England Bounce Back

Here’s Cam with his gut reaction to day 5 and his feelings about the Test match in general. Many thanks to Cam for filling in for James today …

I’ll be honest. This is my first one of these. And as I sit at my kitchen table, scratching my head for the searing insight I’ve been entrusted to deliver, I’m coming up short.

England won, yes. But in reality, what have we learnt from this Test match that we didn’t know before? Ben Stokes, who is very good at cricket, was very good at cricket. Dom Bess, who is handy with the bat and bowls okay offies, was handy with the bat and bowled okay offies. Sam Curran made things happen, Stuart Broad bowled one of those spells, Chris Woakes was excellent in home conditions and Jofra Archer risked the whole of humanity by breaking the biosecure bubble to (allegedly) go and see his girlfriend for an hour. Thus proving that there really is no bounds to a man’s stupidity when it comes to sex. And we knew that as well.

As I flicked through the channels to check I wasn’t watching some rerun of a previous match, I racked my brains for what was different this time. What lasting impressions have I taken from this match that I can write about here?

The answer was, for me at least, Dominic Sibley. Sibley batted brilliantly in an innings that was constructed with an air of permanency that feels as if it will last far beyond this Test match.

It was, of course, completely and utterly horrific to watch. And I admit, I am one of those fans who wants it all and sees style and substance as equally powerful selection criteria. However, just as when Mum used to offer up fruit for pudding or a teaspoon of cod liver oil in the morning, I’m gritting my teeth, and accepting that whilst I might not like it, it is good for me.

Annoyingly, Sibley actually lost 12kg before this series started otherwise this joke of calling him the essential fatty acid of the England batting line-up would’ve worked far better. But anyway, with our Omega 3 now perched at No.2 in the order the good news is that we can enjoy the rest of our England team far more. Our weekend treats of Root, Stokes and Pope are far better protected, and who knows, maybe even an increase of solid platforms will see Buttler finally fulfill that potential we all know he has. Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But I did already say I’m a man of style as much as substance so I’m happy to continue picking Jos forever.

For that reason, it naturally frustrates me that Sibley is in all likelihood the answer to England’s long standing issue with openers and by that measure I’ll now be forced to watch him for years to come. But I also respect him hugely for the way he goes about his game and the method he’s crafted for himself. Sibley has taken what can be an incredibly complicated art in batting, and simplified it to the nth degree. By recognising the intense difficulties involved with batting time, he has created a method that effectively makes the game, if not an easy one, then an inherently simple one. If the ball’s on the stumps, hit it. If it’s not, don’t. Ultimately, whilst Alastair Cook made a career out of playing two shots, Sibley only has one.

Sibley is playing checkers when everyone else is trying to play chess. And he’s winning at it.

Cameron Ponsonby


  • It was an excellent test match, and a fine effort by England to force a win in the face of some serious intervention by the weather. It would be even better if England could produce this type of performance without having first suffered a metaphorical kick up the backside (the Southampton defeat). I will be producing my own post about this match later today.

  • Chris Tavare made a test career as an opener out of playing no shots at all, so let’s not be too harsh on Sibley. Considering England’s top order in 2019, he’s frankly little short of a miracle.

    • Tavare only opened in 18 Tests. He managed just one century and averaged only slightly over 30. He was probably only selected because a number of openers were banned after going to SA (Gooch would certainly have been selected – Boycott, Woolmer and Amiss were also banned although each was past their best).

      I’m not sure one can draw many conclusions about Test opening from Tavare.

      • Tavaré was a very good county 3. He might have been a good Test one two had he not been forced to open when Boycott was sent home from India on health grounds (it was good enough for golf but not for cricket). He never looked happy opening, even so he was very unlucky to be dropped when facing one of those fearsome WI attacks he ‘only’ second top scored with 42, more than Boycott, Gower and Botham combined.
        I agree. No comparison with Sibley.

  • The batting line up seems pretty much set now and I can’t imagine any top 6 changes for the next match. Questions remain on the keeper and which four bowlers to use. Broad has to stay after his performance but all the other positions from 7 to 11 are debatable.

  • Interesting divergence of opinion between Scyld Berry and Geoffrey Boycott in today’s DT about Stuart Broad:

    Buttler’s recent test performances far from impressive and confirm a downward trend:
    Foakes the better ‘keeper – deserves a chance.
    Curran to make way for Archer, Leach in for Bess, Anderson in for Woakes.

  • Interesting divergence of opinion between Scyld Berry and Geoffrey Boycott in today’s DT about Stuart Broad:

    Buttler’s recent test performances far from impressive and confirm a downward trend:
    The above link may not work.
    Foakes the better ‘keeper – deserves a chance.
    Curran to make way for Archer, Leach in for Bess, Anderson in for Woakes.

  • I cannot take an England Test team containing Buttler at all seriously.
    Brook is OK in my book. Please can ‘Wardy’ be banished.

  • Sibley is playing checkers when everyone else is trying to play chess. That is a beautiful line. Well played sir.

  • With only 3 days between each test we have been cuter in both selection and bowler workload than the Windies. They look a tired unit already so with recovery time limited a morale low, they’re there for the taking. I expect Anderson and Archer to return fresh for the next test with Curran and Woakes making way. Now would be an ideal time to give Foakes a game, but I expect Buttler will be selected.
    Woakes bowled OK, Curran bowled like he usually does, without much of anything. I’ve never come across another cricketer who when he does his job, which as a bowler is taking wickets, as he’s never going to restrict runs at this level at his pace, it’s called ‘making something g happen’.
    How many bloggers still feel Holder is in the same class as an all rounder as Stokes. Would Holder have run back to field that boundary hit off his own bowling, even though no runs were saved, indeed would Botham or Flintoff? Stokes is a one man army. I’ve never seen his like as a cricketing machine and I saw Sobers play. His never say die attitude and commitment to the cause is on a different level. With Botham and Flintoff you felt it was personal, with Stokes it’s the team. If he can stay fit he’s going to up his stats to a level that will better reflect his unique ability.
    I know this sounds like an advert for the bloke but we need to appreciate him whilst he’s about and not run him down because of his previous off field antics, which I never justified at the time.

    • That is an excellent post re Stokes and sums up my own view. We can debate the merits of Botham/Flintoff/Stokes until the cows come home, but I’ve never seen anyone run to the boundary in the manner that Stokes did…and dive headlong! An amazing cricketer…and, as you say, it’s about the team.

    • I get a bit of a sense of Viv Richards too in Stokes’s ability in this kind of form to mould a match situation to his will. I think the attitude to fitness (and team) is one reason why he has a very good chance of ending up better than Botham.

      As for Flintoff, I can’t believe we’re still talking about him being in the same ballpark as either Botham or Stokes, let alone the same pitch.

      • Unlike Botham, Stokes’ bowling is improving with age. Botham’s deteriorated as he got fatter and had back problems. The difference between Stokes’ batting and bowling averages is already significantly greater than Botham’s – and it’s rising.

  • Stokes was out of this world – two excellent (and contrasting) innings, two wholehearted and lengthy bowlung spells which both got important breakthroughs when nothing else was happening, and dynamic in the field as ever. We just have to make sure he gets some rest and don’t flog him to death like Freddie did (to himself).

    Archer has had the massive kick up the arse he deserved, but now it’s right to recall him. Bess bowled ok but Leach would be the better spinner given that the Windies only have one leftie in their batting line up.

    • Ahhh, Ben Stokes… taking a Morris Traveller to 150, then dusting off the F1 for a screaming 78*. I just love the bloke!

  • Stokes is in the form of his life and is arguably a better batsman than Joe Root on current form. He often breaks partnerships and is also the best slip catcher in the team. He is wholehearted in all that he does, and is averaging about 55 in the last 12 months or so. The powers that be must look after him, he’s England’s number one asset at the moment.

    I’m not sure I would change anything for the final match on Friday. Not sure if Archer deserves to walk straight back into the team. I’ve yet to be convinced by him. Not sure what I would do with Anderson, possibly bring him in instead of Curran. I hope Sibley’s form continues and that we can see more of a contribution from Crawley and Pope.

  • Not sure there’s much “arguably” there–it would be a brave person who argued that Root has been better than Stokes in the last couple of years…:-) Since the start of the 2017 Ashes, Stokes is averaging about four runs more, and since the World Cup he’s averaging twenty runs more. If you take away Root’s one hundred in the last year, he’s not averaging much more than 30.

  • Stokes has well overtaken Root who’s batting has frankly taken a dive. England wouldn’t have won this without Stokes and Sibley. And the line up meant they batted to no. 10 rather than 3 no. 11’s as in the first test.
    The thing with the bowling is that England did say they were going to rotate despite Broad throwing a wobbly, because they seem more interested in the Ashes in 18 months where most players and supporters would agree that you play your best available for the game in hand. Personally I’d stick with Woakes, Jimmy looked decisively ordinary and I’d be amazed if even this England set up would pick him for Australia, not far short of 40 by then. I know many will scream, but maybe, just maybe, it’s time to go. In saying that he’ll probably take 5 wickets, but really he doesn’t have anything to prove does he, and the worse thing would be seeing a great player go on to long. Bess is a lower order bat who bowls a bit for me, and did nothing much on a 5th Day Old Trafford pitch. Leach yes if fit, but really if you don’t have a top class spinner why play one for the sake of it? Root can turn his arm over if necessary, and Sibley used to bowl useful leg spin for Surrey.

    • Stokes looked at home with the captaincy. Root never has. I would give serious consideration to making Stokes Captain; batting Root only at 4 and bowling him more.

  • If he’s to continue and maintain this form he must retire from white ball. Root, archer, wood, Woakes too

    Buttler should retire to white ball , same with Bairstow and moeeen

  • The CC fixtures are due to be published tomorrow (having already been delayed once) with at least three counties having unresolved issues with their venue: Hampshire have lost their home ground to the ECCB [sic] for the whole summer; Derbyshire have lost their’s to England’s women; Leicestershire’s is inside the lockdown zone there.

    BTW the government’s refusal to allow crowds in August is a small disaster for the counties who will be denied NWB crowd revenue as a consequence.

    • I’m not sure I quite understand the comment about crowds, given that the government has allowed the ECB to conduct trials with crowds in late July. Why would not letting in crowds in August impact revenue from a competition being played almost entirely in September?

      The problem with home grounds (where are Hampshire playing their home matches, by the way?) is one unforeseen example of relying quite so exclusively on the county ground to the exclusion of outgrounds. If Lancs can play at Aigburth, then (at least till relatively recently) Hants would have been able to play at Basingstoke, Derbys at Chesterfield and so on. Even so, I’m surprised that all the wonderful facilities the ECB have been using at Loughborough don’t seem to include a ground good enough for a few f-c games.

  • Boris has said that depending on how the trials go spectators “may” be let into sports grounds in October. Basically too late for any County Cricket I’m afraid. Have to stay getting legless in the pub, if that’s your thing! No face mask required by the way, but you’ll need one for your takeaway curry after from tomorrow.

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