Imagine this. You’re an England bowler. You’ve bowled a massive 82 overs in the space of ten days. You’ve taken just two wickets at a cost of 105 runs each, your captain has questioned your effort in public, and you’re part of an attack with the worst collective series strike-rate in the history of the England team.
And then this happens off your bowling – click here. Was it the biggest dolly of all time? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Although I have great sympathy for the bowler, I also feel incredibly sorry for the culprit, Joe Denly. It was one of those moments when the ground swallowing you up just doesn’t cut it. I would’ve run straight off the field, packed my bags, made a dash for the airport, burned my cricket kit, changed my identity, and never left the house again.
What’s worse, Denly is normally a fine fielder. In fact, he’s bloody brilliant. He’s taken several stunning catches in the past, including the one that dismissed Tim Paine in the Ashes, plus this brilliant effort below …
It would be such a shame if poor Joe is remembered for this one aberration at Hamilton in a bore draw. Let’s just hope he has a sense of humour, shrugs it off, and this embarrassing moment doesn’t affect his confidence.
Speaking of bore draws, it’s pretty hard to get a draw that was more boring than this one. England never looked liked forcing an unlikely win on day 5 – although there might have been a few jitters in the home dressing room had Pope caught a routine catch down the leg-side early on.
I really despair for Test cricket sometimes. It’s by far the best form of the game overall, but when it’s played on dud surfaces, and the Kookaburra balls offers precisely no seam movement or swing (either conventional or reverse), then the cricket is as dull as dinner in Doncaster with Phillip Hammond.
At least, however, a surface so bereft of life gave Root a chance to score some runs, Pope a chance to acclimatise to Test cricket with the bat, and Rory Burns a chance to boost his average. Our batting options do look a little more promising now.
It has been a chastening tour for the bowlers though. The decision to play 5 seamers at Hamilton was absolutely absurd and we’ve learned nothing whatsoever. All this tour has revealed is something we already knew – that conventional English medium-fast bowlers struggle to take wickets overseas on flat pitches.
At the very least Saqib Mahmood should’ve been given an opportunity to play the final test instead of Chris Woakes (who is very much a known quantity at this point in his career) or indeed Sam Curran. What’s more, we’ve wasted a great opportunity to learn more about Jack Leach and Matt Parkinson.
I’ve been quite disturbed by the negative comments about Leach in particular. So many people on social media have written him off on the back of one bad game at Mount Maunganui. Even Rob Key was doubting his credentials on Sky’s The Debate programme this morning. This really surprised me.
I apologise for going on about this but Leach has taken 34 wickets at 29 apiece in his short Test career to date. And this includes 12 wickets at 26 in the Ashes when he out-bowled Nathan Lyon (who took his wickets at 33). Therefore all those people who put his success down to bunsen burners in Sri Lanka simply don’t know what they’re talking about.
I find it even more disturbing when people start advocating a recall for Moeen Ali who averages 37 (with the ball) in test cricket and a subpar economy rate of 3.6. Leach’s economy rate is 2.8 which demonstrates his ability to keep things tight as well as pick up wickets.
We know exactly what Moeen is at this stage. He’s a very handy but erratic bowler who has endured multiple barren spells in his 60 Test matches. This is a big enough sample size to make a judgement.
Leach, on the other hand, has made a very promising start to his career and has only played ten games. Dropping him now, after one bad game, whereas Moeen has suffered several bad stretches of multiple games, makes no sense. This is nothing personal against Mo, as I’m Worcestershire man and I love the guy to death, but he’s never been consistent enough in my opinion.
It’s interesting that some people want to move on from Dom Sibley too. Again I find this strangely impatient and draconian. He’s only played 3 innings. Give the poor bloke a chance. England have persevered with Joe Denly, whose first Test scores were 6, 17, 20, 69, 23, 10, 18, 11, 30, 26, and now they’re reaping the rewards.
It can take time to adapt to Test cricket so Sibley should be given an extended run. If it doesn’t work out then England can either give Crawley a go or possibly think about moving Denly back up to open. But to get rid of Sibley now would be as absurd as dropping Leach for Moeen.
Unfortunately, however, we live in a world where the preposterous and the surreal coexist quite happily in English cricket; therefore absolutely nothing would surprise me. Over to you General Melchett, I mean Ed Smith.