International cricket matches are now so frequent that you can forget that those involved are in any way exceptional. We like the early part of the season because it generally provides a reminder.
In general, we don’t like reminders. We like to leave things indefinitely. BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT WE’VE FORGOTTEN ABOUT THEM. Yes, we are going to do that important thing at some point. No, we don’t know when.
This kind of reminder is different. It’s a reminder that assures you all is as it should be. Later in the season, someone will hit a hundred or take five wickets and be spoken of as being in the running for a Test spot. Look back at these early matches and you’ll see what it really takes to be in the running for a Test spot. England players are remarkably reliable when they drop down a level.
We alluded to this at the weekend when referring to Graham Onions’ habit of collecting huge numbers of wickets while he can – before he has to spend his summer driving to England matches only to be told that he’s not needed on the morning of the game. Steven Finn also reappeared this week and promptly took 4-51. Even Jade Dernbach took wickets, for crying out loud. One of them was Nick Compton, who made a duck, but let’s gloss over that.
The point is, England’s selectors generally have a pretty good idea who the best players are. If a batsman doesn’t make runs for England, it doesn’t always mean he was the wrong selection. It might just mean that the best option isn’t necessarily a world-beater.