Exile, Broad, Buttler and Bess

Morning all. I’m back. Sorry about the absence. I escaped to France last week and discovered, to my horror, that there was no Wi-Fi at my resort. This meant that my contact with cricketing civilisation was limited to say the least. I missed the conclusion of the Test match, the ODIs against Ireland, plus the start of the Grumpy Bob Trophy. My only source of cricketing information was my phone. But even then I had to watch my data usage carefully. It was like being trapped in a cricket-less prison … albeit one with sun, a nice pool, good food, and more beer than David Boon could drink. I’m sure your heart is bleeding for me.

Because I wasn’t able to watch the conclusion of the Test match, I can’t comment on the result with much authority. However, it seems to me that England stream-rolled an inferior force in the end. The Windies started the series excellently but didn’t have the depth to compete over three games played in quick succession. Their first-string bowlers tired badly whereas England were able to rotate their pacemen strategically and keep them fresh. In fact, I don’t think anyone really knows who / what our first-choice attack is anyway. The management can rotate the personnel without weakening the final XI. Chris Silverwood must feel like Pep Guardiola.

The big story from the game, other than Pope’s return to form, and the developing Burns / Sibley axis, was Stuart Broad’s impressive performance. Moving past 500 Test wickets was a massive achievement. Well done, Stuart.

However, predictably this led to the usual hyperbole in the media with all sorts of daft comparisons to the likes of McGrath and Ambrose being made. The official England Facebook page even asked supporters where they’d rank Broad in the pantheon of international fast bowlers. This gave the nation’s more patriotic and slightly less erudite cricket watchers plenty of scope to tub-thump.

I hate to break it to you guys but Broad is not one of the best fast bowlers ever. Yes he’s good, and on his day he’s very good, but he’s not an all-time great. Two weeks ago he wasn’t even considered one of the four best fast bowlers currently available for England by his own captain. This might sound harsh, and I wouldn’t go as far as some Australians to play down his achievements, but we need a little perspective too.

About eighty bowlers have averaged less than 25 in Test history. Heaven knows how many have averaged less than Broad’s 28. And let’s not forget that Broad has taken the lion’s share of his wickets with the Dukes ball on helpful English wickets. He averages 33 away from home and 38 in Asia. Even Broady’s strike rate of 57 isn’t top table stuff. Bumrah’s is currently 45 (even though he plays in Asia), Rabada’s is 41, Cummins’s is 47, and Steyn’s was 42.

Much like Alastair Cook, Broady owes his massive tally to the sheer number of games he’s played – a whopping 140 Tests. Yes longevity is to be admired, and it’s a hell of an achievement to remain effective when you reach your mid-thirties, but credit must also go to management for restricting his workload so effectively over the years.

In days gone by, talented bowlers like Angus Fraser and Darren Gough shone brightly for a period but then burned out quickly as they were over-bowled in all forms. Broad and Anderson have been managed carefully, like the thoroughbreds they are, and England have reaped the rewards. It’s marvellous when you think about it. English cricket has actually showed some brains for once and lengthened (rather than shortened) the careers of two prime assets.

So well done, Stu. I don’t think he’s one of the best seamers of all time – I’d probably place him in the top 6 or 7 English seamers of the last thirty-five years – but he’s brilliant nevertheless. We’ve all enjoyed watching him immensely – from the celebration-appeals to his match-winning spells – and I hope there’s plenty of gas left in the tank.

One can only admire Broad for his determination, his intelligence, his skill and his sheer bloody mindedness. He’s been a fantastic servant for England and I wouldn’t be that surprised if he ends up with something approaching 575 Test wickets. He certainly looks after himself and the injuries have mercifully stayed away recently.

Overall there’s no question that Broad is an England legend. But let’s keep the conversations about his place in the cricketing hall of fame grounded please – otherwise we’ll end up looking rather parochial.

Before I move on there’s just enough time for a spot ‘stick or twist’ before the Pakistan series. England are big favourites again – Pakistan are as long as 11/2 in the cricket betting at Unikrn – but we shouldn’t take the visitors lightly. And after England’s rather curious team selection last week, there’s no guarantee that we’ll actually pick the right XI.

Fortunately, however, most of the team pulled their weight against the Windies, therefore the squad should be brimming with confidence. There are just two players whose positions are somewhat in doubt – Bess and Buttler.

When it comes to Bess I think I’d be happy to give him time. He didn’t bowl as well against the Windies as he did in South Africa, but the coaches might be able to rectify this like they did on the England Lions’ winter camp. What’s more, spinners often need a lot of bowling to find their rhythm. Jack Leach remains the better bowler but he’s played even less cricket.

As for Jos, he batted well in the third test and his half-century has probably secured his place. However, it’s worth mentioning that Ed Smith’s first act as national selector was to drop James Vince, who made two half centuries in his last six Test innings including 76 in his final knock before getting the axe.

Vince was still dropped though because Smith judged him on a body of evidence rather than one innings. The rules will obviously be very different for Buttler though. Over in France they call it ‘favoritisme’.

James Morgan


  • Why are you focusing on Broady’s bowling. Surely he is in because of his batting??

  • The media are always comparing sportsmen of different generations. It is usually fashionable to up the anti of modern players and play down the previous generations as less fit and having to cope with less high level competition, so their achievements are watered down in favour of the more professional modern day sportsmen.
    It seems as soon as great players retire they are put on a pedestal for a while then then revision sets in, usually from those who never saw them play, to allegedly establish a more realistic perspective.
    For me great players would adapt to be great in any era.
    I do feel sympathy for Broad, as I do think he’s underrated by press and public alike, just as I feel Anderson in terms of career is overrated. It’s only the last few years that have seen him become world class. A bit like Flintoff, Anderson spent much of his career displaying potential over achievement, but now he’s the bees knees. Most quicker bowlers go through peaks and troughs as it’s a physically tougher discipline than batting, so if you’re not 100% fit it has more of an impact on your effectiveness. Also playing conditions, especially abroad make it more difficult for bowlers to adapt than batsmen. I feel Broad has done this better during his career than Anderson, yet Anderson is the one labelled great. Yes in suitable conditions he can make the ball talk, but it’s noticeable that without normal access to polishing in the wake of Covid, he did not look especially dangerous against the Windies.
    Picking the likes of Curran or Archer ahead of Broad doesn’t mean they’re better bowlers, it’s just a selection tactic.

  • The English call it cronyism and our society is currently riddled with it. It led to the selection of Denly who you don’t mention by Ed Smith on the basis of being mates at Kent. Other Kent players get a look in. There are 18 Counties. The Essex mafia used to be powerful. Surrey is always favoured as is Middlesex. Hampshire once had pull. Players from other counties get considered when others fail. But talent is inevitably missed. We’re reminded on TV so and so plays for Surrey etc. But who reminds us that Stokes plays for Durham and was the product of their Academy?

    When Durham was brutally broken up by the ECB the Test Counties who had much bigger hidden debts got off scot free. And the worst example of cronyism yet Hampshire took Durham’s place in Div 1 – the chairman a mate of Graves ECB chief. Their clubs had been ‘bailed’ out by them both!! That’s worse even than cronyism that’s sleeze.

    • I can’t let Jackie Litherland’s comments go unchallenged. Ed Smith left Kent at the end of the 2004 season and went to Middlesex in 2005. Joe Denly made his debut for Kent’s first team in 2004, so they only had one season to become mates in. Jackie says other Kent players get a look in – Zac Crawley is the only recent Kent player to play in the Test side in recent years. Sam Billings has played for the 50 over side, and the T20 international sides, but not the Test team. Rob Key played Test cricket for England but I don’t think he was picked after 2005. So the comment that other Kent players get a look in is not re ally fair.

    • How could you forget Tredders, Mike?!

      Absolutely–I read somewhere that Smith and Denly played one game together….and anyway, half the Kent dressing-room hated Smith in his later years there! Personally I think there’s something going on but it’s not people-based and certainly not cronyist–more like a residual affection for the area of his upbringing or something like that: it has been noticeable to me that a number of Kent players have been picked when their records don’t really obviously warrant it. All three of those mentioned above come into this category–although Crawley and Denly have worked out much better than I expected, so maybe he saw something others didn’t–but also Milnes for the Lions was a fairly eyebrow-raising selection.

      I wonder whether some of these ideas about fashionable counties are a bit stereotyped. The Middx side you mention, Jackie–that’ll be the one whose current first-choice side has eleven test caps between it and who seem to have produced one more test player this century than Durham, will it? The Essex mafia too–nice joke but who did it actually benefit in terms of selection: there wasn’t a single Essex player picked for the first time for the test side when even two of Flower, Gooch and Cook were in their jobs together.

      I should hope that Surrey have a fair few England players on their books–they seem to have a playing staff of about 300 at the moment!

  • Hold on, but I might be about to praise Ed Smith….

    Dropping (or rotating) Broad was a clever move that deserves some consideration rather than just being assumed to be a foul culumny against a national treasure. Broad has had extended periods of cruising throughout his career – partly because of needing to pace himself because of what he anticipates will be his workload, partly perhaps because of a sense of entitlement that he was undroppable. Not playing him in the First Test worked out well as a boot up the backside.

    There was some media nonsense after the series’ win about how this squad is going to win the Ashes (Burns/Sibley are Strauss/Cook reincarnate, the bowling options are awesome etc etc). Do they never learn? Winning at home against WI proves very little about how this lot might go in Australia. They’be got to get through a tour to India first – and that could end a few careers.

    In other news, what joy it is to read the IPL will take nearly two whole months, how wonderful.

  • BBC nonsense that this is England’s best seam attack for 60 years (meaning since the Trueman-Statham-Tyson-Loader era).

    It isn’t better than the late 1970s when England had Willis-Botham-Old-Hendrick-Lever to select from. They won every series at home 1977-81 except against the all-time greatest WI (and then they only lost 1-0). They didn’t lose 4-0 away to India and Australia like this current England combo (sans Archer – but with Archer they couldn’t beat NZ).

    The BBC isn’t interested in proper history or journalism – it’s an expensive version of the Paul Whitehouse “brilliant” character in ‘The Fast Show’.

    • I would prefer Harmison, Hoggard, Flintoff, and Simon Jones to Anderson, Broad, Archer and Woakes. The former had more pace, height, and slightly more variety too. They arguably complemented each other better too – although it’s close!

  • It’s all very well but how long do you keep picking Anderson and to a lesser degree Broad, over younger players? Archer Wood, Woakes, Curran and hopefully Stokes are long term, I doubt whether Anderson will play in the Ashes (didn’t do much against the Windies) and even Broad will be 35 by then. But he’ll probably throw another wobbly and get selected. There comes a time…sooner rather than later I would hope.

    • I agree. At the moment Broad and Anderson are our most potent opening attack in English conditions but they probably won’t be by the time we face India and certainly won’t be our best option against Australia in Australia. This was a relatively weak WI side and was the ideal time to try other options in a sensible planned rotation which Archer managed to mess up. I think Silverwood managed his bowling selections pretty well – Broad’s wobbly was out of order, but his on field response was spot on.

  • Absolutely correct to say that Anderson and Broad are England legends and not world all-time legends. I really don’t need to go through lists of players that I remember but suggest a whole plethora of Windies 80s greats and 90s and noughties duos from different countries were superior partnerships. That the enduring fitness of the duo has meant longer careers should be seen as an attribute in itself but many were more complete in all circumstances.

  • Just wondering what the reaction of the Warks people on here is to this week’s revelation that Henry Brookes now seems to be Warks’ eighth-choice seamer….

  • Two single-figure scores for Keaton Jennings against D2 opposition.

    Still on the plane to India because a) Asia b) character c) reasons.

  • Time will tell of course, but I’d be surprised somehow: I have the impression he’s been overtaken by Bracey for that slot.

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