Comments Thread: Day One at The Oval

There’s something special about an Oval test match. Lord’s is beautiful but a little stuffy. The Oval, on the other hand, is a great arena for everyone – the crowds are vociferous, the pitches usually better for entertaining cricket, the beer a little cheaper, and England usually play better there.

Although this test is a dead rubber I’m actually expecting a good game. No result would surprise me. If the Aussie bowlers get their lines and lengths right, and find a way to dismiss Root early, England could find themselves in trouble. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Aussies collapse in a heap again.

Because we can’t keep relying on Super Joe to rescue the batting, I think this is a big game for Alastair Cook. His record at the Oval is good – the pitches traditionally offer less seam movement, and enable him to play his trademarks cuts and pulls without worrying about his technique too much – so let’s see if he can seal his summer with a belated maiden home Ashes century. One senses the script has been written …

This test is also fascinating because careers are on the line. While the likes of Chris Rogers are waving goodbye to test cricket on their own terms, we might see a few careers curtailed by poor form. I’m looking at you Adam Voges, Adam Lyth and perhaps even Jos Buttler.

While I’m a big fan of Jos, I’ve heard it mentioned (most notably on Sky’s Cricket Writers on TV) that Buttler is simply too talented to fail at test level. I find this argument strange. Talent is only part of the equation in top level test cricket. Technique (and mental resilience) are just as important.

Mark Ramprakash, Graeme Hick, Neil Fairbrother and Michael Bevan are all examples of supremely talented players – just as gifted (if not more so) than Jos – who disappointed at the very highest level for one reason or another.It doesn’t matter how much talent you have if the opposition can identify a weakness and exploit it.

I really wouldn’t write Buttler off, and I’d like nothing more than to see him score a ton at The Oval, but I’m not a fan of the XI England picked at Trent Bridge. If England field the same XI – and it’s rumoured they will – the team has a very peculiar balance.

If you think about it England have been picking TWO wicket-keepers and ZERO specialist spinners. This makes no cricketing sense. The only time you should pick two keepers is if both are genuinely among the top seven batsmen in the country. Imagine if Australia were picking both Nevill and Haddin but leaving out Lyon (or whoever).

Buttler’s first class average is a somewhat disappointing 33.5 and he’s only scored 5 hundreds. Do you really think he’s a better player than Vince, Hales or James Taylor? Much as a like him, it’s a stretch to argue he is.

The bottom line is this: Bairstow is an accomplished keeper who is no worse behind the stumps than Jos. There is no point picking them both. It takes up a valuable spot in the team that could go to either a specialist batsman or, as many purists would prefer, a specialist spinner.

I personally believe that Adil Rashid should have played in this game. England are probably wary of ‘doing a Kerrigan’ but it would be far better to give Adil some experience now, in a dead rubber on a pitch he’s not expected to excel on, than chuck him in at the deep end against Pakistan in October and expect him to win us the game.

I understand the argument that Rashid hasn’t bowled a lot recently, but I doubt he’ll have bowled much before the first test in the UAE either. I’m not saying Rashid will metamorphose into the next Shane Warne, but it’s probably better to have a look at him sooner rather than later.

England seem more intent on rubbing Australia’s noses in it than preparing for the very challenging winter ahead. With the Ashes already won, it might have been better to produce a typical Oval surface – a dry pitch that makes the bowlers work hard for their wickets and helps spinners later in the game – than producing another green top.

As for the Aussies, it will be interesting to see what names Rod Marsh draws out of his hat this time. I expect Mitchell Marsh will come back into the team at the expense of his bother Shaun. It’s a bit tough to drop the latter after one game, but the Aussie bowling needs reinforcements. I wonder what Geoff Marsh would do?

There is also a rumour that Pat Cummins will replace Josh Hazlewood, who has been one of the disappointments of the summer for me. If so, it will be great to see the promising Cummins back in action. I’m not sure how much his injuries have affected his bowling, but the last time he played for Australia he looked like one hell of a prospect.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. What do you all think? Feel free to add your thoughts on day one as it progresses.

James Morgan



  • I think they’re with Buttler for the long haul. I think they made a call that he was young, very promising with the bat, and could learn the ropes with the keeping (which does seem to have improved). Hence I think they’ll cut him a fair bit of slack if one or the other discipline goes through a period of bad form.

    Situation is complicated by Bairstow getting into the team on batting merit as suddenly they do have another option – but I doubt they’ll pursue it unless Buttler’s batting doesn’t recover over a more sustained period. I think they’re too far invested with him to carry out a quick switch, and it seems that they can accommodate both at the moment. If another middle order batsman were hammering on the door that could change though.

    Whether that’s the right call or not is debatable – I would say so as I see Buttler as a potential x-factor player like KP or Stokes who could change a game very quickly, although so far we’ve mainly seen this in the shorter format. I think perhaps he’s still working out his Test game – perhaps if he approached it more like a ODI then he’d have similar success?

  • I agree…And cricket writers on tv is now basically a mouth piece for the ECB….I’m not sure Buttler has the technique or game plan yet for test cricket…in fact he doesn’t

  • I’ve seen plenty of suggestions that Bairstow is the better ‘keeper, I’ve not seen evidence of this, but if he is then maybe Buttler could have been given a rest.
    However Bairstow has to play regardless, he outscored everyone else to get picked and hasn’t let anyone down.

    With the rain they had on Tuesday and no sign of great warmth its conditions for only one spinner, that has to be Mo, he’s barely bowled since Lords where he got torn apart, and so deserves a chance on hopefully a wicket with a little bit of turn.
    People are desperate to see Rashid, I’d like to see him myself but at the minute he’s 2nd choice and unless it was baking hot and a raging turner it makes no sense to play him.

    The only change I’d consider is plunkett for Wood depending on how Wood is in the morning.

    People seem desperate for experimentation, I don’t get it. This is the ashes, a test match. You play your best team to win the game, you don’t let up.

  • I imagine that’s how England see it too Neil. I think they want to avoid a repeat of 2013 when they took their foot off the gas a little. However things were different then. There was a return series down under immediately afterwards. This time we’re off to the UAE where our lack of spinning options could be a major issue. I wonder if England will arrive in the UAE and think ‘hmmm we really could’ve done with taking a look at Rashid (or whoever) a few weeks ago’?

    • ” I think they want to avoid a repeat of 2013 when they took their foot off the gas a little”.

      Don’t you think England learnt quite a bit about Kerrigan in that match and Woakes learnt quite a bit about the demands of Test cricket?

    • I agree, in an ideal world Rashid would have made his debut by now. Let’s face it he should have played all 3 tests in the West Indies, unfortunately a man desperate to keep his job didn’t take a chance.

      Mo has come back, and doesn’t deserve to be dropped. And we just don’t play 2 spinners in England, your rather cheeky comment about us playing 0 spinners is a bit naughty!!

      • Interesting comment from one of the cricinfo writers when Rashid was scoring a hunred and taking wickets for fun for Yorkshire against Durham at Scarborough lately; wasn’t it amazing that Rashid hadn’t played a Test yet but Scott Borthwick had…?

        Which at the very least shows how headfucked the management were at the end of the last tour of Oz.

      • Zero ‘specialist’ spinners. I’m Mo’s biggest fan, and the first to stick up for him, but he hasn’t bowled well at all.

        I’m not suggesting we drop Mo. I’m suggesting we drop Buttler, because a team needs two keepers less than it needs two spinners. If you see what I mean …

        • So going back to Edgbaston, are you suggesting another batsmen should have been picked ahead of Bairstow?

          • No that’s not what I’m saying. I’d like us to pick one keeper and a specialist spinner, that’s all. If you pick the best side from scratch, with no room for sentiment, then you wouldn’t pick both Buttler and Bairstow. If Jonny is one of the best 6 batsmen in the country (which he probably is) then there’s no need for Jos – especially when the team lacks a viable no1 spinner.

            • I do disagree there. Bairstow is one of the best 5 batsmen in the country. Let him bat.

              Then the discussion turns to picking the best wicketkeeper at 7 perhaps.
              Just who is that?

              • I meant you wouldn’t have both. There’s an argument that Bairstow is in the best 6, but Buttler certainly isn’t.

                I appreciate the ‘let Jonny bat’ argument, and understand the perspective. However, my personal view is that I don’t think Bairstow is quite good enough at the moment to become a top 5 specialist batsman. His technique is too bottom handed. I think this is more likely to hold him back than extra responsibilities like keeping.

                Although I’m happy to give Bairstow the opportunity to cement his place, long term I see him more as a test 6 or 7. That’s just my inkling at the moment – which obviously affects my view re: the balance of the side moving forward. If you see what I mean.

        • I see what you mean James, but the dilemma is do we treat this last test with total respect and field what see as a winning side or do we treat it as a kind of net for Rashid?

          I would have loved to see Rashid play and I take your point about the two keepers but I think we have a duty to put forward our best team with winning being our only intent.

          One could argue with the merits of the selection but that’s a different thing.

          • Picking two keepers and no specialist spinner is not selecting the strongest side.

  • “If you think about it England have been picking TWO wicket-keepers”.
    NZ picked three at Headingley and it didn’t do them any harm! You’re also assuming that Bairstow will bat as well as he did at TB if he is also keeping and I think the evidence from players like McCullum, Sanga and Alec Stewart is that over time batting records go down if a player is also keeper.

    “There is also a rumour that Pat Cummins will replace Josh Hazlewood, who has been one of the disappointments of the summer for me”.
    Agreed – although he has 16 wickets at 25.75 which isn’t too shabby for a 24 year old on his first tour of England (James Anderson on his first tour of Australia in 2006/07 aged 24 took 5 wickets at 82 and Stuart Broad on his first tour of Australia in 2010/11 aged 24 took 2 wickets at 80).
    Hazlewood’s weakness has been bowling too many ‘release balls’ and not keeping the pressure on. It’ll be interesting to see in the aftermath if anything comes out about why this kept happening as he certainly didn’t do it in the WC or on the WI tour.
    He’s also suffered from some ridiculous comparisons with Glenn McGrath. McGrath is an all-time great and expecting Hazlewood to be the same just because he’s RFM and Australian was always daft. Does anyone expect Kraigg Brathwaite to be like Gordon Greenidge because they are both West Indian RHB openers? Hazlewood doesn’t have the sharp break-back that was McGrath’s great weapon and, to me, he is more like mid-career Shaun Pollock relying on away swing and a little extra bounce.

    • Hazlewood’s stats have been decent but flatter him imho. I agree expectations were probably too high. All the talk pre-series was that he would get picked ahead of Harris (if both were fit). In hindsight I can’t believe this. He’s nowhere near Harris’s class yet.

      • They are saying Hazlewood is out on injury but it seems to be form also, or perhaps the niggles were also there in TB and holding him back a bit.

        Certainly Hazlewood was no where near Harris at his peak, but Harris wasn’t at his peak – which is why Hazlewood might have been picked over Harris. Statistically and watching it I thought Hazlewood outbowled Harris in Aus vs India last summer and they said he was short of a full gallop in the warm up games (perhaps because he had a broken leg!).

        I have been a promoter of Hazlewood, and there is no doubt he has been a disappointment to me. I thought he has consistently bowled too full and is trying to be like Starc and swing it when he is should aim to be more of the mould of McGrath and should be targeting top of off stump more often. There is also no doubt he bowled better in the first two tests than the last two particularly TB where he was indeed poor in conditions that should have suited.

        Still he has taken 40 wickets @ 21 in 9 tests for his career, which is pretty good by anyone’s standards (way better than many greats eg McGrath, Steyn, Anderson at the same stage) and has mostly been built on consistent contributions not one or two huge totals. I think we will see a lot more of him over the next 10 years and he will take some big tallys on top of the consistent contributions. Taking a bit of time to assess how he is best bowling is probably worthwhile.

    • Actually you could argue NZ picked 4 keepers at Edgebaston – Latham has played as specialist keeper in ODIs, and took over at Lords when Watling was injured. McCullum’s back is no longer up to the job mind you.

      • But presumably these guys played because they were genuinely among the best 7 batsmen available, and the team wasn’t lacking anything in other areas.

        • Yep. Latham is comfortably our best test opener (not that that’s saying much :( ), and with Corey Anderson injured the selectors (rightly IMO) judged Watling at 6 was a better bet than bringing in Hamish Rutherford at the top. Watling failed as a test opener in his first crack at test cricket, but he’s got the talent to be a number 5 or 6.

  • Hick and Ramps got over 50 tests, despite their poor management. Fairbrother was never quite a Test player for me, while Bevan had a decent start but became a bit of a bunny against the short ball – don’t forget the bouncer rules in force during his ODI career.

    I don’t think Buttler is as good as Hick or Ramps, and might never be, but I believe he’s got more Test potential than the latter two. The current selectors are hardly my favourites, but there is plenty of recent precedent for sticking with a player, especially an anointed one… In this case I hope they do, he genuinely could be an extraordinary batsman.

    As to Rashid, I’m a couple of miles from The Oval and it’s raining again. Seems unlikely anyone would go with two spinners. So the question is whether Mo gets a rest and we have a proper look at Rashid. I know there are question-marks in the camp over his suitability – the “finger injury” that stopped him covering for Mo was thought to be a bit of a tantrum over his treatment in the Windies, understandable perhaps but not the shrewdest thing. So for me it is probably worth giving him a go and see how he copes on the biggest stage.

    If the Aussies bat to recent form, neither of them could get much of a bowl anyway!

    • While I fully accept the argument that conditions might not suit Rashid, I’m not quite sure what conditions call for the inclusion of two keepers … if you see what I mean :-)

      On current form, leaving out Buttler for Rashid wouldn’t actually weaken the batting much either. But it would give Rashid a taste of test cricket before an important tour in which he’ll be expected to perform a major role.

      I don’t want people to think I’m anti-Buttler, as I would love him to come good, but I feel that picking him at the moment is a bit of an indulgence when the team is sorely lacking in a key area. In my humble opinion, he’s only playing because the selectors have invested a lot in him – which is fair enough in one way – but I personally believe that the team should come first.

      The below team has a much better balance (strong in both batting and bowling) and is equipped for all circumstances. If you believe there’s too much bowling (if it’s possible to have such a thing) then you add to the team in other ways – in other words you either add (a) the best batsman available, or (b) the best pure keeper available. If you think about it, Buttler is neither.

      Cook, Lyth, Bell, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Moeen, Rashid, Wood, Broad, Finn

  • I understand the argument that Rashid hasn’t bowled a lot recently…

    And whose fault is that ?
    England keep putting him in the squad, and then have him watch from the sidelines. Same mistake was made with Lyth in the West Indies – when he finally got picked, he was seriously underprepared. He may not be good enough, but he was dropped into the Ashes with very little batting under his belt.

    Expecting Rashid to suddenly come good on tour when he has had limited bowling this season is optimistic rather than sensible.
    I think he probably ought to have been picked for the Oval on merit in any event.

  • Rashid should have had a chance in the West Indies, where the pitches apparently help the wrist spinners in more recent years. Perhaps he might have done well out there and already be establishing himself in the team by now. The same thing applies to Lyth. Imagine if Lyth had done quite well in the West Indies, he would have come into this Ashes series feeling more established. As things have turned out, he keeps starting quite well but then getting himself out to ill-judged shots. The left arm pace bowler Foottit of Derbyshire was not given a chance in this series, and incredibly didn’t get a go when his county actually played Australia in a tour match back in July. TFT quite rightly highlighted that at the time. Our selectors just don’t seem very good at handling promising players. Surely Rashid will get a chance in the UAE v Pakistan, where spin bowlers will be essential.


copywriter copywriting