Stick Or Twist? The Ashes Angst Edition

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Have you cracked a smile since the Sydney Test? I almost smiled once when I heard Donald Trump describe himself as ‘a genius’, but this was more of a scoff than anything else. I’m afraid the rain clouds are still firmly ensconced above my bonce.

We’ve done the broader reasons for England’s Ashes capitulation to death so now it’s time to focus on the individual players. England lost because we don’t have any genuine pace or high class spin – a failure the ECB must answer for – so we weren’t able to fight fire with fire.

Australia’s attack was excellent and their batsmen were able to make big scores against our powder-puff ‘artillery’. It was always going to be thus. The score might have been closer had our senior batsmen made bigger runs, but ultimately the Ashes were always going to be surrendered.

It doesn’t take a Trump to work out that England need bowlers who can be effective in all conditions if we’re to progress as a team. We also need batsmen who have the courage, skill and technique to flourish against fast bowling, plus the fleetness of foot required to cope with quality spinners.

And so, with this in mind, we run the rule over England’s Ashes squad and ask ‘stick’ or ‘twist’? I don’t care that we’ve got a home series against India this summer. It’s all about playing the long game now. In the next year we play New Zealand, the West Indies and Sri Lanka (as well as that home series against India) so it’s the perfect time to blood new players and breathe new life into the test team.

Alastair Cook – Ashes rating 4 out of 10

I apologise for being a smartarse, but Cook’s series confirmed what I’ve always though about Alastair. When conditions are benign, and his technique isn’t tested, he’ll bat until the cows come home. But when he’s facing top class bowling he’ll be exposed more often than not.

Some might say Alastair is on the decline but I disagree. He’s the same player he’s always been. The only difference now is that more people are beginning to recognise that his iron rod is actually made from something more permeable.

Although some might give Cook a lower mark for passing 40 just once in nine attempts, I’ve been relatively kind because it was his double hundred – albeit made on a featherbed with Starc missing and Cummins ill – that saved us from the ignominy of another series whitewash.

Therefore I’m happy for Alastair to stay in the side for now – if only because there are no obvious candidates to replace him. What’s more, scoring big tons in benign conditions is still a useful ability to have. I won’t be surprised if Cook bolsters his career statistics further by scoring a lot of relatively easy runs in the next 12 months.

Verdict: Stick

Mark Stoneman – 3/10

He looked good for a couple of tests, right? Yes he certainly did. Stoneman looked composed, compact, and a lot more accomplished than his opening partner in Brisbane and Adelaide. However, it all went a bit pear-shaped after Mark was hit on the head at Perth. The Aussie pacemen smelt blood and pummelled him with chin music. It soon became apparent that Stoneman’s hands were always in the wrong position when he played the short ball. His performances disintegrated as a result.

There are two ways to look at Stoneman. Either you think he showed enough promise to warrant a second chance, or you shrug your shoulders and place him in the same bracket as Robson, Lyth, and Jennings – who all made hundreds at the start of their test careers but were soon found out. My gut feeling is that Stoneman is probably just another Lyth and Robson … but without the early hundred to buy him extra time. And at the age of 30 (he’ll be 31 next summer) is he really worth persevering with?

Verdict: Twist

James Vince 3/10

We could’ve written this report before the series. Everyone knew he’d look a million dollars at times but ultimately disappoint and frustrate. That’s who James Vince is.

Jim, Gus, and Mick must have been the only people in the world who thought Vince warranted his place in England’s squad. The fact he only averages 38 in first class cricket, despite his prodigious talent, should have given them a clue.

If Vince’s problems were technical rather than mental, I’d be more inclined to give him another go. However, because he’s about to turn 27 years old, and he’s always been exactly the same player, I doubt he’ll ever change.

Verdict: Twist

Joe Root 6/10

Averaged over 40 and looked our best batsman by miles. We expected as much from Joe. He’s a class act. However, this penchant for tossing his wicket away like a used condom has to stop. If he wants to be as good as Steve Smith – and there’s no doubt he has just as much (if not more) natural talent – then he really must start converting more 50s into 100s.

Joe’s captaincy wasn’t great at times but I’m pleased that England kept trying until the end. This tells me that the dressing room respects him and works hard for him. I guess we’ve just got to get used to his occasional ‘eccentricities’ in the field. After all, he’s learning captaincy on the job (which isn’t really his fault).

I personally think that Joe will develop into a good captain and leader in time. Note to Ricky Ponting: Root might look a bit like a schoolboy, but at least he doesn’t look like Jimmy Cranky chewing a wasp.

 

 

 

 

 

Verdict: Stick (as both batsman and captain).

Dawid Malan – 7/10

Our Dawid was on the fringes of selection for nine years, finally got a go, and looked rather good! Where has he been? Although he was billed as a white ball specialist, he actually had a perfect temperament for test cricket. How can someone get miscast so badly? I’m glad he proved his doubters (which included me) wrong.

Now he’s proven he can score runs on the toughest of tours, England should stick with Malan. I suspect he’ll have his ups and downs – he might find home runs harder to come by as he doesn’t move his feet much – but the signs are obviously good.

Verdict: Stick

Garry Balance – NA

Although I’ve never been a fan of Gaz’s batting, it seems harsh to drop him when he hasn’t actually played a game this winter. Unfortunately however, that’s exactly what needs to happen.

Verdict: Twist

Jonny Bairstow – 6/10

Ah yes, Mr Bairstow. The (head)butt of all jokes. It was a strange tour for Jonny. He kept better than I expected but batted slightly worse. I was hoping he’d dominate at times, and show what a fine player he is. Unfortunately this never really happened, even though he scored at good hundred at Perth. I also thought his runs were a bit streaky at times. For some reason he wasn’t quite himself.

Having said that, an average in the high 30s was a respectable return and he’ll be a key player for many years to come. He’s probably the only England batsman apart from Root who would make a combined XI.

Verdict: Stick

Moeen Ali – 2/10

Oh Mo. I love you so. But it’s time for you to go.

Moeen is one of my favourite cricketers. He’s brought me huge enjoyment over the years. However, this tour has exposed why his critics were right (and I was wrong) all along.

Unfortunately Mo simply isn’t a test quality spinner, and he’s not improving either. Yes he had injury problems on this tour; but isn’t there always an excuse when Mo goes abroad? Overseas is when we need a good spinner most, and I’m beginning to think that Mo’s tremendous home performances aren’t enough.

England now need to invest in a younger spinner who might develop like Nathan Lyon. Mo therefore has to justify his place as a specialist batsman or go back to Worcestershire (who need him more). I won’t mind him playing as a second spinner / all rounder in Sri Lanka though.

Verdict – Twist (sad face)

Chris Woakes – 4/10

The mighty Woakes wasn’t particularly mighty down under. In fact, I’m a little concerned about his future now. Is he the seam bowling equivalent of Mo? He’s just as ineffective abroad.

Fortunately there’s still plenty to like about Woakes as a cricketer. He’s usually composed with the bat and capable of good spells with the ball. The problem is he’ll be 29 years old this summer, and that extra yard of pace he found a couple of years ago isn’t going to last long. And what then?

I’m tempted to say ‘twist’ here, but I’m going to stick with him due to a lack of alternatives … and because, like me, he supports Aston Villa. The poor sod.

Verdict: Stick

Stuart Broad – 3/10

One good game isn’t good enough I’m afraid. One expects more from a so-called English ‘great’. I’ve long argued that Broad is excellent when he’s operating above 85mph but a tad buffet when he’s operating at medium pace. And at the age of 31 (he’ll turn 32 in June) he’s not going to get any quicker now.

People forget that Broad made his test debut in Sri Lanka over ten years ago. There’s a lot of miles on the clock now. Is it any surprise that he’s only taken one test five-fer in the last two years? Age withers us all.

Unfortunately I think it’s time for old Stu Pot to have a blow (possibly a permanent one). I don’t see the point of keeping him in the team for one more crack at India when Craig Overton is probably a better long-term option.

Verdict: Twist

Craig Overton – 6/10

I wasn’t convinced when Overton got picked for the Ashes but he turned out to be a pleasant surprise. He’d added a yard of pace since I last saw him and he might get (a bit) quicker still. It also helps that Overton is almost two metres tall and bowls a somewhat heavy ball. There’s a lot to like.

Although I doubt he’ll ever tear up trees for England, I think he’ll be a very useful change bowler. He’s also got that ‘club cricketer’ demeanour that supporters love. He’s a big guy, somewhat agricultural, and looks a like an angry farmer wielding a pitchfork when a batsman edges him through the slips for four.

Overton also likes to give the ball a lusty biff when batting. He’s got potential cult hero written all over him.

Verdict: Stick

Jake Ball – 3/10

The Brisbane test feels like an age ago. And that’s probably a good thing for Ball who generally bowled like a drain at the Gabba.

It’s hard to know what to make of him at this point. His supporters will claim that he wasn’t fully fit in his one appearance, and that’s he’s tall, young, and possesses a yard of pace. But is he really that quick? I’m not so sure. And he’s certainly not that young. He just hasn’t played much first class cricket.

I’m in two minds whether to stick or twist here, but I’m going to go with the former – if only because I enjoy rooting for guys who make the simple act of running look painfully laborious.

Verdict: Stick

Tom Curran – 3/10

What a shame that I can’t give marks for effort alone. Try as he might – and boy did he try – Curran looked about as likely to take wickets at Gary Ballance looked like scoring runs. And that’s pretty hard to do when you’re carrying drinks all day.

I suspect that Curran was an Andy Flower recommendation – picked on attitude rather than ability. It’s a bit like Liam Dawson all over again. Still, Curran is a young bloke and time is on his side. Maybe he’ll find that extra yard of pace (or two) that he needs?

Verdict: Twist

Jimmy Anderson 7/10

I really wanted to give Jimmy an 8, as a return of 17 wickets at 28 was a very respectable effort on dead pitches. However, although he was our best bowler by miles, we can’t forget how badly both Anderson and Broad bowled in the first innings at Adelaide. That was a crucial moment in the series and our experienced heads really let us down.

Having said that, this Ashes tour has probably enhanced Jimmy’s stellar reputation. Although he’s 35 years old he bowled more overs than anyone else – a remarkable statistic. What’s more, I think he’s just as good as he’s always been. Can he play for another couple years? I certainly hope so as otherwise we’re screwed.

Mason Crane – 4/10

Is he the new Shane Warne? Is he the new Stuart MacGill. No. He’s Mason Crane. Sorry to disappoint everyone.

It seemed pretty clear at Sydney that Adil Rashid should’ve been picked ahead of Crane for this series. I don’t buy this ‘Adil gets intimidated’ nonsense. He bowled at Kohli and Co in India and picked up four wickets in three innings (from memory) and was our leading wicket taker. He’s also our ODI spinner of choice, and you’ve got to be somewhat resilient to be successful in white ball cricket.

Having said that, Crane probably has more potential than Rashid. Therefore I’d like to see him stay around the team – if only because he’s probably going to get more cricket with England than Hampshire!

Verdict – Stick

Trevor Bayliss – ?

I can’t really give Bayliss a mark because nobody knows what he does. In theory he coaches the team – although we keep reading that he’s very hands-off. And in theory he creates an environment in which players can thrive – although we keep losing games. Having said that he can only work with the players at his disposal. And getting our motley crew to win down under is like asking Donald Trump to make cake out of sand. Not even a genius can do that.

The ECB has already announced that Bayliss will step down at the end of his contract in 2019, but he’ll be lucky to hang around that long if we lose the upcoming ODIs too.

At the end of the day, I can’t help thinking we’d be better off with a coach who knows county cricket. We need to find some new players, and I don’t trust Jim, Mick and Gus to identify diamonds in the rough like Duncan Fletcher used to do. The head coach has to help out.

Verdict – Twist

And finally …

Ben Stokes – minus 10 out of 10

Good old Ben, or should I say the un-caped crusader, managed to condemn his team without bowling a single ball. That’s quite an achievement really. However, he can stay in England’s thoughts as long as he promises to grow up.

Not that I’d tell him that to his face … in a nightclub … at 2am.

What do you all think?

James Morgan

90 comments

    • I’d be hoping it would shape up something like this

      Cook (although I agree with James that he can be exposed, he can still deliver)
      Hameed
      Clarke/Lawrence
      Root (C)
      Malan
      Stokes
      Bairstow (WK)
      Overton
      Crane/Woakes depending on conditions
      Leach
      Anderson (I certainly hope he is still capable)

      Hopefully people like Garton might be making solid progress and could fit in for Crane/Woakes. It is difficult to speculate now as to how some of the younger players will develop.

        • Now it is but they have a lot of tests between now and the next ashes and the core of the team is very experienced in Cook, Root, Stokes, bairstow & Anderson. Woakes has played a fair bit and Malan will have a lot more tests under his belt.

          • How many Tests between now and July 2019? I count 15? Basically everything would have to go perfectly from here – in terms of selections and players taking their chances – to properly bed down the side by then.

            I’d suggest that home Ashes might come a year too soon for England to have completed that transition to a position of relative strength and stability.

            And you’ll be hoping 37-year-old Anderson produces something close to his career best, otherwise Australia will see a golden opportunity to win an away Ashes series.

    • Applying a bit of reading comprehension to James’ comments above:

      Cook
      A.N.Other (Hameed?)
      A.N.Other
      Root
      Malan
      Bairstow
      Stokes (if not in jail)/A.N.Other
      Woakes
      Overton
      Anderson
      Crane

      I’m almost feeling sorry for the Poms

    • Maybe

      Hameed
      Robson/Gubbins/Stoneman
      Cook
      Root
      Malan/Ali/Livingston/Lawrence
      Bairstow+
      Stokes
      Woakes (if you care only about winning at home) or Coad/Helm/whoever (if you want to build to win away)
      Leach
      Finn
      Anderson

  • I can’t think of any of the squad, who played, that should stay on. Apart from Jimmy, who is probably worth one more punt back in blighty for the next Ashes, they were all crap.

  • Dean Wilson made the point on CWOTV this summer that we simply have no idea how the players are chosen. England have a lot of staff away from the first team who must have an impact, the selectors who are part time apart from Whitaker but also those involved with the Lions such as Andy Flower must also have some form of say. Then there is Andrew Strauss who isn’t a selector but its hinted he is in the meetings.

    Bayliss is a selector but it was known when appointed that he wouldn’t know anyone outside the setup, its hard to criticise him when you don’t really know what he is responsible for. Personally if the other selectors can’t to trusted to pick a team we need different selectors not a new coach.

  • Sorry, but stick on Ball is a joke. Easily the worst bowler I have seen in an England shirt, and I remember Martin McCague, Alan Igglesden and Mark Illot.

    Reminds me a lot of the young Tim Bresnan when he first came into the England ODI side, low 80’s inaccurate half-trackers getting smashed around. Ball is like that but even worse.

    Maybe he can develop into a better bowler over time, as Bresnan did, but he should nowhere near the England squad for the foreseeable future.

    • It was his first class average of 26 that persuaded me to keep him in the running. He wouldn’t be my first choice though! I do think he’s better than he showed at Brisbane.

  • The only one I’d disagree with would be Stoneman. He needs some runs in the bank but I’d be happy to give him credit for now.

    I’d like to see Hameed open long term but would rather see Cook drop to three to accommodate him. Not sure he’s quite ready yet and doubt he would have done well against the pace in Australia.

    As far as angry pitch fork wielding farmers go it would be wonderful to see one at either end. His brother Jamie was too tight to get BT in order to watch his brother play apparently, which is almost worthy of a call up in it’s own right!

    So for New Zealand we’d need a new opener, a number 3 ( if Cook doesn’t play there), a new reserve bat and two bowlers. Answers on a postcard…

    • In Sky’s post Ashes discussion show the name Nick Gubbins kept coming up, the fact he played 7 CC games last summer with an average of 24 seems to have escaped them. Burns has scored runs but hasn’t even got a lions call so doubt it will be him. What is the betting its Jennings?

      Call up Alex Lees I say, he won’t score many runs but he will be the perfect replacement for Vince in that he is usually out driving

      • Gubbins was also mentioned as the next opener off the rank on Switch Hit so what you heard wasn’t a one-off and there has definitely been some briefing going on.

        As you it’s extraordinary that Gubbins was ignored two years ago when he had a stellar season and is now being bigged up after going backwards and not even being the best opener in his county team. He must have said the right thing at one of Andy Flower’s Sandhurst get-togethers.

        • I thought Gubbins looked extremely good in the year that Middlesex won the championship. I too was confused when he was snubbed by England. Last year he was very poor and has obviously gone backwards. It would be very strange to give him an international opportunity now. This would just add to the suspicion that England don’t try to identify special talent and then back it. They simply go through all the available names saying ‘your turn’, ‘now your turn’, ‘now your turn’.

          • You rumbled them James! There will be a purge at ECB Tower to find out who leaked the top secret formula

            On Gubbins, that innings was excellent and he averaged 60 that season but overall he still averages 36 so was that season the sign of a standout player or just a blip.

  • I think that, for future series Down Under, we need proper pace. In the (almost inevitable) absence of Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett should have gone. Jofra Archer must be a future contender, as must Garton. Turning to your thoughts, sadly I have to agree on Stoneman. I think he has “lost it” since that whack on the helmet in Perth. I can see an argument for playing Mo in home tests only (that’s “half and half”). I can’t agree on Jake Ball, who offers little we don’t already have.
    So, let’s see if the selectors take the long view, and work over the England squad with a view to competing in the next Ashes Down Under. All it requires is a bit of foresight and strategic planning, allied to knowledge of the available players. So, obviously, we’re not putting money on it.

    • I’m reserving judgement on Ball. He either pitched it very short, which he might well have been under orders to do, or very full, which I approve of.

      Personally I think England’s bowling plans were worked out with the help of our friend Ken Oathcarn.

      • I am fairly sure they were worked out with the help of Steve Smith, since nothing else could explain Woakes and Ball being instructed to bowl back of a length, which was widely reported by the journo’s.

    • Unfortunately I think there’s very little chance the management and selectors will think long term. They will be 100% determined to beat India at home so they can pretend everything in the garden is rosy again. It’s a shame because we’ll continue to struggle abroad if we do

      England should have enough to be competitive at home even if they’re in a rebuilding phase. However, I doubt the selectors etc will take the risk.

  • James, agree with most of that. But would give Cook a higher rating. Without his 244*, it would have been another 5-0 whitewash. He’s the only England batsman capable of batting for the 10hrs 34mins, that saved us from defeat.

    • Being capable and doing it are two different things. Cook only delivered once in ten innings. That ‘s a poor return for a batsman with his amount of test runs. Other batsmen have been dropped on less.

      • But that’s what stokes does… one monster innings and bugger all for loads of games and yet.. people think he’d have been some magic player who would have smashed the Aussies.

        We have a tendency to under rate and over rate players. Cook ain’t the payer he was but he’s still way ahead of anyone else

        • Stokes also bowls 90mph. Andy Zaltzman on Cricinfo has pointed out that Cook is the first batsman to make a double century and average less than 50 in a (3 or more test) series three times. Which presumably means he’s great at filling his boots when the going is easy, but tends to get out early a lot on tougher pitches.

          • Stokes very rarely hits 90mph these days. He seems to have lost 3-4mph over the last 2-3 years. When he came into the side I thought he could be the short spell strike bowler – but no longer.

  • James,

    I don’t see any County Cricket here in Oz, so I can’t comment on the possible replacements. But I do want to ask a question.

    When was this era that England produced loads of high quality pace and spin bowlers? Because I’ve been watching cricket for 40 years now, and in that time, I reckon these are the ones we’ve had.

    Willis
    Harmison
    Flintoff
    Swann

    If I was stretching a point I might include Dilley, Panesar and Tufnell. But that’s it. Four (or seven) in 40 years.

    So when you say the ECB must carry the can for this, you’re only right to a point. They certainly don’t help with the insane scheduling – but to blame the current ECB for something that England have never really been able to do, seems a little unfair to me. And it suggests that it’s not quite so easy to “produce” world class quicks and spinners in England as people think – otherwise we would have had more of them.

    England’s staple bowler is a fast medium seamer. Always has been. Same as NZ, funnily enough, which is the closest match to our conditions. Unless we change England’s location, I’m not sure how much that is going to change.

    Which is not to say that we shouldn’t look for pace and spinners. Of course we should. But let’s have a sense of historical perspective in terms of discussing where we have been and where we might get to.

    • I see what you’re saying Kev but we’re getting worse away from home, not better. Pitches around the world are also getting flatter/slower so it’s harder for traditional fast-medium seamers to be effective. I think the ECB should have seen the signs and acted accordingly. We’re always so reactive.

      The depth of talent available (and selection) has also been poor and the ECB should carry the can for this. At Sydney we had Anderson / Broad and then a county medium pacer (Curran), and part-time off spinner (Mo) and a 20 year old leggie (Crane). It’s embarrassing that this is all we’ve got.

      England haven’t always had really fast bowlers I agree, but we’ve often found guys who can be relatively effective in the conditions e.g. Dean Headley, Chris Tremlett, and Peter Such. This time we didn’t even have guys like that available. The cupboard was so bare.

      It’s not just the lack of quality spin and pace that’s the problem though. It’s the inability of our batsmen to dig in – again a result of the emphasis on white ball cricket and the fact that the championship has been marginalised. English batsmen just can’t seem to deliver Daddy hundreds anymore (Cook excepted) and I’m sure this is partly because they’re playing a lot of cricket on green pitches in April / September when they have to play positively and cash in when they can because an unplayable ball is just around the corner. It’s a totally different mindset.

      • I think to some extent we were unlucky with the bowling. When you think about it, Curran was the ninth choice seamer picked – after all the injuries and Stokes’ unavailability. I can tell you with absolute certainty that if Australia were down to their ninth choice seam bowler, even James Vince might have been able to cash in.
        I do agree totally that the talent stocks seem cyclically low, and the ECB are culpable for that. I guess the relevant question is how much of that is cyclical and how much structural?
        it seems obvious to me (in relation to your last point) that the key to producing good players is good pitches. Pace and bounce for the bowlers and coming on for the batsmen. Without that, everything that you talk about will continue.

        • Agreed. There was a report that there’ll be no first class cricket played in August when the new city T20 begins. How on earth are we going to develop decent spinners if this happens?

  • Wow, there’s enough “twisting” there almost to recreate the England selectors’ activities of the 1980s and 1990s. Of course they will persevere with many that you would like to axe. Stoneman will survive at least for the NZ series but I think that’s his last chance. I personally think the number 3 position needs to be filled by a regular opener. I wouldn’t object to Keaton Jennings being given another crack in that slot. I agree that Vince has had enough opportunities.

    The bowling is a serious problem but I fully expect its inadequacies to be covered over by seam friendly conditions in NZ and England, so we can expect to see more of Curran and probably also Ball. I would love to see a left armer get a chance though. Have we got any? Footitt?

    • Footitt has a neck injury I believe. He’s also 32 years old now. I like him as a bowler but I suspect his chance has gone.

    • Sticking win Curran and Ball (and probably Woakes) means we’ll get hammered the next time we tour anywhere.

      That isn’t good enough for me.

      As for Jennings, well, I’m not batsman, but IMHO he has serious technical flaws. Like Gary Ballance, who’s career nosedived once he was worked out.

    • Yes Tom’s brother Sam, left arm fast medium and bats at 7 in the championship. Only 19 but a natural talent better than Tom. One for the future. Footit went to SA and never played a game. Very quick in patches but very inaccurate most of the time. Injury prone.

  • It doesn’t make any sense for Bayliss to talk of building for the future – then sticking with Vince and Stoneman. I guess in Stoneman’s case it could be argued there aren’t many better alternatives but in Vince’s case there are alternatives for a middle order berth (although none are really No.3s).

    Also, sticking with Woakes is bonkers. He seems to inspire a weird hero-worship in a handful of devotees which looks just plain odd to the uninitiated. He’s the classic “he’ll take wickets at home plus shore up the lower order against weaker bowling” pick that will just leave England where they are currently.

    One problem is that I’m not sure the Test side can be picked in isolation from the white-ball side. England’s schedule makes playing all formats very difficult for any extended period of time. As white-ball cricket is the ECB’s priority (they said so and they meant it – people are still in denial about this), the Test team is in the process of becoming the leftovers once the ODI and T20 teams have been picked.

    • It’s because Woakes took 34 wickets at just 17 in 2016. Unfortunately his other years have been very disappointing. He’s also at times our fastest bowler, although that’s not saying much.

      Personally I think this was a key tour for Woakes. If he was going to kick on I suspect it would have been now. It just didn’t happen though. But I can’t think of any other bowling all-rounders who could be the 3rd/4th seamer and balance the side; therefore he gets one more opportunity in my book.

      • We don’t need a player who can ‘bat a bit’ at 8. We need to pick the 4 best bowlers. Full stop.

        We weren’t close to 20 wickets once this series. Selecting bowlers on an criteria other than wicket taking is madness.

        • Agreed wholeheartedly.

          Though Curran and Overton appeared to be picked as potential future allrounders.. Sorry I mean bowlers who can hold a bat.

      • Does the 3rd/4th seamer *need* to be a bowling all-rounder?

        Assuming, for a moment, that Stokes avoids a custodial sentence, that’s you’re 4th seamer and no.6 or 7 batsman. With Bairstow keeping and batting at 7 or 6, surely an Overton / Roland-Jones-type batsman is sufficient to come in at no8?

        Looking at relatively recent successful England teams, they didn’t often have 3 all-rounders in the side (unless you count Broad, Bresnan and Prior).

        • Without Moeen and Woakes behind him it probably sharpens the debate about Bairstow having to bat higher, when he was at 7 in the test at least twice he found himself with the deck of cards tail and started to bat like a slogger

          England don’t have the top order to allow that

  • Just remember, everyone who’s joining this particular post, any replacement has to have some realistic justification for improving the side. There have been far too many possibles rather than probables for a long time now. If you’re going to pick someone they have to be given a run in the side, not just in form and in out after a couple of failures. As Anderson rightly pointed out in his post match interview there is no need to panic. The cupboard is pretty bare in all departments at the moment, so change for changes sake is not the answer. I don’t think the priority should be short term success any more, but the restructuring of the game to incorporate all forms equally. Young cricketers tend to mature slowly, and are nortoriously inconsistent, so should be left to do this rather than being exposed in the top flight after a few decent performances. Malan is proof that once a player is comfortable with his game he can step up with some success later on. Hamid is a case in point here. We shouldn’t be in a hurry to risk him because there’s appears to be no one else. I would be looking at players in their mid to late 20’s for now.

    • It’s true that English batsmen often seem to mature, and appear ‘ready’ for test cricket, at a later age than batsmen from other counties. I think Alec Stewart and Robin Smith made their debuts at 26 and immediately looked up to the task. I think 25-28 is the age bracket we should be looking at … unless, of course, there are outstanding prospects who are younger (or possibly older).

      • James, I think one of the single biggest things England can do is get the cricket back on free to air TV and let the kids find and watch their heroes. Then they might stay with cricket and become test players in 10-15 years. Witness the number of children at the Ashes tests and also the Big Bash. That’ where the future lies. Getting through the next 10 years might be problematic !!

    • ” The cupboard is pretty bare in all departments at the moment, so change for changes sake is not the answer”

      I fundamentally disagree, with both points.

      Curran will /never/ be a test bowler. Never. Ever ever ever. Vince will never be a Test batsman. Persisting with rubbish is madness. If Broad can’t regain some zip, he’s done. Might as well recall Gough.

      Other countries blood Test quality players young. Get Coad, or whoever, in there.

      A major problem on this tour is we went into it with a bunch of guys (Stoneman, Vince, Malan, Curran, Overton, Crane) with little/no Test experience.

      We win in England. Time to win in England with younger players with talent, and get them ready to tour.

      • I repeat, unless you have players who will make the side better, it’s change for changes sake. This has been happening for decades with little improvement. So let’s all get caught up in the cult of young ‘rubbish’ in the vain hope that they can’t do any worse. This is a really constructive way to go.

        • I have eyes.

          Lawrence, Livingson and Robson are better suited for Test cricket than Vince.

          Tom Helm is better suited for Test cricket than Tom Curran.

          Adil Rashid and Jack Leach are more likely to take Test wickets than Mo Ali.

          The well is by no means dry. We simply are not selecting the best available players. Unlike Australia, who were able to identify Starc, Cummins, Pattinson and Hazelwood off the back of a handful of FC games, and develop them 4 of the best quicks in the world.

          Curran and Overton will /never/ be top class Test bowlers. Never. They should never have been on the tour of Aus. Ditto Vince.

          • The problem with young players is their inherent inconsistency, as they are still learning about their own game. I’m not a Vince fan either, certainly not at number 3, clearly a specialist position, not something any middle order man can move into. For this reason, unless they have unusual class and potential, like a Gower, I would leave them a while and fill the gaps with more mature if less obviously talented players. Talent as we all know isn’t enough without technique and application. Players have to prove this at county level.

  • The one I’d definitely disagree with is Stoneman – it reminds me of the Carberry selection. I think his record in the CC implies he’s be very good at home, and he’s just had the toughest tour in which he hasn’t done “that” badly. Also no-one else is making a particularly strong case…

    • I’ll make a case for him. The barrage he endured at the waca was one of the best innings I’ve ever seen by a modern English batsman. Only 56 runs but he was sawn off after facing up to three quicks averaging comfortably over 90 mph. On the fastest pitch in the world.

      Statistically that attack was the fastest ever assembled since speed has been recorded, despite marsh putting a few overs down.

      And people want to drop him?

  • I can’t agree on Woakes (this was the pivotal series of his career, for me, and he flunked it massively) or Ball (who just isn’t good enough). Woakes can’t buy a wicket away from home, as he’s repeatedly shown. It’s insanity to keep trying him and expect a different result.

    More broadly, if we are going to ‘twist’ on 5 or so players (which feels about right) we need 5 or so players to replace them. Stokes is one. Here are my others

    Hameed (for Vince, with Cook dropping to 3). He looks the most likely to prosper.
    Robson (for Ballance). Deserves another go.
    Lawrence, Livingston, Clarke, Northeast (Take your pick). We need credible middle order back up.
    At least 2 from Garton, Helm, Coad, J Overton, Fisher (sp?) (For Curran, Woakes, Ball)
    Finn (for Broad) if Finn can show any sort of form for the Middle Saxons. Broad can stay if he gets a bit of pace back and finds his mojo. Needs some time away from the England setup, mind you.
    Ali can make a comeback but not now.

    I’ve deliberately left Jamie Porter out as I don’t think he has the pace to make it. I’ve been wrong before…

    • Woakes is a front foot batsman and swing bowler. For all of a slit second in Melbourne they got a tadge of reverse and he looked threatening. No surprise that he was crap in Australia, none whatsoever.

      That doesn’t mean he’s a bad player, just one that can’t adapt.

      Bit worried about Hameed against genuine pace but the next few series should suit him. I’d definitely get him in the squad so long as he has some form, not 100% sure I’d start him as new Zealand’s bowling is pretty good. Totally agree on Cook at 3 though so the only other option would be Jennings. Gubbins or any other poncy southerner whose name gets thrown around just because they play in London – forget it.

      I’d take Livingstone of that bunch. Not a poncy southerner and the best fielder of them. Tends to go big too. Can also bowl more than a bit. Shame Borthwick had a crappy season.

      We know that Finn is quick, just as we know that Broad isn’t anymore. Has to play if he’s fit. Of the others whoever is the fastest though Jamie Overton being too tight to watch his brother play probably swings it when he recovers from injury. 🙂

      • Agree about Hameed needing to show form, but how will this be measured?

        Yorks seem to have 5 FC matches before the first Test against Pakistan – 3 of those matches are in April. What would be deemed good form for an opener in that context?

  • Paul Simon wrote about ‘shades of mediocrity’ in Homeward Bound and that’s what I see in the lists of players in this thread. But as someone has already said, if you drop someone, who do you replace them with? For example I keep seeing Garton’s name. Has anyone actually seen him? I have, maybe 3 or 4 times and he is mediocrity personified.

    I’m kicking out Cook (one major innings doesn’t compensate for numerous failures), Vince, Ali, Ballance (for ever and ever), Ball, Curran and Crane. I’m unsure about Stoneman.

    I’m looking for players who can stand out from the crowd. These may include Clark, Livingston, Archer and Tongue.

    I don’t want mediocrity among the coaches. Ramprakash scored shed loads of runs at county level but averaged 27.32 in Tests. Not good enough.

    As for Sky picks, ballcocks.

    • Neither?

      Scouting players ( probably from posh schools) at a young age is pointless. Until you’re fully grown any ingrained action is going to be wrong once you add an inch or two. Note though that only those who bowl spin ‘properly’ will be considered, which means as per the MCC coaching manual, which is gibbering gobbershite of imbecilic proportions, passed seven times through an immensotron and garnished with epoch defining fucktardedness.

      Also I’m not convinced that spin can be taught. Or learned in the nets. There’s too many factors that you have to react to and the only way to do that is to play and bowl at lot in the middle. I’m sure the counties will be overjoyed at the idea of contributing to an ECB pool that merely results in more backroom staff touring the better schools for a better class of person.

      Nets are very good for seam up, for spin you need the wind, wicket and fielders to make it meaningful. As for wickets that don’t spin, I’ve never seen one. They vary in how much spin you get but at the end of the day if you spin it enough you can move it on marble. Which shows that most of them don’t spin it worth a damn.

      If you want to bring spinners back into the game then you have to reverse the odd decision to remove the time component. All overs are not equal as a good spinner can bowl a maiden in a couple of minutes where the poncy seam up fraternity take four or even five minutes. The latter might strike at 60 on average, the former 75-90 but are more efficient in terms of time per wicket rather than balls or overs per wicket.

      Course this isn’t any use in a limited overs game as only 10 wickets wins where merely beating the runrate is easier.

      • Yey., at last someone gets it.. to produce players with the skills and mentality to play red ball you need to play draw Cricket !!

        White ball Cricket st All levels is destroying the game.

  • My two cents (warning: long-winded, directionless waffling incoming):

    Bayliss certainly stays – I feel he deserves a shot at the World Cup in the format he’s done most to transform our play in (even if the results can still be a bit up and down), but I won’t be enormously unhappy when he leaves, even though I like the bloke. I’m unconvinced about the idea of split coaches that some have mooted. It worked so badly under Flower and Giles and both teams ended up going backwards as a result, so I’m not sure it’s worth the risk. I think he’s being let down most by his support staff and the selectors. Whittaker, Fraser and Newell need their P45s, and whatever Ramprakash is doing as batting coach doesn’t seem to be working. Changes are needed in those areas, fairly desperately.

    As for the players, for me Root, Anderson, Cook, Bairstow and Malan stay, everyone else is up for debate over the next 12 months. All have things they need to work on – Bairstow’s wasting of starts is almost as constant as Root’s even though it goes unmentioned, only unlike Root he doesn’t breeze to 80 before giving it away, it’s more like 30 or 40 – but they’ve all got things to offer still. Cook’s career is beginning to wind down but we still haven’t found a replacement for Strauss, so finding two would be impossible! Same goes for Jimmy, although he actually looks fresher and less ground down than Broad, who for me should be left off the NZ tour. I get the feeling it would be good for him – it either lights the fire in his belly again or he realises that he doesn’t miss the daily grind, and he retires. Goes without saying that Stokes would also make an enormous difference, although I felt that Jonathan Liew’s trenchant observation, that England need him more than he needs England, felt worryingly ominous and on the money if things aren’t cleared up in the next few months.

    As for those I’d definitely move on from, I’d only confidently list Vince, Ballance and Ball. I hesitate to put Moeen here as he’s proved he ca be a fine international player, but as you said, I’m not sure England can afford to carry a bowler proven to be so ineffective overseas (taking into consideration that off spin has rarely been hugely successful in Australia) and it’s time to invest some time into Crane, Parkinson and Bess. There are more consistent batsmen than Mo around, too, if few so glorious to watch in full flow. Both Wood and Woakes I’d be tempted to hang on to – I feel having served such a long apprenticeship that Woakes deserves a chance with the new ball, for example, rather than have it thrown to him after Jimmy and Broad have bowled it back of a length for 16 overs and wasted any swing that might have been there – but I sadly feel as if their latest bouts of injury have diminished them both as bowlers. Certainly neither are as zippy as they looked in the summer of 2016, and both look considerably less potent as a result. It may be time to move on from them, too.

    I like both Tom Curran and Craig Overton, but you can’t shake the feeling it’s the brother in both pairs that’s the more exciting talent. I also reckon both would go fine in England but struggle overseas, which is what we’re trying to avoid. Both are young enough to add to their games however, so I’d keep both around. I’d get Jamie Overton involved as soon as possible – when he clicks he’s probably the most potent bowler in England, although we’ll have to see if his latest back injury hasn’t slowed him down a touch (Pat Cummins is a bowler who’s shown that injuries don’t necessarily mean a bowler has to lose pace, so no idea why English bowlers always seem to). If I were the ECB I’d also have a look at the qualification laws that mean a lad with genuine English connections in Jofra Archer has to serve seven years to qualify, a rule that could’ve been imposed by UKIP, and I’d sort that out as soon as possible – England’s qualification laws are out of step with a lot of the rest of world cricket. As for young batsmen, I’d probably take Dan Lawrence and Liam Livingstone to New Zealand – Joe Clarke would be unlucky to miss out but both of them have already performed in Division 1, something Clarke is yet to do. Stoneman stays for now – he had a similar sort of series to Carberry last time round and Carberry was treated appallingly afterwards, I wouldn’t want to make a similar mistake here. New Zealand’s attack doesn’t have the same pace as Australia’s so although Wagner will be wanging short balls down at him he has a chance to respond. If I had to make a stab at an XI to take on NZ, assuming Stokes isn’t available, I’d go:

    Cook, Stoneman, Malan, Lawrence, Root (c), Livingstone, Bairstow (wk), Woakes, J. Overton, Anderson, Crane.
    12th man: Roland-Jones/C. Overton.

    Would like to find a fifth bowler but the batting needs shoring up, so in the absence of Stokes I’ve plumped for a batsman rather than a bowler. Stokes would of course take the place of one of the uncapped batsmen if he turns out to be available. Malan moves up to three – he seems to have the temperament for it, I think he could make a Trott-style successful move up the order if given a chance – and Root down to five, mainly to split up the two debutants but also because I still feel it’s where he’s batted best for England; I think he averages 70 with the majority of his 100s coming at five. He just seems to react well to situations, which is what a five needs to do, better than he sets them up, which is more of a role for a no.4. Also he bats well with positive minded batsmen lower down the order, so I’d move him down a spot to play the Steve Waugh role. Woakes gets a chance with the new ball that he probably should’ve gotten before the injuries look like they’ve begun to bite (and if he doesn’t perform well, he gets shifted on too), and Overton comes in to bring some pace. Crane showed enough to persevere with and looks like the sort of cricketer who’ll develop quickly if given regular game time. It’s not a team that’ll conquer the world, but it does blood a few players who could help in that regard in the years to come.

    • Not for everyone but personally I wish you were in charge! Some bold suggestions and would love to see if they would come off.

      I fear we won’t see any of those calls however…

  • I think Bayliss has to go. If you don’t do your job at work you get the boot. I’m not sure what he coaches, but he should have started on how lower order batsman should defend the short ball, like dropping the hands for instance. He obviously thought the Aussie’s weren’t going to bowl short despite them going on about it weeks before the start. He’s no right to decide when he wants to go, shouldn’t reward mediocrity.
    I’m not normally an advocate of mass team change, but this has been such a disaster that its probably the best answer. In the longer term, summer onwards new players need to be introduced. But for NZ tests I’d drop Vince, Broad, Woakes and Moen. I’d even rest Cook and Anderson if there were enough players to step in. Got to stick with Crane and Curran for the moment to see what they can do. Try this perhaps:
    Cook/Hameed, Stoneman, Malan,, Root, Bairstow, Foakes (wkt), Sam Curran (left arm fast medium/rhb, Overton (if fit)/Anderson, Wood (If fit)/Tom Curran, Crane
    OK doesn’t solve the long term fast bowler and spinner issues, got to find a couple, but a left armer offers much needed variety and Bairstow can concentrate more on his batting. Foakes is the best keeper in county cricket by a long way. Tom Curran will improve the lower order batting. OK I may be a bit Surrey biased here, but I’ve seen a lot of the Curran’s and Foakes to see the potential. Once fit I’d get Porter in – after all he took 70 championship wickets last year, but Bayliss obviously never noticed!

  • I’m not wasting my time musing over players. Sadly county Cricket is awash with mediocrity. You can insert any new names and pretend they have what it takes clarke, livingstone, gubbins, Robson, Roy, hales, ali, stokes, Lyth and however else you want to say., same with bowling and same with spin.

    It’s a really simple truth

    Ecb needs to grow the game with a sole aim to increase participation. By doing that you naturally increase the talent pool so naturally your top payers are better.

    Sack off one day games totally and have a county game mon-Thur every week and 2020slog fests Friday nights.

    Amateur Cricket (pros can play in all sat league stuff as they have no game so no excuse !!) should be draw Cricket in the top 4-5divs of all systems as it’s the only way to produce the skills and mentalities needed.

    Run a concurrent 2020 fun league Saturday’s on Astro for casual players (ecb should ensure this isn’t given much spin though as you want it purely as a way to keep casual payers in the game so need to re enforce the proper leagues as the good ones).

    Loads of other things to do but tbh, none of it will happen so it’s all mite anyway a. Not one thing is going to change

  • Looking around various articles and their BTL comments, it’s amazing how many people want to move Malan to No.3.

    Malan at No.5 was one of the bits of the team that has just worked – and they want to change it?

    • Sadly there are many people who don’t get that you don’t simply ‘move to 3’.. root isn’t good enough for three and malan certainly isn’t.

  • I guarantee if the English public have patience with Mason Crane, and England cricket treat him properly, and he has a good captain, he will take 500+ Test match wickets. Do people in England not know how special he is as a bowler? He is seriously talented, and he is only going to get better and better. How do people expect a 20 year old leg spinner to go when he’s chucked into his debut Test match with all the momentum with the opposing team, and away from home. He bowled some exceptional leg breaks, but these deliveries usually don’t bat the eye of the public – they do with me. He is attacking, and he bowls the top spinner with confidence, that is the mark of a very promising wrist spinner.

    The biggest problem England had this Ashes series (beside the lack of genuine pace bowling), was the lack of character some players showed. James Vince has the potential to score big runs in Test cricket, but he needs to be managed in a certain way, I also think he was up against it being put in to bat at 3. Joe Root needs to put the team first and not himself and move himself up to 3, he is England’s best batsman by a long way, and someone like Vince would look like a different player at 4, 5, or 6. There were a number of times when England stagnated during the series when they were 2 down. If Root comes in at 3 that does not happen. I think the biggest disappointment was Moeen Ali, I thought he was incredibly soft, and he does not want any responsibility or pressure on him. He is playing in the Ashes, the pinnacle of cricket. He says he does not want to be the number one spinner. Well, what if England wants you to be the number one spinner? Get in the nets, work your arse off and bowl; then bowl some more, and even more. He was never going to be successful because of how he spins the ball. Bounce is more important than turn in Australia. Look at the different in Nathan Lyon’s bowling between the 2013 Ashes series in England, and then the 2013/14 series in Australia. He had a couple of months to work on his bowling after that series concluded. He transformed his bowling dramatically, he evolved as a spin bowler, and now he is one of the best in the world; he could go on to be potentially a top 3 off spinner of all time (behind Jim Laker and Lance Gibbs) when his career finishes.

    England need experience, and intelligent cricketing minds with the bat. How James Hildreth has not had a chance for England I do not know. I would bring him immediately. Someone like Sam Northeast also looks very good, I would be surprised if he did not get a chance in the near future. As a New Zealander, we are vulnerable at the moment, despite what the results say. England could gain a much needed confidence boost by beating us before going home. My England team would be:

    1. A.N. Cook
    2. M.D. Stoneman
    3. J.E. Root (c)
    4. J.C. Hildreth
    5. D.J. Malan
    6. J.M. Vince/J.M. Bairstow
    7. J.M. Bairstow (+)/B.T. Foakes (+)
    8. M.A. Wood (if fit)
    9. S.C.J. Broad
    10. M.N. Crane
    11. J.M. Anderson

    6 batsman, a keeper, and 4 bowlers. Keep it simple, make sure the top 6 take on the responsibility of scoring runs.

    • Looking at the squad selected for NZ,the test team is looking something like

      1. Cook
      2. Stoneman
      3. Livingston (as a New Zealander I really think Vince deserves another chance mind 😉 )
      4. Root (c)
      5. Malan
      6. Bairstow
      7. Ali/Stokes
      8. Wood/Overton
      9. Broad
      10. Crane (NZ are allergic to all forms of leg spin 🙁 )
      11. Anderson

      They’re likely to face
      1. Latham
      2. Raval
      3. Williamson (c)
      4. Taylor
      5. Nicholls
      6. Bruce/Watling (wk) (Watling’s been injured & Bruce made an excellent debut ton covering vs the Windies)
      7. Santner/Astle
      8. De Grandhomme (if it looks like there’s any swing available)
      9. Southee
      10. Wagner
      11. Boult

  • Apparently Lords is considering using drop in pitches. I think that should suit Australia. Now if you would kindly consider the same for Old Trafford, Edgebaston and Headingly we’ll be sorted for an away series. Happy to take the Oval as is.

    • An initiative of Keith Bradshaw when CEO at MCC. He was very keen. Here he is in 2009, “”We’re experimenting at the moment – on the Nursery [where club matches take place], not the main ground. Drop-in pitches will allow more days of cricket. Instead of having to keep the ground free for days to prepare it, you can actually prepare the pitch on the Nursery and drop it in on the day, or you can develop it off site in a greenhouse and drop it in. I don’t think we’d ever see it for a Test match but certainly for one-dayers and Twenty20 matches.”

      But note the caveat.

  • Livingstone is an interesting pick – very Flowery, the selection that is.

    A technique and approach, in its way, as individual as Smith’s. At Test level it will either bomb or be as fascinating as that of the Aus Capt. Both with foot movement and a base developed in tennis. Low hands. Sharp brain. Very ambitious. But pity his fellow tourists. In confined spaces, he’ll drive them mad.

  • Check out the selection for NZ folks. The gravy train continues and mediocrity is rewarded!
    Can’t see Wood lasting 5 days, where dies Livingstone fit in? Foakes will only play if Bairstow is batsman only. Right to stick with Crane,but I don’t think he’ll ever be a great wicket taker. Hampshire rarely pick him. Are they likely to play two spinners in NZ? But why oh why are Moen, Broad and Woakes included? Id have kept Curran for his enthusiasm alone plus Hus lower orfpder batting

    • “Right to stick with Crane,but I don’t think he’ll ever be a great wicket taker”

      In which case it’s wrong to stick with Crane.

      I don’t know if he’s a more likely wicket taking threat than Rashid, Bess, Parkinson or Leach. If the selectors think he is (not that I trust this bunch of dunderheads with toilet cleaning, let alone selection) then he should be picked. If he isn’t, then he shouldn’t be playing.

  • Just realised that I forgot about Woakes when I posted earlier

    Looking at the squad selected for NZ,the test team is looking something like

    1. Cook
    2. Stoneman
    3. Livingston (as a New Zealander I really think Vince deserves another chance mind ? )
    4. Root (c)
    5. Malan
    6. Bairstow
    7. Stokes(if available)/Woakes/Ali
    8. Woakes/Wood/Overton
    9. Broad
    10. Overton (if Moeen gets a reprieve)/Crane (NZ are allergic to all forms of leg spin ? )
    11. Anderson

    They’re likely to face
    1. Latham
    2. Raval
    3. Williamson (c)
    4. Taylor
    5. Nicholls
    6. Bruce/Watling (wk) (Watling’s been injured & Bruce made an excellent debut ton covering vs the Windies)
    7. Santner/Astle (very very slim chance they’ll both play. Both are better limited overs spinners that test ones)
    8. De Grandhomme (if it looks like there’s any swing available – otherwise Guptil may bat 6)
    9. Southee
    10. Wagner
    11. Boult

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