Australia 980-3 stumps (Watson 679) it might as well be
I nearly fell off my chair yesterday when I saw Australia’s selection for this match. England haven’t scored 400 in the entire series, Australia’s batsmen can’t buy a run, yet they picked an extra bowler?!!
I had to assume that Darren Lehmann had lost his mind – a suspicion first aroused when I heard his bizarre, despicable and totally unnecessary comments about Stuart Broad being ‘a cheat’ in the Aussie media. I have to tell you, old Boof (which presumably means a ‘bald fat man who lives on another planet’ in Australian slang) went down in a lot of people’s estimation yesterday.
However, if I fell off my chair when I saw the Australia team, I fell off it again when I saw England’s. Chris Woakes at six? This has to be some sort of bizarre joke, right?! Well, apparently not. Alastair Cook described the Warwickshire seamer, who may or may not be Ashley Giles’ secret illegitimate son, as a ‘genuine all-rounder’ at the toss. Having got back on to my chair, I promptly fell off it again.
Whatever you may or may not think of Chris Woakes as a bowler – and I have to admit I’m one of the many who doesn’t think a lot of him at this stage – he is not, nor has ever been, an international class genuine all rounder. He’s a promising young cricketer, who has shown a little promise with the willow, but he’s essentially a bowler who makes good runs in Warwickshire’s lower-middle order. He often bats below Ricki Clarke.
When I suggested as much on Twitter, I was inundated by Bears fans telling me in no uncertain terms that his first class averages (batting 37, bowling 24) suggests he actually is a genuine all-rounder. Those are, after all, decent stats. But stats don’t tell the whole story. Jim Allenby, a player who should never get anywhere near international cricket, averages 41 with the bat and 27 with the ball. Perhaps he should bat number 6 for England too?
When it comes to judging international cricketers, you use your own eyes and judgement, not cricinfo’s stats section. Woakes has made just 6 first class centuries. Meanwhile, in the words of Geoff Boycott, his bowling today looked like ‘bowling Australia in, rather than bowling Australia out’. Oh dear.
I could be completely wrong here – I really hope I am – but this selection has Ashley Giles written all over it. Giles has been pushing Woakes for a while, and in the interests of political harmony, Flower has probably thought “it’s a dead rubber, let’s just keep everyone happy”.
I don’t want to get into the Kerrigan selection too much, as what we saw today was desperately sad, and totally unexpected. It’s not nice seeing a young cricketer get the yips on his test debut, but England were effectively reduced to a three man attack today. So much for five bowlers.
The other thing I’d like to touch on, again, is England’s absolutely ridiculous decision to keep preparing bone dry pitches. It’s only worked so far because we’ve won three tosses to Australia’s one. If you’re the better side, why make the toss so important? Just prepare good cricket wickets and demonstrate your superiority. All this Oval pitch has done is enable cricketers as average as Steve Smith to bat comfortably, and give the team winning the toss a huge advantage.
Which brings me back to the game situation. Australia are a very good team if they get enough runs on the board. As it stands, they look set to score those runs. England are therefore staring down the barrel, and they only have their poor strategy, and even poorer selection, to blame.
Many of us have waited several years for England to pick five bowlers. We could be waiting decades before it ever happens again on today’s evidence. If they were going to shoehorn a cricketer into the number six ‘genuine all-rounder’ position, it should have been Stokes not Woakes. But what do I know. I’ m not on the selection committee.