Dead Rubbers & Dodo Competitions

Happy new year. I hope your bellies are bursting and your liver languishing somewhere on the lavatory floor. Mine certainly is. Which is usually a sign that a good time was had by all … or at least by me. I can’t comment on those who had to endure my drunken festive rants about political correctness, the Left, the Right, Brexit, the ECB, my kids, too much immigration, too little immigration, why there’s no brandy left, and who put cassis in my fifteen quid per bottle prosecco.

Anyway, it’s back to the daily grind today – by which I mean supporting the England cricket team, and crying over the latest news concerning Harrison’s Harebrained Have A Hit. Let’s deal with the city T20 first.

A fortnight ago I intimated that all wasn’t well with the new competition, and that the ECB might be forced to either (a) make substantial changes to their proposal, or (b) abandon the whole project. This was due to increasing dissent amongst the counties over the financial arrangements and other structural issues. My source indicated that the latter was a real possibility … and it still might be.

The latest news, according the The Times, suggests that big reforms are afoot. This suggests to me that the ECB are scrambling behind the scenes to appease the dissenters and rescue their shortsighted and unpopular project.

So what exactly are these reforms? According to The Times the city T20 is no longer going to be based on … wait for it … cities! And the teams won’t even have home venues. They’re just going to be somewhat nomadic franchises that play at a number of different grounds around the country. Riiiight.

Apparently the ECB has been forced into this concession because the smaller counties are worried, and rightly so, that this competition puts their very survival in doubt. They’re concerned that only clubs with big test match venues will really benefit, and they want the right to host games themselves. All of which seems fair enough if you ask me.

It’s not all bad news for the ECB though. If the franchises aren’t based in any single city, and the games are played around the country, they get to do one of their all time favourite things: have counties bid for the right to hold matches! Harrison and Graves must be literally rubbing their hands with glee. After all, the process of bidding for international matches has worked out oh so well in the past. Not.

So what we’re left with people is the following: a T20 competition involving a handful of random franchises, playing in random locations, in an unspecified format, and aimed at an entirely new audience i.e. not people who currently like cricket (or are even aware of its existence). The whole thing has got ‘farce’ and ‘failure’ written all over it.

Why would anyone who currently doesn’t like cricket suddenly become interested in the sport because a visiting team, consisting of random mercenaries who have been drafted, is fulfilling a fixture up the road ? What makes this any more appealing than going to watch a NatWest Blast fixture involving a team containing (some) local talent that is permanently based in the community? The mind boggles.

Oh, and you know all that talk about playing matches at the Olympic Stadium (or the London Stadium, or West Ham Park, or whatever it’s called these days) that’s not going to happen either apparently. Why? Because the ECB have just realised that the stadium is busy holding other events in the middle of summer. No shit Sherlocks.

Anyway, now it’s back to the Ashes. The 5th and final Ashes test starts at the SCG tonight. And with the whitewash finally avoiding thanks to Alastair Cook’s double century on a pitch the ICC have just branded as ‘poor’ (because it didn’t give the bowlers a hope in hell), England can afford to experiment. Consequently, there’s a good chance that Mason Crane will play. Hallelujah.

However, although Moeen Ali has performed miserably on the Ashes tour – just like he tends to do on any tour – I would much rather England drop Tom Curran instead. This is because (a) our tail will be ridiculously big if Woakes has to bat 7, and (b) I wasn’t particularly impressed with Curran at the MCG. He brought ‘a lot of energy’ but never looked like bringing any wickets. I just doubt that a bowler operating at 78-82 mph can be effective at test level … unless they’re something very special indeed.

I’d like to know what you all think about England’s selection dilemma. Moeen’s bound to get some runs at some point, right? I’d also like to know whether you give a rat’s arse about the outcome in Sydney. In fact, do you care about the outcome of dead rubbers in general?

This was a subject raised by Dan Splarn, who sent me this glowing tribute to Cook’s marathon last week. Apologies to Dan for not posting this as a standalone article in its own right:

There was something about the way Alastair Cook celebrated this magnificent double-century that epitomised his character.

Whilst the Barmy Army roared their approval, the England dressing room collectively punched the air with glee and even the most hardened Aussie fan rose to their feet to acknowledge some fight from the Poms, Cook was comparatively muted in his celebrations.

Granted, his beaming smile was plain to see, and there were a few short moments where he allowed himself the pleasure of savouring such an epic milestone – but within 40 seconds Cook was already practicing his straight drive, collecting his thoughts and once again focusing on the job at hand: to bat his team into a dominant position and restore some pride to a hitherto disastrous Ashes campaign.

After three desperately disappointing showings in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, a whole catalogue of records tumbled during Cook’s 634-minute stay at the crease. This was the first time an England opener had carried his bat since Michael Atherton in 1997, and the highest score by a visiting batsman to the MCG since Viv Richards’ 208 in 1984.

It was the 32nd test century of his career – the fifth time he has gone beyond 200 – and Cook moved beyond Mahele Jayawardene, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brian Lara on his way to becoming the sixth highest test match run scorer in the history of the game.

His 244 not out featured a number of imperious drives down the ground and a healthy strike rate of 59.66, and this innings surmised every great mental quality that Cook possesses – concentration, patience and power of will – as he completed a set of centuries at every Australian test venue after averaging just 13.83 in the first three tests of this tour.

Of course, the cynics questioned why it had taken so long for Cook to arrive to the party. There was talk that making such a huge score was ‘easy’ in the absence of Australia’s spearhead Mitchell Starc, and that such an innings was meaningless given that the team had surrendered the Ashes at the earliest opportunity.

Perhaps it is just me, but I just can’t look at any test match as a ‘dead rubber’ in Ashes cricket. Try telling those who have spent huge sums of money to head Down Under for the Melbourne and Sydney tests that these games mean nothing. With the chastening experience of 2013/14’s drubbing still fresh in the mind, I would like nothing more than for England to fight back, make the series 3-2 and take away some of the gloss of Australia’s victory starting by winning Cricket Australia’s showpiece Boxing Day fixture.

Cook himself talked of ‘last chance saloon’ as he walked out to bat on Wednesday, with a partisan Australian media queueing up to put the boot in to the squirming Poms, 67,000 people watching and barely a run to his name since his 243 against West Indies last summer, and he delivered – in a big way.

Although I’m a little indifferent to dead rubbers myself, I personally think that Cook’s hundred counted for a quite a lot. Yes Starc was injured, Cummins was ill, and the pitch had less life in it than Stoke City FC, but a whitewash was still a real possibility when Cook strode the the crease. However, I appreciate that others may disagree.

James Morgan


    • Now i know you’re a troll (or aussie, or both). Only s troll could possibly consider Gary Ballance for the team.

      • Well, the selectors picked him in the squad so it’s not that left-field.

        The concern about Crane coming into the XI seems to be that his inclusion weakens the batting and lengthens the tail. Recalling Ballance would theoretically strengthen the batting, thereby compensating.

  • Well James interesting stuff as usual.
    Looks like the franchise now has a possible chance of going down the pan, or played on the dark side of the moon where no one can see it. We’ll have to see, but what with the Ashes disaster, isn’t time the drongos at the ECB stepped down? Wouldn’t it be a nice New Years present!
    As for the Test, yes they are all important in their own right, and I hope visiting supporter’s see a good one. I wouldn’t spend that sort of money to watch this England team though. I do think an opportunity is being wasted to try new blood though instead if staying with the ‘old boy network’. If we lose again I’d rather see at least some youthful enthusiasm with maybe someone coming through, rather than this lot again. However, the best we can hope for is Crane for Moen unless it looks a turner. In which case Crane for Curran. I don’t think they’ll drop Moen though because then the tail starts at 7 with Woakes. Yes quite!

    • To be fair, I prefer my Dark Side of the Moon as Pink Floyd wrote it, and don’t want a T20 version!

  • I agree about Curran but not that you cannot bowl at 80mph and be successful in tests. That is about the usual pace of Philander, and I would rate him the best bowler in the world when he is fit and motivated. The last time I saw a bowler with such control was Tom Cartwright (at about 72/73mph) and he should have played 50 tests. But Curran is not (and never will be) a Philander or Cartwright.
    I am torn about Crane. On one hand, if we do not play him at Sydney why have we taken him to Australia. On the other hand, he could not buy wickets against county bats in red ball in 2017, so is their a risk of him doing a Kerrigan? Probably not as he seems fairly confident. On balance take the risk and play him. I would also play Wood for Broad, not for the usual reasons of form (he had a decent 4th test) but simply because we must manage his knee problem – and when better to do it than a dead rubber? And if Wood did come in that does mean Curran needs to be the sacrifice for Crane. The other possibility is to rely on Malan and Root for spin support and replace Moeen with Foakes – but that may be a move too far. Still, in an ideal world I would like to see a team with Wood, Crane and Foakes coming in for Curran, Broad and Moeen.

    • In more recent times, you could add Hoggard, Courtney Walsh (in 2000), Mohammed Asif, Shaun Pollock and others to that “successful at 80mph” list. Pollock, I think, took over 400 test wickets at about 22 (and had a batting average over 30). Why did the ECB miss him?!?

      • You can be successful operating at 80-85 mph but you must have something very special to manage it. Philander is one such example. Amazingly accurate. I didn’t see anything from Curran to suggest he’s in the same class, although I did like his attitude. Curran’s first class record also suggests he’s nowt special thus far. Averaging just about 30.

        Just a quick note about Pollock and the others mentioned above. Pollock was pretty quick in his youth (ask Mike Atherton!) with a very nasty bouncer. He slowed down later in his career but obviously had the benefit of immense experience by then. Hoggard too was also quite brisk when he started out(believe it or not), although not quick not Pollock. His ability to swing the ball both ways also enabled him to bowl a little slower and still be successful. Again I haven’t seen a lot of swing from Curran in the ODIs I’ve seen.

        Mohammad Asif was quicker than 80mph and he was also exceptionally tall (almost 2 metres according to wikipedia). Ditto Walsh. Tom Curran is only six foot. I guess what I’m saying is what special attribute does Curran possess that will enable him to do well in test cricket other than pure effort and cojones? Hope I’m wrong.

        • Hopefully Philander goes on as long as Cartwright. I last saw Cartwright captaining Old England at Chichester in circa 1999 when he was in his mid-60s – and his action had not changed one iota.

          • He bowled ripping back spinners and cutters mainly.

            It’s rather sad that the art of medium pace is all but lost. Maybe it’s partly due to the strange notion that if you hit the seam it will do something off the pitch.

            • Anyone who witnessed Hales shred Curran in the final of the Whatever-cup at Lord’s this summer would have been amazed that anyone could consider him for an Ashes Tour. Sure it was white-ball, but the destruction during a final was a good guide to potential form in a Test Match down-under.

  • On the question of dead rubbers, I’ve just found this from Aggers. “My test debut was against a team already 4-0 up. (WI 1984) To suggest the opposition wasn’t trying. Or that we weren’t. Or that it was a game that didn’t matter is just about as silly as it gets. In fact Holding went off his full run for the only time in the series.” For those who don’t remember the Holding long run, here’s some YouTube footage.

  • It certainly means a lot less, though Test cricket always means something.

    It depends though. If we started at the SCG with the same team as Brisbane, got a stonking win and headed to the Enzedders with some confidence then… It wouldn’t mean anything really. Oh look we were just unlucky, our players all peaked at the wrong time.. Bollocks.

    If however we proved that we had cricketers who could have given the convicts a bloody good fight had the ECB and selectors sobered up then it would mean something.

    So ring the changes I say. I’d even give Jimmy a rest given the number of overs he bowled at the G. Missing one test won’t kill him though having to bowl another 60 overs might.

    Fringe players, young hopefuls call em what you will. George Garton might really be 11th choice seamer or lower for England but if Tony Pigott can be in the right place at the right time then then so can he. Play the bugger and offer a reward for every convict he hits ( these tyros can get away with the odd beamer!) for some wholesome entertainment. Except Jackson Bird of course, he’s crap.

    Foakes would be a good choice too. I don’t see the point in playing Vince or Ali though the latter is still a quality player who should feature heavily in the future. If Mark Wood is fit enough to play then get him in there.

    Our bowling attack has been woefully ineffective though not for want of trying. They’ve done the hard yards, tried everything and returned 51 wickets in 4 tests. I blame them not one jot and even Jimmy was rueing the lack of a 90+ bowler the other day. We should never have left our shores without several, all of them helpfully fresh after being wrapped in cotton wool in anticipation.

    I agree about Curran though. He’s skillful and rather good but needs several yards of pace to be test class. He kept the convicts out of rhythm rather nicely but I have a preference for test match bowlers to look as though they’re going to take wickets, even on that pitch. He bowled really well but his bouncer was borderline embarrassing.

    So Woakes, Broad, Ali , Curran and Vince out, possibly Jimmy too as long as he doesn’t complain too much. Crane, Foakes, Ballance, Wood, Garton in. Maybe even Parkinson with his odd technique. Wrist spin from both ends in an England test match? I might spontaneously combust in the joy of it.

    Sometimes the B side is better than the A in the right surroundings, provided you bother listening to it at all.

    • I am all for some new faces but Garton? He was carted all over Brisbane by a Queensland 3rd XI in his last game (0-86 off 10 overs) and even Sussex seem to see him as more of a white ball bowler at present. Even Bayliss, when questioned in November, couldn’t come up with a better explanation for his Lions selection than ‘he’s fit’.

      • Yeah, you aren’t wrong. He’s there as a net bowler to simulate Starc effectively.

        Sussex do have rather an embarrassment of riches in the pace department of course. Hell if you called them Loughborough instead it might all make some sense ( 20 Elite fast bowlers – 78mph!). Jordan, Mills, Archer etc.

        He probably isn’t ready but he is quick..

        And personally I’d like to see some convicts smelling leather. That’s about the size of it! :)

  • Forgive me if I’m being thick, but how are we (the public) supposed to, err…, identify with a team if there is no geographical link to these T20 franchises?

      • I am sure that the ECB were advised at great expense by some very high profile strategy and marketing consultants. This is why, when I was a director, I always advocated a very high training and hospitality budget for the marketing department. They could do less damage whilst drinking and playing than when they were playing at business.

  • Today Worcs CCC announced the appointment of its new CEO, Matt Rawnsley. That’s the most important piece of cricket news and one I thoroughly approve of.
    As to the Test, I’m not bothered although I accept that travelling England fans want to see something good. That surely rules out Ballance playing. Mo arguably deserves to be dropped although I’d play him ahead of Curran, whose bro has more talent in my book. As for Harrigraves, I hope for a sink hole to swallow ’em.

    • Wish Rawnsley the best. I once took a catch off his bowling! He’s got more business experience than Vikram so it’s a fair enough decision.

  • Tom Curran’s younger brother Sam looks a much better prospect – a left-armer for contrast, and a potentially better batsman.

    • I watched Sam smash some Kiwi trundlers to all parts in a Super Smash game a week or 2 back – Auckland were dead & buried when he teed off, and they ultimately snatched a last gasp victory after a couple of other lower order players chimed in (one of them managed 3 edged 4s through 1st slip in the last over)

      His bowling’s definitely not test quality currently though.

  • Interesting post James and good to read in the Times that Test cricket is or at least might be on the calendar at the same time as the second t20 competition, on which one other point…in the same article it mentions all eight teams are going to be owned by the ECB. In other team sports common ownership in a competition is basically a no-no because of possible conflicts of interest (Abramovitch does not own all the teams in the FA Cup, neither does the FA etc); management at arms length might work out ok l suppose, but it does look odd and feel not right.

  • Glad to hear the 2020 is in trouble but I’m expecting it to still happen as the ECb can’t be seen to fail.

    As stated before.. sack off the one day competition and play 2020 every Friday/Saturday evenings and county red ball games Monday to Thursdays (Have this available via the ecb website feeds ).. 2020 sold to bt/sky

  • Oh, as for the last test.. dead rubber so meh.

    Ballance isn’t a viable option, neither really is crane (aus will target him and as he’s a Leggie will mostly get tonked )..another Kerrigan .. could end him before he’s started

    Just let the same team play, they are the ones who have embarrassed us yet again and so they should put the effort in to play.. once done the clear out starts..

    Player clear out.. yeah none really as there aren’t any viable options to replace them as our county game is so weak

  • Cook’s 244 did matter, as it prevented another possible whitewash. All Ashes tests matter.
    Now who would have thought anything dreamed up by Strauss & Harrison, would be anything other than a complete shambles?

  • If you track back through the decades of English opening bowling you find very few 90mph bowlers. Most of the fixtures in our side, from Old, Hendrick and Lever, through Fraser, Foster & De Freitas (not forgetting that there was a time when we opened with one D Pringle esq) to Caddick, Cork & Lewis. All before the advent of Anderson, Broad and Woakes. Not all these failed in Oz. Certainly, Dilley, Wllis, Gough and Harmison had their moments, but so did others, bowling at around 80mph. Even before then a certain Alec Bedser had reeked some havoc.
    I know stats are misleading unless put into context, but a yard or two of extra pace guarantees nothing. It is amazing to me that today’s bowlers, who spend a lot of time bowling in limited over cricket, where constantly varying pace and length has become something of an art form, cannot seem to transfer these skills more effectively to the test arena.

      • Just pointing pointing out how rare the half decent ones are. One a decade maybe.
        Dilley didn’t last long, Willis and Harrison continued to be picked despite tonkings and fitness issues, because there was no one else. Only Gough, who was not express, seemed to have enough to be effective the world over, and this was largely down to his indomitable spirit. Positive body language is key here and Goughie gave this out in spades. Anderson and Broad can often appear sullen and frustrated quite quickly and this is easily picked up on by batsmen.

        • Of course, last time we took Rankin – a genuine 90+ bowler who rather proved that it can be better to pick slower bowlers.

          • Was Rankin really genuinely quick? I don’t recall that. Tall, yes. Quick?

            Anyway, he wasn’t remotely fit last time.

          • We won’t produce as much pace as Aus/Sa will but we should be able to produce more than we do.

            That is down to the ecb and the counties.

            The same as the lack of quality in batting is down to the ecb and counties

    • Changing pace etc isn’t effective in test cricket compared to one day. The simple reason is it isn’t skill that defeats batsmen in white ball, it’s the fact the format forces batters to have to hit it .. amd so, variations become useful because you’re trying to force a miss hit..

      In tests, the batter just sits in and waits for your bad ball.. boom.. 4.

      Hence why Rashid for example is crap in tests.. bowls a Jaffa, few good balls then a 4balls.. good bats just sit and wait and milk him .

      Job done

      Another reason players like dernbach are pants at red ball..

      • When you’re set in a test innings you’re expected to pick up the pace and dominate the bowling. I haven’t seen a single bowler try variations in test matches that they would in 20-20. When was the last time a quickie bowled a back of the hander or try a 7-2 field bowling wide of the stumps to frustrate. Tactically it has to an option, rather than waiting for a mistake. Give the batsman something else to think about. No set batsman likes being frustrated, even Smith.
        Batsmen these days do not sit and wait, they go after the ball, even in test matches. Hence the problems every test side has finding players to bat all day. The Baileys and Boycotts don’t exist any more. Even Cook is something of an anachronism.

        • ” The Baileys and Boycotts don’t exist any more. Even Cook is something of an anachronism”.

          Virtually every team has a grinding opener who doesn’t play white-ball cricket currently (India have Vijay, SA have Elgar, SL have Karunaratne, WI have Brathwaite etc). Renshaw and now Bancroft are hardly dashers for Australia.

          • There’s a big differerence between a grinder and an effective grinder. It’s rare to get any batsman batting 6 hours. if they do it’s news.
            How many times has Elgar, probably the best of those you mentioned, done it? Not many.
            How many times has any present Sub continent batsman done it away from their comfort zone pitches? Indeed we are still favourites with the bookies to beat India next summer, an indication this doesn’t happen often over here.
            Apart from Smith has any present Aussie done it?
            As for modern day West Indians, their whole team batting all day is an achievement.

  • When England fail we are told we need to turn to youth. This mindless ageism lets the coach off the hook and cuts out a whole swathe of county players from consideration. Let’s stop trying to run the team with ideology. No one size fits all. There is no cut off age for players. Consider the past – did they worry about that? Cook may or may not have the stroke play on pitches friendly to bowlers in the future. He is finding it increasingly difficult to score in testing conditions. This is nothing to do with his age – he’s not that old. His mentor Gooch reinvented himself and played until he was 40.

    Let’s return to building Test players from class players instead of the latest one day wonder.

    As for the franchise T20. It’s an ugly hybrid built entirely from the aim of making money. A gamble by business men. It should never have been supported and counties were bullied and bribed.

  • I can’t believe England took Ballance to Australia just because Root like sharing a room with him.

    Cassis really fucks a nice glass of fizz, doesn’t it? Bet it kicked off almost as much as if someone had said “I quite like the sound of this City franchise thing”…

    • Maybe they took Ballance because he was the top Englishman in the D1 batting averages in 2017?

      • If that’s the case, I wish they’d have applied the same logic a year of so to Jack Leach when picking a spinner. I genuinely don’t believe it’s the case though. Ballance made some decent runs in May then demonstrated that he’d done absolutely nothing to address the technical flaws that make him easy pickings for International bowlers when he turned out for England. Then he got injured and didn’t score many runs for Yorks after he came back. The selectors normally hate that sort of “can’t be arsed to work hard and improve” attitude, and in spite of England’s batting being a flaky as a day-old vol-au-vent their top reserve batsman had never been mentioned for selection. They know full well, and always have done, that his technique will be horribly exposed by Aussie bowlers on Aussie pitches, so there has to be another explanation for his presence in the squad. The only one I can think of is because Root likes having him around.

        • I’m not saying that they were right to pick Ballance or that I’d have selected him – what I’m saying is that there was more to his election than being Root’s mate. He averaged 67 in D1 – only Cook (in many fewer games) and Stoneman (just) averaged over 50 of English-qualified batsmen. I wouldn’t be against them bringing in, say, Dan Lawrence for the NZ leg of the tour to replace Ballance. I have been against the way the media have been reporting that Vince and Stoneman need runs at the SCG or they may be dropped for NZ as well – it seems more briefing against players who’ve put in some hard yards but aren’t part of the charmed inner circle.

          I’d have selected Leach ahead of Crane – but I’d have selected Rashid ahead of both of them. I wonder if Leach’s non-selection was connected to concerns about his action being put under the microscope?

          • There was nothing wrong with Leach’s action. They didn’t select the highest wicket taking spinner and then needed an excuse. Especially after only Rashid took any in India.

  • Balance has been tried on at least 3 occasions. Not again please. Wood won’t last 5 days without breaking down. Moen can’t bowl or bat at the moment. Broad needs resting, probably Jimmy to. Woakes isn’t up to it at all and Vince will never be a test number 3. Oh dear, I’ve not left much have I?
    Some suggestions:
    I have watched the Curran’s at Surrey for 3 seasons and Sam Curran is the better of the two. Can bat at 7 and is a fast/medium left armer, which may not set the world alight but offers much needed variety. No point in worrying if Crane will get hammered, only one way to find out, and he is in the squad. Leach is by far the best spinner though.
    Rory Burns is as good a county opener as anyone. Foakes is the best wicket/batsman on the county circuit and could replace Bairstow, who should be at 5. Haven’t seen Garton but if he’s quick get him in.
    Just some personal thoughts, but it will be criminal not to try some new blood now the series has been lost so dramatically.

    • I will skip over Woakes and the odd coaches bowling plans as we will never agree. However I have to take issue on one point. Foakes is the second best keeper/bat on the circuit. The best (by a country mile) is Stephen Davies – but I agree that ship has sailed (for whatever reason) and since Foakes is out there I would certainly try him.
      Since you are obviously a Surrey man perhaps you could shed some light on what the hell was going on when Davies was at Surrey? I also live and play in Surrey, and get to The Oval as often as I can, but despite knowing people from some of the leading clubs like Guildford and Normandy I have never heard a good explanation for what happened to Davies at The Oval. I remember seeing Davies keep at Worcester and thinking he was the best I had seen since Bob Taylor. What a waste -especially given a FC batting average in the 40s.

      • Davies gave up wicket keeper, then decided he would only accept a new contract for Surrey if he could get it back again. That was never going to happen because Foakes had proved himself to be a superb keeper certainly better than Davies. In fact the Hampshire keeper, can’t remember his name, is almost as good. England prefer a batsman who keeps though in tests and not the other way round.

        • I saw Davies at Worcester and Foakes at Surrey. Davies was definitely the better gloveman. I am not criticising Foakes, he is very good and I would like to see him tried in the team – but at Worcester Davies was a once in a generation keeper.

  • On Cook, it was a very, very fine innings. Of the highest class. In the context of the game, essential. In the context of the series, useful, to gain a little pride.

    But it doesn’t really suggest to me that Cook is going to be any good on a faster pitch. It doesn’t suggest to me the issues that have seen him consistently get going this year are addressed.

    Clearly, Cook is still one of the best 2 openers in England (Stoneman hasn’t done anything to suggest he should replace Cook, and Hameed had a /wretched/ season). But England need more from Cook than the occasional mammoth score. Particularly with no consistent number 3.

    I think he should drop to 3 and we should pick 2 new openers (maybe Stoneman is one of them). But whatever happens, Cook needs to make runs more frequently.

    • How many truly fast pitches are there left in the world? There are no guaranteed venues now.

      • It’s not just about super fast wickets as there aren’t any now. However, on a decent wicket and the real threat of short stuff at pace is where modern players fall down and cook also falls down sadly.

        Last test the wicket was dead but more telling was the lack of real threat.. meaning cook could front dog (like you see at amateur level) to most balls.., when you can do that you can look a world beater

        How many front dogging amateurs do you see plunder runs vs mediocrity but when faced with a nipping around ball and at genuine 80mph suddenly do badly..

        • There is truth in what you say, but – in Cook’s case – I think it is equally a case of his radar being less effective in the last 2-3 years. Earlier he seemed very reliable in leaving, now less so. And the great skill of grinders through the generations is that they drive quickies to distraction by not playing, off either front or back foot. I have heard it suggested that he opened his stance slightly and that may have affected his judgement – but I do not know if this is true.

      • faster. Not fast.

        My contention is we don’t know whether or not Cook, in current form, can make runs on any other sort of pitch other than one which is dead slow.

        This does not detract from an excellent innings. No one else on either side came close to matching it.

    • Been saying this for over a year (Cook to 3). He just looks so tired. I think not having to switch his mind to batting when the 8th opposition wicket falls could really help him. I’d also stick with Stoneman. Opening in Australia is a tough as it gets – it’ll feel a hell of a lot easier at home next summer as a result. He’s had a very similar series to the one Carberry had a few years ago. It would be typical of our selectors to ditch him as they did Carbs. Hameed is the obvious choice as a partner – he just looked like a Test opener. I’m confident he’ll have sorted out whatever problems he had last season and if he can make even a half-decent start to this season then he should be a shoo-in.

      • “He just looked like a Test opener”.

        I think they’re worried about how he’ll go against a quality pace attack on bouncier wickets (not that we get many of those these days). The number of hand injuries he’s had is telling you something.

      • Hammed was told to go away and ‘score quicker’.. by product of that is more loose shots and so he has been getting out more. Add that in to the fact he hasn’t been shown to not like short pitch bowling (county cricket has now many capable of 88+?.) and low hands (finger injures)and you have issues.

        Stoneman isn’t the answer BUT is there anyone better ??

        • If Stoneman isn’t the answer then there’s something wrong with the question.

          If anyone has questioned his technique then I haven’t heard it. If anyone questions his balls then they’re mad.

          His 52 before being chopped off at the Waca was the best I’ve seen in many a year.

  • I’d select Wood (why not?) and Crane (why not, again?)

    Wood I doubt will ever make it. But if he’s fit (he seems fit) he’s a million miles better than Curran.

    Crane may or may not be ‘it’, but even if he gets 1/150 in this match, it shouldn’t be held against him. Dizzy nails it in the Guardian. Crane is no Warne (I’m 95% certain of that) but if Warne started slow then so can Crane. (It further beggars belief that England haven’t stuck with Rashid through thick and thin since 2014 – he’d quite possibly be a match-winning spinner for England.)

    Batting is crap but Ballance won’t make it less crap.

    • Rubbish. Rashid is a one day bowler.. lots of variation but variation does t work at test level unless you can execute a plan to tie the batsmen down and force a bad shot.. with Rashid one bad ball an over going for 4hes just too easy to milk

      • Agree Rashid bowls too short and leaks runs. Saw Sangakarra smash him all over Headingley in June. Not pretty.

      • I humbly suggest he’d have developed a better test game if he’d played more tests. As it is, we are stuck with Ali as our front line spinner and he was never going to be good enough.

        Bettcha Crane bowls a lot of 4 balls.

        • Most leggies bowl a fair few four balls. Shane Warne being the one major exception, who’s cursed all who follow him by comparison

          • Hmm… Most leggies are quicker than Warne and the faster you bowl it the more difficult it is to control. You don’t expect lots of full bungers from a slow leggie, though you don’t necessarily get many threatening balls either and they can’t vary their pace much.

            Tiger O’Reilly bowled at medium pace and Barnes fast medium.

            Personally with fast bowlers and leggies I rate them by their best ball, not the wides, no balls, full bungers and half trackers that Garner couldn’t hit.

            • Barnes, of course, had the advantage of only bowling leggies. When asked why he did not bowl googlies or toppies he just commented ‘I don’t need them’. I love a bowler with attitude.

      • But bowlers – particularly spinners – develop. It is a huge indictment of England’s management that they failed to develop Rashid. The ability to impart big spin is innate; the rest can be learned – and it’s not as though we are so embarrassed with talent that we can neglect a genuine spinner in this manner.
        And look at the alternatives they have messed around with over the last few years…

      • After 8 Tests Warne averaged 50.

        After 10 Tests Stuart Broad averaged 45.

        After 10 Tests Andrew Flintoff averaged 66.

        After 10 Tests, Phil Tuffnell averaged 29.

        10 Tests means zip.

    • Woakes, Wood & Overton are not fit to play, so by default (since Jake Ball’s stocks seem to have sunk) England are going in with Anderson, Broad, Curran, Crane & Ali. And the first 2 bowled a lot of overs in Melbourne.

      • The Australians have been quoted as saying that the pitch has quite a bit of grass and they won’t be playing a second spinner.

        England seem still obsessed with playing Crane because the SCG turned thirty years ago and it was planned to play him here from since the start of the tour. Nobody seems to have noticed the absolute pasting Yasir Shah took at the SCG last year.

      • It’s a bit odd.

        Ball’s stock does seem to have sunk though he looked a lot better than Curran to me.

        Only got the old ball and seemed to be told to pitch it short constantly. I say seeemd as he didn’t seem that sort of a bowler.

  • Seems that it’s just going to be Crane for Woakes, with Broad and Anderson told they might have to bowl a lot of overs.

  • It’s 41 days since the first day of international cricket on this tour – and there are still 90 to go until the last!

  • Given the injuries and Moeen’s dreadful form, I’d have picked Cook, Stoneman, Vince, Root, Malan, Bairstow, Foakes, Curran, Broad, Crane and Anderson for the final test match. Foakes could keep wicket, Bairstow focus on his batting, plus he is a good fielder anyway. I really think Moeen needs a break, he’s been leaking about 5 runs an over, not taking wickets and failing with the bat. I wish Crane well and hope it is the start of a successful England career. Root and Malan can also do a few overs too, they have bowled better than Moeen.
    Nigel, I think,was making a point earlier about Rashid not having improved under England’s coaching team. This makes me think of Steve Finn, too, who had a promising start to his test career and then seemed to go backwards. Finn was genuinely quite quick and although not the most economical, did take plenty of wickets to begin with. Did the England bowling staff bring the best out of Panesar in the past ? Why do they seem reluctant to give Leach a try, given that he has taken plenty of wickets over the last two seasons ? Or is it that some players get too comfortable once they have won a central contract and don’t work on their game enough ?
    Let’s hope England can at least put up some fight at Sydney, we need another Cook marathon and it’s time Root got a big 100 too. I fear the bowlers will struggle again.
    Happy New Year to all on here.

    • Apparently Rashid didn’t achieve his potential, which in ECB speak means he didn’t do what his coaches told him.

      Ali on the other hand has reached his potential, with a strong base, repeatable action and….. bugger all wickets.

      • Never thought I’d say it but IF England win this everything will be swept under the carpet and nothing will change. Maybe it won’t anyway knowing the old boy network that operates at this level.

        • That’s the trouble and why I’d rather see as many changes as possible.

          We ended the series well, showed we can compete, if only if only…

          They never stood a chance and that isn’t the players fault.

          • If only what?

            Of course it’s the players’ fault.

            What did Cook, Root, Ali and Broad do when the series was there to be won?

  • Three balls in and I think we made the wrong decision…

    Jimmy would have swung it round corners…


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