England to win the Ashes via airy off-side drives

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James Vince (via YouTube)

Is that a dripping tap way off in the distance? No, it’s actually James Vince gently knocking on the door to politely request selection, if that wouldn’t be too much trouble.

Quite how the selectors heard him is beyond us. Vince wasn’t thought to be good enough at the start of summer, but three fifty-plus scores in 17 County Championship innings have seen him force his way into the Test side.

We feared for Vince’s chances before he played Test cricket. On his debut, he hit two fours and then edged to slip trying to hit a third. The rest of last summer followed a similar template (basically a “worst of Gower” montage viewed in a mirror).

Now Vince is back on the strength of no-one else being much good. The theory is that the ball doesn’t swing as much Down Under so he’ll have to find a new way to get out.

The rest of the Ashes squad

Well it’s undeniably a weak squad. The selectors haven’t managed to pick a player who’s stuck since Moeen Ali in 2014. This has led to more and more gaps needing to be filled.

Here are a few more of the Antipodean crossed-fingers punts presented in opinionated bullet point format:

  • Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan aren’t yet dropped, although Tom Westley is
  • Gary Ballance did at least do slightly better than James Vince this season (three hundreds, four fifties, average of 77)
  • Ben Foakes is a worthy wicketkeeping understudy
  • Mason Crane is the second spinner who’ll only play if England pick two spinners (which will never happen)
  • Jake Ball gets the nod through being physically intact
  • Craig Overton hasn’t yet played international cricket

Savour this moment. We still have the luxury of optimism at this point – and there is much to try and be optimistic about.


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  1. Vince is an utterly baffling selection. The only possible reason I can see for him going is that Bayliss painted himself into a corner in having said the batsmen would come from those selected in the last eighteen months. Nick Browne, Sam Robson, Rory Burns would surely have been better selections to bat in the top three. I’d also rather have had Hales at three, even though he seems more comfortable lower down.

    Crane is almost as strange a choice: surely not considered a better test spinner than Rashid or Leach? He’s not going to play so might as well join up with the Lions when they arrive.

    Foakes is a “fair enough” selection, though personally I’d have picked Alex Davies. Again, not likely to play (except perhaps as a specialist bat when Vince and Malan are shown to be terrible) so should probably have been with the Lions as well.

    Overton and Ball are “next-cab-off-the-rank” choices but there’s not a lot of variety in that attack and for that reason I’d have taken a punt on Steven Finn.

    alphamonkey’s alternative squad:
    1. Cook
    2. Stoneman
    3. Root (sorry Joe but there’s no-one else)
    4. Stokes
    5. Ballance/Hales
    6. Bairstow
    7. Ali
    8. Woakes
    9. Rashid
    10. Broad
    11. Anderson

    Reserves: Browne, Hales/Ballance, Davies, Finn, ANother Bowler

    No, you don’t need six bowlers but I think our batting looks stronger with that side than with any one of Westley/Vince/Malan in the top five.

  2. I don’t entirely share your pessimism, although this may be Dr. Pangloss whispering in my ear. Often in the past we’ve heard that sides are just a “world class spinner” or somesuch away from being a great side. What England needs is something which should be far more attainable. Although a new batting genius would be nice, England are in fact just three 37 averaging test journeymen away from being a very good side. I’m pretty sure Balance has that in him. Probably Stoneman too. Maybe one of the other two. Of course if they hadn’t dropped Bell, I’m pretty sure he could have fulfilled that role, but he has never been forgiven for being merely very good indeed.

      1. So you have. My apologies. I missed that one. I also think Hales is the other one who had a good chance of being good enough. I wonder if his current circumstance of being an accessory/alibi/conspirator/witness/victim (delete as applicable when it is no longer sub-judice) counted against him.

      2. You do wonder about Hales. Our bet would be that none of the selectors said they should omit him based on what happened, but no-one pushed for his inclusion. If you’re a bit borderline, even the faint whiff of potential future controversy can do for you.

  3. Crane has forced himself into contention with 16 wickets at 41.44 – a performance that makes him statistically the 77th-best bowler in Division 1 in the BBC county averages table. Good thing that Division 2 doesn’t count as then he’d slip to 169th!!!

    (To be fair the BBC tables are done purely by average. By weight of wickets, 16 would lift him a little higher I suspect.)

    Very hard to see circumstances in which they’d play him – in fact, if Moeen were injured, I’m still not convinced they’d play him (rather more likely to call another spinning all-rounder up, I’d have thought). He’d surely do his hopes for long-term international cricket a bigger favour by going on a development tour than getting into the official squad. I appreciate I am repeating other posters but the practice of taking unselectable yet potential-rich youngsters as reserves undermines both the players’ development and the Lions set-up and I really can’t fathom it at all.

    As for Rashid, he must surely now regret feeding the favourite granny of the chairman of selectors to his pet alligator then trying to sue her estate after aforementioned alligator choked to death on her titanium hip replacement (or whatever awful thing it is that Rashid is believed to have done).

    1. In the interests of fairness, I’ll note that Rashid has had a poor season. But at least the England set-up recognise him as an international-class spinner and he is past the stage of it being all that useful taking him on Lions tours, so he might as well have gone along in the squad for the longer-form. At least, had needs come down to it, they might actually have selected him. Alternatively, I’d have understood it if they took along one of those county spinners who had a great season and took sackfuls of wickets, even though that is no guarantee they’ll replicate that in a foreign field at Test level. But to have been muscled out of Test contention by Crane seems unfortunate.

  4. There are some odd picks in there. Must be frustrating for people doing well at count level. We will just have to hope Australia’s frailties (some dodgy batsmen, hopeless keeper/batsmen, injury-prone bowlers) hamper them as much as ours will us. Please let it not be 5-0.

  5. Blimey. Yorkshire skittled out for 74 second innings, on top of 111 first innings. Made 185 runs in the match. Lose by 376 runs. Essex have had a mixture of some lucky draws at the start of the season, and a whole bunch of absolutely stonking victories.

    Can’t help but think there’s something in that old adage “If Yorkshire are strong, England are strong”. Yorkshire came into the match needing points to ensure they stayed up, and they’re lucky they didn’t turn out to need them. There have been years not so long ago when half the Yorkshire XI looked like they could be asked to play for England, and in those years the Ashes squad would be not be as weak as this one.

  6. Vaughan said they should pick Vince on TMS a few days ago. Everyone looked at him like he was mad. Maybe the selectors just though ‘Yeah, ok. Why not’.

    SMH, as the kids say.

      1. That’s what we read whenever we see that. Then we look it up. Then we forget.

        Still reading it as Sydney Morning Herald.

  7. I’d have picked Mark Cosgrove. Over 1000 runs for a desperately poor side. Plenty of experience of playing in Australia (what with being Australian and all). But England qualified these days.

    Horses for courses and all that.

  8. Collingwood in a coaching role!

    One half of Englands world beating, decade spanning, cider twins getting his start.

    A leg spinner!

    This is a squad list full of good news.

      1. Trying to decide if Alex Hales gets a sly kick in at one point on a bloke who’s already been floored by Stokesy, sort of like the Richard the Hamster Hammond role when May and Clarkson have already done all the big hitting.

  9. Just seen Vince’s interview on cricinfo regarding his selection: “Surprised” and “grateful”.

    Not really the “it’s about bloody time” response KC advocated when James Taylor got his chance.

    1. James Taylor seems to have slipped of Sky TV’s radar.

      Perhaps he is doing other stuff now by choice, but I thought he was very solid on the punditry and came across very nicely.

      Not a face for TV in the “Nick Knight/David Gower” style, but he is televisual enough in a Rob Key/Nasser Hussain sort of way.

  10. Well now. Some might think I’m the type to come on here and gloatingly tell Middlesex to shove their pitch complaints up their arse, learn to play spin properly, get some better players, enjoy their trips to Leicester and Cardiff, etc etc, but no, not me. I’m going to rise above it and offer my heartfelt commiserations to the losing side and wish them a speedy and smooth return to the upper echelons of English cricket*

    *Dependent on results elsewhere. May have to re-write for Hampshire somehow.

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