The Collective Shudder: England’s Ashes Squad

T

We have a problem. England only have nine test class cricketers. Therefore one could argue that it doesn’t really matter which bodies make up the broader squad of 16. The selectors might as well have picked random names out of a hat. After all, these squad fillers aren’t particularly likely to score any runs or take any wickets. They might as well have picked the seven best fielders in the country … or the seven guys that make the best cuppa.

Having said that, the selectors’ job is to unearth diamonds in the rough, and to use their esteemed judgement (ha!) to identify which unheralded players might just have what it takes at the highest level. Duncan Fletcher used to be good at this. Unfortunately, Whitaker, Fraser and Newell have been always been bloody awful at it.

England’s selectors have been throwing crap at the wall and hoping some of it will stick for years. We’ve been through the likes of Carberry, Lyth, Robson, Ballance, Vince, Ballance again, Duckett, Westley, Ballance yet again, Malan, and now they’ve gone back to Vince and, you guessed it, Gary bloody Ballance. The Yorkshire skipper has had more lives that Graeme Swann’s cat. It sure helps when you’re mates with the skipper, eh.

As you can probably tell, I’m completely against recalling Ballance and Vince. And I sense that I’m firmly in the majority on this one. Neither player has shown the slightest indication they’ll turn into a test class batsman in the past, and neither of them has changed the way they play when they’ve been out of the team. Basically they’re known failures. And giving them yet another go shows an abysmal lack of imagination.

Obviously it’s easy to snipe from the outside without suggesting alternatives names, so I’m going to throw a couple out there. What about Liam Livingstone, who’s made of the right stuff and averaged 45 in division one this year (Vince averaged a typically underwhelming 35)? And what about Sam Northeast? At least these guys haven’t been found wanting in the past. The Aussies might even have to do a little homework on them. When it comes to Vince and particularly Ballance, every bowler in the world knows how to get them out.

The logic of selecting Vince in particular grinds my gears. Apparently Whitaker and Co think he’s got the kind of game that might suit Australia. You ‘effing what? Just because he drives a bit like Michael Vaughan doesn’t mean he’s the same player. Vince hasn’t looked convincing for England outside off-stump, and he hasn’t shown a particularly watertight back-foot game either … you know, the kind that’s quite important on Australian wickets. Vince has done nothing, absolutely nothing, domestically to justify a recall and his selection smacks of randomness.

I wonder what Tom Westley makes of it all? The Essex batsman’s tendency to play through the legside was exposed all summer on pitches that offered assistance to the bowlers. If anyone was likely to prosper in Australian conditions, when it doesn’t swing much, it was Westley not Vince. Steve Smith used to have (and still does to some extent) a penchant for playing through the legside but it doesn’t seem to bother him too much on true Aussie pitches with a kookaburra ball. I’m not saying I would’ve taken Westley by the way; I’m just pointing out the flawed logic.

Fortunately the rest of the squad isn’t too bad. Well, it’s bad in terms of proven quality, but you can’t fault the selectors too much when they’re blindly groping inside an empty cupboard in the dark. Jake Ball and Craig Overton aren’t bad bowlers I guess – although they’re unlikely to give the Aussies too many sleepless nights. At least the latter has had a stellar season for Somerset. It’s just a shame that he doesn’t possess his brother’s pace.

Talking of pace, it’s the one thing this England squad sorely lacks. Again you can’t blame the selectors too much – there wasn’t a stand out pace bowler in the running other than the extremely green George Garton – but that won’t stop our lack of speed and aggression becoming a rather prominent Achilles heel. Mitchell Johnson absolutely destroyed us last time out, and the likes of Starc and Cummings will be gunning for us this time. What a shame we won’t be able to fight fire with fire. It doesn’t bode well.

The other two somewhat controversial selections in the squad were Mason Crane and Ben Foakes. Let’s start with the latter … which gives me less opportunity to despair. Basically it’s a good thing that England have picked the best pure keeper in the country. It gives us another option if we don’t want to pick six bowlers (or pick a further batsman that’s unlikely to score runs anyway) and I suspect we’ll need to take every chance we get.

Moving onto Crane I’m not sure what to make of his selection. One could argue that he did well down under last winter (in which he became the first overseas player to represent New South Wales since Rogue Elephant Imran Khan) and that he’s a bowler with an extraordinarily high ceiling. One could even argue with legitimacy that leg-spinners tend to do better than finger spinners down under (unless your name is Yasir Shah) and that Crane adds a little magic dust or x-factor to the squad.

Alternatively one could say that Crane’s inclusion smacks of complete desperation. This is, after all, a man (or perhaps I should say boy) who’s taken just 70 first class wickets at an average in excess of 40. Does the names Chris Schofield, or even Ian Salisbury, ring a bell?

I’ve seen Crane bowl a few times but he didn’t look anywhere near the finished article. And how could he be? He’s just 20 years of age. The selectors don’t want to pick Jack Leach in case he gets ruined like Simon Kerrigan, and yet they’re perfectly happy to throw a fledgling leggie to the wolves instead. Personally I just don’t see the logic.

I guess we’ll just have to pray that Whitaker, Newell and Fraser have got something right for a change. The law of averages suggests they’ll make a good selection eventually, and so let’s hope that Crane is the one. I certainly don’t want us to rely exclusively on Moeen Ali after what happened to Swann last time we toured down under. English off-spinners tend to go the distance in Australia.

The final person I’d like to talk about is Ben Stokes. Oh Ben what have you done? The last thing we needed before the plane leaves is controversy. Ashes tours that begin with farce and calamity usually end in farce and calamity. We’ve already had an unfortunate injury to TRJ. If Stokes has broken his hand on someone’s face (something that’s unsubstantiated I should add) and doesn’t recover in time then England’s Ashes hopes might very well be broken too.

I don’t believe, by the way, that England should ban Stokes for what he’s done. It’s worth remembering that Ricky Ponting got into a fight in a Sydney bar during the 1998/99 Ashes tour. He was left out of the team while the ACB investigated the incident but was back playing within ten days. Those who want to strip Stokes of the vice-captaincy might want to remember that Punter became a very distinguished Australia captain not long afterwards.

The circumstances with Stokes are probably somewhat different – we don’t yet know all the facts or whether he’ll be charged – but it’s worth remembering that mavericks do sometimes get into bother off the field. Luckily they win games on the field. And England will need all the match winners they’ve got this winter.

James Morgan

92 comments

  • The big problem I have with this post – the broad thrust of which I agree with – is that the failure to acknowledge the success of Ballance’s initial 12 months or so in the team undermines starts to look like a vendetta.

    Personally, I wouldn’t have brought him back the last time or this time. But his initial success – during a period in which Bell was averaging under 30 throughout and we’d lost Trott and Cook was relatively flakey – suggested there was a test batsman in there somewhere. (Lord knows whatever happened to him!). That made his first recall reasonable at least.

    • Hi Dave. Not sure if you’ve been reading TFT for a long time but I’ve long argued that runs at home against Sri Lanka and India mean very little. I’m looking for players who can play against the best. That’s why I discount Ballance and am quite prepared to discount his early runs. It was a similar story with Lyth and Robson.

      • Sri Lanka beat us. India gave us a whooping in the first test and then lost interest.
        Ballance also did well in the embarrassingly drawn series in the West Indies.

        If these teams / bowling were so bad that his success means nothing, how does it explain the relative failure of the other players in the same period?

        As I say, I’m not arguing for Ballance’s inclusion and I wouldn’t have picked him personally. (The ONLY argument I can see in his favour is if he’s Root’s man I don’t mind backing the captain’s view in the absence of outstanding alternatives.) But I find dismissing his initial success unfair.

  • I’m not seeing the point of picking Foakes. Barring injury to Bairstow, he won’t get a place in the test side; and if Bairstow is injured, surely we want the batting prowess of Buttler (or Billings?) to replace him – either of whom are arguably more likely to succeed as Test batsmen than Ballance or Vince?

    (On the Stokes thing, I think we need to be told if the guy he hit was Australian….)

    • What red ball cricket has Butler played the last 2 years?
      He is not a player for 4 or 5 day matches.
      Foakes is an excellent keeper and has played some good innings.
      There is no reason he could not play as a batsman at no.7 thus shortening the tail.

      • How does playing Foakes instead of Bairstow, Buttler or Billimgs “shorten the tail”? I agree that Buttler hasn’t played much red ball cricket this year, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have the talent to do do.

        • Talent isn’t what you look for in red ball as it’s not just about how well you strike a ball.

          Mental and technical side count for more and that’s where buttler fails.

          Simple truth is he’s a white ball player and should never be close to a red ball team.

    • Buttler has played just 4 CC games this season and averages 17. He’s effectively become a white-ball specialist (as has Liam Plunkett who I’d have selected for the Ashes if he’d played more CC games). I hope those who cheered Strauss when he prioritised white-ball cricket now realise what it meant (and don’t expect it to be ever unprioritised).

      Foakes could play if YJB batted No.5 and played as a specialist batsman. I quite liks this as an idea.

  • OMG. I honestly thought you were joking.
    I like Ballance, but not for Test cricket. Not any more and not in Australia. I mean, this is just nuts.
    It’s an interesting moment to pick Overton. Vince I can just about accept. Just. Crane OK.
    But Ballance? No.
    I have two words for this. Jos. Buttler. (With attendant Foakes implications.)
    Just when it looked as though things were going England’s way generally.
    I have to go and have a cup of tea.

    • I had 3 words when I saw Ballance was back. The first 2 were What the. The third isn’t suitable for this website. Also if Wood isn’t fit why not take Plunkett at least for the first 2 tests?

      • I was going to mention Plunkett but forgot. At least he’s aggressive and can bowl quickly at times. I think he’s been quite unlucky in his test career.

        • You’d think in the current situation including Plunkett would be a no-brainer as we’re otherwise pretty much bereft of express pace merchants. I think you’re right to say that he’s been unlucky, James, but it’s probably getting to the stage now where it’s deemed to be too late for him

    • Buttler has hardly played any red ball cricket this year. Someone with 103 runs in the Championship at an average of 17, with a top score of 49, doesn’t strike me as being best placed to press for a place in an Ashes squad. Like it it not, he’s found his niche as a limited overs player.

      • Accepting what you say, but even so I just feel that JB would stand a chance of changing the type of game England would be able to play down under and for the better whereas GB certainly changes it, but significantly to England’s detriment. If I could emigrate to a place there was no possibility of receiving cricket news for the Winter I would buy that ticket now.

        Always been a Strauss supporter, but this strains credulity and loyalty too far.

  • Faces fit and jobs for the boys – at least the Lions will be out there to pick up some of the pieces when the “stars” fail.

  • I understand the frustration towards Ballance, however I do think he’s worth one last chance in his correct position (5), I don’t dismiss runs against a decent India attack as lightly as you. He’s got a few gritty runs along the way too. I remember a 60 in an ashes test. He might be able to drop anchor and let Root, Stokes, JB & Mo bat.
    He’ll also support his mate on the field and my word will he need support. Averaging 50 and captaining Yorkshire, he has to have something

    The Hampshire two are ludicrous though. Can’t see a single reason for selecting them.

  • Having a long memory I can recall that in 1959 England sent what appeared to be a wonderful team to Oz, containing some of the great names of the 50s. People said it was the best team to ever head to Australasia. But they were stuffed by Ian Meckiff and co, who exposed the fact that many of the England players were on a tour too far.
    So, given that most people seem to be saying that this is one of the worst squads to be sent south, I wonder if they’ll prove us wrong. But I don’t think so. Ballance (how the name sticks in my craw) has just led Yorkshire to a truely appalling loss. Celebrating selection?
    At least Stokes had something to celebrate although why he was let out without a minder I don’t know. He’s a exceptional player but there doesn’t seem to be much anger management.
    All of this pales into insignificance as Worcester have just been promoted again. The question is – can they stay in Division 1?

    • I think we did the “a tour too far” thing last time around with Trott and Swann the immediate losses, a fading Bell and an injured Matt Prior not lasting much longer and KP as the fall guy (let’s not reopen that discussion though, eh?) Still, if things went sufficiently badly I suppose it could just conceivably be “a tour too far” for the likes of Cook and Jimmy. Neither has an obvious replacement waiting in the wings and nor does Broad, so for the sake of still having some sort of a team in 2018 let’s hope for the best.

    • What people forget (and I agree this is the worst ashes team I’ve ever seen), is just how poor Australia are also (again, I’ll go back to me saying how poor test cricket is now)

      Cook – warner
      Root -smith

      Not saying these are equal but 2 best bats on both sides.. that’s about where it ends though because after that.. the England ones while not great, are more capable than their Australian oxunter parts

      Renshaw -bairstow
      Maxwell – moeen
      Marsh – stokes (if he goes)
      Wade -ballance/Vince/malan
      Bowlers

      The part where Australia are obviously stronger is pace bowling.. they have with genuine pace.. we have nothing

  • I disagree with you about Ben Stokes. If he was stripped off the vice captaincy and left behind it might just focus his mind and make him sit and think what a dickhead he is and perhaps he ought to change his attitude. I don’t care how brilliant somebody is or how wonderful a cricketer, you behave yourself on the field and stop getting into childish spats and, really, if you have games coming up he should not be out drinking all hours. Who does he think he is – Wayne Rooney? He has two small children and is getting married next month I gather, so he has a family and responsibilities and should be at home not getting rat arsed in a nightclub. OK ok you are probably thinking I am a miserable old bag, and I will not disagree with you on that one, but it is time he sorted himself out. He will get away with murder if he is not disciplined or spoken to about this – remember a certain player being sacked because he was Disinterested, Whistled in the Dressing Room and Looked out of a Window? don ‘t recall him thumping someone.

    But then he was a c**t so that is ok then…..

    • Grown man goes out for a few drinks with some mates and possibly (?) ends up in a little scuffle.

      SEND HIM TO THE CELLS! LOCK AWAY THE KEY!

      Christ, get some perspective.

      • Slight over reaction to my comment methinks. I have perspective aplenty and my perspective tells me that this man is in danger of throwing his prospects away because he seems to be immature and behaves stupidly. All I am saying is that a period of reflection forced upon him might make him sit down and contemplate his future and all he could lose if he continues to behave like a prat.

        Cells and Key were not mentioned by me

      • Grown man playing for England in the middle of a 5 match ODI series, who also has two children and who’s about to get married goes out to nightclub until 3am.
        Drinks too much. Gets into a fight. Ends up in Police custody.

        Perspective? Somebody needs some, that’s for sure.

        • I get that he’s in the middle of a series, and I also acknowledge he’s done something quite stupid (I hadn’t seen the above footage previously), but remind me of the relevance of him having children and is getting married soon? Stupidity late in the evening aside, should people in that position not go out?

          • Just that he not only cricketing responsibilities but also family to think about. If I went out clubbing until 3am my partner might think I was doing more than just enjoying the music. And if I’d already been warned by the ECB about late night drinking and was aware I had an anger management issue, I might think twice as well.
            Clearly, being a twat isn’t a crime. But punching people again and again is. What kind of father does he think his kids would like?

      • I’ve been out for a “few drinks” with my mates more times than I would like to recall.

        However, I’ve never singlehandedly taken on a group of 5 guys and punched one of them out cold as he was trying to get me to calm down.

        Why? Because I’m not a fucking psychopath

        There is no place in English cricket for dick-heads like this, sorry.

    • Isn’t it time someone had the “chat” with Ben Stokes that Neil Fairbrother had with Andrew Flintoff…

      “Fred, you’re a c***.”

      It worked for him, as he himself acknowledged.

        • A different kind of c*** perhaps. What Fairbrother’s intervention did was wake Flintoff up to his potential and the possibility he was wearing it.

      • The best solution was when Peter (Popeye) Willey quietly informed a bumptious Botham where his bat handle would end up if he didn’t behave. Of course, it helped that Willey could bench press 300lb and the entire squad knew he was the hardest man in the dressing room.

  • What is it about this mediocre Aussie line up that frightens people. They have 4 cricketers as far as I can see who’d get into our present first 11; Smith, Warner, Stark and Hazelwood.
    We have; Cook, Root, Stokes, Bairstow, Ali, Woakes, Broad and Anderson, who’d walk into theirs. Twice as many!
    Not a bad combined 12 though. Who to leave out. Probably Woakes.

    • The idea that Australia would pick Ali, Woakes or Anderson in Australia is laughable . From an Australian perspective, you’d pick Root and Stokes certainly. You’d pick Cook although mostly because the alternative hasn’t done enough yet, not because he demands it. Bairstow would normally be an outsider, but right now he’d probably get in. Broad would get in the XII. Warner, Cook, Smith, Root, Handscomb (and I acknowledge he’s not a certainty – but the English alternative is?), Stokes, Bairstow, Starc, Cummins, Lyon, Hazelwood.

      • You leave out Ali for Lyon?!!
        You select Cummins, a player who has no consistent pedigree, over a bowler with a 500 test wickets, in the form of his life, because he has a comparatively mediocre record in Oz.
        You select Hanscombe, who has glaring technical flaws, as obvious as Vince, over Stokes or Bairstow?!!
        That’s laughable.

        • I’d be me ahead of Vince. Handscomb has a Test batting average of 50, 99.75 in home tests against Pakistan and the Saffers.

          I’d certainly not pick Anderson ahead of Cummins in Australia. Anderson has struggled in Aus. A fit Cummins is far more of a threat on Aussie pitches.

          I’d certainly pick Lyon, as a spin bowler, ahead of Ali. I’d pick Leach ahead of Ali.

  • Ballance – just say no. Worcestershire just qualified for the first division. They have batsmen in form. Why not give some of these guys a try out. At least we know they have performed this summer.

  • What’s all the fuss about Ben Stokes – he ain’t that good. Mo’s is the new Ian Botham (and they both played for Worcestershire which is always a plus point).

    Gary Ballance, Joe Root, Alex Hales, James Vince, Dawid Malan – how many number four batsmen do we need in the squad ? Chris Woakes – no direction, medium fast – just sprays it all over the place – will get hammered around the ground in Australia.

    Where is Liam Plunkett ? Jake Ball, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad won’t make a difference if there is no swing or seam.

    • I’m afraid that I can’t agree that Moeen Ali is “the new Ian Botham”. Since I’ve been watching England cricket, I can only think of 2 1/2 players who would be selected as both batsman and bowler – Botham, Flintoff, and (as the 1/2) Tony Grieg. Ben Stokes may become another, but as yet neither Stokes’s nor Ali’s bowling would make them automatic selections.

    • Oh dear – the old Boycott crap about Woakes being so slow his mom could play him. Given that he was timed at over 90mph last winter and gave Pujara the most awful working over of the tour with short balls you would think the old myth had been well and truly put to bed. But the sofa warriors will always talk crap.

  • I reckon at least two members of the Lions’ squad will feature in the Test series before it finishes. Picking a squad with no reserve opener is crazy. Both Anderson and Broad missed Tests on the last tour and, at this stage in their career, further injury must be likely.

    It sounds extremely worrying for Mark Wood who apparently needed an injection in his ankle that’s had three operations during a recent CC match. I hope they don’t take him with the Lions but suspect they will. The Tymal Mills’ route may be the best way for him to go.

    • It does look bad, and I am no Stokes fan (I think he is the most overrated red ball player in the world). But clips of part of the events (perhaps edited by the appalling Sun) may not tell the whole story. If it does turn out that one of those flattened started it by trying to bottle someone then the reaction, if OTT, is understandable.

      • Well in the video I saw seemed to be continuous – he gets involved in a ruck but after that breaks up he goes looking for more. It ends with him connecting with a brutal right cross that knocks a chap cold – he’s out before he hits the floor and the way his head hits the tarmac, Stokes could easily have found himself on a murder charge. It’s the behaviour of a common thug and he’ll be very lucky to stay out of the nick. To be honest a few weeks’ chokey might bring him to his senses. He needs to change his lifestyle and lay off the drink, like Flintoff did. I’ll be amazed if we see him in an England shirt before next summer, and rightly so.

      • I actually think the reaction has been incredibly kind to stokes – there should be no discussion, the ECB should have already stripped his vice captaincy and dropped him from the squad. It was a massive pile of drunken louts all as bad as each other. Stokes red mist had descended in his drunken state, he wasn’t happy until he floored someone. A total liability in Australia when you consider how many aussie fans will be out there to poke him with a stick.

        I know what you’re saying with the sun, but there’s no editing involved with his knockout punch, that was just one lout hitting another who at the time was clearly backing off pleading with stokes not to hit him. You are right that a bottle was involved and that’s what sparked Stokes rage, but the bloke he knocked out wasn’t the one that swung the bottle.

        • I suspect you are right, but I am always reluctant to judge without all the evidence, especially when it seems to be conceded that others started the problem. And while the video may be continuous what we do not know is what is cut off at each end.
          I cannot believe that I am the one on this site cautioning against a rush to judgement. Those who have seen my previous posts will know I am the last person to be a member of the Ben Stokes fan club.

          • from a police perspective I completely agree, people should wait for them to finish their investigation

            From a cricketing perspective, it’s just not acceptable

  • I agree that Ballance and Vince seem to have a charmed life. What I do not understand is why Hameed is not taken with a view to batting Stoneman at 3. You pick an Ashes touring party on technique and not short term form (especially the openers) and the only Engalnd opener with adequate technique other than Cook is Hameed. Assuming his finger is s minor quick healing injury he should have been an automatic choice.

    • Because Hameed is nowhere close to form and if he had an awful tour, off the back of an awful season, it could damage him for good?

      Hameed selection would be a triumph of romance over reality. Burns would have made far more sense. Or Browne, even.

      • You failed to deal with the point raised that you pick for the Ashes on technique. Neither Browne or Burns have what I would expect to be a successful technique at test level (as opposed to facing medium pace county bowling). They are also both left handed and there is some benefit in a RH/LH opening pair.
        The recurrent problem with England batting selection is that the selectors ignore technique, with this being especially noticeable in their liking for playing white ball baseballers in tests.

        • Marcus Trescothick has a bloody awful technique. Hameed has a great technique.

          It doesn’t follow that the latter will be more successful as an opener than the former.

          Hameed is in no form whatsoever. It doesn’t matter if he looks compact at the crease. He can barely buy a run. I sincerely hope he gets it back and has a long and successful career. Right now he’s not close to selection.

          • Have to disagree. Trescothick may not have the Cook technique, but it is far more classical than Stoneman, Vince, Malan or Burns or Browne (and I say it having seen him bat at Edgbaston very recently). The issue, especially on fast,hard Oz wickets is do you get into line and do you bring the bat down straight. Hameed ticks both boxes. You continue to go on about form – but it is technique that matters.

        • I think the problem here is that there is a difference between good technique and what the majority of cricket pundits and fans think is a good technique.

          Technique also doesn’t exist in isolation – it has to be seen in the context of the batsman’s wider gameplan.

          Cook has a very ugly, unorthodox technique, but because he understands it and plays within the limits of it, it works for him (most of the time).

          Hameed appears to have an elegant, orthodox defensive technique. But a defensive technique without an attacking technique is basically useless. He appears to be able to clip off his legs, but I’m not quite sold on his technique when cutting, driving, pulling etc. I need to see more of him to judge tbh.

    • One other thing on form vs. technique.

      If Hameed had had a season like Vince, say, with a couple of tons, a 50 and some doughty batting on occasion, I can absolutely see the sense in picking him above, say, someone who averaged 50 but has never faced Test bowlers.

      But Hameed’s form was awful. Stinkingly, awfully, awful. Even was he was digging in, scoring shots seemed to have totally eluded him. Bell had a similarly stinking season, but at least Bell has a wellspring of experience and a few tours of Aus to fall back on.

      So technique may well be more important than form, but really, really bad form is not something you can possibly be taking into the Ashes. Unless, of course, the batting cupboard was utterly bare and England were scraping a barrel…

  • I don’t know whether this point is made over this whole rotten Stokes Affair but:

    I’ m just very worried about the Video being leaked to The Sun for a few extra copies to sell has now pre-empted the entire Legal and Judicial process that must be undergone and that means that Stokes will now be prejudged and be prejudiced against before all the entire matter is investigated and checked out.

    I hope no-one will be offed with me for saying this – I put this argument to somebody on twitter Earlier and I was accused of ranting against her!!

    And I agree on the face of it, it don’t look great for Stokes or for us in Aussie – should we even book a Ticket for Brisbane – Any Thoughts?

    • I agree, but that’s the world we live in now. Trial by media, twitter and facebook. Everyone has a phone these days and anyone in public life has to recognise that if they get involved in anything, it will almost certainly be recorded. That’s what makes Stokes such a plonker. He knows he’s a fiery bugger, why the hell get tanked up in the early hours when there are all sorts of equally pissed dickheads about who are just itching for a fight, and for whom the consequences are zero. I expect the lad who got pole-axed will be trying to squeeze a few bob out of some rag as I write to tell his side of the story. It’s not sub judice until someone’s charged…

      • I agree with you on that H, it’s just the way I was trained and Taught in the Law against the reality of Human Nature and the Media Outlets on hand which weren’t around in circa 1988 which was when I was first involved in such things.

  • In light of the Stokes footage – it would be a joke to English cricket if they carried on and selected him. He needs to be severely punished so that he has a massive wake up call and realise where heavy drinking will lead to his own self destruction. Indulging him because he’s one of the best players in the side will only lead to problems down the road. What if someone not so good in the squad gets into a similar situation when they’re out at 4am completely hammered? They’d be sent packing instantly, no discussion.

    Dropping him from the Ashes squad will harm England, but retaining him will do much more damage to both Stokes and England side in the long run. If a dossier is compiled that includes “whistling and looking a bit bored during a team meeting” is evidence enough that someone should have their career ended, then battering someone into hospital despite them holding their hands up should not be laughed off

  • Back to the squad – not sure why Crane is in there, as surely he would benefit more from a Lions spot. Perhaps his place should have gone to the more experienced Rashid or Leach (who don’t need to be with the Lions really).
    Think Hameed will be with the Lions and, should he do ok, would be the one to replace Stoneman (form/injury) or Cook (injury – please no).
    Ballance must be a good water carrier. Surely he can’t expect to be picked in the first test?
    From that squad I would go Cook, Stoneman, Root (but won’t happen), Vince and Malan (any order), Stokes (but now won’t tour), Bairstow, Ali, Woakes, Broad, Jimmy.
    Stokes has now posed a massive problem.

    • Agree about Crane. The only benefit if Stokes does not go is that Bairstow and Ali can bat 6 and 7, as they should, and Woakes may get to bat without running out of partners (remember his FC batting average is better than Stokes and his test batting average nearly as good).

      • I’d suggest it would be wise, were Stokes not to tour, to replace him with a frontline spinner. Though if they did that, it would indicate they’d got the Crane selection wrong.

        Ali, Woakes, Broad, Anderson, Leach or Ball (depending on surface) looks like a balanced attack, depending on conditions.

        Despite an excellent (brilliant, really) series with the ball against the Saffers, I don’t see Ali as a reliable frontline spinner. In 13 series, he’s averaged under 40 with the ball only 4 times (though he was excellent in 3 of those series, against SA, India (in England!) and Bangladesh). His Test bowling average outside England is ~44.

        As an SLA, Leach is more likely to, at least, be able to keep it tight.

  • Why has Hales been suspended? By all accounts he walked away from the trouble and was the one to go back to the hotel and let England management know what had happened. And, according to reports, there were 5 other players out with them that night including Anderson and Ball (although they were not at the incident). Whilst Stokes suspension is understandable, the action against Hales stinks of an ECB black op. If I was Hales, in the light of this action I would not talk to anyone (ECB or police) without my solicitor present and would be seeking legal advice on possible action against the ECB. Given past ECB action (or lack of it) this seems out of line. They did nothing when Root wound up Warner by doing his Hashim Amla act, and they took no action against Steven Finn who was reported to be ‘asleep in the gutter’ the same night.

    • I was wondering about the Hales suspension as well. Also, does the guy Stokes hit have to “press charges” for Stokes to be charged with assault or can the police do it themselves based on their investigation (eg video evidence)?

      • I’m not sure the ‘pressing charges’ thing is a … thing. Pretty sure the police can prepare a file for the CPS regardless of whether or not the victim wants this to happen. It is then up to the CPS to determine whether to take a prosecution forward. One element they would consider is public interest.
        The victim could choose not to testify, or withdraw their statement, which in some situations (eg, domestic abuse) may result in charges being dropped, for lack of evidence. In fact, a few years back, a victim of domestic abuse found herself facing prosecution for withdrawing her testimony – off the back of continuing intimidation by the suspect.
        In Stokes’s case, it doesn’t seem as though the police/CPS would be reliant on witness testimony.

      • I think it’s as DAVEG says. Twenty-odd years ago I was personally involved in a case that bore (some) relevant similarities to the incident in question. On that occasion the Police pursued charges and I was mererly called as a witness, even though I had been one of the victims (not that I like the “victim” word…) of an assault. The Police had been on the scene immediately and had seen for themselves who had attacked who and who was defending themselves – which I guess is analagous to the clear video evidence in this instance. Yes, the future of this case and what charges are brought will doubtless be determined by the CPS, once the Police have concluded their inquiries. They can be a little pondereous in their work – especially in a high profile case involving a “celebrity” – so it might take a little while.

  • Strauss says that the squad will be picked on form and fitness.
    None of the ‘additions’, with the exception of Ballance and Foakes, qualify in this case.
    In circumstances like these I feel selectors need to be put on the spot, for the sake of fairness.
    ‘His game will suit the conditions’ simply doesn’t wash to justify selection of players clearly short on form.
    You might as well go back to Bell and Trott, who are both familiar with test cricket and Aussie conditions.
    As far as Stokes is concerned, after viewing his ‘edited highlights’ he may be lucky to avoid the chokey.
    Maverick players in any sport enhance the entertainment value but Stokes seem to have crossed the line here.
    Botham and Flintoff both misbehaved and showed poor judgement off the field, but nothing like this.

  • Saw Beefy being interviewed and it was interesting to hear that in the end he realised he could not go out drinking etc like he used to as he got himself in all sorts of trouble, some of it merited, some not. Says he created a ‘bat cave’ at his hotel where the drinking and carousing went on in his room. Said it was safer and kept him out of trouble. Also said he had met lots of great people and went out to dinner with them or went to their houses. He just knew as he got older that this kind of behaviour had to stop. Flintoff also realised he had to change.

    I have said on another forum that leaving Stokes behind and stripping him of his vice captaincy could be the shock he needs to make him sort himself out. I do hope so.

    • I agree with your comments at the other place.

      Anyway, I can’t see how he /can/ tour now the video is out there. It’s not a single punch in the heat of the moment. It’s a sustained attack against someone who, bigot or not, is backing away.

  • My initial reaction to the squad selection was that it confirmed everything Australians ridicule about the ‘Mother Country’.
    Prisoners of Mother.
    A toff from Uppingham and Ma and Pa’s business + a toff from an all boys school (Radley) + a young lad who always bears the impression of the last small group to sit on him + a clique of south Africans (note small ‘s’) pick a load of conformists along with their old ‘cresting the top the hill types’ PLUS ONE
    The only non-POM (as Botham was a non-POM) was Stokes. Well even they could find no way to drop him, even though they had tried to tame him with the ‘Vice Capataincy’ –no greater enemy of the wild elephant culture than a tame elephant.
    Yep it was a Squad of POMS. Much ridicule in prospect for the ‘Old Enemy’.
    And now they have their chance to remove the only non-Pom.
    The only reason Stokes should not go is if he is detained on her Mag’s pleasure. And if he gets out on Christmad Eve for Good behaviour he should be flown by Concord or an Elon Musk rocket to Melbourne, pronty.
    There is NO cricketing reason for Stokes not to tour.
    When in doubt, do what the Australians don’t want you to do.
    Break the chains.
    AND EAT THEIR BABIES

  • My problems with the selection, in some kind of order:

    1. Stokes. The squad announcement should’ve been postponed when he was arrested. The emergence of the video, and the Katie Price’s child video, has made a mockery of the ECB. A dreadful situation poorly handled.

    2. There is no backup opener. Given the second opener is one of the shakiest spots this seems strange. What do you do if Stoneman doesn’t hit one off the square in the warm up games? What’s the plan if one of the openers gets injured on the day of the game?

    3. Crane. He should be on the Lions tour. I would’ve picked Rashid or Samit Patel as emergency alternatives to Ali and given Leach and Crane the opportunity to bowl themselves into contention with the Lions.

    Areas I think people are overreacting (again in order):

    1. Ballance. He’s had a better season domestically than any of the alternatives. He lost his place last time due to a broken finger rather than performance. And I think he has the right stuff from a character point of view. He certainly isn’t perfect but would be in my squad 100%.

    2. No fast bowler. It’s wishful thinking that we want one so there must be one to select. Plunkett will put in a shift but doesn’t do enough with the ball. Wood isn’t fit – if he gets fit then he comes in mid series. Ball is better and more talented than the alternatives (you could make an argument for Finn but he’s not exactly reliable). Overton I think has done enough to merit a chance. The people in the Lions party have a chance to come in if they outperform.

    3. Vince. There are flies on all the options here, OK? None of the alternatives are great and you have to pick someone. I would have chosen between Robson and Vince. It does concern me that the only alternative at 3 is bumping Root up. It does concern me that he bats 4 for Hampshire. I worry about his character. He is however the most talented of the people realistically in the frame (I’m not including Hameed in that). He’s got 2 tests, after that I’m looking hard at the Lions. Crane’s selection annoys me because there are blatantly more suitable options. I’m not sure you can make that criticism here.

  • I’ve said this before and it’s amazing really that everyone seems to ignore it. The quality of Cricket is declining and quality of the county championship is declining. The standard of coaching is poorer than ever and the way amateurs play is worrying of all. Amateurs after all is where you breed your pro cricketers . If all they see and play is slog fest formats then it follows that the only skill and interest will be in white ball..

    It really isn’t rocket science and ye to bet more leagues this winter will vote away draw Cricket and move towards win lose format and hairten game… then we wonder why we aren’t producing technical players

  • I’m hoping that the unfortunate Stokes situation might galvanise the players into defying all the pundits who are writing them off, eg Michael Vaughan saying England have no chance without the fiery Stokes in the team. However, it is a huge blow to have lost him.
    I would have preferred Plunkett to Ball, Plunkett may be 32 years old but he has good pace and does well enough in ODIs. Jack Leach, with his flight and control might have been a better option than Crane, who could join the Lions squad instead.
    I do feel Ballance has had too many chances. He looked like a walking wicket against South Africa and still had that habit of going right back on his stumps and almost playing in a French cricket way. Vince is an odd selection in that he hasn’t had a very good season for Hampshire. Some county players with good averages just seem to be ignored eg Rory Burns, Joe Denly, both of whom could possibly be tried as opener or number 3.
    The lack of real pace in the bowling is a worry. As usual, we will need Anderson to continue the fine form he showed this summer. Broad worried me this summer, he was unlucky to have catches dropped off his bowling, but he seemed to be struggling a bit. I am not convinced Moeen will have much joy with the ball.
    Still, we know that the Aussie batting is a little suspect apart from Warner and Smith, so it is not all doom and gloom. We will need big runs every match from Cook, Root, Bairstow and Moeen.
    As for Stokes, it does look like he was initially acting in self-defence, but he should not have been out so late and drinking so much. Perhaps they should have a midnight curfew. Will be interesting to see what the ECB do and compare that with what CA did with Warner after the incident with Joe Root in 2013.

By James Morgan

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