The Friday Fish Finger

Quite a lot has happened this week. There’s been some on-field developments, with England thrashing Pakistan in the first ODI, plus some significant individual performances in the county championship too. There’s also a couple of off-field talking points we should sink our teeth into as well.

We’ll start with England’s win at the Rose Bowl. Basically England were too good for Pakistan in all departments. This wasn’t really a shock. Although Pakistan have some very good players (particularly in the bowling attack) they just can’t seem to get things together in 50 over cricket. England, on the other hand, look a thoroughly modern and dynamic side.

What struck me most was Pakistan’s approach to their innings. It seemed so old fashioned and pedestrian. It was like watching England under Ashley Giles or Peter Moores: their blueprint was to bat cautiously at the beginning, keep wickets in hand, and then try to accelerate towards 260 or 280 at the death.

I’m really surprised that a team coached by Micky Arthur appeared so anachronistic. Have they not been paying attention? 300 is now a par score in ODIs. One could argue it’s 320 or even 350 when the pitch is good (as it was on Wednesday). England’s attacking batting order was never going to be seriously challenged by a score requiring less than a run a ball.

England’s ODI side look in really good shape at the moment. They didn’t field brilliantly but they still won at a canter. Jason Roy played a superb little knock (some of his shots are completely unique to him, which is somewhat reminiscent of another South African who used to play for England), while Mark Wood’s bowling gives our ODI attack a cutting edge it’s lacked in recent times. Unless Pakistan can raise their game, and find a way to take wickets regularly, this series might end up being rather one-sided.

The race for England test places, by contrast, looks like it will go down to the wire. There are so many batting places up for grabs, and so many batsmen competing for these places, that the race for the championship has a very intriguing subplot indeed.

The pot was stirred earlier in the week when news broke that Ian Bell has been offered a contract to play for the Perth Scorchers in this winter’s Big Bash. This has brought the ‘Bell for England’ issue to a head, as he’ll need to give Perth an answer before England’s winter tour squads are announced.

Because Bell is obviously facing a bit of a dilemma, the Warwickshire skipper had a one-on-one meeting with Trevor Bayliss a few days ago. Apparently England’s head coach wanted to assess his appetite to return to test cricket.

Although this is an intriguing development, one wonders how meetings like this go? Presumably Bayliss says ‘fancy playing ahead of James Vince in India, Belly?’ to which not-so-young Ian either replies “on your bike you Aussie git, I’m still sore that you dropped me in the first place”, or “yes please Mr Bayliss, sir”.

I can’t imagine for a second that the meeting would’ve gone ahead if Bell was going to say ‘get lost’; therefore the exercise will surely become one of eye reading. Bayliss will have to decide if there’s a glint in Ian’s eye and fire in his ‘Belly’.

Unfortunately for Bell, he’s never been the most animated of players, so he’s probably at a slight disadvantage. He could be as passionate as hell about playing for England again, but possibly end up giving the impression that he’d rather be sunning himself on a sun-lounger down under while the Freemantle Doctor gently blows though his quasi-ginger locks.

The best place for Bell to do his talking, of course, is on the pitch. So how did he do in Warwickshire’s first innings against Durham? Well, he did what’s he’s pretty much been doing all season: looking good for 45 before getting out. This was something of a trend for England candidates this week: James Hildreth made 40, Daniel Bell-Drummond made 65, and Haseeb Hameed got in twice but also failed to make a big score.

Thus far, the big loser this week has been James Vince, who was dismissed for a duck. It never rains; it pours eh James. The big winner, on the other hand, has been Gary Ballance, who put his failure in Yorkshire’s first innings behind him to register an unbeaten century in the second dig. Well played Gary. There’s hope for you yet.

The two main stories off the pitch are controversial in different ways. The first big story is that England’s tour to Bangladesh will indeed go ahead. Apparently the PCA’s David Leatherdale and the ECB’s John Carr, who visited the country last week, are satisfied with the security arrangements and believe our players will be safe.

Sending Leatherdale was a particularly shrewd move as he’s a dead ringer for Mr Bean and consequently gets mobbed wherever he goes. It bodes extremely well that Leathers made it back to Blighty in one piece … although apparently he lost his shorts while jumping into a swimming pool and had considerable difficulty putting them on at the beach.

Rowan Atkinson (pictured) made 14 first class centuries for Worcs

Rowan Atkinson (pictured) made 14 first class centuries for Worcestershire.

On a more serious note, it’s interesting that the ECB have given players permission to skip the tour if they feel uncomfortable about going. On one hand I applaud Andrew Strauss for this. After all, it’s a sympathetic approach that shows empathy. On the other hand it sends slightly mixed signals: either Bangladesh is completely safe or it isn’t. If I was a player, I’d be somewhat confused.

Finally, it has been revealed that Warwickshire, who seem to be one of the more experimental counties, want to play their championship match against Lancashire in late September under lights with a pink ball. It’s all part of their plan to stage the first day-night test in England when the West Indies visit next year. The Bears obviously want to use the Lancashire match as a trial run.

Apparently they recently staged a second XI fixture at Edgbaston under lights to see if the idea was feasible. Both teams made over 300 in the first innings, so it wasn’t a complete farce, although the teams were slightly unhappy that the pink ball scuffed up very easily and was impossible to shine. Maybe they’ll need to use a different ball at each end like the do in ODIs?

It will be interesting to keep an eye on this story. Personally I have my doubts whether day-night tests are viable in the UK’s climate. The weather has been particularly good recently but this isn’t always the case. We rarely get prolonged spells of balmy weather, when it’s fun to be outside outside after 9pm, so the idea might well fall flat on its face. What do you think?

James Morgan

2016-08-26T21:56:54+00:00August 26th, 2016|County Cricket, News, ODIs & T20, PakvEng2015, Talking Points|25 Comments


  1. Giles Falconer August 26, 2016 at 11:44 am - Reply

    Given the distance I live from the nearest Test grounds, I can’t see myself ever going to a ‘day-night’ Test (it’s bad enough with floodlight 50 over/T20 games only 16 miles away). So I’d certainly be against them – not sure I’d even follow the evening session on TMS etc.

    As for Bell – let’s move on. Time for a few younger players to get a chance…

  2. jennyah46 August 26, 2016 at 11:45 am - Reply

    Another very enjoyable piece of writing. You do make me smile. I loved the two imagined Belly/Bayliss conversations.

    About Bangladesh. I seem to be a voice in the wilderness here. The ECB should have heeded Forein Office advice and cancelled the tour. It puts Alastair Cook in the most awful position for one, (new baby due) and it does not seem fair to land the players with this decision either. They are cricketers and not experts in security. Ultimately it boils down to a question of who do they believe. The Foreign Office or the ECB? I would be quaking in my shoes if I was faced with that particular career/life choice at a young age.

    From a cricketing point of view and in support of Bangladesh I would like to see the tour go ahead, but IMO it’s just not worth the risk.

    I share your reservations on day and night cricket. I can’t see it working out in our climate but if we don’t try it, we will never know, so let’s see how it goes. I’ll be watching with interest.

  3. James August 26, 2016 at 11:59 am - Reply

    I’m not sure late September is the ideal time to trial day night games: it gets pretty chilly at night then, and dew must be a big factor. Good on them for trying, but it needs more thought.

    Are we really going back to Ian Bell? As you said: “Well, he did what’s he’s pretty much been doing all season: looking good for 45 before getting out.” Substitute “30 or 40” for 45, and add “at the worst possible time” at the end, and you have his test career (apart from 2013) in a nutshell.

    • James Morgan August 26, 2016 at 12:47 pm - Reply

      45 is generally about 45 runs more than Vince and Ballance have been making 😉 Plus he did turn those 30s and 40s into a hundred 22 times. The cupboard is pretty bare at the moment.

      • jennyah46 August 26, 2016 at 1:12 pm - Reply

        Quite right James. Plus he has his experience to draw upon. If he is up for it, then so am I. Hope he’s been to Specsavers ? #droppedcatches

      • Benny August 26, 2016 at 2:18 pm - Reply

        Sorry but I don’t find having better stats than Vince and Ballance a compelling reason for selection. England must either hope to improve the two with experience or experiment. If England wobble on tour but get encouraging performance from, say, Borthwick, that works for me.

  4. SimonH August 26, 2016 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    On D/N Tests, a Test in UAE between Pakistan and WI in November has been designated a D/N match which would make it the second in Test history.

    On England in Bangladesh, I’ve seen that England don’t have any warm-up games scheduled in India. That means any player who misses Bangladesh won’t have any matches to re-stake a claim or acclimatise. It seems as if the Bangladesh tour is regarded as the warm-up.

    On Bell, I think the discussions with him only make sense if Cook might not go to Bangladesh. My concern would be they’re thinking of Bell as a reserve batsman and are going to drag him around for two months in case Cook or Root come down ill.

    This last week has been an indication of cricket’s future. Two Tests have been ruined by a combination of poor scheduling (there has never been a Test in Durban between March and November) and impoverished and incompetent authorities. The prime times have to be kept clear for franchises and the odd marque Test series. Meanwhile, India play WI in two T20Is in the USA on the weekend as another small indication of where the game is heading.

    • James Morgan August 26, 2016 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      Simon, I have just written a piece on how T20 schedules and greedy administrators are killing test cricket. I will let you know when and where it’s being published in due course. It’s extremely worrying indeed. The authorities simply can’t be bothered to save test cricket. They’d rather milk the T20 gravy train.

      • jennyah46 August 26, 2016 at 4:14 pm - Reply

        Quite. It’s obvious to see.

  5. Dom August 26, 2016 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    This bell situation has really surprised me and I’m not sure if I like it. Ian bell is my favourite England batsman of the last decade. Firstly the whole ‘he gets pretty runs things’ is as true for him as any other batsman in world cricket. At the end of the day he is a class batsman and if you had to pick the best red ball batsmen IN England right now you’d have to say root, cook, Bairstow, BELL, stokes ballance Ali are the guys.

    Whether he should be picked can therefore be made as complicated a question as you like. Picking him wouldn’t follow England’s ‘conveyor belt system’ though that has only worked in the case of root. He also hasn’t scored anywhere near as many championship runs as he should have. This concerns me as he can clearly bat and has been awesome in the limited overs stuff, maybe he’s looking to the next few years what he will most likely be doing? Who knows.
    Also England’s order may be different,
    Vince will be dropped. Hales probably, ballance may just keep his place. That means a new opening bat is needed, I’d take hameed and DBD on tour without necessarily one of them being no1. If moeen is to bat in the middle order (oh please I hope he does) then England’s top 7 could look something like this;
    Cook, hameed, root, ballance, stokes, mo, Bairstow.

    The question then is what they think of ballance, I’d certainly stick with him. But if not, who? The only replacements I’d consider would be bell or pick one of the best young players in the country- Duckett or clarke. (Clarke actually bats middle order so I’d take him on tour for tests ahead of Duckett).

    • James Morgan August 26, 2016 at 1:27 pm - Reply

      I would be amazed if England took Hameed to India. Picking 19 year olds just isn’t something we’ve ever done. He’d at least need a tour with the Lions first. I think England are much more likely to go for Nick Browne of Essex who has had another good season, albeit in Div 2.

      Although I still haven’t seen DBD score any runs – he’s always rubbish when I watch him! – I imagine he’s slightly ahead of Hameed too. Gubbins will also be mentioned in selection meetings, especially as he’s well known to Fraser.

      • Dom August 26, 2016 at 4:35 pm - Reply

        Yes gubbins, another good player. Hameed does just look right…
        Clarke 130 under pressure!

    • Ian August 26, 2016 at 4:15 pm - Reply

      We need another experienced batter in the top 6 who can dig in. Whoever opens with Cook is going to be inexperienced. Stokes, Mo and Bairstow are all relative newcomers and are all attacking players. My top seven would be:

      Cook, Robson, Root, Bell, Moeen, Stokes, Bairstow

      ..with Balance as the reserve batter.

  6. Dom August 26, 2016 at 1:28 pm - Reply

    Just on joe Clarke, an intriguing game is going on at new road…

    The lad already has a good record in 4th innings chases…

    • James Morgan August 26, 2016 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      Joe Clarke is one of the most naturally talented young players I’ve seen for a while. I’ve seen him whip good length balls a foot or so outside off stump through mid wicket / mid on for 4 with an ease I haven’t seen since KP’s flamingo shots. I have no idea yet whether his all round game is good enough (yet) but his ceiling is off the charts.

      • Dom August 28, 2016 at 11:24 am - Reply

        Watched him hit two 100s in second innings to win games this year, he and a few other 19-21 year olds (Clarke Duckett burnham hameed) are far better already than the mid 20 brigade of borthwick Vince etc…

        • Nigel August 28, 2016 at 12:01 pm - Reply

          And bear in mind Cook and Root were pretty young when first selected.
          Which has the added benefit of having time to earn another go if not an immediate success, rather than being discarded for good.

  7. jennyah46 August 26, 2016 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    The selection of Bell would certainly be a good option if Cook dropped out of Bangladesh.

    It definitely seems to be a warm-up tour. Also, if senior players should opt out of going it would give us a chance to see how the youngsters fare in a test match arena. Please forgive me, but should it happen I see visions of budgies down a mine shaft.

    I know I’m fairly alone in this, barring Andy Caddick, but I would prefer it if the tour did not go ahead in Bangladesh.
    Is it too late to reschedule it somewhere else?

    Re the cricket in Durban. I used to live there and never missed a match. Cricket then, was never played twixt March and November. Durban is sub tropical and most of the rain falls in those months. The whole thing was inept and an utter shambles. Embarrassing.

    • SimonH August 26, 2016 at 1:58 pm - Reply

      Hi Jenny, at least the weather forecast is good for Centurion! Pity what should have been an intriguing series between two evenly-matched sides has been reduced essentially to one match.

      The treatment handed out to NZ makes me furious. They’re one of the most attractive sides and yet get treated like dirt. England have even gone back to two-Test tours after the Ashes which is a disgrace.

      • jennyah46 August 26, 2016 at 5:40 pm - Reply

        Quite apart from their attacking brand of cricket New Zealand have always been a popular side. I saw them tour South Africa in years gone by and I’ve had a soft spot for them ever since. It’s been wonderful to see them come on and they deserve to be treated with more respect by the powers that be. As you say, it’s a disgrace.

        It never rain in Centaurion so it should be a good game. ?

  8. Neil August 26, 2016 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    Good round up James .
    An interesting week.
    Firstly Bell, I’ve long held the suspicion this summer was an experiment and we’d go to back to Bell if it failed.
    Bangladesh. A nonsense. In no way , shape or form should it be taking place.
    On the SAvNZ test, I had some rather snotty replies from Firdose Moonda (Cricinfo’s African correspondent) when I suggested Durban was difficult enough in the summer (light) I support out of the box thinking but we have to be clever with it.
    Finally on England’s ODI team. We are looking bloody good. I’m very hopeful of the upcoming years.

    A question from me. Can Jason Roy play test cricket?

    • James Morgan August 26, 2016 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      He has the talent for sure but he’d need to show flexibility in his approach. I’ve never been a ‘that’s the way I play’ man. You’ve got to be bloody, bloody good to get away with that. Dimitri over at BOC is a Surrey fan and really doesn’t think Roy can be a test player at the mo (at least that’s what he said a few weeks ago).

      • Neil August 27, 2016 at 6:32 am - Reply

        I’m getting to the stage where its a case of why not, let’s give it a try?
        But then the other side of the coin kicks in an I think why do we try and force players to become all format players. Leave them to excel in the formats they are good at.

  9. Jeremy August 26, 2016 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    Bayliss breathes life into Bring Back Bell Bandwagon. Ballsy. But balanced.

  10. Jackie August 29, 2016 at 11:13 pm - Reply

    Bangladesh is a nasty Tour – hot and humid and now dangerous. Can’t see though that the Tour is as bad as the India Tour interrupted by a massacre at the Hotel where the cricketers still stowed gear in 2008. Foreigners were a target. England then were hurriedly rushed home to safety and then given a free call on whether to return to continue the Series. Some did. Some didn’t. Security was very very heavy and the venues changed.

    Bayliss is notoriously unreliable about his hints on selection. So would ignore the ‘chat with Bell’ significance. He usually leaves it to Mr. Not-at-all-Impartial Strauss. However Test selection has been highly unsuccessful. Not only no replacement for Strauss – still on-going – but also for Pietersen and Bell. So much for 2 4 and 5. The Daily Telegraph has a fine art in trawling the lower depths of the Counties for candidates but with Strauss at the helm why not another Middlesex player? Or another Yorkie – might as well give the whole top order a go – or a Lions hopeful from Flower to replace Vince? And then there is the Essex mafia simply everywhere.

    Meanwhile Bell devotes himself to his County, taking on the captaincy because he wouldn’t say no. Instead of devoting himself to himself. However his t20 batting has earned him a call from the Perth Scorchers. Funny how those Aussies always admired his one day game. And actually admired him as a batsman while we still get those “pretty 30s” jibes from his own countrymen. But then Bell bashing became a bit of a failsafe fandom thing.

    Vaughan thought Bell was too intense not the other way round. It’s obvious isn’t it that he’s passionate about cricket? But I’ve noticed that sports people aren’t that good at reading signals or even records come to that. Do they really believe that Bell only produced runs in 2013? That’s a new one.

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