Category: England cricket news (page 1 of 124)

Why England have selected Gareth Batty

al-pacino-in-the-godfather-part-iii

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

At the age of 38, we have genuinely never been fitter in our entire life. We had however assumed that our chance of playing international cricket had passed.

Not so!

Almost as if England were Australia and Gareth Batty were a gnarly old batsman rather than a spin bowler, the selectors have put their faith in middle-age.

Batty was born in 1977. He’s only three weeks younger than our mate Tim and Tim is the oldest person we know (except for all the people we didn’t go to school with, obviously.)

Tim says he hobbles around hunched over for the first few minutes after getting out of bed these days due to the pain in his ankles. He has even floated the idea of “warming up” before playing squash to prevent injuries. We put him straight on that. We’re not in our 60s. We don’t need to start stretching and all that crap.

But you get the gist. Gareth Batty is almost as old as Tim and therefore quite aged for a sportsman.

If you’re wondering why England have selected a man of Tim’s age, the answer is obvious. The players aren’t really going to be going out in the evenings in Bangladesh due to a combination of fearfulness and security measures. There will be no gallivanting. No evening shenanigans. The younger players will therefore be looking to a man who already has extensive experience of watching Netflix in his pyjamas for guidance.


City-based T20 and the art of forcing windows

Independent websites are meant to provide a rapid response to news stories, telling the world how things should be based on an unshakeable sense of what is right and what is wrong. However, we long ago concluded that when it came to stories about what might happen to the structure of county cricket, we could save ourself an awful lot of redundant thinking and typing by saying nothing at all.

The latest city-based Twenty20 tournament news probably warrants a mention though, if only because the story’s been rumbling on for so long now that surely – surely – something must come of it…

As is our wont, we haven’t really drawn any conclusions about the fundamental merits of city teams versus a tournament involving the existing counties. We do have a point to make about a minor aspect of the scheduling though and we’re going to make it even though it will probably change.

Absolutely first-class

The latest rumblings are that an eight-team T20 competition involving city teams would take place at the same time as several rounds of the County Championship. This, to us, seems very wrong.

There is a feeling among many people that the shortest format is a rival to the longer ones. We’ve never seen it that way. To us, it’s all cricket and we see no reason why the different formats can’t actively support each other, broadening the appeal of the sport as a whole. Twenty20 is more likely to draw people in and we maintain that the greater scope of Test cricket will always be more capable of retaining interest in the long-term.

The current pencil-scrawled plans are for the new competition to take place at the same time as Test matches and we’re not actually too bothered about that. You could even argue that this arrangement presents an opportunity for cross-pollination or whatever you want to call it, promoting Tests via the Twenty20 coverage. Test cricketers would have to be given permission to play in the sixes-and-fireworks stuff too, so there is an implicit message there that Big Man Cricket is the higher level.

It isn’t the same with the County Championship. Four-day fixtures taking place during the tournament would see teams gutted. What would this achieve? What would be the point of those matches?

Shouldn’t you be gnawing on something else?

We already have a situation where no-one’s quite sure what second division runs and wickets are worth. Compromising both divisions by hauling out all the bigger names for a spell would only make individual performances of even more questionable value.

A corollary of that is that team performances would also be qualified. If what basically amounts to a second XI win in July is worth the same as a first team win in June, what the hell kind of a competition are we talking about? Who would honestly care about winning that?

Playing the County Championship and a new Twenty20 competition at the same time achieves two shitty things:

  1. It means the domestic game needlessly cannibalises itself when there’s no real reason why the different formats can’t work together
  2. It reinforces this idea that the long and short formats are fundamentally different and are actively in competition with each other

Those two points overlap really and that part of the Venn diagram is why we’re writing about something that probably won’t happen. The very fact that it’s being mooted betrays the fact that decisions aren’t being made in the interests of the game as a whole.

A gateway to nowhere

Whether it’s just that people have become so involved in trying to develop a more appealing ‘gateway’ cricket competition that they’ve lost sight of the bigger picture; or whether they really don’t care what form the sport takes as long as it makes more money, we don’t know. Despite the temptation to err on the side of cynicism, it’s actually far more likely to be the former. British cricket administrators are a bunch of old bastards and most of them have a long history of being involved in county cricket.

An alternative take is that they know full well that it’s a terrible idea to have the two competitions running concurrently. In this scenario, they’re only floating the idea so that the county chairman can see that giving a new Twenty20 competition its own window while retaining the validity of the County Championship is a much better option than trying to play a devalued four-day competition at the same time.

In other words, the counties might need to experience the bad idea before they accept it is just such a thing. As a friend’s aunt once said of a toddler crawling towards a roaring fire for the nth time one evening: “Oh, let him – he’ll soon learn.”


‘We played like pretty boys there at one stage’ – Trevor Bayliss

It’s been very humid in the North-West these last few days. That probably didn’t have any impact on the outcome of the T20 International between England and Pakistan but we haven’t got much to say about the cricket so thought we’d flesh out this piece by talking about the weather in true British tradition.

England found it harder and harder to hit boundaries as their innings wore on. Pakistan didn’t – and they didn’t shed wickets either.

Pakistan bowled really well. Eoin Morgan said something about the dew. Is dew related to humidity? Again, nothing to do with the cricket, we’re just wondering.

England’s international summer has come to an end with Trevor Bayliss accusing his batsmen of playing ‘like pretty boys’ which seems as good a way as any to draw things to a close.


England float the idea of picking Haseeb Hameed to see what happens

This is what they do nowadays. They say they’re thinking of picking someone as a means of increasing the scrutiny on them and then they see how the player reacts.

Earlier in the season, word got out that England were almost certainly going to pick Scott Borthwick. He reacted by briefly forgetting how to bat. England didn’t pick him.

Haseeb Hameed is not exactly in the spotlight now, as he would be in a Test match. He’s more under a large fluorescent strip light. This is not quite the same, but it’s  a great deal harsher than the Toc H lamp light he’ll have experienced thus far in county cricket – where fans outnumbers reporters only because they actually warrant a plural.

Some sort of gauntlet of lumens has been thrown down to Ian Bell too. He’s capable of withstanding the glare, obviously – we already know that. It’s more a case of establishing whether he can be bothered to do so any more.


One major worry about England’s one-day team

They aren’t due. Aren’t remotely due. This occurred to us midway through yesterday’s run-chase when they were a few wickets down. While they eventually overhauled Pakistan’s total, that’s only postponing the problem.

Yes, there are arguably players who haven’t scored too many runs recently, but unfortunately for them, England aren’t due as a unit. Alex Hales in particular has selfishly plundered the team’s stockpile of runs leaving little for anyone else.

The next step on England’s one-day journey (yes, journey – everything’s a frigging journey these days) is surely to become more adept at rationing.


Yeah, maybe worth taking a look at him in other formats

Alex Hales

Alex Hales (via YouTube)

Boundaries are smaller, the white ball does sod all, fielding restrictions are imposed. There are all sorts of reasons why one-day cricket is different from Tests, but all are of secondary importance to the simple fact that it is.

England’s quadruple nelson was built around a record hundred for Alex Hales which then set things up for a successful game of Stick Cricket for Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan. It’s interesting to note that these three batsmen are respectively: struggling, out-of-favour and outright rejected when it comes to the Test team.

It’s hard to avoid asking questions. How can they be so dominant in one-day cricket and yet struggle to keep their heads above water in Tests? Could Alex Hales not go out and play the same way and make 171 off 122 balls in the longer format? Why can’t Jos Buttler just play his natural game?

It bothers us that the formats are occasionally portrayed as being so different as to almost be separate sports. But at the same time, there are differences. We know this simply from the evidence above. Whether it’s the scrutiny, the ball, the constant self-questioning as to what ‘the right thing to do’ might be, a good one-day player does not necessarily make a good Test player.

So should we completely disregard one-day performances when attempting to gauge Test worth (and vice versa)? No, of course not. There is huge overlap too. All three of the one-day batsmen mentioned earlier have a tremendous eye, which is an asset in all forms – an entry requirement even. If they assess risk and reliably choose appropriate shots, they are well on their way to becoming successful Test cricketers. All three have had at least some Test success anyway.

So having argued ourself in circles, what exactly is our point here? We suppose it’s just a plea for people not to reach any kind of concrete conclusions about anyone ever. If a player can’t help but pepper the boundary in 50-over cricket, don’t cry ‘get him in the Test team!’ – but don’t dismiss his achievements as irrelevant either.

The campaign to persuade excited fans to say “yeah, maybe worth taking a look at him in other formats,” starts here.


The ins, outs and merits of England’s one-day plan

Liam Plunkett

It’s not an elaborate plan. It’s not particularly intricate. It is however consistent and that is perhaps of greater importance than anything else.

Previously, England seemed to pick 11 players before deciding how to play based on what they ended up with. This led to an ever-changing formula from which no-one really benefited (other than the opposition).

England’s current plan basically boils down to having a diverse bowling attack and plenty of batsmen. Whether that’s right or wrong, they’re sticking with it – which at least means the players know their places in the world.

Take Adil Rashid for example. England want a leg-spinner and he is the best available, so he can relax, knowing an imperfect match won’t see him dropped for Stuart Broad.

Pace bowlers like Broad and James Anderson are, in fact, accorded little value. They aren’t seen as two of England’s most successful bowlers so much as they’re seen as just two more right-arm fast-medium bowlers – one of the least valuable commodities in one-day cricket. The two of them aren’t being preserved for Test cricket. They’re being omitted from the one-day side because the one-day side doesn’t want them.

The point here is that while taken in isolation some of England’s decisions might seem odd, they make sense when you consider the overarching philosophy.

Pakistan are different. Pakistan change their team frequently, but there doesn’t seem to be a framework underpinning these decisions. In the first one-day international they included two slow left-arm all-rounders and omitted their leg-spinner. No-one was quite sure how this decision was arrived at. Nor does anyone have any confidence that they will both remain – including the players themselves.

If nothing else, the inclusion of both Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz (or as Cricinfo would have him “Mohammad Nawaz (3)”) smacked of a play-off. Whether that was true or not, that was surely how two near-new players would have taken it. This seems a cruel and ineffective way of gauging their worth.

For as long as the Pakistan plan revolves around selection of two slow left-arm all-rounders, Wasim and Nawaz (3) can be confident of their places in the side. Should one or the other of them have a poor game however, they can fully expect that grand strategy to change.


Seven things we learned from England v Pakistan

 

Via Sky Sports

Via Sky Sports

We’ve been trying to provide some sort of pithy and insightful summary of the Test series for 24 hours now, but it’s not really happening. We’ll instead content ourself with a vague collage of observations. If these are our workings-out, maybe you can provide the conclusion yourself.

Specialists and all-rounders

If you need someone to bat at seven or bowl right-arm fast-medium, England are spoilt for choice. However, if you want a specialist batsman, a fast bowler or a spinner, you’d be better off looking to the tourists.

England had more batsmen, but fewer effective specialist run-scorers. Despite greater numbers, they also had less diversity in their bowling attack.

If Moeen Ali could avoid being clattered for six…

Moeen emerged from the series with a better strike-rate than almost all the specialist bowlers. Blind yourself to the rate at which he concedes runs and he’s a very effective spinner. His stellar batting is an excellent distraction, but not quite blinding.

James Anderson has lost a quarter of a yard of pace

We don’t normally take claims that bowlers have ‘lost their nip’ too seriously because pace often varies from one match to the next. The difference with Anderson is that he said himself that he was down on pace in the second Test and then didn’t really seem to recover it. If he can retain a viable bouncer, he’ll probably be okay. Pace isn’t everything – but it is something.

Beware the out-of-form old pro

Younus Khan’s had it. Look at him. Look at the state of him.

Oh.

Beware the conquered leg-spinner

Yasir Shah hasn’t posed a threat since Lord’s. He doesn’t spin it. England have worked him out.

Oh.

Looking good and being effective are different things

Shivnarine Chanderpaul could have told you that, but James Vince has been trying to prove it from the opposite direction. We feared for Vince’s chances before he played and we haven’t seen a huge amount to reassure us since then. Nor has anyone else. County cricket’s who-saw-a-future-England-player-first-and-championed-his-cause-the-most competition will have to forget about this and move on. Do yourselves a favour though – don’t claim that a player ‘looks good’.

Misbah-ul-Haq

The last time Pakistan toured, cricket fans were left feeling sick and unenthusiastic about the game. Pakistan themselves were left a fractured mess. This time they leave with fans more enthused about the game and with a level of solidity to their cricket that it is hard to remember their ever having had before.

Misbah-ul-Haq is an alchemist who can turn middle-age into youth and chaos into order.


Yasir Shah the best bowler in the world again – shortly after being worthless

Yasir Shah dismisses Jonny Bairstow at Lord's (via ecb.co.uk YouTube)

Yasir Shah dismisses Jonny Bairstow at Lord’s (via ecb.co.uk YouTube)

It’s hard to say whether memories are fading faster these days – because who can honestly remember how things were previously? This was nevertheless a thought that has crossed our mind a few times of late – generally when some commentator or other has claimed that England have ‘worked Yasir out’ or something along those lines.

We’re pretty sure England themselves never felt like that about Pakistan’s leg-spinner (or why would they have elected to bat first in this match?) Commentators though, they’re a different breed. They don’t need to accurately gauge the dangers knowing they’ll have to confront the player in question again some time soon. They can content themselves with saying whatever they’re thinking at that exact moment and if the statement seems to hold up when measured against what’s happened in the last 10 days, then it can be presented as The Truth.

The thinking was that Yasir took England by surprise at Lord’s. Apparently you can deliver 10 surprises before a team will react. After that, England realised that he didn’t spin it all that much and DOMINATED HIM WITH EASE.

But now that particular piece of fiction needs a rewrite.

There is never one solitary solution that turns failure to success when it comes to countering a good bowler. Different batsmen will have different issues and no spin bowler will be successful in internationals without being able to pose at least a decent handful of questions.

Yasir had less success at Old Trafford and Edgbaston, but a guy who takes 10 wickets in a Test match ususally has something about him that won’t fade away inside a fortnight. Sure enough, bowling at the Oval with runs in the bank, he dismissed half of England’s batting line-up.

Maybe with another match and another five-for, everyone would be calling him flawless.


Younus Khan knows what he’s doing – even if it doesn’t look like it

Younus Khan (via YouTube)

We really wanted Younus Khan to get runs in this Test. A lot of commentators who have at no point in their lives been able to bat even half as well as him have not just been criticising his batting during this series, but actually making fun of it. We’ve found that a bit unsavoury.

Younus has his own way of doing things and if it looks fairly stupid then so much the better as far as we’re concerned. The fact that he can quite literally make runs batting on one leg – or occasionally while airborne – is a large part of his appeal. It adds to his brilliance that he should be able to shepherd so many moving parts and compel them to deliver perfect timing. A number of England players couldn’t even coordinate two hands to wrap around a ball when it came in their direction.

When a Pakistan player drops to his hands and knees in the wake of some sort of achievement, you can never be quite sure which way it’s going to go nowadays. Younus spurned the press-ups in favour of a turf kiss. So did Asad Shafiq a little earlier in the day. Their demeanours were different, but three figures seemed to mean a lot to both of them.


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