Your Starting England XI & Those Hundred Names Dissected

The World Cup finally starts on Thursday. Are you excited? On balance I think I am. I’m not exactly pant-wettingly excited, because (a) I prefer Test cricket to the white ball stuff, and (b) I’m too old to get too excited about sport anymore. However, I do sense a certain tingling, which I vaguely recognise as excitement, in my bones. To be honest though, I tend to get paralysed with anxiety more than anything else these days.

You should’ve seen me at the end of the Championship Playoff Final on Monday. When the final whistle went, and Aston Villa – yes I’m a Midlander I’m afraid – had somehow survived Derby’s prolonged barrage at the death, I just collapsed back on the sofa in exhaustion. I couldn’t celebrate because I was emotionally drained. A shed a little tear, exhaled, and then started worrying about next season. I imagine that fellow Villa fans, Ian Bell and Chris Woakes felt the same :-)

Having said all that, home World Cups don’t come along very often so they should be enjoyed. The last time we held a World Cup on home soil I missed most of it because I was in Australia of all places. By the time I’d flown home England had been eliminated. I have a vague memory of Robert Croft looking forlorn, and the ECB having to explain why the team’s official anthem hadn’t even been released yet. This time, I hope, things will be very, very different.

Although I’m bound to be incredibly nervous at times – we will never have a better chance of lifting our World Cup hoodoo – I do think the cricket will be enjoyable. However, I think this will only happen if we see some variation in the surfaces. Personally I don’t want to see 350 plays 350 (or even more) in every game – even though this might suit England.

Cricket is a great game because of its variety. Football pitches are pretty much the same everywhere one goes. Cricket, on the other hand, can create vastly different contests that develop in different ways. But it all depends on the groundsmen refusing to prepare a succession of roads.

Over the next few weeks I want to see some green seamers, slow turners, pitches with pace and bounce, plus the occasional road. I don’t want England to win the World Cup as one trick ponies. Champions should be able to triumph in all conditions, face adversity, and grind out some ugly wins as well as some handsome ones.

Talking of which, what XI would you like England field? What do you think their best XI in normal circumstances would be? Personally I’d like to see an XI of (in batting order) Roy, Bairstow, Root, Morgan, Buttler, Stokes, Moeen, Woakes, Archer, Rashid, Wood. I know the Durham man is a gamble but I’d be flexible according to conditions. Curran and Plunkett will surely play at some point in the tournament. Vince and Dawson will probably sit things out unless there’s an injury.

I like the XI above because it covers most bases. We have eight good batsmen, a couple of handy all-rounders, two quicks who shouldn’t need help from the wicket to do some damage, an experienced seamer in Woakes, a golden arm in Stokes, a reliable off-spinner, and a wicket-taking leggie. None of the bowlers are Glenn McGrath or Shane Warne, but I trust we’ll be good enough (now Archer has boosted our armoury) to defend the scores most expect our batsmen to make.

Will England win the World Cup? Heaven knows. Who thought Pakistan would win the Champions Trophy? However, if we play well, and get our fair share of luck (and every team needs luck) then we should do very well indeed. Funnily enough, I think Australia might end up being the team that threatens us most. Although I’m not discounting India.

In other news – and sorry I couldn’t resist this – the names of five Hundred franchises were leaked over the last 24 hours. Have you heard the names?

We’ve got the London Spirit (presumably because you need to drink copious quantities of vodka, gin, and absinthe to make watching The Hundred bearable), The Welsh Fire (presumably named so that Somerset and Gloucestershire fans feel suitably excluded), The Southern Brave (presumably because you’ll have to be a brave man to venture all the way into the Hampshire countryside to watch this bollocks), the Birmingham Phoenix (presumable because Warwickshire will rise from the ashes of this madness and restore some sanity to proceedings eventually), and the Leeds Superchargers (presumably because they’re just a little bit more ‘super’ than the Deccan Chargers)  < cough > RIPOFF < cough >.

The name that really takes the biscuit, however – and this must surely be the worst name in the history of all sports – is the Trent Rockets. WTF?

Trent Rockets sounds like New Zealand’s left-arm seamer has had a firework inserted up his jacksie. The Notts players must be hoping they get drafted to another team. I mean, who wants the name ‘Trent Rockets’ on their CV?

If Alex Hales turns up at the Bangladeshi Premier League, or whatever its called, with ‘Trent Rockets’ on his Cricinfo Bio, his employers will assume that he was once employed by an U8 kiddies team that wore shorts and played with plastic bats.

Whoever thought this was a good name needs to be shot, then brought back from the dead, and then disembowelled. And that’s probably too good for ’em.

James Morgan


  • I would prefer Archer to Jordan in the starting XI especially as Jordan isn’t in the squad but otherwise agreed.

    I think I know what you mean about excitement. I’m a Spurs fan and their Champions League campaign hasn’t been good for my nails or heart!

    And yes the Hundred team names take stupidity to a new level. Something I didn’t think possible!

    • Duh! Brain fart by yours truly. Yes I meant Archer. It actually says Archer in the paragraph below. Has been a long day :-) I’ve fixed it. Thanks.

  • I have not laughed out for as long as I did at those last two lines for a long long time James.

    Truly very funny.

    • Vauxhall Cavaliers – just the right mixture of adventure for the youngsters and clapped out uselessness for those who remember the 70s…

      Dirty Leeds – well every competition needs its goodies and baddies, and you dont get much badder than association with Don Revie’s mob.

      Birmingham Sixers – absolutely no unpleasantness connotations there…

      Welsh Rarebits – can’t wait to see the mascot!

      Southampton Titanics – speaks for itself.

      I’ll leave others to fill in the blanks…

  • Going to have to agree with you James, Australia is certainly looking good. I saw them play at the Rose Bowl on Monday and they were cruising in 3rd gear, dropping back a gear when the moment needed it. I watched Steve Smith after the match, what a super star! His was the signature and photo everybody wanted, including the Sri Lankan and English supporters, he was mobbed. Extraordinary scenes, kids in awe – don’t care what the media or anybody for that matter says about the events that happened in South Africa, the bloke did his time, cost him a year out of his career and a pile of cash, but he returns with a hundred against England and star status. If you could only see the faces on the kids, priceless.

    • I hope Australia have peaked too early but I think they will reach the semi-finals (along with India and England). Does anyone agree? If so who might the fourth be? West Indies have a puncher’s chance and Pakistan are Pakistan but I think it might be New Zealand.

  • Not really feeling it myself…

    And have been pondering upon why. Truth is if we are despatched by a gutsy team who take some chances then I’ll applaud them, mainly due to England’s perceived toxic lack of masculinity.

    I mean, have you seen the kit? The anodyne feminist interviews, the witter about multicultural diversity being our strength? It’s all rather sickening and frankly anyone who dressed a new born boy up in that awful blue needs to give their heads a wobble.

    Worst though after pondering is the Archer debacle. At the end of the day a few public schoolboys saw a superstar appearing who wasn’t from the right school ( on reflection I don’t think the Gurdian journos race baiting was accurate) and decided they could protect their oh so pretty little bottoms by….

    Acting like mean girls to exclude him! Hilarious! Yip, I’m calling it, they thought socially excluding a talented player was the patriotic, right and manly thing to do.

    So before a ball is bowled I’m awarding the England dressing room ( does it come with lights around the mirrors?) a toxic lack of masculinity award. It isn’t pyjama cricket anymore, it’s a sleepover! And anyone who pulls Root’s pigtails or causes him to scweem till he is thick will not be invited to his parties again.

    • Oh, grow up.

      “You’re like a girl, Joe.” That’s the kind of abuse the more stupid kind of eight-year-old throws about in a primary school playground….

      Of course it sheds much more light on your gender identity than it does on theirs!

  • Mike, what an interesting post. I have recently thought there was something odd about The England team, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. They do seem a bit feminine, in fact the similarity between Joe Root and Ellen DeGeneres is quite striking.

    To make matters worse, the kit looks as if it has been designed by Gok Wan.

  • And I have read today that they used marketing consultants to come up with these ridiculous names. No doubt Tom Harrison’s obscene salary increase was his reward for choosing such pathetically childish garbage. How will all those people who don’t follow cricket actually know that these “teams” have any relation to the game? Dear me these lot need the firing squad. It’s just so amateurish.
    World Cup? A bit interested but will probably be bored to death by six weeks of it, especially if it’s all played on roads. Anyone of six could win on the day, it’s one day cricket. No favourites. Australia for me if I had to bet on it. West Indies good outside bet.

  • Preparing a selection of wickets maybe the idealists view of the tournament but it’s hardly going to produce the best results, which ideally are the 4 best teams make it the the semi’s, so you get no procession in the latter stages. A good tournament should grow as it goes. This can only happen with relatively level playing fields in every sense, allowing the good teams to get better. What if you draw a relative minnow early on a turner or a green top, reducing the likelyhood of a even contest. No one wants the toss to be a crucial element and in low scoring game’s batting second is a distinct advantage. I’m not just saying this because we have the best track record on flatties, but what’s the point of penalising quality by underpreparing pitches where lesser bowlers and swing and hope batsmen can be a match winners. It’s too important a tournament to be devalued by random conditions. The weather already looks a bit on the dodgy side so surprises could well be on the cards due to shortened contests. Every World Cup has its upsets and I’m sure this one will be no exception, but let the best team win whenever possible. No one wants to see a lowly team’s in the latter stages because of unfavourable conditions. The white ball game is based on runs not wickets, you can’t judge it like a test. All the restrictions are based on bowling and fielding, none on batting, apart from the 50 over duration. Even power plays have been introduced to help increase run rates.

    • Well no because cricket is more about who can hit the most sizes into the crowd. It’s a test between bat and ball, mind set, ability to deal with different pitches and conditions, pressure etc. It’s a game of chess with its ups and downs not an extended T20 which is what 50 over is becoming. What’s wrong If Bangladesh out think Australia? What’s wrong with the bowlers having a pitch that occasionally favours them and really tests the batsmans ability? No doubt the drinkers will be content with endless slogs into the stands, but blimey it’s going to become increasingly boring by July 14th if that happens. At least the ICC are responsible for the pitches and not the ECB!

  • Great to know you are a Villa fan James. It’s been heart stopping. The crisis over sportsmanship and free goal in the Leeds match. The penalties in the playoffs v West Brom. Over excitement is not good for blood pressure as I discovered on Monday. Team loyalty – the kind that sticks with your County side no matter where you may move – is what is surely missing in The Hundred? Who is going to care about Birmingham Phoenix? The ECB don’t seem to realise that the real treasure they can tap into is traditional loyalty. Why are they trying to destroy it? If it was more well known that cricket teams still follow old county boundaries despite being changed in the Seventies maybe the Spirit of London would never see the light of day or The Hundred. It’s been created artificially as a PR product and deserves to fail as it is replacing real cricket and real history. It is really a monster. Your team will be the side if Wood is fit. If not Plunkett will play? I’m on your side of not making every wicket a road. It’s just too boring not to have bowlers test the batsmen. Let’s have some wickets flying as well as sixes. Just a word to Mike Chaffin. There is a world of difference between feminist and feminine. Feminists are not feminine. I know he tends to use feminist as his go to abuse word but it doesn’t apply to anything girly. Btw does he think the gold pads and gold epaulets introduced in the IPL look a bit like drag? Just wondering.

    • Quite Jackie… Tony Blair was hardly feminine was he now? :)

      My apologies for any unwanted mental images that may bring…

      I do however think my use of the word was largely correct, even if your clarification is welcome. There is indeed nothing feminine about feminist and on reflection maybe equating it to something girly such as pigtails was unwise… Instead take my use of the word to be a rough simile to ‘media pandering’ with a hint of banal or trite.

      Though now I come to think of it the awful blue kit rather reminds of the hair colour sported by the average uncouth mastodon screaming abuse at… every demonstration ever. So feminist hair dye blue maybe?

      I totally stand by my comments on the Archer situation though… The behaviour appeared spiteful, graceless, self serving and socially exclusive which are the opposite of feminie norms, but rather neatly descibed as feminist. Interestingly they also appear to be in contravention of their supposed values.

      The only cricketer I ever considered to possibly be a drag act however was Steve Waugh, who bore a very striking resemblace to an elderly lady who lived down the street. The old bat wasn’t too impressed by the observation though, countering my impertinence with the observation, “At least I can walk!”

    • Thanks Jackie. I couldn’t watch the West Brom penalties. It was only the second time in my life that I was literally too nervous to watch. The other time was the Euro 96 semi final against Germany. I think it’s because the consequences of not getting promoted this year were so drastic. I think we would’ve stayed in the championship for a long time, and lost Grealish / Mings etc to Prem clubs.

      I turned off the TV, paced the living room for five minutes, and waited for friends to text me the result! Yes I am a coward :-)

  • The ECB always lives down to my expectations and the franchise names for the 100 confirm this. Put any 10 of your readers in a room and they’d come up with better names. Let’s face it the Blast has far better names. Presumably it’s the same PR team advising that the ECB used to come up with the ‘1999 style’ opening event on the Mall. Beach cricket, on a road watched by less people than turn up at an average county game. For all the big names and Freddie’s enthusiasm it was embarrassing. Frankly, the level of information out there in the public arena about the CWC is pitiful. Where are the billboards? Where are the adverts outside dedicated Sky channels? The fact that many of the key games are sold out doesn’t equate to a publicity success, that was always going to happen with the relatively small capacity grounds we have, but to not raise the profile to a wider audience is missed opportunity.

  • Thanks to Surrey for revealing the names they rejected. Fuse and Union make no sense when there are two London teams; Rebels was a transparent attempt to copy the BBl; X just makes no sense. The relationship between the ECB and Surrey is one to keep an eye on.

    The difference between claimed crowds and the numbers really present are also going to be worth looking at. They claimed 4,000 at the Opening Ceremony but that wasn’t the case (Bull puts the figure nearer 400). They kept claiming the CT was sold out in 2017 when there were lots of empty seats visible. Who are you going to believe – cricket administrators or your lying eyes?

    The terrestrial highlights are going to be on around midnight. I hope people who blame C4 check first why this has happened. Last time it was because Sky insisted no terrestrial highlights could be shown until after their own might possibly be on (which would include floodlit games). Almost certainly yet again the interests of their strategic partners have trumped growing the game.

    • One of the reasons why “sold out” stadiums have lots of empty seats is the sponsors’ allocation.

      The Women’s World Cup Final at Lord’s in 2017 is a good example. The game was genuinely “sold out” in that every ticket available on public sale was bought by the public. However there were still empty seats in the Compton and Edrich Lower, which were allocated to sponsors. Either the sponsors couldn’t find enough members of staff to come, or prize winners didn’t turn up, or tickets dished out to schools, etc, weren’t wanted, or any one of a dozen potential reason I can’t think of.

      And then, of course, you’ve got the MCC Members areas which, uniquely at Lord’s, also distort the picture. Plenty of them didn’t bother either.

      So the ICC trumpet (truthfully) that the event is “sold out” and people watching on the telly scoff because there are a whole bunch of unoccupied seats.

      Last night’s Opening Ceremony is a similar case – 4,000 tickets were allocated, distributed, however you want to describe it. Still doesn’t mean you can force 4,000 people to turn up. Especially in the rain…

  • They’re missing a trick if Trent Rockets don’t hire Boult as their overseas.


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