Following my lament earlier in the week, Mark Cohen puts a slightly different spin on England’s current predicament…
So Dawid Malan is the latest recall to be called back off the white ball wagon and thrust straight into the test match arena. The announcement of England’s squad for the third test at Headingley brought with it a welcome back for the former Middlesex captain to the international fold, ahead of a likely return to the starting eleven next Wednesday.
This has come with the respective departures of Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley. Neither comes as much of a surprise, after a woeful fourth inning batting display at Lords on Monday afternoon.
Like many of his England colleagues, Malan’s white ball credentials are impressive – he remains the top ranked IT20 batsman – but he has not faced a competitive red ball since June. Granted, he made 199 against Sussex, also at Headingley but as our editor recently reminded us, it is at best fanciful to expect a staple schedule of white ball cricket to produce instant test match success. It’s like training for the London Marathon on the Atkins diet.
That particular drum is not in for another banging here, although it would be remiss not to balk at the news that Moeen Ali will use this week’s break between test matches to play in The Hundred Final for Birmingham Phoenix.
England’s current situation is not just a product of a bizarre domestic schedule. Some key players remain conspicuously absent. Stuart Broad’s regular match updates on Twitter are a regular reminder of his recent banishment to the sofa with a calf tear. Ben Stokes’ indefinite break from cricket, citing his mental health, was also a blow. Both players are automatic starters and can turn matches almost on their own.
While Broad and Stokes are the two most recent absentees, many seem to have forgotten that Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer remain nowhere near an international cricket pitch.
The cupboard is not quite as bare as some have claimed and English test cricket is not on the edge of some great precipice. It should not be forgotten that our present test match opponents are able to produce top class test match cricket alongside the biggest domestic T20 tournament going.
The last truly outstanding England test team could trace its origins back to Kingston, Jamaica on 7th February 2009, when it was rolled over for 51 at the hands of a rampant Jerome Taylor. Monday’s batting capitulation is not quite in that league but it might take something similar, and much more chastening, to instigate serious change.
The last time such a watershed moment threatened was also at Headingley two years ago, with dismissal for 67 in the third Ashes test. The heroics of Stokes, Leach et al papered over the cracks on that occasion. It might be best for English test cricket that the cracks are laid brutally bear at the next opportunity.
Three of the four absentees you mention are principally bowlers, Mark, but we remain reasonably strong in that department. Where are the red-ball players to strengthen the batting?
I’m not sure if makes a lot of difference who you pick though. It just keeps going back to the marginalisation of the County Championship. Just two games since end of May, both 5 weeks ago. However good your coach’s are, without match practice, all the coaching in the world won’t help one bit. Silverwood said that Sibley “needs some red ball cricket”. Yes well, he is oblivious to the fact that the next game starts on August 30th. What’s he going to do? Count blades of grass in the meantime? It’s like telling me as a past Channel Swimmer, to run round the streets but don’t swim for two weeks. It’s a joke If it wasn’t so inept.
If you forced me to make a change as things stand, and let’s just deal with the openers otherwise it’ll take all day, I’d open with Jo Clarke and James Vince. The former looks to my fairly limited technical expertise to have the shots, technique and adaptability, while the later will probably only get you a rather cultured 30. But England could just be 45/1 instead of the now expected 45/3 or 4 or 5………
I have a sneaky suspicion we will see Vince in an England test shirt before this series is out. I’ve written before about how he often flatters to deceive. Who is in the lineup come the Ashes is anyone’s guess, but maybe we need another whitewash to make the ECB wake up!
To continue your metaphor, Mark, the fundamental problem is not just that the cupboard is bare, it’s that the ECB has helped to destroy the supply chain, as a matter of deliberate policy.
It seems to me that the very public dropping of Zac Crawley from the test squad seems almost to attempt to blame Zac for the loss of the second test when he wasn’t even playing! While I don’t disagree that he would probably benefit from playing red ball cricket in the County Championship, I don’t think that this was probably the best example of man-management that I’ve ever seen.
I don’t understand all this “make the ECB wake up!” type of comments. It is not that they need to Wake Up, first they have to CARE. The ECB has successfully made cricket a one-day, or less, game. To prove this, along came the 100, perfect marketing, lousy sport.
Guess when India, or Australia, or others, beat England in a one-day Test they will be ecstatic.
If the cupboard isn’t pretty bare why keep bringing back past failures. Vince and Ballance could be next in an effort to be competitive for the Ashes. Hopefully Hameed will be given as much chance as Sibley and Crawley. With Broad, Archer, Woakes and Stokes to return at some point only Stokes will fill a batting spot.
As James keeps pointing out how can we breed new test batsmen in the present white ball climate. Players now go hard at the ball and don’t let it come on to them so edges have a chance of not carrying. In white ball close fielders are at a premium so it I still rate to get slip catches atall. In this country we play so much more white ball cricket than anywhere else, especially Australia, so the bad habits most of our batsmen develop are less Prevalent. Our breeding ground for test cricket, the county championship, is now a sideshow with many of our test players resting for the rigours of internationals or playing in the IPL.
Sorry Mark, but yours is not a convincing argument atall.