That Test Squad

So then. Let’s sharpen those knives. It’s what I’m hear for. And presumably it’s what you’re here for too. It’s disembowel Ed Smith time again. Let’s skewer those funky left-field selections, and dismantle the methodology behind them.

But there’s just one problem this time. As a longtime blogger I know what I hate, and I don’t hate this test squad. In fact, I quite like it. The talking horse has come up trumps in my book. The squad isn’t perfect – there’s no way Jennings deserves to be retained – but all the other decisions look sound. As indeed does the thinking behind them.

When I heard Big Ed’s interview with TMS a week or so ago I have to say I feared the worst. The emphasis on ‘all-round packages’ at the expense of specialists was alarming. However, this squad has basically ignored all that. We’ve got the best pure opener in county cricket, the best pure spinner, the fastest pure bowler available, a wildcard veteran who can actually bat a bit.

Perhaps that TMS interview was BS. Perhaps it was just an attempt to try and cleverly post-rationalise decisions that had gone wrong? This squad is a complete departure from the ‘get your best XI all-round cricketers’ on the paddock philosophy.

I don’t think anyone can argue with the selection of Rory Burns. He’s been outstanding for Surrey for many years and he clearly deserves his chance. Ed Smith didn’t try to second guess anyone (including himself!) on this one and just made the obvious call. Bravo!

And then we come to Olly Stone. Yes he’ll need to be managed carefully. But England have so many all-rounders that they can afford to carry the odd luxury who might only bowl short spells. Just look at Adil Rashid this summer. England’s attack desperately needs pace so Stone fits the bill perfectly.

The decision to choose Jack Leach as the third spinner in the squad was also a no brainer. Just when we thought Smith was Leach-averse – I half expected him to recall someone like Liam Dawson for his batting – Mr Ed comes to his senses and picks the bowler everyone wanted. It’s remarkably simple this selection lark … if one lets it be.

And finally we should talk about Joe Denly. I bet a few people are mystified by this selection. Why go back to someone who was a failure when they played white ball cricket almost a decade ago? I’ll tell you why. It’s because Smith is dead right when he says that Denly has a ‘touch of class’. He always has.

Whilst I sympathise profusely with the James Hildreth brigade, Denly really isn’t a bad left-field punt. The cupboard isn’t exactly stuffed with exciting options, and whilst as a Worcestershire man I would have liked Joe Clarke to get an opportunity, I have to confess he probably hasn’t done quite enough in the second half of the season. Perhaps because his head has been turned by the vultures from Trent Bridge (I’m sure there’s a joke about robbin’ the poor to give to the rich in there somewhere).

Joe Denly, meanwhile, is one of the biggest unfulfilled talents in the English game. I was a huge fan of his back in 2009, when he was challenging for an Ashes place, and I thought he was the best young batsman in the country. I remember him scoring a half-century for The Lions against Australia at New Road and he looked a class apart. The way he pulled Brett Lee, and looked like he had all the time in the world to play the shot, was something special. I really have no idea why his career didn’t kick on. Perhaps it was being miscast as an ODI player?

Although I’ve probably put the mockers on the poor bloke now, and yes there’s obviously a risk this selection will backfire like so many other left-field choices in the past, at least I can see the logic behind this one. And who knows it might just work. Denly wouldn’t be the first player to suddenly mature as a cricketer in his thirties.

The only other somewhat contentious selection was the decision to take Pope. Again I don’t have a problem with this. With Moeen Ali a serious contender to bat 3 (at least in Sri Lankan conditions), and Denly also capable of batting up the order, Pope won’t be thrust into an unfamiliar role. He might just come good if he bats in the right place.

James Morgan


2018-09-21T19:09:17+00:00September 21st, 2018|SL v Eng 2018, Test Cricket|58 Comments


  1. James Dodsworth September 21, 2018 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Good squad, as a Surrey fan I’m very happy for Burns after his horrific accident a few years ago to see his success here is great. Agree with pretty much everything you’ve said I get the feeling if it wasn’t for the threat of spin from day one jennings wouldn’t be going.

  2. muffin September 21, 2018 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    As I’ve said several times, if Denly plays, one doesn’t have to play Rashid. Denly might be only a part-time legspinner, but is Rashid much more than that?

    • oreston September 21, 2018 at 7:45 pm - Reply

      To answer your question, yes I think he is and I don’t see how you can seriously contend otherwise. Whether Root will treat him as more than that is another matter.

    • Simon H September 22, 2018 at 7:39 am - Reply

      29,000 F/C deliveries and 500 F/C wickets for Rashid versus 4,000 and 59 wickets for Denly.

      Quite right, not much difference there.

  3. azaro September 21, 2018 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    Yes I agree too, Jennings is fortunate but definitely do or die time so maybe he will rise to that challenge. Burns was an obvious shoe-in and blooding some pace ahead of next summer may well prove prescient. As a Kent man I am delighted to see Joe get another chance; he does have class and has had a good season in red ball cricket and after leaving us for a mediocre spell with Middlesex he has come back strongly. He can even bowl some leg-breaks if required after some important overs with the ball this season!

    • James September 26, 2018 at 10:33 am - Reply

      It’s not even as if Jennings has a stellar first class record. Averages under 34 in FC cricket.

  4. Mike Kemp September 21, 2018 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    The people mystified by Joe Denly’s selection obviously haven’t watched much division 2 cricket this year; Joe has been really consistent in red ball cricket (and white ball too). His leg spin has come on too, he’s not going to be another Shane Warne but he’s pretty good. He’s a very good fielder too. He won’t let the team down.

  5. Steve September 21, 2018 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    Why not select an aggressive opener to replace Jennings?
    Australia have Warner we could have had Jason Roy or Alex Hales to open with Burns..know it’s too late but Butler worked out didn’t he?

    • Doug M September 21, 2018 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      Burns is a no brainer, over 1300 runs this season, no one else has got a 1000 I think. As a Surrey fan very pleased. Roy can’t play spin very well, most of his one day dismissals are by spinners. Jennings however can’t play anything so not sure how he keeps his place. Denly is no doubt a good choice, but bear in mind most of his runs have been scored in Div 2 in the last few years. He’s a better bowler than Rashid though, well most people are.

  6. oreston September 21, 2018 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    I agree, a fairly sensible squad over all given the available batting options. With all due respect to Joe Denly though, calling up a 32 yr. old does suggest that the cupboard might be very nearly bare. Is it too late for Hildreth at 34? I guess so and now we’ll never know what might’ve been. Jennings is fortunate to be included (and might not have been if you-know -who hadn’t retired) but he is the incumbent Test opener and has some “experience.” Who knows, maybe Sri Lankan conditions will be to his liking? With Buttler and Jonny in the squad I guess someone like Foakes was unfortunately always going to be deemed surplus to requirement. The bowling selections seem to have most bases covered, in a way in which they very much weren’t last winter.

  7. AndyB September 21, 2018 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    I am a bit doubtful about the ‘touch of class’ rationale for selection. It was used on many occasions to support the selection of Mark Ramprakash and I recall it being said about James Vince. I hope Denly succeeds, but a FC batting average of 36 (only 1 better than Woakes) suggests something else is missing if the class is present.

    • oreston September 21, 2018 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      If I’m picky the pretence that Ian Bell doesn’t exist anymore (despite having had a strong season) is irksome. If you wanted class, experience and probably a better scoring contribution (even now) than pretty much all the top order batters who’ve been tried and discarded since he was last in the team, he could have offered all three. A Test batting lineup benefits, in my view, from having a senior pro in the ranks. Post-Cook, there isn’t anyone.

      • Jackie Litherland September 22, 2018 at 4:21 am - Reply

        The silence from the media has been deafening but cricketers know surely that something isn’t right when Denly is preferred to Bell after his renaissance season.

        • John September 22, 2018 at 9:54 am - Reply

          But Bell hasn’t had a renaissance season ! He’s scored a shed load of runs against Glamorgan – who are bottom of the rabble – but done nothing else. Take out the runs against Glamorgan and his average is barely enough to justify his selection for his County, let alone his Country !

          • John September 22, 2018 at 9:56 am - Reply

            Sorry, table not rabble.

            • James September 26, 2018 at 10:41 am - Reply

              But “rabble” sounds so much better!

          • Jackie Litherland September 22, 2018 at 10:16 am - Reply

            Nothing else? I think you’ll find Bell got 2 centuries against Sussex and Kent who are the other top sides in Div 2. If he got runs against Glamorgan you have to wonder why other top batsmen didn’t. Nothing else in his renaissance season? He was the second top scorer in T20 while Warks was in the competition beaten only by Finch. He got centuries in T20 and one day cricket. He is top scorer in Div 2 and the only player to pass 1000 runs. He’s batting at 3 and most times has been going in early in a season described as difficult for the top order. Overall he’s got 5 centuries in Champ cricket – the rest of the best only 3. So despite Glammy he’s got centuries to spare. Playing across all formats he’s shown his strength in batsmanship in defence and attack – in other words a proper Test player. Your rubbishing of a stellar season does you a disservice as the reports have recognised that he’s back in top form. His impact on the Warks dressing room has been immense.

      • James Morgan September 22, 2018 at 7:11 am - Reply

        I think the problem with Bell is that he was never particularly productive at No.3. His best positions for England were 4 (where Root is already batting) and 5/6. England already have a plethora of middle-order options so I’m not sure how Bell would fit into the side given the current strategy.

        • Simon H September 22, 2018 at 7:53 am - Reply

          “I think the problem with Bell is that he was never particularly productive at No.3”.

          Bell averages 38 at No.3 for England which is pretty good and he averages 58 against SL. (His worst position is actually No.4 where he averages only 33).

          • James Morgan September 22, 2018 at 8:13 am - Reply

            My mistake. But his average is way higher as a 5/6. I never particularly liked Bell at 3.

            • Jackie Litherland September 22, 2018 at 10:31 am - Reply

              I’m sure you liked Bell at 3 in 2011 Series against India’s when he replaced the injured Trott? He got 2 centuries one of which was a double to win Series and take over World top rankings from India. And at 3 at Edgbaston in the 2015 Ashes he swung the Series England’s way on a low scoring green seamer. Taking on the might of Australian bowling – coming in early! He also was a saviour at 3 at the Oval in 2009 coming in at 12-1 in must win Ashes. Bell was never given a sustained go at 3 – only coming in as a stop gap. He plays 3 for Warks but never got the support of Flower for the role either as coach or advisor behind the scenes. He was always rated as a natural 3 by some foreign commentators who were mystified why he wasn’t promoted to 3 after 2013 Ashes. Bell at 5 kept coming in early due to top order collapse.

  8. Alexander Ferguson September 21, 2018 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    I’m actually OK with Jennings being taken. Maybe he can operate well now that Alastair Cook’s retired. Also, I like the selections – although I’m secretly hoping that Broad doesn’t play because of his rib constrictions.

  9. Marc Evans September 22, 2018 at 12:16 am - Reply

    There is a selection committee structure in place, so Ed presumably has to justify his thinking to others, just like the others have to do with him. He’s always struck me as someone who if you make a well thought out case would have the intelligence to take it on board. The most unproductive thing is to include players who don’t have the support of the captain. However much we may love to hate him most of the decisions involving him this summer have, against prediction, been quite effective, including my pet peeve, the messing about of the batting order which, according to vice captain Butler, was player inspired, including Moin at 3, Pope at 4 and promotion of an out of form Bairstow.
    Great to see Olly Stone selected at last. Burns and Leach seem no brainers to me, so it’s hardly a revolution. Denly is the only real surprise to me, as I had thought Vince would get another chance. Guess Ed’s ‘package deal’ was a factor here, with his leg spin. Good to see new blood though. Bell might of had a decent season but it’s not exactly one for the future. Sam Hain might be close to a call up now if Jennings fails again.

    • Simon H September 22, 2018 at 7:44 am - Reply

      “Sam Hain might be close to a call up now”.

      With a D2 batting average of 37 and no centuries this season?….

      • Marc Evans September 22, 2018 at 10:55 am - Reply

        The selection of Denly is hardly based on stats. Hain has made a number of solid 50’s in both red and white ball this season and has done as much for Warwickshire’s promotion push as any of their batsmen, being a consistent performer. After last year’s disappointments he’s done well to recover something’s of his original form. I haven’t seen many openers looking more promising at present.
        It’s the seam bowling that worries me more. Missed opportunity here to find out whether Porter has what it takes at test level and give Broad a break to recover full fitness for the Ashes. Also worrying that all Giles could say after the selection of Stone was he needed careful management so as not to aggravate an injury from 2 years ago.

        • AndyB September 22, 2018 at 6:39 pm - Reply

          Sorry Marc, but as another Bear I must disagree with you on Hain. His solid technique as an 18 year old has been replaced by an over wristy technique obviously devised to support his white ball game. Whilst this works against a spread field it only exposes him in red ball. I assume this change is down to coaching at Edgbaston. I do feel very sorry for Matt Lamb this year. He performed well in the first rounds of the Championship and has had no chance since May, despite the failures of Hain and Sibley until the September games. I assume he is seen as the Trott replacement for next year. He has a really decent batting technique, is not part of the white ball team and chips in useful wickets bowling. We need to establish him in the side.

          • Marc Evans September 22, 2018 at 9:32 pm - Reply

            Must confess didn’t see much of Lamb earlier this season, but I have seen a fair bit of Hain recently and most of what I’ve seen has impressed me after last season’s disappointments. He seems to have recovered his presence at the crease and has certainly increased his shot variety, even if it is at the expense of a straight bat. Will be interesting to see if the 2 play alongside each other next season, to compare techniques.

  10. Jackie Litherland September 22, 2018 at 5:06 am - Reply

    Very surprised and disappointed James that you are supporting and justifying the call up of Denly until I read you are a Kent supporter. Did you really think he was a Test prospect in 2009? Flower thought Bopara was – Essex – and Strauss wanted Shah – Middlesex. So much for County loyalties. Bell was dropped for those players. He came back in 2009 because he was the best batsman in the country and we had a decent chairman of selectors who was independent of the coach and captain and didn’t toe party lines.
    You don’t even mention Bell. If Denly has had a great season (?) then how would you describe Bell’s 8 centuries across all formats? Check out his transformation into an opening T20 batsman. Great players can do that at 36. Bell is a world class batsman. That’s the difference between him and Denly who is a good County pro. Check their first class records. Why do you think Bell could win the 2013 Ashes on his batting against a very good Aussie bowling attack and you talk about Denly’s 50 against Brett Lee?! Once Bell regained form he should have been first choice. It’s a scandal he’s been overlooked. It’s all about hidden agendas and the ECB indifference to the survival of Test Cricket. They just don’t care about anything but the Hundred. Flower is only interested in his protégés. Ed Smith hasn’t much of a clue.
    To pick Buttler after his IPL success to face the very players he had been scoring against is hardly that surprising. Vince was called on and now not. Denly is in the same category of not good enough. Seems to suit the powers that be.
    County loyalists shouldn’t be blind to what is happening. Sam Hain has still to make his mark in championship cricket and he’s close to a call up for England??? Bears fans hope he can step up to take over from Trott! A little reality would help.

    • James Morgan September 22, 2018 at 7:08 am - Reply

      I’m not a Kent supporter! I’m a Worcs man.

      I love Ian Bell to bits. In fact, we’ve got an article on him in the pipeline. However, I don’t see the point in going back to him at the age of 36. Denly is four years younger so a short-term fix with greater longevity. Mike Hussey didn’t become a fixture in the Aussie test side until a similar age.

      And how do we know Denly isn’t good enough when he’s never been given a go?

      • Jackie Litherland September 22, 2018 at 7:28 am - Reply

        Can’t we treat players as individuals instead of some rule of thumb about age? Gooch and Stewart played until they were 40 because they were good enough. Gooch actually played better. Even biologically people age st different rates. Bell merits a call up.That’s clear. It’s not as though we’re blessed with outstanding and promising Test alternatives. Not only that but with Cook’s retirement we need experience in the dressing room. You can see the impact of Bell’s season on the Bears. Not for nothing they are bouncing back to Div 1.

        • AndyB September 22, 2018 at 9:09 am - Reply

          And going back further, Hobbs scored 98 (of his 197) centuries after the age of 40. It is not age that matters but fitness – and Bell is fitter than most of the current squad.I think we all know that Bell is persona non gratia for sharing an agent with Pietersen and being seen as unreliable on the issue of his exclusion. It is a shame England selectors punish others for the sins of Kevin.

    • AndyB September 22, 2018 at 9:16 am - Reply

      Agree entirely about Sam Hain. His red ball technique has been ruined by white ball coaching (he uses a lot more wrist than when he started). He was very lucky to hold his Warwickshire place over Matt Lamb in the Championship this year.

  11. Tate September 22, 2018 at 6:25 am - Reply

    I am another one that thinks Bell should be given another go. If it works then we have a proven, top class player for 3 or 4 years (that is a lot of tests). If it doesn’t work then what have we lost?

    Other than that I’m generally fine with the squad, although Jennings should probably go out and buy a lottery ticket or two. I just can’t see it working for him at test level. Hopefully, he’ll make his way back to Lancs and score shed loads for us over the next ten years or so.

  12. Cricketcricketcricket September 22, 2018 at 7:38 am - Reply

    Buttler has one good series and he’s suddenly choice
    Jennings ‘is a good player of spin’.. meaning he’s dire, not good enough but might get some runs and people here will laud him
    Burns.. we shall see. At least he’s actualky scored some runs
    Stokes.. shown the odd glimpse of maybe realising test cricket is about batting long rather than ‘positive brand of cricket’ but he’s not done it neough to keep being a ‘shoe in at 3/5’.. avg still in the 30’s!!!
    Bairstow.. has been ruined by white ball Cricket. Faces a choice.. either play white ball or re-learn red ball.. either way, you can’t be good at both.. so very few genuinely are
    Bowling.. meh.. we don’t have much so there was no real options

    Over all.. this isn’t inspired.. it’s not even a hard job to pick the squads for red ball as there is so little talent around.

    Loving the calls for hakes/Roy to be ‘aggressive’.. yeah because both of them aren’t just whit ball blasters or anything ??

  13. Cricketcricketcricket September 22, 2018 at 7:41 am - Reply

    I virtually never bet but I put money on englsnd to win the series vs India purely because…. it was always going to happen.. not because englsnd are great but home team wins and India can’t play swing..

    It was only an interesting series because India turned up with a bowling attack which also showed England’s batsmen are also pretty dire

    Expecting englsnd to win a few series, a few of these ‘world class’ players will boost their stats then the ashes comes and IF (big IF) Oz actually turn up with smith and their pace attack.. this englsnd team will fold yet again and it’s back to square one

    • Simon H September 22, 2018 at 7:49 am - Reply

      “IF (big IF) Oz actually turn up with smith and their pace attack.. this englsnd team will fold yet again and it’s back to square one”.

      Australia haven’t won the Ashes in England since 2001. I think you’re greatly underestimating how much the deck has been stacked in favour of the home team.

  14. Simon H September 22, 2018 at 8:09 am - Reply

    I’m well aware Denly has some ability (I remember him carrying his bat in a CC game against prime Stuart Clark and Shane Warne – he made something like 105* out of 190) but I’m amazed at the generally positive reaction here. The fact is his performances over time haven’t warranted inclusion – and he’s now in on the back of D2 achievements.

    It smacks of having him in the XI and trying to pass him off as the third spinner. He’ll be this winter’s Zafari Ansari or Alex Loudon. It’s probably just a coincidence he’s played for the two counties Smith played for…

    As for Jennings, the likes of Carberry and Lyth must be wondering what they did wrong. Not being designated FEC by the Baron of Loughborough would be the answer.

  15. AndyB September 22, 2018 at 9:12 am - Reply

    The real shame in this squad is that Henry Brookes is not fit for selection. Olly Stone deserves his chance, but his 90mph+ in a straight line is less persuasive than Brookes 90mph moving the ball both ways, and at 18 years old.

    • Marc Evans September 22, 2018 at 11:07 am - Reply

      Would be exciting if the 2 could eventually open for England. Look at Stone’s championship averages for this season and you don’t get those by being just a quick straight up and downer. He’s also pretty accurate, so you can set proper fields for him. Haven’t seen Brooks bowl yet, but he seems to be regarded as the more talented of the pair. Hopefully the two can steer clear of serious injury, which seems to be the main problem.

  16. John September 22, 2018 at 10:06 am - Reply

    You will never have a squad which pleases everyone but had I picked this squad, with the exception of Jennings, I would feel pretty confident about justifying my selections to anyone without a particular axe to grind. In particular there is no one who has made an overwhelming case for selection who has been omitted.

    • Jackie Litherland September 22, 2018 at 10:37 am - Reply

      Well you would say that if you maintain that Bell has had a rubbish season. That leaves everyone else precisely nowhere.

      • John September 22, 2018 at 11:38 am - Reply

        Please control yourself. The aggressive nature of your posts is unpleasant and unnecessary. For the record, I have NOT said, anywhere, that Bell has had a rubbish season. Other than correcting that error I have no interest in any further discussion with you and will leave the thread.

  17. Comte September 22, 2018 at 11:31 am - Reply

    Firstly, a little throwback to 2009 when the Lions, skippered by an immaculately turned-out Ian Bell, played Oz at New Road. The Lions, batting 2nd, put on 172 for their first wicket, thanks to Denly and Stephen Moore (remember him?). In came Bell at number 3, and the poor sod was dismissed LBW first ball by Brett Lee. I was mortified for Belly but I’ve got over it and I think to have selected him for this tour would have been a victory for sentiment rather than common sense. I’m pleased about Denly though.

    I cannot understand how Jennings makes the trip but I’m delighted for Burns. But why 6 seamers? How many does it take to carry drinks?

    To be frank, I’ll be more interested to see who is selected for the A/Lions excursions, assuming there will be some.

  18. Dave G September 22, 2018 at 11:45 am - Reply

    I’ve been greatly enjoying the Denly/Bell debate on here – especially as the vigour from some is almost suggestive of a familial connection to The Sledgehammer, himself! 🙂

    Fwiw, I entirely agree that Bell should have been selected. If Div 2 is being scoured for batsman who can bat above Root, not picking Bell is somewhat perverse, UNLESS the thinking is that Denly could, potentially replace Jennings if he starts poorly in Sri Lanka. While his talent is beyond question, I doubt anyone would genuinely recommend Bell come back into the fold and open the batting.

    When young, inexperienced players are selected for England we’re told, “if he’s good enough, he’s old enough”. Funny how the reverse does not seem to apply, at least in England, for more mature players. Why is it not the case that if they’re good enough they’re *young* enough?

    In this most elitist of ‘mainstream’ sports (if, indeed, it still is that in England – mainstream; I’m not making any allegations of a match-making nature!) I have no difficulty whatsoever in imagining Bell being overlooked for non-cricketing reasons. During Cook’s annus horribilis, when almost the entire elite cricketing fraternity circled their wagons to defend the sweatless one against calls for his resignation as captain, I seem to recall one Ian R Bell being traduced by cricket journalists for his apparent failure to impress on an ECB team-building exercise.

    The ECB, or at least a part of it was, it appeared, prepared to undermine one if it’s most talented, decorated, long-serving players (the hero of the 2013 Ashes victory) in order to sustain another player’s tenuous hold on their elevated position.

    Lest we forget, during that fateful series down under, nearly all of the squad was tried at 3 before Bell was reluctantly afforded the chance to give it a go!* His performances for England, at first drop, should probably be understood in the context of what seems to have been a less than wholehearted belief in his ability to perform in that position.

    For all these reasons, I say, “Bell for England!”

    * Hyperbole alert.

    • James Morgan September 22, 2018 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      Nice comment! For what it’s worth, if I was picking an XI for next year’s Ashes I think I might well pick Bell to bat at 5. However, this is never going to happen under Ed Smith because he seems determined to pick a middle-order full of all-rounders and not specialists. My article should be interpreted within this particular context. It’s as good as I could have hoped for bearing in mind the mindset of those in charge.

      If I was picking an XI for the Ashes, I would probably go Burns, Another, Denly, Root, Bell, Bairstow, Stokes, Moeen, Broad, Stone, Anderson.

      However, the above XI would involve dropping Jos Buttler, who I must confess (despite my initial scepticism) did very well this summer. He therefore warrants his place in the side for now at the very least. In fact, it might well become a shoot out between Bell and Buttler for the final specialist batsman spot.

      Another thing to mention is the Denly as an alternative opener option. I’m glad you brought this up. I’ve seen Denly open quite a lot in the past and I believe he has the game for it (or at least used to). He bats a bit like Michael Vaughan in some ways. I’m sure Denly’s versatility played a part in his selection. If he was to open it would be a nice partnership with Burns. Both would complement each other well. A grafting left-hander and an elegant right-hander. A LH and RH opening partnership is an advantage and it’s something we haven’t had for years. All the people we’ve tried alongside Cook, with the exception of Robson have been left handers – Lyth, Carberry, Jennings, Stoneman. And before that we had Strauss and Trescothick!

      • Dave G September 22, 2018 at 12:50 pm - Reply

        Definitely not averse to Denly being given a chance (Trescothick and Vaughan are both obvious examples of CC averages being far from a guarantee of Test quality – with, perhaps, Ballance and Jennings reinforcing the point from the reverse angle) – especially as a replacement for Jennings. Just not at the expense of the highest run-scorer from the same division.

        Whether or not Denly opening is likely remains to be seen – particularly in light of the bizarre Ed Smith TMS interview, during which it appeared that Prof Ed was celebrating the tactic of deploying out-of-form / not-up-to-it openers (a ‘false 1 and 2’, to borrow from football parlance) as a counterweight to all those lovely late-order runs.

        Bell, Jennings, and possibly more (medium) pace-bowlers than necessary aside, there’s not too much in the Sri Lanka squad to argue about. Which in itself, is something to lament: where are the alternatives?

        It is very hard to see England climbing the Test rankings any time soon.

    • Cricketcricketcricket September 23, 2018 at 7:22 am - Reply

      So you doubt anyone would seriously consider Bell as an opener…. (I agree he shouldn’t ever be in the top 4)..

      However, a lot on here seem desperate to out Bairstow, Stokes, moeeen , buttler, Roy, hales and other similar ilk players up in the top 4… we can’t on the one hand say x isn’t top 4 material and then claim one of the above is!!

      All of the above are 5/6/7 batters and people seem desperate not to want to see the truth. They keep claiming that these have some inate ability to bat top 4!!

      ‘Looking classy’ isn’t going to be good enough .. it takes more than that and some of the younger guys are sadly being over rated (clarke for example.. hain …)

  19. Ben September 22, 2018 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    I agree with Dave G. Bell for England!
    What is sport if it is not a meritocracy? To pick Denly or Bell for No. 3 presents a stark comparison, which taken on its merits only points one way. By all measures of ability available to the objective observer, Bell is a superior player and in better form. Both are mature professionals – a good idea for a young team with a faltering top order.
    First Class Average? Denly 36.5. Bell 44 (42.6 in tests) Centuries? Denly 27 Bell 57 (22 in tests). (NB Bell’s average at no. 3 for England was 38. Not bad considering that he was never backed, and played 20 of his 28 matches at No.3 away.)
    Average this season? Denly 36 Bell 56.
    That Denly and Moeen Ali (FCA 37, 32 in tests) are being touted as England no. 3s is a sign of two things.
    1. There is a dearth of quality top order batsmen (in case you hadn’t noticed) and 2. England have a policy of Anyone But Bell.

    • Cricketcricketcricket September 23, 2018 at 7:32 am - Reply

      Just look at all the England avg’s (excluding root)

      Stokes – deemed a messiah and can bat top order now apparently let alone 5
      Bairstow – lauded as being able to open, to 3/4/5/6.. what’s his avg again ??
      Moeeen !!!! Calls for him to open, bat 3.. top six again., really.. what does he avg ?.
      Buttler.. wow.. biggest messiah of the lot.. scrap what he avg’s.. 2020 god so must be good.. remind me what he avg’s again ???
      Cba to go on but these sum up where both englsnd sre, world cricket is but most scary of all.. how poor we, the public are for swallowing these players as the ‘best’.. yes’m best.. batsmen we have.,

      Why o why are more people not unhappy and kicking off at the lack of quality.. these guys aren’t to blame and they are great white ball payers but the formats are so vastly different and the skill sets are vastly different.. that’s before the main difference… mindset

  20. @pktroll September 23, 2018 at 5:51 am - Reply

    Definitely too many seamers for me. I thought Broad was being given the winter off? Also why both Woakes and Curran? I know that there are legitimate concerns about the batting, and fwiw I would have gone with Bell and Joe Clarke but I can’t see Woakes being productive with the ball out there given that his poor record overseas. I think it optimistic to say the least that Curran could be our Chaminda Vaas. Left arm medium fast yes, the nous of that fine bowler would be a very tough ask to replicate for one so young.

    A few top order collapses may not be bailed out by the middle and lower order on turning decks. A tough series aheas

    • Cricketcricketcricket September 23, 2018 at 7:35 am - Reply

      Why is curran the new saviour ??? Literally all he’s shown so far is he needs it to swing (won’t in. SL) and he’s a trundler… sure he can bat a bit but again.. he’s supposed to be a bloody bowler!! Who cares about his batting..

      We, yet again are punting for bits and pieces players and many are believing the ECB PR hyperbole ..

      It’s almost comical how no one here seems able to look at a TEST squad objectively . It’s like people are content with how crap and bits and pieces these players are!!

      • Marc Evans September 23, 2018 at 12:38 pm - Reply

        The objectivity people use is dictated by the total absence of specialist quality players in this country at present, apart from a couple of decent keepers. This is not the fault of our fellow bloggers, but the coaches, who put pressure on the modern player to be adaptable, so as to maximise selection potential. After all playing is their livelihood and so their priority. These days, if you specialise you reduce your selective potential and lose out on the livelihood front, a bit like having your hours cut. It’s catch 22 for most players and the selectors can’t select what isn’t there.
        As for Curran, who most impressed Kohli most this summer? Young Sam. His attitude cannot be faulted. You can coach technique but not determination. How many better players have folded under pressure for England? He is fully aware of his limitations and could easily become another Woakes given the chance.

        • Cricketcricketcricket September 23, 2018 at 3:05 pm - Reply

          So why laud these guys as something they aren’t ?? If we don’t have any genuine test top 3 players just say so but don’t go saying ‘moeen is classy, he’s great..’.. no he isn’t

          Just call a spade a spade and say ‘ he’s in there because he’s not the best 5/6/7 and so he’s th next best bat in to fill a spot until someone from county Cricket steps up.

          He knows it anyway so all the BS about ‘talk a player up’.. meh.. just state the obvious and stop BS’ing

          This set up just can’t be honest with itself let alone the paying public

          • Marc Evans September 24, 2018 at 3:43 am - Reply

            Nobody’s doing that on this blog. Pretty much everyone is critical of the modern test player’s lack of basic technique and comparatively low red ball averages. Moin knows he’s no 3 at test level, but with Root clearly unhappy there he showed what a good team man he is accepting the responsibility as a kind of sacrificial lamb and doing his best, which turned out to be a useful, if fortunate cameo. Anyone who saw that innings could see he was out of his depth. I don’t know anyone, not even a Worcester supporter, who thinks Moin is a great cricketer with bat or ball, but he is effective enough to justify his selection in the absence of an obvious replacement and is a thoroughly good team man.
            I agree that the selectors have tried to big up reputations with flimsy evidence, but that is the typical public face for a professional team, most managers do it. Look at Jose at Man Utd, always criticising his players in public, does this improve them? no! A lot of success in professional sport is about confidence. Criticising players in public does not improve this. It’s all part of making a player believe in himself so as to maximise potential.
            As for the paying public, they are old enough to make up their own mind, as always.

  21. Doug M September 23, 2018 at 6:42 am - Reply

    Well 6 seamers for Sri Lanka’s spin friendly pitches? I don’t think so. I cannot see any point in taking Anderson or Broad to flog them to death in 90+ degree heat. At nearly 36 Anderson needs to be kept under wraps for the next Ashes, surely far more important than Sri Lanka. One bad injury to either of these seniors and it could be bye bye. Try some new options, ideal opportunity.
    Bell will never be picked at 36. Denny offers a leg spin option at least on par with Rashid, well most people are, so I get that selection, albeit he has scored his runs in Div 2 which is a bit different than Div 1. Jennings one is bizarre in the extreme, he must have something on Smith.

    • Marc Evans September 24, 2018 at 11:15 am - Reply

      Agree totally with this, especially as neither Anderson or Broad have done much on the sub continent recently. Ideal opportunity, against a pretty mediocre Sri Lanka, to blood some seamers for the future. Porter must be wandering what he has to do to get selected. We need to find some new potential openers pretty quickly, with both bat and ball.
      Jennings is considered a better bet against spin and Smith’s justification that no opener has made an impact this summer, for either England, India or Pakistan has some merit considering the bowler friendly conditions they encountered most of the time. Personally I prefer Stoneham, as he seems a more compact player, but whether he’s capable of a long innings at this level is as debatable as whether Jennings would be. His technical flaws were mirrored by most of the others and they’ve been selected, but it must be last chance saloon for him. Just don’t field him at slip or gully.

  22. d'Arthez September 23, 2018 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    6 seamers? On the wickets Sri Lanka prepare? Overkill. 3 at most, one just in case of an unfortunate injury.

    Don’t be surprised if Sri Lanka pick 4 front line spinners. Pick Stokes, Curran, and one frontline seamer. Pick Rashid, Leach and Moeen, and include some other spinning options for the touring side.

    Root better win the tosses, otherwise it will be yet another procession by the touring side.

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