Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Can England win Down under?

We all love to play "If I was selector..." and at the end of the test match summer my squad for the Ashes tour would be;
Root, Cook, Stoneman, Hameed, Malan, Hales.
Bairstow, Buttler.
Stokes, Woakes, Broad, Anderson, Wood, Finn
Ali, Rashid,
I expect the selectors will go for Crane and Ball ahead of Rashid and Finn, we'll see..

As usual the Selectors saw things very different with Gary Ballance and James Vince called up instead of Hales (disciplinary?) and Hameed (the future!).  Ballance must have compromising photographs of one of the selectors and Vince seems to have come from nowhere, his county form unspectacular.  Foakes instead of Buttler as reserve keeper is a little more predictable but I didn't see Overton (who? Impressive county stats) being picked.  TRJ & Wood (both injured) must be gutted.

Can England win?  Yes, if everything goes right, like it did in 2010/11.  England went into that series with a settled batting line up that gave the selectors no headaches, the top six picked itself.  This time around the uncertainties are obvious.  Like 2011 they have to hard and play to win in the warm up games, these matches will be tough and may well help finalise the batting line up.  We have to hope our bowlers stay fit and are picked on a 'horses for coarses' basis, again like they did in 2011.  England can't afford to drop as many catches as they have in recent matches either.  If all of those things fall into place and England come away from Brisbane unscathed, then yes they can win the series.

Likely XI ??  Cook, Stoneman, Ballance, Root, Malan, Stokes, Bairstow, Ali, Woakes, Broad, Anderson

Saturday, 9 September 2017


England win at Lords by 9 wickets inside three days.  Sounds easy on paper but in reality it was an even game until the third morning when England took control.  The match began with West Indies electing to bat first in tricky conditions. Stokes took 6-22, WI limped to 123 and the decision at the toss looked like a mistake.  England fared little better reaching a precarious 46-4 at the close.  Day two began with a brilliant 60 from Stokes but with Roach taking 5-72 England were pegged back, the last two wickets added sixty and were all out for 194.  West Indies bowlers had kept their team in the contest but only just!

The third innings of the match was the Jimmy Anderson show.  Lords rose to his 500th wicket on the second evening and by the third afternoon he was up to 506 as he recorded his test best figures of 7-42.  Shai Hope was impressive again with the top score of 62.  England needed 107 to win and reached it for the loss of just one wicket, with Stoneman and Westley both making welcome 40+ scores.  The Wisden trophy was retained by a score of 2-1.

A series which should have been an easy England win was far more competitive than anyone dared believe as West Indies exceeded all expectations, after the first test at least.  After every spirited display people ask if this is the start of a renaissance for Caribbean cricket and there have been very many false starts over the last twenty years.  To be fair West Indies have been slowly improving since Jason Holder took over the captaincy and he is a decent all round cricketer.  With Gabriel and Roach they have a first class pair of opening bowlers.   Braithwaite and Shai Hope are two excellent young batsmen, there are one or two others whose records suggest they are better players than the evidence of this series.  I hope the WICB get their act together and manage to get their best eleven cricketers on the field but maybe it would be better to ignore the T20 mercenaries and keep this group of young players together.  Whatever happens they'll need another wicket keeper.

For England it's the same old story, with an Ashes series on the horizon we still have three places in the batting line up up for grabs.  Mark Stoneman has probably done enough to hang onto his place at the top of the order, Tom Westley probably hasn't and Hameed is waiting in the wings.  Malan has started to look like a test cricketer but not in the fluent style he is said to play in county cricket, he looks like a number 3.  There are more candidates for the middle order but some day in the future I'm sure Alex Hales will make the number 5 position his own.  We seem to have plenty of good bowlers in home conditions but do we have the players to take wickets on flat Australian pitches?

With three rounds of the county championship to go and plenty of ODI cricket to come there is still time for players to get themselves noticed ahead of the trip down under.