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.