The State of the Nation

The least said the better about Sunday’s defeat. It was a poor way to finish the international season. There’s still an awful lot of work to do.

However, the result shouldn’t put too much of a dampener on England’s fine summer. Overall this has been a year of progress on the pitch – even if events at the ECB and the ICC have left a nasty taste in the mouth.

When our players left the Windies with their tail between the legs, I don’t think many people foresaw an Ashes victory and the emergence of a competitive ODI team.

Andrew Strauss must feel like he’s won the lottery – or even the American lottery with its humungous jackpot. One defeat, pitiful though it was, shouldn’t take the shine off what has been an entertaining few months.

What’s more, for a few moments on Sunday cricket hardly seemed to matter. When a Starc bouncer hit Eoin Morgan on the head, time seemed to stand still. It was a sickening blow.

Perhaps England’s insipid performance thereafter was affected by the incident. Suddenly, a decisive match in a hard fought series didn’t seem to matter in the scheme of things. Thank heavens the skipper was ok.

Talking of putting things in perspective, we shouldn’t forget that the side England put out in the 5th ODI was a long way short of our best. A few months ago, Joe Root and Jos Buttler were generally considered to be our best limited overs batsmen. I still believe they are. Their return will certainly revitalise the batting order.

England’s bowling line-up at Old Trafford was also the weakest we’ve fielded for some time. A seam attack of Willey, Topley and Wood is weaker than some county sides. It certainly isn’t representative of the talent available in county cricket. You don’t need to own a flat cap and a whippet to know that Yorkshire alone could field a more potent attack. Oh well.

Because the international summer has finally come to an end, we’d like to know how you’re feeling about the state of English cricket – both on and off the field.

Is the future finally looking bright or will the Ashes triumph prove to be an aberration – a brief moment of elation before dark, daunting tours to the UAE and South Africa? The next few months certainly won’t be easy.

What’s more, I’d like to know whether you’ve ‘reconnected’ with the England team and English cricket generally? Are you back on the bandwagon, or do you still feel like an outsider looking in?

For what it’s worth, here are my own thoughts …

Although the test team has made some progress this year, it’s still got more holes than a Hollyoaks storyline. The batting is over-reliant on Root and Cook, and I’m not entirely convinced about the talent waiting in the wings. If we had anyone significantly better than Lyth and Bairstow, they would’ve been given a go by now.

When it comes to the bowling, we’re still too dependent on Broad and Anderson. I really like Mark Wood, especially his pace and enthusiasm, but his fitness is a real concern. Meanwhile, I expect Steve Finn’s renaissance to prove ephemeral. He needs to fix his bowling action properly if he wants to be consistent.

Strangely enough – and I can’t quite believe I’m writing this – I’m actually more upbeat about our ODI team’s future. When was the last time England’s 50 over side was better than our test team? Welcome to the twilight zone folks.

Whereas the test side only has a handful of bankers, the ODI team is shaping up rather nicely. Eoin Morgan’s team is oozing with talent: Morgan himself, Roy, Taylor and Root all look like quality players in the shorter formats. Jos Buttler is much more comfortable in one day cricket too.

Although the bowling lacks an outright quickie, the ODI attack has plenty of variation. We have a left-armer, a leg-spinner and an orthodox off-spinner who is pulling his weight nicely. There’s also a wealth of all rounders capable of hitting the long ball. It’s actually pretty exciting.

Off the field, however, I’ve never felt more depressed about the game. I was hoping for change when Giles Clarke (and Paul Downton) moved on. However, thus far Colin Graves and particularly Tom Harrison have really disappointed.

There will be no live cricket on free-to-air television for the foreseeable future – even though other sports like football, rugby and NFL see the value of terrestrial television. Meanwhile the ECB’s collusion with the BCCI at the ICC is sickening. Shame on them all.

When it comes to Andrew Strauss I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I trust him to do his job intelligently and diligently – he’s certainly an improvement on Downton – but why was he preferred to other candidates? I think we all know the answer to that one.

The ECB still seem like an anachronism to me: old school tie, out of touch, and recruiting men more likely to share their worldview than challenge it. As always when it comes to the ECB, looking and talking like you’re from the right sort of family is what counts.

James Morgan



  • Excellent stuff….especially the Hollyoaks line

    Good point about fta tv….Sky themselves are making available about 10 regular season NFL games this year on Sky 1 and Pick TV….ECB need to up their game and get a similar arrangement for cricket….maybe 1 test and 3 ODIs per summer

  • Outsider looking in.
    And I don’t see much changing in the short, medium or long term, to be honest.

  • Many times it was said in the mainstream media and blogs alike; “wait till we come up against the NZ and Australia bowling attacks” it’s going to be a nightmare.
    What most people forgot (me included) was our bowling prowess on home wickets was always going to be a deciding factor and so it proved.

    I too am depressed by the impending NFL coverage; boosting the popularity of another countries’ sporting export whilst shunning our own. That said I’m not sure which terrestrial channel (ITV4?) would be willing to fill a full days worth of cricket coverage these days?

    Re: Strauss, who was your preferred candidate James?

    • I would have preferred either Stewart or Vaughan. I thought Strauss was too close to the current dressing room.

      • I’d agree with those choices, both speak a lot of sense but did’t they both withdraw after seeing the job description?

        Which leads me to ask, which were the candidates AS was preferred to?

        • I think that’s the point: the job description was apparently so restrictive that it pushed away from the job some candidates who would otherwise be interested. The question is whether the ECB was wise to impose such a restrictive job description, rather than consider one which other candidates would be open to.

          • Only pushing them away in so far as they had other commitments they weren’t willing to give up for a full-time post. In lieu of a published job description (which I’m not sure exists) it might be wise to avoid drawing too many damming conclusions.

            On the face of it AS seems to be doing a good job.

            • Yes I agree. I think Strauss has done well thus far. The Bayliss over Gillespie choice was excellent imho and exactly what I wanted.

        • Exactly. The criteria seemed to be shaped to fit a certain candidate while excluding the others.

  • Welcome back to TFT!

    I would say we are in for a difficult winter. The Headingly pitch produced a bit of spin and our batsmen seemed either not to notice or were inept at playing it. That does not bode well for the UAE. I really doubt that Morgan’s unfortunate injury had a significant impact on the team performance. After all, we have been there and done these batting and bowling disasters before. Maybe it’s just been a very long summer.

    As for South Africa, with only one opening bat, it hardly bears thinking about. We can look at other issues nearer the time. As you say, our bowling attack is a bit over reliant and shaky looking. Maybe it will develop over time.

    I cannot agree with your views on the Strauss selection. My belief is that he was selected because he has proved himself to be both diligent and intelligent and he knows the game well. Michael Vaughan has far too many business interests vested in the current players. Strauss might wear a blazer and an old school tie but that should not preclude him from any job if he is best suited to it. I am sure you are not an advocate of reverse discrimation.

    In the same vein I need your help James. I agree that the ECB do seem like an anachronism and I deplore their role in the three nation stitch up but exactly who has been excluded from either the hierarchy or the team because their face didn’t fit or they went to the wrong school?

    Cricket does seem pretty much like a gentleman’s game at the moment but the redress needs to begin in the state schools. It’s difficult to see how much can change when sporting facilities are so poor, particularly in the inner cities and there is literally a dearth of equipment. Bats pads and clothing all cost a fair bit of money. We can tinker at the edges but there needs to be a huge demand coming from within before the problem will be seriously addressed.

    The lack of FTA television is a big barrier to that ever happening.

    Thanks as always for a very comprehensive and interesting post.


    • Thanks Jenny. I’d argue that both Vaughan and particularly Stewart are equally diligent to Strauss, and crucially there’s more distance between them and the current dressing room. Vaughan is working in the media, but so was Strauss at the time.

      As for who has been excluded, it depends how you look at it. You could say that anyone who’s been passed over in favour of a non-boat rocker has been ‘excluded’. It doesn’t have to be as unsubtle as the Pietersen exclusion. Why do some people rise to the top so quickly while others don’t? Less dynamic people like Ashley Giles and Angus Fraser (both good team men, so please don’t think it’s a dig at them) seem to rise fastest of all at the ECB. I’m not sure this would work the same way in a successful, modern, progressive business.

      I think many of us have always suspected the ECB of old school tie prejudice. But Giles Clarke was stupid enough to actually admit it in his ‘right sort of family’ remarks. I’m sure most professionals playing the game have a laugh at the old farts. The MCC refused to show Death of a Gentleman because they feared it would get the ECB suits backs up remember. I’m sure there’s a lot of feeling around the counties that a bias exists too. One could point to the treatment of Andrew Gale last year.

    • Disregarding You know who as that’s the most plausible answer, Nick Compton, Carberry spring to mind.

  • You make valid points James expect particularly in the case of Michael Vaughan. He is an agent for some of the players and not just a media stalwart. We can’t have that.

    As far as I know Gus Fraser is not public school. He was brought up in Harrow and went to the local high school. I don’t think it’s fee paying. Gus is a sharp cookie. That’s why he has risen fast. I have never understood Ashley Giles so I can go along with you on that.

    Very fair point about The MCC and Death of. A Gentleman. I was very disappointed in that. I’m sure you are right about players looking upon the ECB as BOF’s! That’s why I have always drawn a distinct line between them and the management.

    In full support of the England team as always. They are the ones who go out and do it.

    • Im not saying Gus and Ashley are public school at all. Im saying theyre good company men who can be relied upon to never rock the boat. I dont like having a go at Gus as he was one of my favourite bowlers and hes very amiable, but I wouldnt describe him as a sharp cookie. Honest and reliable are better words.

      • Gus is much more than a company man. He might be honest and reliable but not a lot gets past him! He stands for no nonsense. Trust me on that!

  • South Africa are not what they were, I’d say that’s obvious. They may be ripe for the plucking.

    With Pakistan who knows?


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