I don’t want to say “I told you so” but I told you so. England’s shortsighted decision to take just the one wicket-keeper to New Zealand backfired dramatically overnight when it emerged that stopper Jos Buttler had injured his back. This means that Ollie Pope, who was picked as an exciting young batsman, will be forced to keep in the second test at Hamilton unless Jos makes a Lazarus-style recovery.
Let’s be honest. This is one big cock up all round. The ECB decided to send just 14 men to New Zealand – possibly because they’re a bit hard up after The Hundred budget rocketed out of control – and now we’re likely to have a 21 year old part-timer, who’s the third choice keeper for his county, behind the stumps in a Test match.
I wonder what Pope’s Surrey teammate Ben Foakes makes of all this? I imagine he’ll be spitting feathers. Pope rarely keeps for Surrey and is behind both Foakes and young Jamie Smith in the pecking order at The Oval. Although Pope is more senior to Smith (due to his batting), it’s well worth pointing out that the last time Pope and Smith played together in a first class game that Foakes missed, Surrey gave the gloves to Smith.
It will be interesting to see how young Ollie responds to this, erm, ‘challenge’. He had enough on his plate trying to establish himself as a batsman – especially after two disappointing dismissals at Mount Maunganui.
Personally I think it’s very unfair to put him in this position. How will it effect his confidence if he drops a catch or generally looks untidy? Pope should be allowed to focus on his batting career rather than moving down the order to No.7 and taking the gloves. Some will say it was a mistake not to pick Jonny Bairstow as one of the batsmen with so few players in the touring party.
If I was England I’d be straight on the phone to Worcestershire’s Ben Cox who is playing cricket in Adelaide. Cox is the only gloveman in the country on Foakes’s level and could fly over to New Zealand quite quickly if circumstances allow. He’s a slightly better white ball batsman than a red ball batsman, but he can still contribute useful runs and wouldn’t have any issues with jet-lag.
In other somewhat worrying news, there are reports that England might drop Jack Leach and play a 5-man seam attack in the second test. This would be incredibly daft and I’d really begin to worry about Chris Silverwood’s sanity if it’s true. There’s nothing 5 seamers can do that 4 can’t. Meanwhile, you’re sacrificing the precious variety that a left-arm spinner brings.
What’s worse, we’re hearing that the seamer most likely to replace Leach is Chris Woakes, another orthodox fast-medium right arm seamer. I like Woakes as a cricketer but his record overseas is poor and I don’t think he’d add a different dimension to the attack. Surely, if England are determined to go down this foolish 5-seamer route, the paceman they should pick is Saqib Mahmood who offers something slightly different?
It’s important to point out that dropping Leach would also set an awful precedent. It’s simply not wise and potentially very damaging to drop a young spinner after one poor(ish) match. Yes Leach wasn’t at his best at Mount Maunganui, but the start of his England career has been highly promising: he’s taken 34 wickets at an average of 29. This means his current Test average is better than Graeme Swann’s.
Although some people are playing down the important of this Test because it’s not part of the World Test Championship, I beg to differ. It’s still a Test match. And if England lose at Hamilton then our new era would’ve started in the worst way possible – a 0-2 defeat.
Yes I’m all in favour of giving young players a go, and it would be nice to have a look at Mahmood and Parkinson for example, but England should still pick what they consider to be their strongest team.
An experimental XI with Pope behind the sticks, and Zak Crawley drafted in as emergency cover to bat in an unfamiliar position (I assume No.6 where he might be expected to raise the tempo somewhat depending on the game situation) is far from ideal.
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Agree with most of this. Dropping Leach would by the height of folly, especially for yet another right-arm fast-medium. As for the keeping situation, the only good news is that Pope will probably be no worse behind the sticks than Buttler. I would be more inclined to give myself an extra front-line bowling option by giving Parkinson a go, gambling on six frontline batters plus Curran, Archer and the adhesive Leach to provide enough runs. This would enable both Archer and Stokes to be used more sparingly with the ball (if indeed the latter, sixth in the bowling pecking order in this line up, gets called on at all), and maxinizes the variety of bowling available to England, who need a win to square the series (I would much prefer to see them go down 0-2 trying to make it 1-1 than tamely accept 0-1).
What if Pope gets a hundred and keeps sufficiently well? You can see what will happen next…
If that happens I’ll write an article claiming that I was always in favour of Pope keeping wicket and that Ed Smith is a genius ;-)
😂 if only.
He gets dropped, like Ben Foakes did?
“Ollie Pope, who was picked as an exciting young batsman, will be forced to keep in the second test” “England are determined to go down this foolish 5-seamer route” “the seamer most likely to replace Leach is Chris Woakes”
Cynically, I would guess these three mistakes are related – since it would be easier for Pope to keep to an all seam attack than spin, and easiest if it was Woakes bowling his usual overseas recipe of 82mph gun-barrel straight – rather than someone quicker, maybe swingier, or skiddier…
As for dropping catches, missed stumpings and allowing byes – for poor Ollie it will be a case of ‘how many?’ rather than ‘if’. His only positive is that he will just need to keep for a single – albeit very long – innings…
Bad Management on top of a Bad Leader… But then, I see no reason why English cricket should be exempted from what applies to other kinds of UK organisations … politics, civil service, police, health service, schools and universities, legal system, mass media…
Business as usual!
Why can’t Joe Root keep? Stokes can take over his field and man motivation responsibilities. Give Ollie Pope a break.
BTW – cricinfo etc keep reminding us: “While there are no Test Championship points at stake in this series…”
No TC points! Who cares? Not me.
A series with New Zealand – despite just 2 games (!), and (last match) a ridiculous out-in-the-sticks venue with nobody watching – has in recent years been better than the Ashes. Summer of 2015 was my favourite ever series (including the one dayers) only coming third after the 2005 and 2010-11 Ashes. Certainly playing NZ means more than playing *most* other Test teams, regardless of the (yawn) Test Championship points.
(Yet we play longer series against most other sides, WI, SL… until we are begging for mercy – Please – No More!.)
I had a memory that while not in the original Test squad for the tour, Jonny Bairstow had later been asked to stay on as injury cover for the tests.
Turns out that was a false memory. He’d merely been asked to stay on for the Test warm-up matches (as potential batting cover for Joe Denley), not the Tests themselves: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/nov/07/england-joe-denly-back-in-nets-test-players-arrive-new-zealand-cricket
The England management thought it worth having injury cover for warm-up matches, but not the ones that count?!
Team selections like this almost justify twitter.
Best comment so far (from Jon Hotten I think): England won a Test away last winter playing three wicketkeepers and three spinners. Not one of them is playing here and only one of them is ruled out by injury.
If this sort of short sightedness had happened in civvy street, where success of business ventures depended on it, the perpetrators would be either sacked, or at worst disciplined. The present encumbents at the ECB will get away with little more than egg on the face and be there to make similar mistakes ad Infinitum.
Bruce writes – “Bad Management on top of a Bad Leader… But then, I see no reason why English cricket should be exempted from what applies to other kinds of UK organisations … politics, civil service, police, health service, schools and universities, legal system, mass media…”
And Marc – “If this sort of short sightedness had happened in civvy street, where success of business ventures depended on it, the perpetrators would be either sacked, or at worst disciplined. The present incumbents at the ECB will get away with little more than egg on the face and be there to make similar mistakes ad Infinitum.”
Bruce is 100% right, Marc 50% – civvy street is no different from the ECB in that no-one in a senior position is ever held responsible for their cock-ups. The worst that happens to them is that they leave the organisation they have ruined with an eye-watering pay-off, pension rights preserved and paeans of totally undeserved praise, and move on to another on an even greater salary. There will be no improvement in any of the areas Bruce mentions until there is an end to this culture of executive immunity, which is based on “one of us-manship”.
Agree to an extent but civvy street incorporates both private and public sectors in the public sector there is an undoubted ECB style jobs for the boys. The old school tie is predominant in both, however where I disagree is the private sector. My experience is that senior management have a relatively short shelf life here, based entirely on hitting targets. I have worked in both sectors and there is no comparison. Only the multinationals here have a tendency to atrophy, though undoubtedly the MD’s and directors do have a tendency to look after their own, even when bankruptcy looms and failed management often find berths in other companies, but there is also a strong ‘cover your arse’ philosophy to distance yourself from failure.