So the first action of the South Africa tour is in the books. The batsmen spent some time in the middle, the bowlers managed to get some overs in their legs without breaking them, and everyone can now look forward to the next warm up game against South Africa A (which starts on Friday).
It’s just a shame that the players won’t get more than one meaningful game to prepare for the Test series. The ‘contest’ that’s just finished in Benoci against a South Africa Invitation XI was only a two day affair so there was never any realistic chance of a result. These types of matches are nothing more than glorified middle practice really and they inevitably end up being a bit low-key. A two-day game is a bit like preparing for a marathon with a quick run around the block. I really have no idea why the authorities bother with them.
This fixture was particularly unsatisfying (from a preparation standpoint) because several players were ill and unable to take the field. Three members of our first choice attack (Archer, Broad, and Leach) were too crook to bowl, and Mark Wood wasn’t risked as he’s still recovering from his latest injury.
The situation is far from ideal. England need the squad to get healthy pronto because it’s important to pick our strongest XI at the weekend. What happens, for example, if Broad isn’t fit to play in the final warm-up? Can they realistically pick him for the Test match a few days later if he hasn’t bowled yet on tour? He’s bound to be rusty.
What’s more, where does this leave the likes of Chris Woakes and Sam Curran, both of whom bowled reasonably well in the two-day game? In my opinion neither should feature in the Test side now that Jimmy Anderson is fit. An attack of Jimmy, Broad, Archer, Stokes, and Leach would seem to be the most potent combination.
However, if Archer and Broad haven’t got enough overs in their legs, and Woakes / Curran have filled in well, then there’s a strong case for selecting the men who have proved their form and fitness already.
Talking of Anderson, his return to fitness is clearly the best news of the last 48 hours. He managed to complete 11 overs and claim a wicket without aggravating his troublesome calf. It’s brilliant to have him back. I think he can play a major role on this tour and then keep going all the way until the next Ashes down under – which is apparently his aim.
Although he’ll be nearly 40 years old in November 2021, the normal rules don’t apply to Jimmy. He’s a physical freak and his skills haven’t diminished one bit. What’s more, he hasn’t lost any pace since his early 30s – not that pace was ever a big part of his game.
The other bowler who benefitted from the outbreak of Benoci Belly in the camp was leggie Matt Parkinson who bowled 20 overs. I think that’s more overs than he bowled on the whole of the New Zealand tour! Unfortunately he proved quite expensive but he did pick up a couple of wickets. I’m just pleased that he’s seen a bit of action. Leg-spinners need to bowl to improve. I’m not sure how much we’ll see him on the rest of the tour.
As for the batsmen they all enjoyed a bit of time in the middle. Dom Sibley made a welcome half-century, as did Denly and Joe Root. They all retired before making centuries so that the others could have a hit. Once again I have to ask why they couldn’t have made this a 3 day fixture?
In other news, the selectors have named the Lions squad which will be touring Australia in February. I always look forward to development tours down under because they can be a really good indicator of whether we’ve got some genuine talent coming through or whether our youngsters are overhyped.
The squads selected look reasonable to me but I doubt the Aussies will be losing any sleep over the talent emerging in English cricket – at least from a red ball perspective.
Just looking at the likely ‘Test’ A side, I’d expect them to line up something like this: Sibley, Jennings, Crawley, Hain, Northeast, Lawrence, Bracey (wkt), Gregory, Mahmood, Gleeson, Virdi. It’s a solid looking XI but arguably lacks a bit of star dust. They might decide to leave out a batsman and play an extra bowler (probably Craig Overton or Dom Bess) at the expense of Dan Lawrence if conditions are favourable.
I imagine that the two Ollie Robinsons (yes we’ve picked two players with the same name – a seamer from Sussex and a young Kent keeper) to carry the drinks. I’ve gone for Gleeson over Overton in the XI because I don’t understand the point in picking a 32 year old for a development tour if he’s not going to play.
The white ball squad contains a couple of more sexy picks, like Jack Brookes, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Will Jacks, and Durham’s young quick Brydon Carse. However, there are also a few that really surprised me like Matt Milnes, Tom Moores, and Laurie Evans. The latter might seem like a head-scratcher to some as he’s 32 years old and something of a journeyman. However, England have form when it comes to picking the odd experienced player in Lions squad. Notts’ Steven Mullaney was a recent beneficiary.
Red ball squad: Dom Bess, James Bracey, Zak Crawley, Richard Gleeson, Lewis Gregory, Sam Hain, Keaton Jennings, Dan Lawrence, Saqib Mahmood, Sam Northeast, Craig Overton, Ollie Robinson, Ollie Robinson, Dom Sibley, Amar Virdi
White ball squad: Tom Abell, Dom Bess, James Bracey, Henry Brookes, Brydon Carse, Mason Crane, Laurie Evans, Richard Gleeson, Lewis Gregory, Sam Hain, Will Jacks, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Dan Lawrence, Matt Milnes, Tom Moores, Craig Overton
Where’s Jamie Overton and George Garton?
And even more significantly for the future – where is Henry Brookes?
Apologies – I should have made clear I was referring to Brookes for the red ball squad. Anyone at Edgbaston will tell you he is a future test player and any success with the white ball is just a bonus.
I was glad that Curran got a go with the new ball and took a couple of wickets with it. Agree with most of your analysis. If Leach is under the weather come Boxing Day then I would still prefer the higher risk but potentially higher reward option of selecting Parkinson to a repeat of the all-seam “attack” deployed in the second NZ test match. After all, the occasional misfiring declaration notwithstanding one usually needs to take 20 wickets to win a test match.
I’m shocked to see that there’s no mention of the Lions squad announcement on the BBC news website. Unbelievable!
Yep. You’ve got to come to TFT for all the latest cricket news. Ahem ;-)
Looks like most of the bowlers are ill, injured or likely to break down in a 5 day test. Wood? Doubtful at best. Anderson? Hope he stays fit enough because he’s not getting any younger.
3 bowlers out sick. What’s all that about in South Africa. Could understand in on the sub continent. Hopefully it’s not a bug which could spread through the entire team. Seems amazing to me in this day and age where fitness gurus and nutritionists seem to hold sway in dictating what players eat and drink.
Great to see Anderson back, though you feel it is make or break for him. If he breaks down again on this tour we should forget about selecting him next summer. The stresses and strains of playing so many high profile games during a season must take its toll on the human frame and we should expect more burn outs than ever as schedules become more congested. Players need to relax a bit between internationals and the county scene used to provide an ideal opportunity for players to do this whilst working on their game in the comparatively low key atmosphere this generated. As white ball tournaments proliferate this opportunity is becoming increasingly rare, with top players expected to turn it on like a tap in many different formats.
With all respect to Anderson why would he be doing any better on the next Ashes tour than he did on the last two, unless all the tests are played entirely at night with a pink ball ?
Jimmy bowled very well down under in 2010/11 on some very flat tracks.
And how about on the last two tours?! He’d probably be fine as a third seamer to keep it tight, if that’s a job for a 40 year old – but if England wants to win it needs to get someone like Woods on the field all series to back up Archer and provide some wicket taking threat (and also hope Leach can do better than the spinners chosen previously. An attack like that – Archer, Woods, 3rd seamer, Stokes if bowling, Leach – does look a lot better than the last tour, and would be likely to out-perform the attack from the one before that, which looked decent on paper but mostly stayed there).
Unless Broad and Archer are 100% fit to play in the final warm up match it must be out of the question to go into the test with Anderson, Broad, Archer and Stokes as the seam attack. Anderson is just back from long term injury and, even given his excellent fitness record, that increases the risk of a breakdown (especially at his age). Stokes had a recurrent knee issue in NZ which seemed to be a recurrence of previous problems. And if Broad and Archer are not 100% fit they cannot be expected to take a full workload. So either Woakes or Curran must play to avoid the risk of having a depleted attack during the test.
Is this the first time that the current England opening batsman is named in a future A tour – not quite a vote of confidence
I was thinking exactly that, very odd indeed. It makes sense for Crawley to go because he is likely only a back-up for this tour but Sibley??? Very odd