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.