Would England Really Drop Broad?

There has been much talk about England’s potential line-up in Galle next week. Some reporters are even suggesting that Stuart Broad might miss out if England pick three spinners.

Really? I can’t see this myself. Broad is England’s second leading wicket taker of all time, a huge figure in the dressing room, and he hasn’t been dropped (as opposed to rested due to injury or workload) for nigh on a decade.

Personally, I think there might be some unrest from senior players if Broad is dropped in favour of a relative rookie like Jack Leach. Especially if the likes of Sam Curran or Chris Woakes make the cut because they’re better batsmen. It should be the job of the proper ‘batsmen’ to score runs – not that they’re particularly capable. Even still, England shouldn’t pick an inferior bowler at No.9 just in case they need a few extra runs.

A different question, however, is whether England should pick Broad (irrespective of dressing room politics)? This is where it gets a little more interesting. If the test match was at home then Broad would be a shoo-in. However, it doesn’t take a review into the corporate culture of a governing body to work out that Sri Lankan pitches are rather different to your average Trent Bridge green top. Will Broady be effective in the sweltering heat when canny spinners rather than beanpole bang-it-ins are likely to take the lion’s share of wickets?

Personally I’m tempted to argue that England should have enough slow bowling options in the XI without dropping Broad for Leach. There’s Moeen and Rashid for starters, and then there’s the strong possibility of Denly playing (although apparently he didn’t impress in the first innings against the SL Board XI). There’s also the option of giving Joe Root a few overs.

Consequently, one might argue that England would be dropping Broad to accommodate a 4th (or even 5th) spinner – which seems a little daft. The problem, of course, is that Leach is possibly the best spinner in the squad (or at least the most reliable and consistent at county level). He certainly has the best first class statistics by a country mile.

The logical conclusion to reach, therefore, is that both Broad AND Leach should play. So who would miss out as a result? That man, I hate to say, should be Sam Curran, who’s unlikely to be effective with the ball on this tour. In fact, left arm medium fast bowlers shouldn’t be effective in Sri Lanka full stop.

There’s just one problem with this analysis, however. And the hole is bigger than a Californian sinkhole: Chaminda Vaas was a left-arm medium pacer. And he seemed to do rather well on those dead slow Sri Lankan puddings. So I guess we can put the ‘leave out Curran’ theory in the dustbin too.

So who should England leave out? Erm. We can’t leave out a batter because that would be like depriving a thirsty man of water. And we can’t leave out a wicket-keeper because, well, that would be as daft as introducing a new cricket tournament for people who don’t like cricket.

Hmmmm. Looks like Stuart Broad might miss out after all. Although it makes no sense to drop him. And we don’t need to drop him either. What strange times we live in.

There is one other solution however: keep things as simple as possible by picking 3 seamers, 3 specialist spinners, and a batting line-up with Mo at 7 and Rashid, who’s a more than handy batsman with a first class average of 33 (and ten tons to his name) as the all-rounder at 8.

This side would mean no Pope, no Curran, and no Woakes either, but the Surrey young guns and the Warwickshire Bear will surely get their chance in the next game, as the management are bound to panic and make wholesale changes after we lose the first test by an innings.

Potential England XI:

1. Burns

2. Jennings (although Geoff Boycott’s gran would play if available)

3. Denly

4. Root

5. Stokes

6. Buttler (wkt)

7. Moeen

8. Rashid

9. Broad

10. Leach

11. Anderson

What do you think?

James Morgan


  • Apart from my personal prejudice (that Woakes is the best seamer we have bar Anderson and his figures abroad are a result of always being handed a battered old ball when he should be opening the bowling) …….Moeen can open the batting and achieve two immediate gains. Jennings no longer plays (I feel sorry for him but he has had more chances than Boris Johnson) and that means we can bring in a proper keeper at 7 (Foakes) and avoid the leaking of chances and runs likely with Buttler keeping. I do not, of course, suggest Moeen is an ideal opener – but he cannot do worse than Jennings.

    • Not being worse than Jennings is hardly persuasive. Nobody is sure why Jennings is there at all and Denly was struggling according to Cricinfo which puts all the pressure onto Root again and the middle order. Rory Burns has started well thank goodness but the shadows remain at the top. Seems a permanent black hole. A bit unfair on Moeen who likes freedom to hit out. He shouldn’t be used to sort out the top order problem. If Jennings or Denly aren’t good enough England should not call up someone else. Preferably someone not playing for Kent with Ed Smith.

      • I am only suggesting opening with Moeen is persuasive in the context of who is out in Sri Lanka and because it allows us to have a keeper (as opposed to old ‘Hands of Stone’). Otherwise I broadly agree with you.

    • Moeen in the top order.. lol lol lol

      Nice to see this team hasn’t moved on or found anyone Decent

  • I would open with Denly at the expense of Jennings. Ali to 3, allowing Curran to come in down the order. I think the choice comes down to Broad or Woakes. Let’s see how they go in the other warm-up match.

    • I know Ali isn’t an ideal 3 either, but Root doesn’t seem to want to bat there. I can’t see why!

  • I probably wouldn’t have taken Broad in the first place. His record in Sri Lanka and the sub-Continent, in general, is poor. He predominantly relies on bounce and the pitches don’t suit him. The same could be said for Anderson, whose record is also poor, but he is the best swinger of the ball we have. It’s a shame that Olly Stone has to miss out but Woakes is probably our most effective quicker bowler in all conditions and he can bat. As a result, it’s a makeshift team – the batting and bowling both look weak. I would have taken Vince or Cohler-Cadmore to shore up the batting (Stokes is not a number five bat) and another of the young quicks (Porter, Overton, Tongue, Coad) instead of Broad. If we had rested Broad and/or Anderson for the summer it would have given us an opportunity to try out some of the ‘next in line’, Still, given all this, I reckon the team for the first test will be:


  • The solution now seems obvious to me – Rashid really should come in at the top of the order for Jennings.

    I knew Adil was someone with a solid First Class record but I was shocked to discover that he has 10 centuries on his resume… CricInfo’s profile points out that it’s only five years since he made 800+ Championship runs at an average of more than 50! Only 8 players scored in excess of 800 runs in Div 1 this year and 8 in Div 2, few of whom had anything like the average. Get him in.

    • Yeah that would be Bell of course. Excess of a 1000 runs and excess over 50 av. Hildreth is another. What’s really puzzling is that Bayliss insisted that the minimum requirement was a FC average of 40 plus. Denly has FC average of 36.
      Does his spin really compensate for that?

      • FC average of 40+

        Remind me what ali, buttler, Bairstow, Stokes, Denly, Jennings, stoneman, hales, Roy, Morgan et all avg ?

  • Well I wouldn’t have taken Broad or Anderson on this monsoon tour in the first place. Utterly daft. What’s the point in flogging them to death on flat pitches in searing heat? I would have thought keep them both in wraps for the Ashes is much more sensible. At 36 one bad injury could spell the end of Anderson, and Broad is no spring chicken either. Plenty of seam options in Porter, Overton, Tom Curran, Sam Curran, Stone and Coad. Blimey you only need one to go with Stokes and Woakes anyway here.
    If Bairstow doesn’t play Foakes is a hundred times a better keeper than Butler, Lancs third choice keeper by the way.
    I’ve seen Leach on flat tracks in two matches against Surrey this year where he took 5/350 in 4 innings. Basically doesn’t spin the ball. I think Denley is a better spinner anyway. And you have to play Moe n and Rashid because they ain’t no one else.

    • Good point, DougM
      I would have taken Vince instead of Jennings – at least he looks elegant while edging to second slip….

  • If you’re going to play 3 spinners, which is a no brainier with the resources Sri Lanka have to call on in the way of seam bowling, so dictating what sort of pitches will be prepared, I assume the modern trend for packing your side with bowlers who can bat a bit will dictate Moin, Rashid, Denly, Woakes and Stokes are certainties, so leaving a maximum of 2 further places for seam. Anderson must surely be one, so do you go with Broad, Curran or Stone to share the opening duties. Personally I would go with Stone, as you’ve brought him in to provide something different. Broad’s recent form home and abroad is less than game changing, with his trademark gluts of wickets seeming a distant memory and Curran looks like cannon fodder out there. Bearing in mind what happened to Elgar in the recent South African series, where he faced virtually no seam bowling atall and scored less than 50 runs in the series, Burns may have problems establishing himself, so there maybe an opportunity to promote someone comfortable against spin to makeshift opener, thus allowing us the luxury of an extra spinner. After all you have to bowl the other side out twice to win and I believe our test record is 4 of those in over 30 matches out there over the years.
    I do believe Foakes should play, even if Bairstow is available, as technical skills are going to be crucial of turning wickets and ordinary county keepers like him and Butler are going to make more mistakes, which could well prove critical. This means Anderson, Woakes and Stokes would have to share the seam duties.

    • I should have mentioned Stone in my article. I think he’s a real possibility for the Ashes. This team needs pace. On the flip side, we don’t want him breaking himself on a pudding wicket. He’s pretty fragile. It’s a tough dilemma.

      • I am not sure exactly how fragile Stone is. His injury record is unusual in that it seems to be different ones each time, and I think we can discount the ‘celebration injury’ as an aberration. His early back problems seem behind him (nothing for 3 years) and since then it has been the freak knee injury and a hamstring. He may actually benefit from getting more matches under his belt if he is now back to full fitness.

        • Good to hear Andy. I think Ashley Giles has spoken about this. In fact I’ve just dug up the following quotes:

          Giles: “They’ve timed it right but they still need to manage him really carefully,” he said. “You have to manage him with kid gloves. I think if you’re expecting Olly to play every day and be at it, he’ll break down. He’s a Ferrari.

          “With many bowlers – your BMWs or your Audis – you just get in and go but if you have someone who bowls at pace and has had his history of injury you have to treat them very carefully.”

          If England follow this advice then hopefully he can have a long international career.

      • A genuine pace bowler is going to be a threat on any wicket, as he’s still quick through the air. As long as he keeps pitching the ball up he’ll trouble the Sri Lankan’s, who get little practice against this. For my money he’s a better bet than the mercurial Broad or Leach, who is not a big turner of the ball and the type of bowler the Sri Lankan batsmen are used to. In the heat out there he’ll only be bowling short spells anyway, so fitness shouldn’t be an issue for a young man approaching his prime.

  • I’m finding it very hard to raise any enthusiasm for this ridiculous sodden tour. I wouldn’t trust Jennings to open an envelope. Why is Leach considered to be The Answer? Buttler is not a Test keeper. Woakes should be play on merit because he still has something to prove. Mo will bat anywhere because he’s that sort of guy but I’d have him at 6. Stokes is undercooked. The best thing would be to bring ’em all home.

    • Buttler is not a county standard keeper, never mind a test keeper. Giving him the gloves is akin to asking Joe Root to operate as first choice spinner.

  • I won’t pick Jennings, don’t know why he is there. I agree with the three spinners strategy, that we need a proper keeper, and Woakes probably more effective opening the bowling than Broad. My suggested line up for first test, assuming Bairstow is not available, is:

    Foakes (W)

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  • Don’t know if anyone saw the interview Anderson gave to Sky where he reckoned the seamers will have plenty of opportunity for wicket taking as the new ball will swing and given dry sunny conditions the old ball will reverse swing. He sounded about as convincing as a Brexit deal.
    Don’t worry Jimmy, you’ll be better in the morning.

  • Good article by Vic Marks on the new domestic plans (aka MDPP). How the different formats connect to each other is a key point – although I wonder if he’d be so concerned if his old county came out of it better?

    Amusing to see that the term ‘The Hundred’ has become so toxic that even the ECB have stopped using it….

  • No one has spoken about the crass stupidity of a player being injured whilst playing football!
    Management and players should take more responsibility during ” down time in future.
    If they want to be footballers then they are in the wrong place.

  • A few stats and points about Test matches in Galle this century:

    There have been 3 matches in November. None looks like it was particularly weather-effected. Two saw heavy SL wins and the other was drawn after one of Chris Gayle’s triple centuries. If an England batsman scores a triple century, I’m guessing he won’t be widely dismissed as a feckless good-for-nothing who couldn’t be bothered about Test cricket. The last win was by 10 wickets over NZ in 2012. The fall-out of that series saw NZ sack their middle order specialist batsman captain and appoint an attacking batsman/sometimes wicketkeeper as captain who became widely credited with turning the team around…. NZ had gone into that match with 4 seamers and one specialist spinner – and lost by 10 wickets.
    SA beat SL in Galle in 2014 so it isn’t totally impossible to win there (although winning the toss and batting first helped massively). Steyn took 9 wickets and Morkel 7 in the match so seamers can play a part if they’re good enough.


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