Should England persist with Moeen Ali?

Cricket - Investec Test series - England v India - Ageas Bowl Cricket Ground, Southampton, England

Photo by Sarah Ansell

It’s not how, it’s how many. That’s what they say of run-scoring. Does the same apply to wicket-taking?

Moeen Ali is actually England’s second-highest wicket-taker in this Pakistan series. He has taken seven wickets at 32.28, which is eminently respectable. He has also conceded near enough five runs an over, which is not.

But does it matter? To succeed in Test cricket, you must find a way of conquering whatever is thrown at you. At the moment, Pakistan’s batsmen are choosing to throw the kitchen sink at Moeen and thus far he has found a way to deflect it. No mean feat. Kitchen sinks are heavy.

If a certain proportion of Moeen’s wickets are essentially ‘caught slogging’ then that is simply a reflection of how Pakistan are approaching their batting. If the tourists refuse to milk him and are instead hell-bent on exsanguinating him, all he can really do is operate within that scenario – something he seems to be doing effectively.

Thus far, Moeen has been able to afford conceding a few sixes for each wicket. The percentages would therefore appear to be in his favour.

So are Moeen’s returns acceptable, or do England fans believe that he’s soon going to experience something akin to a Bryce McGain debut?

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Out with Shan Masood, in with a pair of deep sea diving boots

After an hour of zesty nonsense this morning, the cricket restarted.

Shan Masood continued his marvellous record of being dismissed by Jimmy Anderson for pretty much no runs. Pakistan can be fairly confident that Jimmy will play the next Test and they can be fairly confident that he will open the bowling. If Masood opens the batting, they can therefore also be fairly confident that he will again be dismissed for pretty much no runs. They might want to change something there.

Younus Khan continues to bat like a man wearing unexpectedly lightweight shoes. If a pair of deep sea diving boots can be procured and his legs to some degree tethered to terra firma through wearing them, he will perhaps be back to his best.

Ben Stokes got injured. His quest to become the next Chris Woakes has again been derailed.

Moeen Ali took some wickets. Not sure where that leaves us.

Pretty solid win though. Essentially an innings victory briefly interrupted by a 30-over cricket-themed interlude.

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Batsmen don’t win Test matches

A few weeks ago, we spent a good long while discussing what time we should leave the County Ground in Bristol when we already knew the match was over. We stick around at the end of cricket matches. We certainly don’t leave early.

Today, England made the decision to bat again when most people didn’t think they needed to. A lot of people get very angry about this sort of thing. We don’t. But we do find it a bit boring.

When England came out for their second innings today, there was no saying that a single one of their runs would count towards the outcome of the game. There are arguments for taking some time to rest the fast bowlers and that sort of thing, but the runs themselves may well prove of no significance if Pakistan are later bowled out for less than 391.

Batsmen don’t win Test matches. Batsmen don’t move the game forwards. They are really just necessary impediments who slow the game down. These circumstances – England batting a second time despite an already gigantic lead – really brought these points home.

Whatever the merits of the decision from a ‘winning the match’ point of view, we were at Old Trafford today and for the first time in our life we went home before the end of play. It wasn’t just the may-or-may-not-be-of-consequence nature of the cricket – although that certainly contributed – it was also the atmosphere.

New Fun England, or however they’re branding themselves these days, left an awful lot of people in the ground having not very much fun at all and when you’re surrounded by people who are quite pissed off and can’t really see much point in what they’re watching, it’s hard to stay positive.

It was a good morning though. There were wickets.

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England hit upon innovative new strategy – hundreds from Cook and Root

Via ECB.co.uk

Via ECB.co.uk

Someone came to Old Trafford dressed as the Cookie Monster today. Perhaps it was a reference to the hundred-scoring monster that is Alastair Cook. Or maybe all his other clothes were in the wash.

Earlier today we made a comment about how we generally feel like we’ve seen Cook’s innings before. It wasn’t meant as a criticism. The familiarity of his run-scoring is a sign that he’s good at it.

Cook has his palette of shots and he deploys them to great effect. If he scored more quickly today, the innings will still look exactly the same on the highlights.

If you’re in any doubt of his worth, why not contrast his method with that of James Vince. Here is a batsman who is just as committed to his own, distinctive strokes; a batsman who in fact seems to have narrowed them all down to just one: the edged drive to slip. Good luck building a Test career on that one.

Joe Root also scored a hundred. Also familiar. Also welcome.

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Video: Mohammad Amir bowls Alex Hales

This delivery is basically what we all expected from Mohammad Amir, no?


Sometimes – like when watching an Alastair Cook innings for example – we can feel like we’ve seen it all before. There’s the cut. There’s the nurdle. There’s a leave.

Stumps being tonked by inswingers is not something we can ever imagine tiring of. Even when the team we’re supporting is on the receiving end.

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A rather hasty July 21 County Championship round-up

What a headline.

Okay, let’s hustle through this unsatisfactorily before another Test match starts. In fact it occurs to us that the daily email comprising this particular post will go out at almost exactly the time the match starts. We really should plan ahead.

Never mind. The headline’s written. County Championship it is.

You could start with the table?

No. It’s too time consuming to do all the cropping and uploading and we’re in a hurry. All you really need to know is that Middlesex are still top and that they’re 13 points ahead of Durham who have a game in hand.

Where did Durham come from?

Assuming that’s not a poorly-worded geographical question, they rose after positively beating Lancashire.

Lancs have foolishly allowed The Great Neil Wagner to slip from their grasp and so frankly deserve everything they get. Keaton Jennings was at the centre of Durham’s successful fourth innings chase of 247. He is having a nice season.

Middlesex beat Somerset

James Fuller’s 93 batting at ten stands out as the defining contribution from this match.

Somerset beat Nottinghamshire

Remember when Nottinghamshire were good? They were 196-0 batting first and lost. How? A Marcus Trescothick double hundred, partly.

Surrey beat Hampshire

Remember when Surrey were rubbish? Everyone made a hundred and then one of those centurions, Gareth Batty, took a bunch of wickets.

A couple of draws

Not even going to mention which sides were involved. Can’t be bothered typing it out. All we’ll say is that they were good matches for Adams, with Wheater and Lyth both making double hundreds.

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Mike Selvey leaving the Guardian

The Guardian’s cricket correspondent, Mike Selvey, is to part ways with the newspaper at the end of September. “Guardian no longer want 50 yrs intimate knowledge of cricket, cricketers and how game is played for future coverage,” he said in a tweet – later adding the hash tag #abitshitreally to leave us under no illusions that he would have preferred to continue.

This news may seem of no real interest to many of you, but it does raise questions about the changing nature of written cricket coverage. In the absence of any comment from the Guardian, we can only guess why they might have made the decision. In all honesty, nothing especially obvious comes to mind.

History repeating?

In 2008, Selvey was given the boot by Test Match Special. At the time, there was a reference to wanting to make use of ‘more recent Test cricketers’. Since then, they’ve added people like Graeme Swann and Michael Vaughan. Phil Tufnell is from the previous generation and then there is the continued presence of Geoffrey Boycott, who is for many people synonymous with the ‘in my day’ view – despite also holding a number of progressive opinions.

But a newspaper is different. There’s only so much space, so you’re never going to offer such a broad palette of voices. Instead, you pick someone who can write and who knows what they’re talking about and who will find angles that are perhaps unexplored by writers on other newspapers.

Selvey’s writing

We’ve long enjoyed Selvey’s articles. He can occasionally be prone to overloading sentences with far too many clauses, but time pressures can bring wonkiness out in all of us. The content itself was generally intriguing, especially when talking about the mechanics and mentality of bowling.

You might question just how many stories one can wring out of a three-Test career, but it’s presumably decidedly more than can be wrung out of the zero-Test careers enjoyed by the majority of cricket writers. The point is that Selvey’s international playing experience is just one aspect of a longer career that has also included 278 first-class matches and a lifetime spent following the game.

Impartiality

Selvey sacrificed a lot of goodwill among the Guardian readership during “the KP affair.” It was an oddly confrontational time among followers of the sport, but it wasn’t so much for his opinions that Selvey got people’s backs up as for being unable or unwilling to express why he held them.

It was frustrating for the reader to read bold assertions without knowing how they were arrived at. Questioning sorts of people like to see your workings out. Selvey then compounded this disconnect by being slightly tetchy and thin-skinned in the comments section and on Twitter. There will always be someone slagging off your writing online and everyone has their breaking point, but managing that is a vital skill for a modern journo.

We thought of all of this again recently when Selvey made a few dismissive comments about Chris Woakes at the start of the summer and followed that up with a piece talking up Steven Finn after the last Test.

Finn plays for Middlesex, as did Selvey, so we initially felt a bit uncomfortable about his position – but the points made in that article about confidence and implicit messages sent by a captain’s field settings were pertinent and gave ample food for thought. It was a top piece; exactly the kind of thing we’d want to read.

Cost

It’s proabably just this, isn’t it? Selvey has written for the Guardian for 31 years. They probably pay him more than they’ll pay his replacement.

No-one pays to read about cricket in the internet age. Not enough people read about cricket full stop to financially justify the volume of writing we have at present. Something has to give.

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Jake Ball: first look in Test cricket

We don’t believe you can draw meaningful conclusions from debut performances – but we report on them anyway.

Google does currently appear to be conflating Jake Ball with the Welsh rugby player of the same name. The cricket one’s tall, but we’re pretty sure he doesn’t weigh 121kg. Our first impressions indicate that he will eventually be recognised in his own right, however.

We’ve already mentioned that Ball’s tall and assuming he’s not actually 121kg, that’s an advantage too. Other than that, he swung it a little, seamed it a bit, and didn’t really bowl any dross. He bowled at new-young-England-seam-bowler pace (87mph) and didn’t look particuarly arsed about being asked to open the bowling for England.

Ball doesn’t stand out as having any particular quality that would elevate him above all other bowlers, but then if you took one look at Stuart Broad you’d probably conclude much the same about him.

So, in summary: all good.

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Pakistan celebrate Lord’s Test win with press-ups

Via Sky Sports

Via Sky Sports

For all the good cricket Pakistan played to beat England at Lord’s, their greatest attribute was that they visibly enjoyed playing Test cricket. Throughout the match, they were like a group of 11 children revelling in some sort of collective birthday, and when they won, it seemed they’d received the greatest present ever.

Unusual victory celebrations can go one of two ways. They can seem mannered and choreographed and a little self satisfied, or they can come across as a symptom of group giddiness. Pakistan’s press-ups seemed like the latter; like just a minor thing; something that arose as a result of broader positive qualities.

Regardless of the result, this was a fun Test match.

That’s right, fun.

You know, like sport’s supposed to be.

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Yasir Shah’s feline five-for

Yasir Shah has the air of a contented cat. We’re not quite sure what gives us this impression. Perhaps it’s the eyes.

In the cat world, a slow blink is a way of saying that the person being blinked at is pretty cool. It says that diplomatic relations between you are positive. No-one’s going to make themselves look big; no-one’s going to take a chunk out of anyone else’s ear; and no-one’s going to piss on anything to ensure it smells more of their piss than anyone else’s. In short, everyone’s relaxed.

With his narrow eyes, Yasir Shah seems to be eternally caught in the middle of a slow blink. He also seems pretty relaxed in other ways. He grins a lot, for example – although maybe that’s just because of all the wickets.

Yasir has never played county cricket. He has only ever played Test cricket in the UAE, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. You’d think bowling in England might therefore provide a steep learning curve. If it did, he paused, wagged his tail, went momentarily tense and then launched himself up it, clawing his way to the summit in an instant.

He had a few tips of Mushtaq Ahmed too. Mushy also reminds us of a contented cat; a slightly older, reasonably well-fed cat whose jumping days are behind him, but who can still advise you on the right line to bowl on the second day at Lord’s.

You know, one of those cats.

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