2017 at 10:53 pm - Reply

        Bit unfair to brand these developments as recent. As the Cornhill Life marketing manager in the 1980s I recall watching many tests whilst our broker guests spent the entire day drinking. The good thing was the drinking kept them so busy that I could watch the cricket and not even have to pretend to be a good host.

  21. Comte November 13, 2017 at 11:23 am - Reply

    We’ve had better teams failing badly Down Under but this lot might, just might, surprise us. But I’m not hopeful.
    I’m less worried about the likes of Malan, Vince and Stoneman than the possibility of failure by one or more of Cook, Root and Bairstow. That would be a disaster.
    I won’t be drawn on Flower other than to say I think he must have some interesting photographs.

  22. lijo george November 16, 2017 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    Sacking Pietersen was such a douche move! Despite staying away from international cricket for about 3-4 years, I think he is still their best batsman after Root and Cook

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