Category: England cricket news (page 1 of 142)

England’s one-day bowling strategy shows up everything that’s wrong with their Test approach

Mark Wood (BT Sport)

Speaking about England’s Test bowling attack this week, Steve Harmison managed the rare feat of deploying the word ‘unit’ in a halfway meaningful way.

He told Sky Sports that England have to, “make sure that at any one given time they’ve got skill factor with the new ball, an X-factor bowler that can get a wicket out of nothing and control. It’s not about names, it’s about components and it is something England need to identify.”

He’s right that it’s about identifying the components of a cohesive attack more than it’s about lining up the best bowlers. A Test day is long and you need different qualities at different times.

If you have four guys doing the same thing, it makes for a boom or bust situation. As Harmison himself says: “If you go to Australia with four right-arm seamers bowling 80mph then you are going to get beat every time.”

England’s one-day team has long taken a different tack. They have new ball swing bowlers, a quick full bowler, a quick short bowler, a leg-spinner and a couple of off-spinners.

Each has a different approach to taking wickets and Eoin Morgan tries to wheel them out at the best time to exploit that approach, whatever it happens to be. Crucially, these bowlers aren’t all competing for the ball at the exact same moment, the way England’s Test attack are.


Ben Stokes has been charged with a crime which apparently means he should become available for England again

Ben Stokes was suspended from international cricket while the Crown Prosecution Service decided whether or not to press charges relating to the Bristol scuffle. Now that they have decided to charge him, he’s once again become eligible for selection.

We have no real opinion on whether or not Stokes should still be suspended, but we do find the way things have panned out slightly bizarre.

It’s almost as if the England management somewhat arbitrarily postponed making a decision until the next phase of the legal process and then took the one they wanted to take all along because they felt like it had been a while and things had maybe died down a bit.


We’re not going to write about Jason Roy

Just read last week’s Wisden piece again with this innings in mind.

Jason Roy played five first-class matches last season.


England’s worst-ever run of Test debutants?

Liam Dawson (via Channel 5)

“Not so much a lack of good players, as a lack of opportunity for many good players to gain the experience needed to become very good.”

Slippery and awkward as it is, we can see this becoming a new catchphrase of ours. It’s about recent efforts to select viable England Test cricketers and is an attempt to sum up a situation where half the most promising players no longer get any real opportunity to build on that promise and effectively fall out of consideration.

Why does this happen? Because the players in question are already far too busy playing or preparing for international cricket.

This is the area in which we found ourself when we tried to write about England’s jaw-droppingly bad run of Test debutants for Wisden.

There’s a fun game hidden in the middle of the article where we challenge people to find an even less productive spell of debuts in the Nineties before concluding that this isn’t actually possible.


A guy who may or may not truly be called Bert fills us in on the latest instalment of his long-running Ashes bet with some Aussie

Bert writes:

OK, hold onto your hats. I can now reveal the result of the latest Ashes Bet between me and my Aussie mate. The result is…

He Won!

Yeh alright, since the bet is on the outcome of the series this has been known since December, but why should that stop me making such an exciting announcement? Besides, it gives me an opportunity to fill you in on some more amazing Ashes Bet Facts.

The place was Whakatane, a small town on NZ’s Bay of Plenty Coast. The date was late 2002, the time, about midnight. The situation was a bar, too many drinks, and a loud-mouthed Aussie (or “an Aussie” as they’re also known) going on about the upcoming Ashes series Down Under.

In that drunken haze of annoyance and a thorough lack of understanding of the situation in world cricket, the Ashes Bet was born. Three months later I’d lost a dozen bottles of red wine and was faced with a similar bill every two years or so for the foreseeable future.

But then came 2005. Enough words have been written about that series to convey the drama, the emotion, the sheer unalloyed delight of it all, but perhaps I might be permitted to add a few of my own. “In your face, Aussie, now where’s my fucking wine.”

That was the turning point. The next turning point came in the following series, when we lost 5-0. But then there was a turning point, and we won again.

Really, when you look at it, it’s just been one turning point after another, a curve based around the following formula – whoever is at home, wins. Since 2002 there has been only one exception to that rule, the glorious 2010/11 series.

I have to say that this was cricket at its most enjoyable and, I might add, this website’s palmiest day. We had Trott, and Swann, and relentless Cook, and the Through The Night Thread, and the Mitchell Johnson Song, and the Sprinkler Dance, and Boxing Day, and graphs, and Venn Diagrams and so much more. And we (specifically me) had a dozen bottles of finest Australian red wine out of sequence.

So, where do we stand. Well, the score in Tests since than night in NZ is Australia 23, England 14. The score in wine bottles is Australia 48, England 60. Who on Planet Earth would have thought that 15 years ago? Not my Aussie mate, that’s for sure. Not me either, it had to be said. So I’m happy to pay up, to provide the Barolo, Nuit St George and Fleurie so richly deserved. Because I know that I’ll be getting it all back in 2019. Let’s face it, they can’t drop Shaun Marsh now.


Shoulda, coulda, woulda – five things England got wrong ahead of the 2017-18 Ashes

Australia win the final Test (BT Sport)

We were originally going to present this article as being the views of Captain Hindsight, but when we started to write it we realised that half of England’s problems were actually fairly easy to see in advance.

So while some of what follows comes with the benefit of knowing how things panned out, that’s not true of all of it. Whether or not the sum of all these things would have made any difference to the end result is of course another matter.

Shoulda dropped Moeen Ali

Moeen Ali is a player of top innings rather than being a top batsman. Even before this series, his Test average was only 34.66. That’s pretty good for someone who bowls, but not really enough to warrant a place in the top six, which is where he found himself come the first Test.

Based on what followed, Moeen would have been batting a place too high had he come in at number nine. Craig Overton and Tom Curran averaged more than him, Stuart Broad managed a higher score, and you can’t imagine Gary Ballance would have bowled any less effectively.

We love Moeen, but things wouldn’t have turned out much differently for England had they instead picked a specialist fielder.

Coulda done more to discourage Ben Stokes’ boozy late nights out

Michael Vaughan said Ben Stokes had been given ‘strong warnings’ about his lifestyle even before that night in the cells. It wasn’t like England should have locked him in his room each night, but could they not at least have persuaded him to refrain from going out on the lash in the middle of a series?

Who knows whether some other incident might have happened subsequently, but even a slight change in behaviour might have been enough to avoid the Bristol incident.

Shoulda tried out some quicker bowlers in the preceding years

Craig Overton dismisses Steve Smith (via BT Sport)

Our article about Toby Roland-Jones’ Test debut was essentially a veiled question: ‘Why have you picked a right-arm 80mph bowler when we’re touring Australia this winter?’

Plenty of similarly pedestrian right-armers followed. We’d sort of assumed that there was a minimum pace requirement for young seam bowlers, as this seems to have been an unstated part of the job description for as long as we can remember. When did this cease to apply?

People watch Jimmy Anderson bowling at 80-85mph and hope that younger bowlers operating at a similar clip might gradually develop his skills. But that isn’t the way it worked for Jimmy. He could bowl at 90mph in his first few seasons. The increased skill has compensated for the decrease in speed. He never entered a Test match with neither.

Craig Overton, Tom Curran and Jake Ball are about a tenth as skilful as Jimmy Anderson and don’t really have much to make up the shortfall. Overton and Ball have height, Curran has a slower ball, but England’s attack is so monochrome, this really isn’t enough.

Faster English bowlers do still exist. Either they’re not sufficiently valued or not especially well-managed.

Coulda picked Adil Rashid

England were never going to play Mason Crane until the series was already lost. When they did, he performed about as effectively as you’d imagine a 20-year-old debutant leg-spinner would.

It’s great that England seem to have identified him as one for the future and that they’re keen to invest in him, but they also identified Adil Rashid as one for the future a long time ago and despite his being top wicket-taker last winter, they ceased investing in him immediately before this Ashes series.

You have to try and recoup investments. Test experience is a finite resource. This whole thing just seemed so wasteful.

Shoulda picked someone other than James Vince

James Vince drives (BT Sport)

A flirtation with run-scoring in the first Test might have encouraged some to think otherwise, but this really isn’t hindsight, is it?

It was so obvious we actually titled September’s Ashes squad post England to win the Ashes via airy off-side drives.

James Vince’s first stint in the Test team ended because he didn’t score any runs and kept edging behind. Having underscored the fact that his record in the first division of the County Championsship is really rather mediocre through his efforts during the 2017 season, the selectors brought him back at number three for the Ashes.

He didn’t score any runs and kept edging behind.

Conclusion

If you’re England in Australia, chances are you’re going to lose anyway. You are not going to improve your odds by spending the years leading up to the series doing a load of things that everyone in the world can see are manifestly wrong.

Also, you should have added Paul Collingwood to the squad.


Why does Mason Crane have so many aborted deliveries?

Mason Crane bails out (@CricketAus)

White bread, brown bread, sourdough, rye or ciabatta? Faced with an unexpected question after reaching the head of a long, long queue, Mason Crane would not be rushed into a rash decision, you feel. Everyone can wait.

As dozens of pairs of frustrated eyes tried to bore holes in the back of his neck in the hope of somehow rupturing a major artery, Crane would calmly mull his decision over. Bread decisions matter. You have to get them right.

Similarly, if Crane doesn’t want to bowl the ball, then he’s not going to. And you can’t make him.

Some bowlers develop a fear of letting go of the ball, but Crane’s recurrent aborts instead smack of his having the bravery to hold onto it.

Even if 50,000 people are going to be pissed off with him, Crane’s not releasing the thing if he doesn’t feel like his body’s in sync. He’s going to cling onto that ball, do a go-around and try and ensure he comes in at the right trajectory on his next attempt.

And if that doesn’t happen? Well, shut your faces, because he’s going to do exactly the same thing again.

We rather like this. It’s kind of, ‘what I want to do is more important than what you want me to do’.

No-one got anywhere in life by paying any attention to other people. We’re pretty sure of that.


Mason Crane: first look in Test cricket

Mason Crane (BT Sport)

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

Bowling on the second day with the pitch most likely at its flattest, Mason Crane spun the ball hard enough that it drifted, landed most of his deliveries in pretty much the right place and created the odd half-chance. Pretty good.

The great thing about playing a leg-spinner is that as a fan, they are ever-graspable straws. There’s no guarantee that a leg-spinner will take a wicket, but unlike fast-medium bowlers, there’s never a guarantee that they won’t either. There are times when you’re glad of that.

At the age of 20, Crane has several England leg-spinner career phases to look forward to. The next one will probably be ‘omission because conditions don’t suit’ followed by ‘omission on grounds of economy rate’ or possibly ‘omission due to inability to offer something with the bat’.

There will also be brief moments when he’s considered a saviour before he’s finally discarded for good at 26 – the age at which his mentor, Stuart MacGill, took the first of his 208 Test wickets.

Adil Rashid had to wait until he was 29 to be dumped from the Test team because he made a later start.


Joe Root leaves 16 runs out there

Joe Root (via BT Sport)

Time is meaningless. Although the sooner a cricketer can appreciate that, the better – so maybe time isn’t meaningless.

The fifth Test moved forward almost as much in the last eight deliveries of the day as it had in the previous 483. England will have finished with a sense that they put in a decent shift today, but as the post-stumps minutes wore on the reality of the scorecard will have begun to impose itself on their consciousness.

Three wickets in almost-an-entire-day is not the same as three wickets in an entire day. Spread ’em out how you like – England lost five wickets.

Right from early on, Joe Root seemed all set for a score between 50 and 99. He’ll be disappointed to have left 16 runs out there, but his dismissal did give Jonny Bairstow the opportunity to edge behind for five – an opportunity he gratefully accepted.

Moeen Ali will be at the crease first thing on day two, despite having been dropped from the team several days ago. Playing as the second spinner and basically just keeping a spot warm for someone else, he’s almost certain to make a double hundred.


James Anderson: Lord Megachief of Gold 2017

Our annual Lord Megachief of Gold award is the highest honour in cricket. The title is recognition of performance over the previous calendar year. Here are all the winners.

From a personal perspective, one of the great tragedies of modern Test cricket is that we don’t draw the curtains, switch off our phone and scrutinise each and every delivery bowled by James Anderson. He has been so brilliant for so long that what he does has become no more remarkable to us than the fact that human life exists.

Even the most extraordinary things can eventually become wallpaper.

Rivals

You’re probably thinking ‘what about Steve Smith?’ because it’s all anyone’s been banging on about for the last few weeks. Honestly, why don’t you all just agree to live in a gargantuan harem and marry him?

Let’s put Steve Smith in context.

With 1,305 Test runs at 76.76 and six hundreds, he’d probably make the podium. However, the batsmen named Lord Megachief of Gold typically do better than that.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul averaged over 100 in Tests in both 2007 and 2008; MS Dhoni averaged 92.25 in 2009, plus he kept wicket and won a billion one-day games; Ian Bell averaged 118.75 in 2011; Michael Clark averaged 106.33 in 2012; Brendon McCullum and Angelo Mathews averaged in the 70s in 2014, but did so in such freakish and contrasting ways that each had a unique case; and Kane Williamson averaged 90 in 2015.

Even this year, Virat Kohli’s averaged 75.64 and he’s done so scoring 50 per cent quicker than Smith.

Smith’s is a lofty sustained brilliance defined by the fact that this year isn’t even ‘all that’ by his unique standards.

Also, it’s our website and we’ll pick who we want.

There are perhaps two other bowlers who also warrant a quick mention. Kagiso Rabada took 57 Test wickets at 20.28, but we’d argue it’s Nathan Lyon who’d push Smith down to the third step on the podium. 63 wickets at 23.55, largely playing against India or on flat pitches is a half decent effort by anyone’s standards.

Jimmy Anderson (via BT Sport)

But enough about everyone else

Jimmy’s taken 55 Test wickets at 17.58 – and this despite playing his winter matches in a team that’s been getting royally battered.

There will again be the argument that many of these wickets were taken on green, seaming English pitches. Guess we’ll have to counter this again.

Imagine a hypothetical scenario where a player won half the Tests he played for his team but contributed nothing in the other half. A player who single-handedly gave his team victories in 50 per cent of its matches would be a name for the ages.

But it’s hardly like Anderson hasn’t been contributing Down Under. He’s basically been waging a one-man war. Well set batsmen annihilate bowling averages and the 16 wickets he’s taken at 26.06 would surely have come cheaper had the strongest support not come from Craig Overton (six wickets at 37.66).

Even more context

Context, context, context, averages, averages, averages. We’ll be through all this in a second, we promise. We just want to frame the ‘English bowler takes wickets on green, seaming English pitches’ argument a bit better.

These were the returns of England’s other seamers in 2017:

  • Stuart Broad – 30 wickets at 36.06
  • Toby Roland-Jones – 14 wickets at 19.64
  • Ben Stokes – 16 wickets at 31.31
  • Chris Woakes – 12 wickets at 51.41

Those are his team-mates, bowling in the same matches. Anderson’s basically been twice as effective as Stuart Broad, while Toby Roland-Jones might want to try and sustain that level of performance for more than four matches before getting too pleased with himself.

The best English bowler we’ve seen

At the age of 35, we consider James Anderson to be the benchmark for swing bowling in a very real sense. If he doesn’t take wickets, we very rarely even consider the possibility that he could have bowled better. We tend to conclude that he achieved all that could be achieved by a swing bowler in those conditions and so instead look to his team-mates in our bid to pinpoint the team’s shortcomings.

Like R Ashwin last year, Anderson’s greatest achievement is in meeting and occasionally even exceeding expectations that are really quite unreasonable. There will be young England fans who have never really heard a commentator say about their team that it ‘failed to make the most of good conditions for swing bowling’.

Plonk Anderson in a low-scoring game on a September pitch and he’ll take 7-42. Gift him a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bowl with a new pink ball under lights in Australia and he’ll actually make use of it.

The whippersnappers among you will have to trust us on this: failing to make the most of good conditions for swing bowling really is a thing. It will happen again – almost as soon as James Anderson retires.


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