Yes, we shouldn’t go over the top. Our media constantly builds young sportsmen up only to knock them down. But surely it’s OK to get just a little bit excited, eh?
England’s win in Karachi, which secured a 3-0 series whitewash, was pleasing in so many ways. However, the performance of 18-year old Rehan Ahmed, who became the first England bowler with parents younger than me to take a five-fer in Test cricket, was by far the biggest talking point.
Of course, we’ve picked young leg-spinners hoping that they’ll turn into an English version of Shane Warne many times before – I’m looking at you Chris Schofield, Scott Borthwick and Mason Crane – but none of them looked remotely close to a world-class leggie in the making. This time, however, we can see genuine potential. Sure, it’s only one game. And sure, he’ll probably have some bad days along the way. But Rehan Ahmed actually seems to have the natural talent, and just as importantly the confidence and attitude, to become a genuine star.
Whereas Adil Rashid always looked like a better white ball bowler with his somewhat slow and loopy leg-spin, Rehan seems much faster and flatter through the air. This should make him more difficult to attack. Batsmen won’t be able to use their feet so easily. He also managed to get a little dip and, best of all, he doesn’t bowl a rank log-hop every twelve balls like most young leg-spinners. This is obviously rather crucial because, as Warne himself used to say, the first goal of a promising leggie is to ‘stay on’.
It also helps that Rehan can obviously bat a bit – although, to be fair, we didn’t see too much evidence of this in Karachi. His natural exuberance got the better of him twice. Oh well. At least there’s going to be a learning curve with one facet of his game!
However, before we proclaim Rehan as the next big thing, we shouldn’t forget that Jack Leach also enjoyed a pretty decent series. I wouldn’t be surprised if England stick with the more experienced spinner in home conditions in the Ashes (at least initially). Although Leach’s series average of 45 doesn’t look particularly good on paper, he bowled almost 3 times as many overs as any other England bowler in the series, which shows the faith that Ben Stokes has in him. Every team needs someone to tie up and end and do the donkey work.
Leach also took twice as many wickets as any other England bowler at a reasonable economy rate. In fact, his figures were remarkably similar to those of Nathan Lyon in Pakistan earlier this year. Indeed, Leach’s career stats also look very similar to the much-admired Aussie; their economy and strike rates are almost identical, although Lyon has taken his wickets at 32 rather than Leach’s 34. It’s always surprised me that Lyon gets so much respect whilst Leach gets so much stick – even from his own fans. The truth is that both are good bowlers who serve their captains very well.
The other star in the making – scratch that, this bloke’s already a star – is Harry Brook. I have to admit that I was unsure about the young Yorkie prior to this series. He looked a bit frenetic in the T20 World Cup, and his Test debut last summer wasn’t anything to get particularly excited about. However, this series showed exactly why those in the know are so excited about him.
Young Harry’s ceiling is incredibly high – it’s basically astral – and it’s hard to see how Jonny Bairstow, who was obviously the standout of the English summer, will get back in the side. He may even have to open (which is far from ideal). With the simultaneous emergence of Ben Duckett, who looked class on these Pakistani wickets – he reminded me of a younger, slightly more orthodox David Warner – England finally have batting options for the first time in a bloody long time. The selectors can’t even default to their traditional MO of dropping Ben Foakes to create room for Jonny. The Surrey keeper batted beautifully at Karachi and his keeping was typically tidy.
Before Ben Stokes’s team left for Pakistan, many of us had doubts as to how competitive they’d be. Yes, we knew that they wouldn’t be playing a vintage Pakistan side, but the opposition still had some exciting young talent and the likes of Babar and Azhar Ali. I think it’s fair to say, therefore, that England have exceeded all expectations. I’m genuinely very impressed with all of them – from Stokes’s inspired leadership to McCullum’s infectious fresh-thinking. The good battleship BazBall is still very much afloat and, if it can remain buoyant in New Zealand, we might be on the threshold of a terrific Ashes battle with the Aussie armada in 2023.
On a personal note – and I have to admit that departures of Harrison / Graves and the arrival of Thompson / Gould probably have something to do with this, too – I’m actually beginning to feel invested in this England team again. After years of feeling apathetic and cynical, this group of players has not only piqued my interest; they’re actively winning me over. And that’s probably the biggest compliment that I can give them.
So thanks, Ben and Co. The way you’ve played since the beginning of last summer is a credit to the game. You’re restoring a lot of pride and bringing some lost souls back into the fold.
You’re also currently shining a light on everything that’s good about our (unfairly) maligned county system. The natural talent was always there – as shown by England’s enormous strength in depth in white ball cricket. It just needed harnessing in a red ball environment. And now we’ve found a way of playing that seems to suit us.
As long as we don’t make allowances for him because of his age. If he’s good enough to get a place in the side he should be judged like the rest, otherwise it’s not fair to the player he’s replaced.
Promising is the most overworked word in the sporting lexicon and in itself pretty pointless. Youngsters are notoriously inconsistent, hence the high fall out rate over time. Let’s have another discussion about him in a couple ofvyears time, when we have some data to go on.
I echo your praise of Stokes. A classic example of the power of positive thinking. We’ve been playing with fear too long. We’re not a great team but everyone’s buying into the philosophy so it’s a genuine team effort.
Jack Leach is apparently the leading test wicket taker this year so must be doing something right. Has really developed his control of flight working with patel.
Yes, but he has played more matches than anyone else.
Leach – 46 wickets in 14 matches
Rababda – 45 in 8
Lyon – 43 in 10
Broad – 40 in 9
Anderson – 36 in 9
I will enjoy watching Ahmed develop – Rashid Khan is currently my favourite bowler to watch.
We must remember that this was a weak Pakistan side, further hampered by injuries to their top fast bowlers. A great series win, though. Brook is another great addition to the side. How does Bairstow get back in? Discuss!
I wonder how Duckett will cope on pitches with more bounce. I suspect that he will struggle.
It will be fascinating to see how Duckett plays in NZ. If he can score runs over there then I think we can be optimistic that he’ll do ok in England. He doesn’t need to be a world beater as an opener to be better than what we’ve had recently.
And England were without Archer and Broad…
…and effectively without Root. If someone had told me in advance that England were going to win this series 3-0, I wouldn’t have believed it. Had they said we were going to do it with Root amassing an aggregate of 125 at an average of 25 …….!!!
Excellent piece, can’t argue with a word of that.
Recall the end of the Atherton-Stewart-Hussain era……..along came new batsmen who succeeded straight away, Strauss, Trescothick, Bell, Pietersen, Cook, Trott – they did well right from the get-go and all established great careers.
We haven’t had such a wave of talent for many years – only Root and Stokes really – so many batsmen came and stayed only temporarily: Morgan, Ballance, Robson, Compton, Carberry (treated badly in my view), Jennings, Vince, Hameed, Hales, Roy, Stoneman, Malan, Buttler, Sibley, Burns, Lees…….and others. Remember that even Moeen and Bairstow were in-and-out, and up-and-down the order.
So now it seems that we have genuine cause for optimism. Crawley has obviously been earmarked for a long-spell despite his dreadful form after his double-ton. Quite a few of the above must be envious of the faith invested in him. Probably Duckett and Pope will receive the same blessing, and Brook’s potential is exponential.
I wouldn’t worry too much about the conundrum of fitting all the best players in. There will be injuries and accidents, it’s just good to have a posse of real talent on our hands – not forgetting Lawrence and Livingstone either.
The same process needs to function in terms of the bowlers. Anderson will know when he’s done, Broad too. One suspects that given the media work they’re doing, they’ll perhaps go after the Ashes. If they both play. I think I read that the last match where ENG played without at least one of them was in 2007, but we will have to contemplate it.
Robinson is a special talent, Wood has done very well in PAK, then there’s the prospect of a fit again Archer and the new lad Potts. Not forgetting that wonderful cricketer Woakes, and the younger Curran, plus Mahmood and the Overtons. Broad must be considered more vulnerable to omission than Anderson. Selection for NZ will be very interesting.
In terms of spin, Leach is obviously no.1 and as you say, rightly so. Bess’s time seems done, unless he matures in the way that Swann did. Do we have any other off spinner……..yes, Joe Root.
As for Rehan Ahmed. I think he should get ready to miss a lot of English winters. Somebody said that he wouldn’t be suitable for English summers – but Shane Warne did pretty well over here. I’m just gutted that he is not around to see this lad.
As you also said – I’m actually beginning to feel invested in this England team again – and would be even more enthusiastic when they get rid of the execrable Hundred. Our driest summer for a generation and no Test cricket was played. Criminal.
I saw a clip of Warne watching Ahmed bowl, aged about 13 (Ahmed, that is!). He predicted great things for Ahmed even then.
Yep. Wonderful watch. I think Rehan was about 12 at the time. Warne looked genuinely blown away and told him that he’d be playing first class cricket by the age of 15.
Warnie looked like he’d just been at a long lunch.
I loved his comment, summed up as, ‘Don’t listen to any coaches, just do your own thing’.
Warne traded on this knockabout image, and it’s true that he didn’t like technocratic coaches with endless meetings (John Buchanan). But he also spent thousands upon thousands of hours working on his bowling with Terry Jenner. He didn’t just show up and give it a rip, even though that’s what he liked folks to believe.
Why do you feel Carberry was treated badly? Like Robson and Compton, he was given ample opportunity to make a case but none of them really did so. He was the man in possession come the Australian tour, and therefore got the nod. He had a decent but unspectacular tour – he averaged under 30 – and before the first Test in England had a shocking start to the season. For me he was yet another player who never really replicated his impressive County performances at Test level.
Carberry top-scored (40) in the first innings at Brisbane – though failed (0) in the second. Adelaide made 60 and 14……..Perth 60 and 31…….Melbourne 38 and 12………Sydney 0 and 43.
He made 281 runs in the series, just behind Pietersen 291 but ahead of Cook 246 and Bell 235…..Stokes hit 279 – but 120 came in one innings.
Carberry was up in the averages too (29). I can’t really comment on his technique, but making those runs as a Test novice against the angry Aussie attack must’ve taken a lot of character. Yet they did not persevere with him.
For the 2014 home series against SL and IND they went with Robson – 1, 19, 127 and 24 against SL – plus 59, 17, 7, 27, 13, 6 and 37 against IND…….he never played again.
IND did not have Bumrah at that point, so Robson’s runs were easier than Carberry’s.
Spring 2015, ENG went to Windies – where they tried to make Trott an opener after his problems in AUS – he made 0,4, 59, 0,0 and 9……….and retired after a sad end to a great career.
Then they went with Lyth against NZ (7,12, 107,24) and AUS (6, 37,0, 7, 10, 12, 14,19,10)……and never played again.
Then they went to to UAE to play PAK, with Moeen opening with Cook…..35, 11, 1, 1, 14, 22.
Then they went to SA and Hales opened with Cook. They stuck with him for the summer 2016……..he made 573 and 27.3.
Then came four innings from a young Ben Duckett in Bangladesh. Then six from Hameed in IND. He was dropped and Jennings made his debut – a hundred and a golden duck. In 17 Tests, Jennings has hit 781 runs at 24.
Then came Stoneman – 11 tests 526 innings at 27.
Then Cook retired, and ENG needed two openers.
In 2013-14, Michael Carberry was 33yrs old. After braving the cauldron of an Ashes tour from hell, and steadying the batting line-up, he should have been given at least one spring and summer at home………but no, the selectors went round in circles ’trying young talent’ and discarding players after 6 to 12 tests, and not getting any further.
That is why I think Carberry was treated badly.
The key point, surely, is his form in the season after the Australian tour – on which he didn’t do badly but didn’t make himself irreplaceable by a long way. I remember a Hampshire member saying that he was lucky to keep his County place in the run up to the first Test. You couldn’t pick him on that form, and he didn’t have enough in the bank to pick him on reputation in my view.
Carberry’s innings in season 2014 April, May, June : 0, 6, 27, 100n.o., 45, 47, 35, 66, 14, 0, 125.
Then came the 1st Test vs SL – two back-to-back.
So there could have been no real question about his form going into Test selection.
Season’s end, Hampshire won the championship – Carberry played 12 matches, 21 innings with an average of 42 with 3 x 100s and 3 x 50s. A very respectable season’s work.
I don’t think your theory holds water.
Let’s agree to differ on that – not least because the selectors agreed with me !
Then you were all wrong.
Yeah, it’s amazing how England fans suddenly become “more invested” once the team wins a few games.
Ask James about that. He was “ashamed” 3 months ago.
Now he can’t get enough of it.
I wonder why.
It’s amazing how England fans suddenly become “more invested” once the team wins a few games.
Ask James about that. He was “ashamed” 3 months ago.
Now he can’t get enough of it.
I wonder why.
James, it sounds like you’re supporting England this week?