If Not Now Then When? Day 4 At Centurion

Defeat. Another depressing defeat. And this time against a side that had lost their last 5 Tests. Basically, if you’re an international team struggling for confidence, look for England on your fixture list.

This loss stings because it wasn’t the archetypal England defeat overseas. Normally we concede 500, get bowled out for 300, and then complain bitterly about our inability to take wickets with the Kookaburra ball. This time we were gifted a pitch that should’ve suited our seamers, won the toss, had the opposition at 100 odd for 5, and still lost by a substantial margin by the end.

If we can’t win in conditions like this away from home then when / where will we finally break this hoodoo?

It’s infuriating because we had a genuine sniff of victory pie in this game. But we slipped on a self-laid banana skin as we reached for a slice and fell on our collective arses.

Although the debilitating illness in the camp might seem like a pretty good excuse – Joe Root said at the post-match presentations that “nobody let anyone down” in the circumstances – the personnel laid low with lurgy weren’t actually the reason why we lost this Test. We lost because the braintrust made a series of poor decisions that were completely unrelated to the physical condition of our troops.

The obvious place to start is the toss. Every man, his dog, his dog’s fleas, and his dog’s fleas’ tennis partners, knows that you don’t bat last at Centurion. And you shouldn’t pick five seamers either. You really need a change of pace when partnerships develop.

Who got the big breakthrough wicket today? Maharaj. That’s who. England can do all the research they want on local conditions, but if you’re doing something different from the hosts (who know conditions best) then you’re probably screwing things up.

England’s tactics in the field were also awful. Inexcusable even. We didn’t bowl far too short on day 3 because some of the players were feeling unwell. We bowled too short because something’s seriously wrong with England’s decision-making.

I hate to say it but Root and Silverwood just don’t seem to have very high cricketing IQs. And as for Broad and Anderson, it was very interesting to hear Mark Ramprakash admit on Sky’s Debate show last night how the pair can be “difficult to manage”. He’s been there and knows precisely what they’re like.

It’s been obvious for some time now that Root needs a strong coach who can whisper advice in his ear. Someone like Gary Kirsten perhaps (wink, wink). Unfortunately that ship sailed because apparently Silverwood’s better at using PowerPoint.

It’s a laughable state of affairs when you think about. The ECB’s obsession with turning English cricket into a corporation, with corporate-style HR procedures (presumably because they think this makes them look ultra professional when really it makes them look like try-hard cliched wannabes) cost English cricket arguably the best Test coach in the world.

Kirsten must be laughing his head off after watching events unfold at Centurion. He probably realises now that’s he’s better off out of it.

In the short-term all we can do is hope that Root, Silverwood, the coaches, and the senior players can up their games. This series isn’t a lost cause yet because South Africa are very beatable. But we won’t get close to them unless we play competent cricket and pursue a sensible strategy.

Tough decisions now need to be made before Cape Town on 3rd January. England must (a) bring back Pope for Bairstow who played another horrible shot today, and (b) pick Jack Leach (or Bess / Parkinson if he isn’t fit). This will mean dropping one of Anderson, Broad, Archer, or Curran.

England’s dilemma here is painfully obvious. Curran was the best bowler on day 1 at Centurion but he might not find so much assistance at Cape Town; therefore the sensible thing to do would be to pick our best pure bowlers: Jimmy, Stuart, Jofra, and Leach. However, this would leave England with quite a long tail. Having Curran at 8 will feel like a security blanket.

My gut tells me, therefore, that England might fudge matters by simply replacing Curran with Dom Bess who also offers perceived batting depth. Why? Because it will be easier for Silverwood, who is very close to the senior players, to exclude Leach and Curran than leave out one of the three senior pacemen. I don’t believe they’ll exclude Archer as the team needs his pace on South African wickets.

Whatever England do, however, there will be criticism. The problem with playing Bess, of course, is that it will make Ed Smith’s squad selection look a bit daft. After all, why should an injury replacement suddenly leapfrog the two spinners originally included in the squad? They could argue that Leach still isn’t 100% but ignoring Parkinson would be a bad look.

If I was in Silverwood’s shoes, by the way, I might well leave out Stuart Broad, include Leach, and be done with it.

However, I don’t have to look Stuart in the face and tell him that he won’t be playing. Maybe we’re about to find out just how difficult England’s senior bowlers are to manage after all.

James Morgan


  • So much to discuss, but its such a shame that Wood wasn’t fit for this tour. Look at the impact Nortje brough in behind the pace of Rabada (Archer) and Philander (Jimmy). In an ideal world Broad and Curran would have been dropped for Wood and Leach.
    I realise Jimmy hasn’t been anywhere near his best, but he needs more time in the middle and shouldnt be dropped on a below average test performance after being out for so long.

  • I would think that Anderson and Broad know more about the most efficient bowling attack and how to set fields than a batting captain. Ok they have their off days and it’s the captain who should be in charge, but I would prefer it, if they stuck to their guns and did things their way. They are the most successful opening bowling partnership ever and their opinions deserve respect.

    Ramps also made the point that a bowler is not a captain’s toy. Hear, here to that.

    • There was a crucial moment today when Philander wasn’t bowling well with the new ball. He’d seen Rabada get YJB with one that swung, dropped his arm trying to get swing and was being left easily by the batsman because the ball was swinging early from the hand. FDP hauled Philander off, put Nortje on and he promptly got Root (people who see that dismissal in isolation will think Root just played a bad shot – but they won’t have seen the several deliveries before that had nipped back and whacked Root’s thigh).

      Would England have done that? Philander was “bowling dry” and is a senior bowler. However the captain wanted wickets and ripped up the script even if it meant upsetting a senior bowler. I think we all know what England would have done.

      • I did see that and the like will happen once in a while. When it does, it’s the captains duty to approach the bowler and make a point. I can see that Anderson and Broad, as a pair, could be difficult to handle should such a conflict of intent arise, but it will be a rarity and not the norm. However, bowling short of a line and length does need to be addressed.

        • Isn’t that precisely the issue–that Anderson and/or Broad go “off-piste” in Silverwood’s phrase quite regularly, and that its results are more damaging than effective.

          I don’t have lists of matches to hand, but I have the impression that I read this at least once every tour.

      • With root.. what about the repetitive nature of him nicking off anything outside off stump off the back and front foot ?? He’s got a technical and mental problem and doesn’t seem willing to address it . White ball isn’t helping as he’s seemingly unable and unwilling to leave the bloody thing

  • Well..yet again I can go into why we have a totally over rated set of players but.. I can see it now the responses I’ll get saying how great they are etc

    Burns.. doing ok but is giving it away and isn’t playing the situation.. did fine and deserves to keep his spot
    Sibley… 10 tests then I’ll judge him
    Denly.. doing fine and better than anyone else has but again.. too many shots when all that is needed is discipline
    Root.. how many here, in the media etc call him world class.. call for him to bat up thr Ofer.. the guy has serious issues with nicking off and refuses to leave the bloody ball.. he’s going backwards and needs removing from captaincy and white ball squads
    Stokes.. again, we are told he’s world class.. a test batsmen.. what’s his avg ??? 36!!!! That’s not good. Yet again, did ok but no discipline again. Hence why he avg 36.. isn’t consistently able to bat to the situation
    Bairstow.. well.. shouldn’t be given a central contract, shouldn’t be in thr squad let alone team. Send him away to be a white ball biffer and have done with it
    Buttler.. feel for him but he’s got to show more. Wafting away again and again …. where was the fight and discipline!!
    Curran.. again, how many are telling us he will be a great, a test batsmen in thr making.. a great bowler … today again, chance to fight and dig in and what does he do.. try to thrash at every ball !!! He’s a bloody white ball bits and pieces player for Christ sake

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, until peoooe are honest and are willing to critique players properly and admit the system is broken beyond fixing then nothing will change. The system for 15 years is set up to produce white ball players from amateur to pro level and yes.. amateur and pro feed each other so you can’t just dismiss amateur formats..

  • I have just watched the Verdict and note that Ramps and Farbrace are a bit more upfront now they are no longer part of the set up. I watched the entire match and heard Nasser going bananas in the commentary box and finding it hard to contain his disdain and fury. I read the articles in the papers following the defeat and read all the comments from the regular cricket lovers who visit the forums and seem to exhibit more common sense that Ed Smith and Silverwood.

    And yet we all know that nobody in the england set up will take a blind bit of notice. They. Do. Not. Listen. they push aside all criticism and suggestions and carry on as per. I remember when Boycott (and yes I know you either love or loathe him) having a go at Cook and the team when they played badly and Cook dismissed his opinion saying they don’t listen to what people say. Boycott’s reaction and I paraphrase “well perhaps they bloody should”.

    So they will carry on ignoring criticism and nothing will change. Root gave his usual interview at the end admitting nothing, taking positives blah blah usual crap. I despair.

    Ramps was saying on the Verdict that Stokes would make a good captain. Ditto Farbrace. Bet they never said that when they were part of the coaching team.

    And Broad and Anderson should go. I don’t care how many wickets they take I really don’t but their attitude gets right up my nose and Root cannot and will not bring them into line. He allows them to do what they like.

    I am rambling now I know but I am just so bloody mad at this overpaid bunch of useless prima donnas.

  • Given how much Root has been criticised for not the number of 50s he’s scored that haven’t become 100s, it was wise of him today to get out on 48, thereby avoiding adding to that statistic.

  • This is not a good SA team, in fact it’s the worse batting line-up they’ve had since readmission. They won without one of their top four making over 40. They’ve won by how I’ve seen them win recent home series – they prepare cracked pitches where if they can cobble 280 their still-strong seamers can pull them through. Short-term it brings results (like beating India and Pakistan) but long-term it’s a sticking plaster over their lack of batting quality. It’s not unlike what England have been doing at home. The Australia series was the one exception because they had ABDV back. BTW, they did this without Olivier, Abbott and Morkel who would have been real handfuls on that pitch. Pretorius was only not on a Kolpak at Notts because Graeme Smith talked him out of it and how long before someone’s sniffing around Nortje? BTW2 England got very lucky on the last SA tour that Philander was out injured along with Steyn (he’d broken his ankle playing football in a warm-up on the preceeding India tour).

    The match itself was exciting in the way a banger race with cars with multiple design faults and shoddy maintenance racing on an iffy track would be exciting. I kept watching because things were happening but it doesn’t mean I’m duped into thinking this is high quality. Yes, I’d rather watch a game on a pitch like this than the two in NZ but a pitch shouldn’t go so uneven so early in the game.

    It was noticeable when SA were under pressure in the field they went back-to-basics of a tight line and length and slowing down the run rate. England seem to either get petulant and try and knock the batsman’s block off or hide the ball too far outside off which doesn’t carry any threat. “Bowling dry” needn’t mean hiding the ball.

    To get a spinner in, which seamer do England drop? On performance in this match, it has to be Anderson and not Broad.

    I’m getting to the point where I’m almost hoping Root is dropped as captain. He’s shown no flair for the role – but the problems run much deeper and it suits people like Farbrace to blame him while ignoring those deeper flaws in the set-up for which they are partly responsible. Why do no England players seem to have a feel for the long form’s more subtle moments? FDP has his flaws as a captain but it was always possible to see what he was trying to do – and when he showed some real guts to keep Maharaj on against Stokes it paid off big-time. England would have just put a seamer back on. Boucher must also have helped – rumour had it he was long the brains in the SA team when Smith was captain. If he was English, Boucher would probably be in the comms’ box rather than on the coaching staff.

    SA are poor enough (and now have Markram out injured) that England could well still win the series. As they’re being paid 10x as much as their opponents, they probably should.

  • You have it right. I suspect we will hear a lot about batting frailty, but it was the bowlers who lost England this game by not bowling full enough. Going into this match with no front line spinner was a self inflicted gunshot wound to the foot, but that the seamers not only failed to bowl full in the first innings but then refused to learn from the home team in the second was worse. Root needs to be replaced as captain, and everyone needs to learn that Broad, Anderson, Archer and Curran backed up by Stokes when that worthy is able to bowl is a combination that does not have the necessary variation. Bowling first on winning the toss, an obviously fl\awed strategy at this venue, was all but forced by the initial selection, and all else stemmed from that.

  • A few other points:
    1) Playing Archer, Broad and Anderson together gives the team a horrendous tail. I’m not normally in favour of picking bowlers because of their batting but with the rest of the team’s batting so crumbly it does need to be taken into account.
    2) Dobell makes a good point that the likes of YJB, Buttler and Ali should be at their career peaks around now but instead are going backwards rapidly. (They have some nice white ball contracts though).
    3) The best news in England’s batting recently is a guy who’s nearly 34 and averages 30 without a century. It really needs to sink in how bad that is for a team of England’s resources.
    4) The coach we’re lamenting they didn’t appoint is a Saffer. The ECB for all its megabucks cannot produce international class coaches. This has been going for decades. Why?

    • Because it has a stupid ECB coaching pathway which is a) awful b) doesn’t produce actual coaches c) promotes sheep mentality d) where are the opportunities for new coaches

      ‘County’ youth levels isn’t coahcing.. it’s babysitting

  • Only 2 years until the next whitewash Down Under.

    How the hell did England get beaten by New Zealand? The Kiwis have since been reduced to a bug splattered on the windscreen of the Australian juggernaut. So what’s going to happen to the Poms? All the industrial-strength sun cream in the world won’t save them from Australia’s fire and fury. And after the obnoxious behaviour of English fans in this year’s Ashes, the roasting will be extra intense, extra delicious.

    But look on the bright side: 2 years gives you plenty of time to get your excuses lined up and to write in advance all the essays blaming the ECB.

    • Who changed the focus off the system back on 2003-5 ish – ECB
      Who continued to prioritise white ball – ECB
      Who has now openly prioritised white ball when red ball has been decapitated enough that fans won’t argue – ECB
      Who has set up a ‘player pathway’ that is utter crap and totally flawed and again, prioritises white ball players – ECB
      Who has set up a ‘coaches pathway’ that again is crap, flawed and doesn’t produce coaches of any quality – ECB

      Who runs cricket in englsnd – ECB

      So yeah, it’s the ECB and alwyas has been and always will be

      • You’re kidding yourself. The record shows you guys are not actually very good at cricket. Just accept it and stop having tantrums about the administration.

        Maybe the English players who get to the top level just aren’t as good at what they do in the concentrated numbers required for England to produce great Test sides.

        I mean, what was the “golden age” for the English Test side? Would you say it was broadly 2005-15? To say there was 10 years would be generous. But even then, that would include two 5-0 hidings in Australia. So if that’s the “golden era”, you still got absolutely humiliated twice. How many times have Australia (even the weakest Australian sides) lost 5-0 in England? You can’t deny that kind of underlying weakness, a brittleness and lack of fortitude even in the “great” England sides. It’s telling.

        Compare that to the great Australian sides, the great West Indies sides, the great Indian sides, the great South African sides. Sure, they all got beaten, but I don’t recall them getting humiliated and absolutely unmanned the way the “great England sides” of that era were.

        Oh but the crowning glory of the WC win at home. Yeah, you won based on an arbitrary countback system. Australia won 3 WCs in a row and another at home in 2015 for good measure. When you look at that record, what reasonable person could argue against the claim that Australia is just better at this sport than England? There’s no point blaming the ECB. That would be churlish.

        Looking at all that, even your peaks were mere molehills. You can’t sheet that home to the administration of 2019. You’ve been bad or mediocre at this for decades. After a while, it can no longer be a case of “we’re actually very good but badly run”. It becomes a case of “we’re just generally not very good at this”.

        Not only are you not very good at producing elite cricketers, there is a weakness in the way you build team ethos. If you think that’s untrue, why do you rely so heavily on non-English coaches? The way your players are developed is substandard. Why else do you need so many ring-ins from other countries?

        All this means that, on average, you’ll more often that not end up on the losing end when you come up against countries that are better at producing very good or great Test cricketers. Don’t get me wrong – there will be peaks and troughs. You’ll still pick off other countries from time to time. But on average you’ll be on the losing end. Because you are a weaker country when it comes to cricket.

        When Australia play Brazil in football and get beaten, Australians don’t blame Football Australia. We understand that Brazil is better at producing world-class footballers and that’s the way it is. England fans need to reach a similar accommodation with regard to Test cricket. On average, you’re going to lose more than you win. Because other countries are just better at this.

        That’s an uncharitable comparison. Maybe you’re more like France in rugby?

        If the current England side played the great West Indies side of the 1980s or the great Australian sides that held the Ashes for 16 years and won several WCs, you’d still find a way to blame the board for defeat.

        That’s delusion. You think you’re better than you are. You’re not. The record shows that England is on average deeply mediocre at cricket. Wishing otherwise and endless screeds against the ECB won’t change that.

        You guys should get real about where you sit in the pecking order and be happy with beating Sri Lanka at home.

        • I don’t care if England win or not but I do care when they aren’t even bothering to produce test quality players or red ball cricketers.. plus the destruction of amateur cricket too

          You mistake the fact people here just want to see quality cricket. If you lose then meh.. it’s not all about win at all costs

    • “it’s not all about win at all costs…”

      I suspect that last point is rather wasted on an Australian

  • Infuriating is exactly the right word James, because this should have been a clear-cut case of “win the toss, win the game”. Why do we so often over-complicate things? With 2 fragile batting line ups and two decent pace attacks, this was simply a matter of batting first, making 300 and almost certainly winning the game. Which is exactly what South Africa did, courtesy of Root’s Christmas present delivered first thing on Boxing Day morning.

    Oh, and Silverwood was an embarrassingly poor appointment – but we knew that at the time.

  • England must be the only side in Test cricket who play 3 x no11s in Archer, Broad and Anderson. Someone said Archer can bat. I remain to be convinced.

    Broad’s dismissal today, backing away to leg, and getting bowled would be criticized in a club 3rd XI game let alone a Test Match. I just despair!!!!

    • Archer was being touted as an allrounder who made a century in his ashes fitness test game. Which says something a bout the strength of the competition he was playing against at the time. He’s looked like a bunny ever since.

  • A major problem, as you soggest, is our best bowlers don’t bat, apart from an inconsistent Stokes. So a largely untried top 3 have to be balanced against this potential tail. This disrupts any consistent balance and makes us a more beatable opposition, especially away from home. South Africa have a proven class seam attack which largely nullifies our equivalent.
    I am in favour of using this series to experiment with the newbies, as South Africa are hardly undeatable at the moment. The important series, as ever, is the Ashes and we should be looking to build a squad for that series, is injuries an form can be allowed for,

    • No, the top three doesn’t have to be balanced. It’s their to score runs, as are the rest of the top 7 !! If they aren’t doing it then it’s their fault and they csrry the can. The reality is we have too many white ball players and players who avg in the 30’s. Yet, when that is pointed out people jump to their defence and highlight that odd innings here and there when they did well.. it’s about consistent performances (hence what an average is), not just that potential to produce etc.

      Go though our team and show me who in the top 7 avg 40+ ?

      One bloody player.. that’s it.. that is our problem (batting wise)

      Heaven forbid however we dare to critique these players BecUse just watch you all jump on anyone saying stokes isn’t good enough , Bairstow , buttler , Curran (the new messiah), hales, Roy Etc Etc

      • It is not quite as bad as you say. Who is averaging over 40 in the top 7? Going back to the start of the Ashes (before which it is not telling us about current form, and too many of the people are different): Stokes 48.8, Burns 44.5, Root 42.7 (and if Stokes had not the benefit of two Not Outs, his average would still be 42.3). We might still complain that Root is underperforming, especially as without the dead wicket 200 in NZ his average would not be above 40. But still, it is half of a functioning international top order. The problem is the other half.

        Sibley has not yet had enough opportunities to fail, and he might pull through. Pope has the greatest ability, and will be fine, if he is allowed to play. On his own with an average in the low thirties, Denly, is contributing and starting to look the part more often than not (as opposed to the first few outings, when he looked hopeless and scored slightly more than seemed probable).

        Complete failures are Bairstow 20.4, Buttler 23.1, both of whom seem to have mislaid whatever they had that made them able to build an innings, and have one 50 each to show for their many visits to the crease. Bairstow does not look even a shadow of the fine player he was, briefly, three or four years ago. Buttler is wading through treacle, and the only compliment to pay him is he still looks a bit better than Bairstow. But neither should be playing, either on their current numbers or on how they look.

        • Obviously yet another ‘must defend the lads’.. stokes does not average 40+.. he avg”s 36 is it? You can’t just rewrite stats to suit.. his average is his average

  • Two sets of match figures:


    One belongs to a guy who copped all sorts of flak from the media and the other to a guy who they talked up as a potential man of the match. Go figure.

    (Of course the figures belong to Archer and Rabada. I’m not saying the former bowled brilliantly and his recent Test performances don’t have some elements of concern. My point is more that the latter got away with it a bit – partly because he cleaned up the England tail to make his final figures look a little flattering and partly because the economy of the other SA bowlers masked how many runs Rabada was giving away.)

  • I have a very old fashioned view that batsmen should bat and bowlers should bowl and that it should not fall to one group to regularly compensate for deficiencies on the part of the other. (In reality this only works one way as batsman are rarely picked on their ability to bowl a bit).
    So my team would have 5 decent batsmen, one all-rounder who would justify his selection in both departments, a wicket keeper batsman and 4 bowlers. Plus I expect the captain – probably a batsman – to be skilled in man management and tactics. I really don’t think that’s asking a lot, yet it appears to be.

    And to add little extra I would expect the batsmen to average in excess of 40 and the bowling unit to be capable of taking 20 wickets, home and overseas, with whatever ball is given to them.

    As you can see, I’m living in cloud-cuckoo land.

    • At last… someone sensible.. bowlers are there to bowl and if they bat great but it should never be a reason to select them

      • Do not entirely agree. You don’t want to have 4 number 11s in the lineup. That said it would be rather unusual to be in such a situation.

        All that is needed is that at least 2 bowlers have a decent defensive technique. A bowler does not have to score at 4 / over. Even a striker ate of 10 is wholly acceptable then. Why? Because the guy at the other end can score runs too.

        Which makes it puzzling that archer bats at 9. No one seems to be bothered about teaching the bowlers defensive technique 101. Think the last guy who was was pietersen.

        So my question is, how much money is being wasted on incompetent backroom staff? Even a village idiot would do a better job

  • Great post and set of comments – as usual here. Sanity and common sense in a cricket world that lacks both.

    BTW – Does anyone else find the Silverwood interviews so painfully embarrassingly bad that you feel sorry for him and have to switch off? I don’t think I ever felt that way about an English coach before. I disliked Bayliss (and Ed Smith) – or Illingworth, back in the day – and got angry with them when they were persistently wrong; but they aren’t pitiful incompetents.

  • Outstanding analysis!!! I really worry about the low cricket IQ bit. Strong words but accurate.

  • Barstow is done. He needs to leave the team for a while and get his red ball potential back. England need to find a batsman who can grind out some runs.

    Woakes might need to be included over Broad simply for his batting ability. Broad is a batting bunny and 4 bunnies in the tail is too many.

    • Should add that Foakes needs to be in this team as the keeper. I love Buttler but he continues to provide evidence that he is a specialist white ball player.

  • England cricket is like an alcoholic. Until you recognise and admit you have a problem little will change. I don’t see that happening with the England setup. A lot of excellent points have been made here but it amounts to the fact that these players are not necessary bad, but equally they are not that good either. Why? Because of a total lack of strategic thinking top down in the game. The structure is rotten and until that changes we will still be moaning like this by the next Ashes, AND the current Ausie team would bury us in two days. We are a distinctly second rate Test side now.

  • ECB stooge:

    ‘We’re definite proponents of the four-day Test concept, but cautiously so, as we understand it’s an emotive topic for players, fans and others who have concerns about challenging the heritage of Test cricket.’

    So, it’s our emotions that are the problem! They’ll be calling us “obsessives” next.

    Never fear, their only concern is player welfare and there will be 98 overs a day so hardly any play will be lost. Who could not be convinced by this? Now about that bridge I have for sale….

    I’ve been highly critical of the quality of recent Test cricket. The solutions I want are better preparation, ICC-contracted groundsmen, funds re-distributed to poorer nations so they can compete better, an end to Kolpaks and punitive action on slow over rates (that Big Three captains aren’t somehow magically exempt from). That’s for starters.

    We know CA favour four day Tests too – so our big hope to defeat this is the BCCI. Yes, that’s what things have come to.

  • Why does the ECB Stooge talk in riddles?

    They can have 98 overs or 198 but they will still only bowl 80 odd if your lucky by 7.00pm.

    4 day Tests will become 3 day if these imbeciles have their way. It’s the thin end of the wedge folks.

    Happy New Year!

  • Difficult to argue with any of the points in the article, so I will just add 2 more;

    What the hell were the management doing handing the gloves to Buttler when Bairstow was playing? I am not suggesting either that Bairstow should play or that he is a great keeper, but his keeping is several classes better than club keeper Buttlers. And he proved it when Buttler went off. If it is a choice between Bairstow and Buttler for the gloves, giving them to Buttler is equivalent to giving SA extra runs.

    Management have shown their cowardice in managing Anderson and Broad over many years. Both should have been left out of the side for a year to mend their ways during the period when they formed the clique (with Prior and Swann) which so disrupted English cricket. And it is not even as if the damage was limited to the effect of their behaviour in the dressing room. The determination (and cowardice) of the selectors in playing favourites led them to force Woakes to add pace (as an excuse for ignoring him) at a time when he was ripping through sides and already bowling faster than Anderson (and much faster than Curran can dream of). The effect? Instead of having an English Philander, he added pace but lost that ability to drop it on a sixpence and move it both ways. Still much better than Curran, but not the test bowler he would have been.

    Smith and Silverwood are just the latest incarnation of 20 years of snivelling incompetence, crowned by the lunacy of Root as captain. A true test bat he is, but anyone who saw him set a field of one slip with Archer bowling to a no11 will realise he should not skipper a club 2nd team.

  • Encouraging article from Richard Gibson saying that both England players and venues are against four-day Tests. Given the reasonable assumption that most fans are against too, this means the ECB are advocating wrecking the game’s most treasured form against the views of almost everyone they are supposed to represent. Gibson also manages to put two and two together and link the idea to the bullshit plan of an annual Big Three (plus one token other) competition which will fill the space provided by less Test cricket (and not of course more rest time for “player welfare”).

    In contrast, Vic Marks’ lack of opposition is extremely disappointing. His argument seems to be four day Tests aren’t as bad an idea as The Hundred. That’s true – but then sawing off my leg isn’t as bad an idea as sawing off my head but it’s still hardly an argument for doing it!

    • That is encouraging SimonH. Hopefully it will end up being blocked, rather than that the players and grounds are being bribed yet again. Since the ECB have form in that respect, I won’t celebrate until the plan has actually been voted down 12-0 (or however many members the ICC has left with voting rights that matter). Since Ireland can’t get any meaningful fixtures, and Zimbabwe Cricket is mired in debt, and can’t get any fixtures, throwing in a few pennies means that two votes are already in favour in all likelihood. Good governance apparently means that the powerful bribe the voting chattel to get whatever the hell they want, no matter how ruinous to the game.

      That Big 3 + 1 is probably going to reward the most spineless board out there rather than anything meritocratic (since the ICC has been allergic to meritiocracy at least since 2007, but I suspect it could well be a few decades more than that). Would not be surprised that the Big 3 teams consider those games against the “lucky ones” as nothing more than glorified warmups / opportunities to bring some players back from injury etc. Like England routinely does with Ireland, or India in the past against Zimbabwe (but credit to the BCCI for actually GIVING Zimbabwe some fixtures in years past).

      No one has actually explained to me why the BCCI in particular needs all that money. Yeah, they need some money to upgrade some of the infrastructure (which is not as well developed as in say England or Australia). But what good is it to have 30 international stadiums in the country (which seems to be the goal)? They’ll get on average 2 days of international cricket per year then for a stadium. Bit hard to make that sustainable. Even if you add in the IPL games, that boosts average use for full houses to a whooping 4 days a year. So basically, a substantial amount of the money the BCCI will be getting, will be used to maintain infrastructure, rather than develop cricket pretty much anywhere else in the world. That is visionary leadership.

      Unless … you have 3 or 4 teams touring at the same time, eg India A – Australia; India B – New Zealand India C – South Africa, India D – Afghanistan. How that is supposed to be televised without overlap will be quite the challenge. A Day Test, Day-Night ODI and maybe a T10 during the breaks of the Test, and then sneakily inserting a T20 in at some point, so that there will be live cricket 17 hours in a day? Maybe that is where 2-day Tests can come in (if they can get away with that). And how will the fans cope? They won’t; cricket will simply be reduced to some background noise, like many a news-station, because it is phyiscally impossible to care about cricket 24/7 and maintain your sanity.

  • Harsh to criticise Silverwood. He has been dealt a really poor hand. Years of (successfully) concentrating on white ball cricket, flu, ridiculous itinerary, etc.
    His first utterings regarding batting time I found to be encouraging. He has at least installed some semblance of sanity to the batting line up. Two proper openers (who scored mountains of runs in CC) a batsman who is used to No.3 (not sure he is the solution, but at present he is not the problem), Root at 4, Stokes at 5, Pope 6 (young batsman introduced in the right position, not at an elevated slot he has never played at for his County – who would be that stupid…)
    Yes, there are issues. Is Root the right captain? How do you manage Archer? Is it time to phase Jimmy and/or Broad out? Who is our spinner? Can we afford not to play Ali/Woakes/Curran at 8?
    Also playing 5 seamers is idiotic.
    However, he has to assess before making drastic alterations.


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