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England Unchanged, Australia Defeated, Umpires Snoozing

England named their test and ODI squads for the Caribbean yesterday. There were no real surprises. This means there’s actually very little to debate. All we can do is nod in agreement (smug in the knowledge that the team have just triumphed 3-0 in Sri Lanka) and scratch around for stuff to talk about.

Everyone expected Ben Foakes to make the cut after doing so well in his debut series and so it proved. The only slight surprise was the omission of Ollie Pope, who many see as England’s next big hope. Instead Ed Smith has decided to back Joe Denly, who didn’t have the opportunity to impress last month.

I guess this decision is logical. England generally like to give a batsman one game too many rather than one game too few. So dropping a batsman before he’s actually played seems more than a little harsh. Denly didn’t exactly cover himself in glory in the warm-up games before the test series began but it’s difficult to hold this against him. They were rather bizarre contests. What’s more, conditions in Sri Lanka are quite unique.

Although it’s a little disappointing that Pope will have to wait for his turn, the fact remains that England’s middle order is more congested than spaghetti junction at rush hour. Denly’s ability to open or bat 3 obviously worked in his favour. No doubt some will argue that it’s regressive to persevere with a thirty-something when there’s a young gun with an incredibly high ceiling waiting in the wings, but personally I’d rather not damage Pope’s long-term prospects by exposing him up the order too quickly.

I’m also slightly relieved that Jason Roy was overlooked. Being a traditionalist I don’t like it when talented but technically frail batsmen get talked about as potential test openers or No.3s. It didn’t work with Alex Hales and I suspect it wouldn’t work with Roy either.

Now don’t get me wrong. I like Roy as a cricketer. I think he’s an incredibly talented lad. But he’s often looked technically all at sea during his ODI career, and proved especially vulnerable to balls moving back into him. Unless he’s tightened up his technique big time over the last few months I feel his selection would’ve been bold but foolish.

The other thing about the squad that interested me was the retention of three spinners in Moeen, Rashid, and Leach. Obviously the pitches in the Caribbean aren’t as quick as they used to be, and spin will inevitably play an important role on the tour, but I still thought there was a chance that England would revert to type now they’ve left Sri Lanka.

Instead the selectors have kept faith with a very balanced squad with plenty of variety: right arm fast (Stone), right arm fast-medium (Broad and Woakes), right arm swing (Anderson), left arm swing (Curran), off-spin (Moeen), left arm spin (Leach), and leg-spin (Rashid). How convenient that England are finally blessed with cricketers that boast contrasting talents. Not long ago we had to rely on a diet of conventional right arm seamers that made the watching John Major look radical.

The other talking point regarding England’s squad is when Jofra Archer is likely to make an appearance. Thus far Ed Smith has played this subject with a straight bat. Archer isn’t technically available quite yet (it all depends how many days he spends in the UK over the coming weeks) so in theory it’s a non issue. Smith has also quite wisely backed the players already in the squad. It can be distracting when individuals who have put in the hard yards over the last few years have to start looking over their shoulders.

The problem is, however, that nobody doubts Archer is in England’s thinking. A talent this exciting simply has to be. Although England have suggested that time is running out, and he might not have many games to prove himself, I’d be amazing if England didn’t pick him for the games against Pakistan in May.

Archer’s other route into the squad might be as an injury replacement. This would suit most parties politically. England nearly always pick up a significant injury in the run up to major tournaments. It’s the law of sod. But this time it might actually suit the management if someone pulls up with sore ankle, ahem, Mark Wood.

In other news, India won the first test against Australia in Adelaide in what turned out to be an entertaining fixture. India looked set for a relatively comfortable win until the Aussie tail wagged towards the end. This caused Kohli a few anxious moments but overall the visitors clearly deserved to win.

The man of the match was good old Cheteshwar Pujara. I really like old fashioned players like him. Watching Pujara takes me back to golden age when ‘occupation of the crease’ rather than reverse sweeps and switch hits were all the vogue. Seeing him grind the fearsome Aussie bowling attack into the dirt made me come over all nostalgic. Good on ‘im.

It’s just a shame that the match was somewhat overshadowed by umpiring controversies. Basically the on-field umpires didn’t seem to be watching the bowlers’ front foot line at all. Ishant Sharma claimed the wicket of Aaron Finch, which was overturned for over-stepping, but then continued to bowl a plethora of no-balls without the umpires having a word.

I’m a little bit torn on this one. On the one hand I have little sympathy for bowlers who keep overstepping after carelessness has cost their team a wicket. However, I also know that no-balling isn’t always an easy thing for bowlers who sprint to the wicket to solve. It can affect their rhythm, and they often rely on umpires warning them when they’re getting close.

Nobody doubts that umpires have a tough job. But is it right for them to ignore the bowler’s front foot and rely on technology to bail them out? DRS and the third umpire are surely there to assist rather than completely take over one important aspect of their role.

If I was an umpire I’d be too proud to rely on technology completely. What’s more, I’d feel stupid if I missed something as basic as a no-ball. It would make me feel incompetent.

Simon Taufel recently gave a candid interview to Betway Insider in which he discussed how the role of modern umpires has changed. He argued that technology makes their job easier in some respects but also puts them under greater pressure. And this can take its toll:

You hear your decision dissected in your ear piece, in front of millions of people, and then, after 90 seconds, two minutes, you have to publicly change your decision and somehow regather your thoughts.You can feel a bit embarrassed and humiliated. It’s really tough to move on and focus on that next delivery.

When it comes to LBW decisions, or faint edges that brushed either bat or pad, one can easily forgive umpires for making a mistake. They’re human after all. However, calling no-balls should be one of the easiest aspects of their job; therefore it seems strange to me that some of them are passing the buck to the third umpire so readily.

I recommend you give that Taufel interview a read. He makes some interesting points about the role of modern umpires and how he prepared for games. He also gets onto sandpapergate, the spirit of cricket, and how umpires can set an example for the players.

He also mentions how he used to appeal for absolutely everything when he was a player. Of course he did. He’s an Aussie.

James Morgan

2018-12-11T18:26:14+00:00December 11th, 2018|Windies v England 2019|28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Pete December 12, 2018 at 12:59 am - Reply

    The route for Jofra into the squad is clear. Just continue to play football matches as part of warm-up.

  2. Jackie Litherland December 12, 2018 at 11:31 am - Reply

    Denly wouldn’t be there but for a sentimental selection of a old team mate. We had this with Ballance when Root said he had asked for him. This kind of selection is a farce. Sri Lanka were a wounded and weakened lion. Are we counting on below par Test sides? Also there was a cloud of corruption investigation hanging over the games. The only player who really impressed was Foakes because he looked to have the technique and skills to deserve his debut. The others still rely too much on hit and miss. To bat Ali at 3 was the nadir. As for the Windies let’s hope they are up for it. I’m getting so tired of T20 cricket leagues and the impact they’re having on young players. Occupation of the crease old fashioned? Oh dear.

    • Inland Sailor December 13, 2018 at 7:44 pm - Reply

      Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Moaner™

  3. Jez C December 12, 2018 at 11:42 am - Reply

    It always seems strange to me that umpires can waste 2 minutes checking to see if a fielder has touched the boundary rope, slowing it down frame by frame, that could turn maybe 3 runs into a 4 but totally ignore the 1 run penalty for overstepping time and time again. I’m a local league umpire and do my best to call no balls as and when I see them but my priority is to ensure I am in the best position possible to call LBWs ie judging where the ball has pitched. International umpires don’t even have to do that as they will get bailed out by DRS if they do get decisions wrong

    • AndyB December 12, 2018 at 1:06 pm - Reply

      Having played (and still playing) in league cricket for nearly 50 years I can live with umpires letting the small stuff go. What really annoys me with league umpires is their unwillingness to call chuckers. I know of 3 or 4 clubs in the Surrey League who knowingly field blatant chuckers (I am not talking about the difficult to call strange spinner actions), and yet they are never called (despite the umpires being prepared to admit their doubts over a pint).

      • Jez C December 12, 2018 at 4:18 pm - Reply

        In our league we are not allowed to call no ball for chucking but are suppose to report it after the game and let the authorities deal with it

      • Cricketcricketcricket December 12, 2018 at 7:31 pm - Reply

        Here here

        Chucking for pace or spinners ‘quicker ball’ is becoming more common.. especially spinners who go though ‘county’ pathways

        Umpires don’t have the balls or bottle to call it but call really poor lbw decisions and aren’t willing to listen to the posibility they’ve made a mistake

  4. Marc Evans December 12, 2018 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    Good to see Denly selected, as long as he gets game or two. Shows selectors are serious about his potential. Pope is just another middle order bunny we don’t need at present. His time will come.
    Disagree about Roy. I think he has the technique, it’s just his decision making which needs work, a much more difficult thing to address. He plays pretty straight most of the time and gets a good stride in, but can he hang around and graft is the question. Would rather see him given a go than retain Jennings. Come to that I’d rather see Stoneham than Jennings. I guess the right/left opening partnership works in his favour. You get a feel about certain players and I think Stoneham and Burns would make a good solid pair. I don’t think Stoneham did a lot wrong down under.
    Technology worries me in sport as it’s something of a fad to jump on the bandwagon saying it cuts out errors. The problem I see in cricket is that it frightens umpires into making no decisions atall, everything being referred, even run outs that are yards out. As cricket is a stop start game anyway this doesn’t affect the flow whereas VAR in footie clearly does.
    What I find amusing is how kickers in Rugby rush to get conversions taken before the refs referral for incidents leading up to a given try can be confirmed, as once the kick is taken the try stands. Was at a Wasps game recently when the kicker drop kicked a conversion whilst the ref was talking to a player about an incident he was clearly going to refer, though he had provisionally given the try, so it had to stand.

    • James Morgan December 12, 2018 at 1:59 pm - Reply

      Good point Marc. If it’s Roy or Jennings then I’d probably go for the former. I think Roy looks good when he’s playing shots. He does indeed play with a straight bat much of the time, and he drives imperiously. It’s just his defensive method I doubt.

    • Cricketcricketcricket December 12, 2018 at 7:44 pm - Reply

      What I will say in agree,ent with you about stoneman is.. he looked like he was happy to ‘just bat’ for a but then suddnely decided he had to accelerate and got out . Doesn’t seem willing to grind and grind but wants to go into. ‘One day’ mode

      Roy.. sadly is never going to be a genuine test batsmen. Should stick to white ball and accept he’s not a red ball quality player

      • Marc Evans December 12, 2018 at 11:31 pm - Reply

        In this day and age there almost no grind and grind players. Elgar is perhaps the last of the line that way. I don’t have problems with openers playing shots once they’ve played off the new ball and got in. If they don’t try to accelerate when established it puts a lot of pressure on the batsmen at the other end, otherwise things can grind to a halt. This happened a few times with Boycott, as he vanished into his shell so as not to get out. I wouldn’t want to see a repeat of his patting back of half volleys and shouldering arms to short and wide stuff. The game has moved forward as a spectacle since then. No entertainment no sponsorship is the order of the day. It isn’t about white ball or red ball mentality it’s about being positive. Negativity rarely wins matches.

        • Cricketcricketcricket December 13, 2018 at 2:30 pm - Reply

          I’m not sure anyone condones patting back half volleys or missing out on half trackers (game situation dependant of course) .. Jesus, grinding isn’t shotless, it’s just playing the percentages

  5. AndyB December 12, 2018 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    Most of the selection was inevitable, even Denly over Pope given the reasons explained by James. The one oddity is the three spinners. There is no way England will play 3 spinners in the Windies and, given the dodgy technique of a number of Windies bats against seam (whatever the pitches) only Mr Ed would even consider actually playing more than one. Leaving one at home would have allowed Pope to go and continue his integration into the set up.

    I have real difficulty with the Archer mania. Having seen him play I can safely say he is after the slot currently held by either Curran or Stokes. Whilst a very decent bowler he looks more likely to develop as a batting all rounder to me, with his bowling coming in as first change seamer and ODI specialist. I compare his bowling with Henry Brookes (4 years younger) and see the difference between a true opening bowler and an all rounder. Having said that I would happily see him selected over either Curran (who has to make it as a bat as the bowling only merits 4th seamer status) or Stokes (as turning up for 1 in 3 games, apart from the fielding, is not consistent enough for tests. Of course, he may opt to play for the Windies if they make the mistake of introducing him to some of the great and good of the England set up before he is irrevocably committed……

  6. John W December 12, 2018 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    Umpires not calling no balls is a cop out. Nothing more, nothing less. Sooner or later a Test is going to be won by a single figure score which would have been different if they had been called and runs added. Could be interesting.
    However of more concern should be the regularity with which these top umpires, and presumably well paid, get their decisions wrong. Yes it is a tough job but these lads are supposed to be the best!

  7. Kjb December 12, 2018 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    The main reason why umpires miss no-balls is because they stand so far back from the stumps which means thy are at least 8 feet away from the popping crease. Is it because they are afraid of being hit by a straight drive?

  8. Max Sawyer December 12, 2018 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    As I may have posted before – no-ball – 6 run penalty. They would disappear overnight. And simplify Law so it is front foot only – must land with some part within popping & return creases.

    • Cricketcricketcricket December 12, 2018 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      This

      Make things a genuinely tough punishment and people won’t do it or risk it.

    • Cricketcricketcricket December 12, 2018 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      Same with a batter leaving his crease before the ball is bowled.. run penalty and you’ll soon see them staying in their crease rather than trying to steal distance

    • Inland Sailor December 13, 2018 at 7:50 pm - Reply

      Punishing no-balls won’t work if the umpires don’t call them. I suggest punishing umpires when they screw up — and watch how quickly bad umpiring disappears from the game.

  9. Benny December 12, 2018 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    I don’t think umpiring is a tough job

    • Cricketcricketcricket December 12, 2018 at 7:48 pm - Reply

      I agree. There are far far more tough jobs out there far less well paid

  10. Marc Evans December 13, 2018 at 4:06 am - Reply

    Have never understood why bowlers, these days even spinners, let themselves get anywhere near the front popping crease. At professional level they spend so much time in the nets fine tuning technique surely the run up must be part of this. Stealing a few inches can hardly give you much advantage.
    I guess the alternative in this technological age would be some kind of Wimbledon line system where sensors are buried each side of the popping crease to bleep for overstepping, as it is a difficult thing for an umpire to call. Even in slow motion many of the oversteps are still debatable.
    On a personal level I bowled 100’s of overs in league cricket without ever once being called, however we did have a captain who would give offenders a piece of his mind on the pitch for wasting deliveries. These days he’d probably be sued for emotional distress.

    • James December 13, 2018 at 8:32 am - Reply

      As the great Michael Holding said: “You see the line. It does not move. Put your foot on it.”

  11. Simon H December 14, 2018 at 11:22 am - Reply

    It seems Ashley Giles has been offered the Comma role.

    There’s a weird affection for Giles that I’ve never quite understood. Remember him apologising to “the stakeholders” but not the fans when England lost to the Dutch at the T20 World Cup? Still, I guess they think his face will be more acceptable to a section of the fanbase while having no real power to change the path the ECB is now set on.He’ll get all the blame if England don’t win the World Cup while Strauss will get all the credit if they win.

    It’s hard to imagine Giles has much affection for Flower after his time as one-day coach. Might his appointment at last see the de-Flowering of the England set-up?

  12. Simon H December 14, 2018 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    From the DM report about the potential Giles’ appointment:

    “Immediate thought will need to be turned to a review of Loughborough, with ECB chairman Colin Graves known to be keen on re-evaluating the cost of the pathway programmes that feed into the England Lions, of which Flower is head coach. Every department aside from the growth area of women’s cricket has been given the task of saving money in the build-up to the launch of the new Hundred competition”.

    So the Flower empire could be torched – to pay for The Hundred! You couldn’t make this up…

    • Cricketcricketcricket December 14, 2018 at 5:02 pm - Reply

      Get rid of the 100
      Get rid of laughborough
      Get rid of the majority if the silly national age group crap
      Get rid of all the stupid ‘camps’ and ‘tours’ the non full England players go on
      Get rid of most of the ‘county’ until set ups.. lets be honest, the majority aren’t very good juniors and not very good coaches.. in fact, most are youngsters just trying to make money in amateur stuff as ‘coaches’
      Get rid of all the expensive initiatives which are not value for money
      Get rid of all the random x y z officer or x y a co ordinator.. again, waste of money

      Invest quite simply in school facilities and get a co ordinator (doesn’t need to be a coach!!) across schools and get kids playing. The products are more than good enough as they are.. we simply need exposure and to get kids playing.

      Even if draw Saturday cricket only atttacts one in ten to stay.. if we attract ten times the amount we get ten times the people.. then add in a 2020 saturday league system played on school astros .. boom, there is another section catered for,

      Really is quite simple

  13. Simon H December 15, 2018 at 11:54 am - Reply

    The mediocrity of the current Australian batting is self-evident – but the much-vaunted bowling attack isn’t looking that hot post-sandpaper either.

    Who’s the bowling coach again?

  14. Simon H December 15, 2018 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    From DM report:

    “The former Warwickshire and Lancashire coach was the outstanding candidate to fill the big shoes vacated by Strauss for family reasons once the two best brains in English cricket in Nasser Hussain and Mike Atherton made it known they were not interested. ECB would have considered the credentials of Flower, now head of the Lions programme, England women’s director Clare Connor and Pakistan’s new CEO Wasim Khan but they all decided they did not want to take on what remains a huge job”.

    There seems to be some very deliberate phrasing there that these people didn’t want the job. Does the ECB ever ask itself why?

    The article is also pretty clear that the plan is to split the coaching role and Giles will nod that through. Farbrace is identified as the future white-ball coach.

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