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.