England to Hit Australia With Pace

Yesterday England named a 14 man training squad for a pre-Ashes trip to Spain. Apparently sun, sandy beaches and sangria are just the tonic when it comes to preparing for major test series.

I’m just kidding of course. I imagine the camp will be rather labour intensive, with the odd bit of team building thrown in. It’s a good opportunity for Trevor Bayliss to get to know his new charges. What a shame he’s only meeting them now, on the eve of a massive series.

If only the ECB had appointed Bayliss last year rather than letting politics interfere with the process. After watching our encouraging displays in the ODIs against New Zealand, the Peter Moores experiment looks dafter by the minute.

Anyway, I digress. The main point of this post is to briefly discuss the 14 names in the training squad. The selectors have chosen the same eleven that lost badly at Leeds, plus Steve Finn, Liam Plunkett and Mark Footitt.

The main talking point is the absence of Adil Rashid. I have to say I find this curious in the extreme. The squad includes seven (yes, seven) pace bowlers – Anderson, Broad, Wood, Stokes, Finn, Plunkett and Footitt – but just the one spinner in Moeen Ali. A 7:1 ratio is clearly the wrong balance, and I’m surprised England have got this so wrong.

I think we can conclude from this squad that England intend to hit the Australians with pace. It’s just unfortunate that our pacemen aren’t as good as theirs. It’s therefore rather a curious strategy.

Nathan Lyon is a decent spinner, and I expect him to bowl well, but I’d have thought that a battle of the spinners would have been a more even contest. Then again, Australia’s batsmen tend to play spin better than ours – and they can be quite brutal sometimes – so perhaps England are damned whatever strategy they pursue. We’ll just have to wait and see.

As for the three additional pacemen joining the squad, I’m largely in favour of Plunkett. I like his aggression, although I sense he’ll never quite be the consistent bowler we’d all like him to be.

I’m not so sure about Finn however. He bowled well in the last ODI but his action still looks unnatural to me, and he clearly isn’t the bowler he once was. I have to admit that I’ve rather given up on Finn lately. It’s a shame, as I always used to rate him highly, but watching him is just too frustrating: he’s clearly lost a yard of pace (if not two yards) and I think he looks mentally fragile too. I find it all very sad.

The selection of Footitt is a more positive move. He’s the quickest left armer in the country and obviously deserves his call up. He’s taken an astonishing number of wickets in division two, at a ridiculously low average, and he has a number of vociferous supporters – not least Derbyshire coach Graeme Welch, who says he’s “run out of breath‘ trying to convince the selectors to pick him.

Whereas England have rather comically turned to every left armer under the sun in recent times, whether they deserved a call up or not, it’s reassuring to discover that they’ve finally given the most deserving candidate a shot.

Talking of left-armers, the promising (but still very young and not particularly quick) Reece Topley was drafted into the ODI squad yesterday too. I imagine Alan Mullally, Mike Smith and Mark Illott fancy their chances of a call-up too.

Monty Panesar, if you’re reading this, I suggest you lengthen your run up by fifteen yards. There’s hope of a recall yet mate.

James Morgan




  • “I think we can only conclude from this squad, that England intend to hit the Australians with pace.”

    Surely it will still be three front-line quicks, plus Stokes plus Moeen?

    • Stokes was our quickest bowler in the windies, and is consistently 85mph plus. I’ve counted him as a quick.

      • My point is that nothing has changed since the series against NZ. Three quicks, Mooen and Stokes. This squad doesn’t indicate any departure from that.

        You say ‘England will hit Australia with pace’ but it’ll still be three quicks, a spinner and an all-rounder. Same same.

        It would be different if they dumped Moeen or Stokes and picked four frontline quicks. But that’s unlikely. Right?

        • At the risk of entering the pedant zone, yes it’s the same strategy as NZ. But the fact we’ve just picked Plunkett and Footitt, who are possibly the quickest bowlers on the county circuit, while ignoring Rashid entirely, suggests the strategy is very much focused on trying to get wickets with pace and pace alone. I doubt Moeen will even bowl much to be honest.

          • “But the fact we’ve just picked Plunkett and Footitt, who are possibly the quickest bowlers on the county circuit, while ignoring Rashid entirely, suggests the strategy is very much focused on trying to get wickets with pace and pace alone.”

            Equally, it might suggest they flat out do not rate Rashid as a Test bowler?

  • Agree, utterly bizarre that Rashid isn’t in the frame, even as a back-up spinner in case of injury. You can’t help but think that Cook’s lack of ability at managing spinners is something to do with it

  • Please can someone explain to me why Rashid is even being mentioned?

    Picture the scene, Eng won the toss, bat first, score 350odd. In reply Aus are 140-2 with Warner (45no) and Clarke (10no) at the crease when Cook turns to Rashid.

    What ensues will be complete and utter carnage that makes Watson assault on Kerrigan look gentle.

    There is a reason Rashid isn’t being picked. For a test match he isn’t a good enough bowler. In an ODI batsmen have to keep attacking, in a test match you don’t, that means that in an ODI an average leggie will take wickets but get destroyed in a test match.

    Given this – we will have to pick 4 quicks – with Stokes and Anderson nailed on, you are left with Plunkett and Broad fighting a spot and Wood, Footitt and Plunkett the other. All a bit messy really.

    One thing I am really enjoying in the ODI series is Joe Root batting at 3. Can he be persuaded to do the job for the test side? I think it is a good idea, but the few people I have mentioned it too think I am nuts to take him from 5.

    Yet the Australians haven’t been afraid to move Smith

    • “In reply Aus are 140-2 with Warner (45no) and Clarke (10no) at the crease”.

      You think we’ll get Steve Smith out quite cheaply!

    • I fear for Moeen Ali bowling against the Australians, never mind Rashid. Disaster in the making. Tredwell could be a better bet if push comes to shove. He has been around the block and has a steady head. Ali and Rashid could be irreparably damaged by any Aussie onslaught.

      I would leave Root exactly where he is and not think of burdening him with the captaincy too soon either. He is delightful. Just let him play on for now. ODI is a different game. Best not to forget that.

      Enjoyed your contribution as always :)

    • So, in an ODI Rashid is fine because he’ll get wickets due to being attacked, but in a Test…he’ll get destroyed by being attacked.
      Not sure about the logic there. Not that I necessarily think Rashid should be in the 11, but this appears to me to be a “Mike Selvey” argument, where the words written don’t really relate to the reasons the writer thinks the bowler should not be picked.

      • Hi Northernlight – I see your point – what I was attempting to say was that in Test cricket you don’t have to go after the occasional good ball that Rashid bowls, which in an ODI you will as you endeavour to force the pace, this by its very nature forces wickets.

        In Test cricket – you hit the bad balls (and Warner will hit them a very long way) and then the pressure of the test match – which is very different – will create more bad balls as Kerrigan found.

        I am not really sure I have articulated that particularly well. Personally I just don’t see Rashid as being the spin saviour to the Eng test team which so many people seem to do.

        In my imaginary “do I fancy batting against him” test then the answer is absolutely. And I am no David Warner.

        Simon H – Smith will get out early at some point, I hope!!

        • Precisely the same argument applies in county cricket – and his recent results show he’s quite capable of competing.

          Rashid is a better spinner than Moeen, and deserves a chance at test level.
          Amusingly, around 70% of those who completed a BBC poll agree with me.

        • Kerrigan was treated appallingly, I know I watched the carnage from the stands. It was a day 1 wicket in the first session of the match and he was given 5 or 6 overs. He was no Graham Swann to begin with, but that is not when to bowl a young spinner in a match. It was dreadful captaincy, the problem partly caused by the odd selection of 3 seamers and 2 spinners, Woakes (may have been on debut) didn’t bowl particularly well after Anderson and Broad had finished their opening spell, and Swann had a few, but it was still before lunch on the 1st day. I don’t think Kerrigan bowled again in that match, so they tried a spinner out on a first day wicket in the first session.

  • The change in England’s ODI attitude now that they’re free of the Pete and Dud show is remarkable. With “Pete” Cook back in the mix and the team facing the furnace of 5 tests against Australia (who, sadly, are still a measurably better test side than NZ, expecially in terms of depth of talent) the challenge will be to maintain that positivity

  • I think Rashid’s not been picked because he’s probably not good enough (itself not necessarily a barrier) but crucially he’s done/said something unpublicised on tour to upset the skipper. Personally, I think he’d get carted in the Test arena and wouldn’t get enough wickets with his occasional good balls to compensate. I fear the same will happen to Moeen this summer. Interestingly, in 2005, the one area where England didn’t attack was in the spin department. They picked someone in Giles who was the most reliable specialist spinner they could find. He could hold up an end enough to allow the pace quartet sufficient rest (and as it happened he became more and more of a wicket-taking threat himself as the series progressed…the ball that bowled Damian Martyn will live long in the memory). Similar thinking might help this summer. The bowler whose treatment puzzles me is James Tredwell. Everyone says he’s a good chap to have around (so no “personality issues”…), yet he’s played just 2 Tests, 5 years apart. In these, he’s taken 11 wickets at 29 – a good return for a spinner, especially at the start of his Test career. People say “he’s never going to bowl a side out on the last day” and perhaps that’s true, but does he need to? Graeme Swann rarely did either – he has a much better 1st innings record than 2nd. Giles took 143 wickets at 40 in his Test career, but his contribution was crucial in 2005. Could “Tredders” be worth another look?

    • Agree with you entirely except for the mention of Rashid upsetting Cook! It could have happened of course but the problem could be that Cook has never got over Kerrigan and consequently has a mental block against spin.

      • I was speculating of course. Just have a feeling there might be some personal stuff bubbling under the surface…

    • Fair point. I like Tredwell, although he bowls with quite a lot of flight so I expect he’d go for a few runs too. His test average is a little misleading because one of his two test caps was against Bangladesh in 2010. The other was the recent test versus the Windies.

      • Oh absolutely…just feel he did enough to avoid being discarded without mention! His economy was 2.5 too – if we could have a spinner who achieved under 3 this summer, that would be a great help I think.

        • Yes I agree he’s been somewhat mistreated. Harsh that he didn’t play a single game in the World Cup. He’s never let anyone down.

  • “Australia’s batsmen tend to play spin better than ours – and they can be quite brutal sometimes”.

    Well, Bishoo took 6/80 against them in the First Test of their WI tour. They also lost 2-0 against Pakistan last year with Zulfiqar Babar doing most of the damage and infamously lost 4-0 in India with the wickets mostly falling to Ashwin, Ojha and Jadeja. England haven’t faced Babar yet but have played all the others and did rather better against them.

    • Hmmm I disagree actually Simon and I’m going to stand by my remark. We lost 0-3 in the UAE, and Clarke and Smith (particularly the former) are top, top quality players of spin. I’d say Clarke is the best in the world. Point taken about our better result in India, but the Aussies were an absolute mess when they lost there. Different side now.

      • Agreed about Smith but isn’t Clarke’s special brilliance against spin a bit of a myth? He averages under 37 in Asia (in 20 Tests so it’s a decent sample size. Jacques Kallis, for example, averaged 55 in 25 Tests in Asia).

        England of course were awful in UAE but that was against Saeed Ajmal rather than Zulfiqar Babar.

      • That ‘different side,’ the one that smacked us 5-0 and won in South Africa, lost the two Tests in the UAE by margins of 356 and 221 runs, collapsing not to Ajmal and Rehman but, er, Babar and Shah (both good bowlers but not in the class of the former two). Smith aside, they’re uncertain against spin (Clarke’s a good player of spin but his reputation as a maestro against spin is misplaced – it’s built upon smacking off spinners around in Australia and his debut 100 in India). Basically, they’re as poor against spin as anyone, certainly on tracks that assist it: check Warner’s batting averages in Australia and South Africa, lands of pace and bounce, and his average everywhere else, in lands of slow low turn, for example. To exploit that weakness though you have to have the bowlers to do it, and frankly England don’t. If Panesar was selectable I reckon you could have played Moeen at 6 as the second spinner and hit them with that, but, well, he’s not. So I don’t think England are necessarily looking to hit them with pace so much as their strength lies in pace rather than spin, and Australia having better pace options than we do doesn’t change that.

        • Well, the relevant point is that the Aussies usually smash our spinners (Swann included at times) whereas we’re usually hesitant against theirs. We haven’t exactly played Lyon well. I stand by my comment :-)

  • I haven’t seen much of Footitt, but when I saw his selection I immediately assumed he’d be a net bowler, his profile seems to fit the bill. That said, if he knocks over the English batsmen in Spain he could become a wild card.

    I do like the look of Wood though, I think he’s difficult to knock out of the attack and if Stokes is able to threaten in short bursts then we can rotate the pace bowlers without relying on long spells from Moeen.

    • Agreed. Wood, Anderson and Stokes are absolute musts if you ask me. That means Footitt will be competing with Broad for a place. I imagine the selectors consider Broad to be an automatic pick, so it’s unlikely anybody else will get a gig unless there are injuries.

      • Absolutely. Broad has nearly 300 test wickets, a decent record vs the Aussies and took 13 wickets in 2 Tests vs NZ (and bowled pretty well, his pace was up a bit). He’s a cert for the first 2 Tests if fit.

        • It all depends on Broad’s fitness (and therefore his pace). If he’s 85mph plus and in rhythm then he’s a class act. He was easily our best bowler in the last ashes. But if he’s struggling and stiff, and barely 80-82 mph (like against SA in 2012), then he’s not dangerous at all and I would’ve have him in the side. We need to look after his body.

    • Footit, Finn and / or Plunkett probably will get a run at some stage as the odds of Wood staying fit for all five tests are about as long as the odds of England winning the Ashes.

      With this in mind, good to see the selectors taking Wood’s injury record into account and resting him from meaningless ODI and T20 series like they have with Anderson and Broad.

      Oh. #strausslogic

        • Yes, meaningless. Only thing I can see that is riding on this series is ranking points that count towards seeding at 2017 Champions Trophy.

          Given the cut off is imminent, and England are unlikely to overtake Sri Lanka for 5th place in current ranking table, how can anyone place more value on this series than the Ashes?

  • The pace attack is not our big problem, especially on home turf. Our big problem is spin.

    Moeen, Rashid, Tredwell… oh, those titans; those sorcerers; those deceptive, cunning, wily foxes who can scythe through even the best batting line-ups on pitches that don’t turn…

    It’s never going to happen, is it?

    Time for the selectors to stop picking bowlers on the basis of their batting ability and start picking guys who take a minimum number of wickets at a maximum economy rate in EVERY innings.

    We may not be able to replace Graeme Swann, but we can at least do the next best thing: pick one of the 2 best spinners in the country – Monty Panesar and Adam Riley. Neither of them can bat, but that’s more than outweighed by the advantage of actually being threatening and not going at a thousand runs an over.

    Batting deep is irrelevant if you can’t take 20 wickets.

    • “One of the 2 best spinners in the country – Monty Panesar and Adam Riley”.

      Riley is currently experiencing ‘difficult second season syndrome’. He has only taken 4 wickets in 6 matches and averages 86.5.

  • Whilst I wouldn’t have Rashid in the 11, I’d have him on the squad in case he’s needed later. I thought he showed some promise against NZ in conditions not helpful to bowlers and give him a big tick for coming back well after “that” over in the last match. It’s not as if we’ll lose much batting wise with Ali’s recent form.

    • Exactly Benjit. I have a slightly cautious attitude re: Rashid, and haven’t got caught up in the hype, but he should be in this 14 man squad. There’s no point having seven seamers.

  • England obviously think they are going to bowl Australia out for about 11 to enable their world class opening batsman Alastair Cook plenty of opportunity to take the game to them, lead from the front and possibly score 12 in the first two days of the match. Really looking forward to the battle … I’ve got my hammock next to the tv in case I should wake up. It is understood that when questioned about England’s new tenacious approach to ODIs Cook said “So what, he has a place for life and is not going to change the pace of his innings one iota, scoring quick runs is not his problem but everybody elses, he’s the captain of his country.”

    • Agree entirely Ron. If you learn a task by parrot methods, as Cook has,you are unable to execute the task any other way than parrot methods. Cook is certainly not capable of changing his stance on spin or his own innings. I hope I’m wrong for the rest of the teams sake. I would like Root to be named Captain now, if Strauss and ECB are willing to gamble this test with Cook, then who am I to disagree with those inside cricket. They may as well gamble with Root as well.

  • As Swann has gone on record to say, not finding out about Rashid during the WI tour looks like a glaring error.

    To me the big imbalance is the lack of a stock bowler, because while more reliable than Rashid, Moeen isn’t it. This leaves us vulnerable because Anderson and Wood should be attacking, Broad is still not back to his best, and Stokes and Moeen are not parsimonious by nature.

  • Let’s be honest, we’re probably heading for a tonking.
    Our bowlers aren’t as good as theirs – it’s the same old story – whenever that’s been the case, the pressure that fact puts on our batting has usually seen us crumple…

  • “Whereas England have rather comically turned to every left armer under the sun in recent times, whether they deserved a call up or not”.

    I remember this especially happening during the 1993 Ashes, when at one point they looked so desperate so southpaw I thought they might call up Jimmy White.

  • The Aussie batting will be suspect if the pitches are anything but bullyboy flat. Clarke is in an extended run of mediocre form, Warner appears to be playing mind-games with himself, Watson is pretty much a joke at 6 till you get to dead rubbers and Haddin has averaged 28 in the past two years. If Shaun Marsh plays, he’s good for one decent innings per series and Voges has hardly set the world alight in County cricket (that amazing innings for Notts to win the title a few years ago not withstanding). Honestly, all they’ve got at present is Smith and the fighting tail enders. In other words, it will be up to the bowlers to both bat and bowl the Aussies to victory.


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