Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Groundhog day

Despite dominating the second test, once again England could not take the twenty wickets necessary to win a test match.  New Zealand batted the final day out on a flat pitch and hung on for the draw.  It's no disgrace to lose in New Zealand, they have a decent test team nowadays and there is no such thing as an easy match away from home.  However, England have enough world class players to be a match for anyone, there is the spine of a world champion team but for the last four years our selectors haven't been able to fill the line up around Cook, Root, Stokes, Bairstow, Broad and Anderson.

At the moment Stoneman and Malan should retain their places in the side but both need to show a bit more and that still leaves a space in the batting line up.  Of those that have been tried in the last few years Ballance has by far the best record but doesn't look like a test player when facing the very best opposition.  James Vince is currently the man in position and had a decent last match but he isn't a long term test batsman. The brightest prospect is Hasseb Hameed who was very impressive against India last year but injury and poor form means he hasn't featured since.  It's only a matter of time before he does and could be a likely player to bat at 3 next season. 

Moeen Ali had a great home summer with both bat and ball but has had an equally awful winter.  He is a very good all rounder and could probably walk into any test team as a number 6 but we have Ben Stokes filling that role.  As a spinner Moeen is decent and threatens on home soil but every time he's toured he's been found wanting.  England must start looking for a genuinely world class spinner and Jack Leach done okay on debut so should hold onto this place for now.  Moeen could and should find himself in the squad for tours of the sub continent and may yet stake a claim as an out and out batsman.

England have no shortage of seamers that can run up and do a good job on home soil but what we need is a genuinely quick bowler who can make things happen on the flat pitches we often encounter overseas.  Mark Wood done okay in this match and has mostly performed well when selected but fitness is an issue.  Then there is Liam Plunkett who is probably our best ODI bowler but hasn't featured in a test for some time.  After those two players, well I don't know but I'd be happy to tour the county grounds for a look this summer.  Come to think of it, don't the ECB employ people to do this already?

The current head of selectors is James Whittaker who took over the role in 2013 and has given debuts to twenty three players in this time.  Of those only Moeen Ali has become a mainstay of the team but to be fair Wood, Malan, Leach and Hameed could yet earn a more permanent place in the side.  So if I'm generous and credit Whittaker with five hits that still leaves eighteen misses.  Those figure speak for themselves.

As bad as we have been in test cricket it's fair to credit the selectors with the ODI squads they have selected because after hard away series wins against both Australia and New Zealand, England are probably the best one day side in the world at the moment.

So a couple of months away from the next test series this selector would pick this XI;

Cook, Stoneman, Hameed, Root, Malan, Stokes, Bairstow, Broad, Wood, Leach, Anderson

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