It’s the quiet before the storm. The World Cup semi finalists are known, the recent round of Championship matches has finished, and there isn’t a controversy in sight. Somebody smoke some drugs or look out a window quick! We’ve got precious little to talk about.

There was one morsel of news that caught my eye today though. Sky have announced that the World Cup final, should England get there, will be broadcast on free-to-air-television. Bravo!

Perhaps this is a tacit admission that viewing figures have been less than stellar – at least compared with the women’s football World Cup which drew in a peak audience of over 11 million on Wednesday? The viewing figures for England’s cricket matches are rumoured to be around 500k to one million.

Although we don’t yet know what ‘free-to-air’ will involve – they could allow a terrestrial channel access or put it on YouTube for example – the most likely outcome (in my humble opinion) is that Sky will simply show the game on Sky One or the Sky Sports Mix Channel rather than Sky Sports.

If this was the case, and I really have no idea if it will be, the game wouldn’t technically be ‘free-to-air’ because you’d still need to be a Sky customer, or a customer of another broadcaster that shows Sky channels, to watch it.

However, at least this is a step in the right direction. And who knows, maybe Sky will surprise us all by making it as accessible as possible to everyone? At this point I’d like to thank Liam Plunkett wholeheartedly for putting the cat amongst the pigeons :-). We all saw through your contrived, or perhaps I should say ‘well-briefed’, strategic retraction.

The YouTube option is also intriguing. This is what BT Sport did with the Champions League Final between Liverpool and Spurzzzzz a few weeks ago. It was a bit of a shame really that it ended up being the most boring game of football played since the first half of Monty Python’s philosopher’s bowl back in the 1970s.

In other news, competition for Ashes places is beginning to hot up. I’m not sure how much stock Ed Smith will be placing in championship runs – he’ll probably pay more attention to the Euro T20 – but Warwickshire opener Dom Sibley is really beginning to put his hand up / move himself to the front of the taxi rank / come to the party / or whatever cliche you want to insert here.

Now I should probably make an admission here. Normally I’m well enough informed to give an opinion on whether player X or Y is likely to succeed in test cricket. I might occasionally get it wrong, but at least I can give my tuppence worth. Unfortunately I haven’t got clue when it comes to Sibley. He’s just one of those players I’ve always ignored; after all, his career has been pretty unremarkable up to this point.

With the World Cup hogging the spotlight, and my time somewhat limited due to work and family, I just haven’t had the time or opportunity to study Sibley’s game. On one hand it’s pretty hard to argue with 922 runs at an average of 71 with four 50s and three 100s (this includes his 244 against Kent the other day). On the other hand he could just be a flash in the pan.

Remember when Ed Smith himself had a purple patch in county cricket? He got picked for England on the back of it, looked a bit out of his depth, and never played again. I wonder if Smith will wonder if Sibley is another him. The problem, of course, is that England don’t really have too many other options.

Just looking at the championship averages, the other opening candidates have performed adequately but haven’t made an unanswerable case. Rory Burns has put up decent numbers as usual (505 runs at 42), Joe Denly boosted his average to 39 after an impressive ton against Notts a couple of weeks ago, and Zak Crawley has caught the eye with 639 runs at 43.

But can you see any of these guys scoring heavily in The Ashes? Burns will probably play (and rightly so) but Denly has his knockers and it’s probably a bit early for Crawley. Consequently the conversation will inevitably return to Jason Roy. However, even if one picks Roy there’s still a vacancy in the top 3 with Root determined to bat at 4.

I know that many of you come to The Full Toss for strong opinions and ‘analysis’ (of sorts) but I’m afraid I’ve got little to offer when it comes to this dilemma. I simply don’t know what I’d do if I was a selector. At this stage I’d probably pick Roy, even though it goes against every traditionalist bone in my body, and give Sibley a chance. But I’m not too excited at the prospect to be honest.

The other batsmen who have scored heavily in division one are sadly all has beens, never wases, or should never have beens. Gary Ballance averages 61 this season (no thanks), Ravi Bopara (is he still a thing?) averages 59, and there’s some bloke called Alastair Cook averaging 46. I can’t see Chef coming back, can you?

The one exception to this rule is Mr Sam Northeast, who continues to make some very pleasant and substantial scores. He averages 60 this season with three hundreds. However, I fear Sam has about as much chance of playing for England as James Hildreth. He’s destined to appear on those ubiquitous ‘best players never to play for England’ lists.

The other problem with Northeast is that he bats No.4 – like most of the best players in the country; therefore it’s incredibly difficult to find space for him in the team anyway. England simply have too many middle-order players between 4-7. Dawid Malan is also enjoying an exemplary season in division two but he’s got the same problem.

Finally, for those of you who didn’t read the PS on my last article, we have a new discussion tool on the blog called Conversful. It’s like a live chat feature where you can discuss anything and everything from the contents of David Warner’s pockets to the contents (or empty spaces) inside Colin Graves and Tom Harrison’s skulls. All you need to do is click the globe in the bottom right corner of the screen.

This tool is something we’re experimenting with, and I’ll be interested to see what value it brings. I don’t want everyone to stop commenting on articles in the traditional way, but it might useful when a discussion between two people either goes off on a tangent or becomes too long. You’ll now have the option to go ‘off-line’ and chat directly to the other person without every comment becoming public.

All discussions on Conversful remain private. Not even I will know what’s being said. So feel free to slag me off to your heart’s content. I’ll be none the wiser 🙂

Right then. It’s 5.30 so I’m off for a beer. Have a great evening y’all. I’d also like to bring your attention to a bit of fun we had on Twitter yesterday evening:

 

I asked our followers for further suggestions and these were the best:

Salmon Butt (that one was mine)

Ar-tuna Ranatunga (Hamish Allen)

In-salmon Ul-Hake (Andrew Dow)

Stephen Fin (David Bertram)

Mark Eeelham (Michael Gillette)

Turbot Reeve (David Meers)

Jonathan Trout (David Meers)

Muttiah Machlitharan (Nabeel Shakeel Ahmed)

We’re all off to get our coats 🙂

James Morgan