It’s a bit grim when Josh Tongue is talked up as the quick one

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It’s not just that England have fielded five right-arm seamers in this Test, it’s that the one bowling 85mph is being lauded as the quick one. Where’s all the pace gone? It’s there a leak somewhere? Let’s pull back the carpet and see if there’s 5mph pooling somewhere under the floorboards.

England’s fast bowling injury woes are known and well documented, but it’s quite a leap from there to Josh Tongue’s upper-end-of-fast-medium being a real USP. You’re not meant to actively seek out 85mph. That’s supposed to be what you’re left with when you can’t find anything more dynamic.

This is not to diminish Tongue’s qualities. He’s quick enough to break off the top of David Warner’s stump, at least.

Ollie Robinson is a great bowler but his 124km/h nude nuts seem better dressed when set against something contrasting from the other end. The same goes for James Anderson, and for Stuart Broad when the wind and crowd aren’t at his back.

Ben Stokes was never markedly quicker and these days even 80mph from him feels like it comes at a physical cost.

England have ended up looking a bit fast-medium but even that doesn’t quite capture it. If four of their bowlers gained a yard of pace, they’d still look a bit fast-medium. Grim.

The team looks samey in other ways too. On the same morning that an independent report concluded that English cricket had become “elitist and exclusionary” with “private school and ‘old boys’ networks’ and cliques” permeating the game, England announced an all-white Test XI which features only two players who didn’t attend fee-paying schools.

One or two people on Twitter seemed to suggest to us that the several England players who earned sporting scholarships at such schools somehow diminished our point. We’d argue the scholarship trend only underlines how these institutions have been allowed to become the main route into the England cricket team.

Jimmy Anderson is one of the two exceptions, by the way. We say this with nothing but love, but Jimmy is essentially a relic of another era. Ben Stokes is the other, if you’re wondering.

A reminder too that it wasn’t always this way. In 1987-88, of the 13 players who represented England on a tour of Pakistan, only one had attended a private school.

For what it’s worth, we have no issue with any of the players selected in this XI. We like them all and wouldn’t really quibble with anyone’s inclusion. At the same time, you could hardly ask for a better illustration of where we’ve ended up. And this is where we’ve ended up. It can’t immediately be changed without a time machine.

It would be nice to have a side that better represents the full breadth of English cricket culture at some point in the future though. A fast bowler or a spinner would be nice too.


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  1. You didn’t write this piece in an attempt to improve my dismal mood, did you, KC?

    We’ve talked about all of these topics before, several times, haven’t we? But the last 24-48 hours seems to bring lots of threads together like the fifth act of a Shakespeare tragedy.

    **Spoiler alert ** for those who don’t know how the fifth acts of Shakespeare tragedies pan out – they don’t tend to end well for the central characters.

    1. That man that hath a tongue, I say is no man, if with his tongue he cannot win a woman.

      1. **Spoiler alert** for those who are not familiar with Shakespeare comedies, such as “Two Gentlemen…”

        …there are not a lot of laughs for the modern audience. Nor are 16th century chat up lines likely to work well in most circumstances today.

  2. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: if you pick a team with no spinner you deserve to lose. And you usually do.

    This is usually followed by the groundsman for the next test preparing a seamers paradise on which a spinner would be superfluous, for which England will inevitably pick a spinner.

  3. Just a wicket or two away from the occasional spinner bowling 74mph bouncers, among a battery of Five (FIVE) right-arm fast mediums, being the ‘pick of the bowlers’.

    Go Harder XI

    Zafar Gohard (c)
    Robust Key
    Mark Stoneman
    Shafali Firmer
    Richard Harden
    David Stiff
    Mark Wood (that it were)
    Rigid Johnson (I thank you)
    Froze Khushi
    Joe Densely
    Hardik Pandya

    1. Erect Underwood
      Makhaya Ntinny
      Brendon TarmacCullum
      Joey Bitumen
      Obsidian Healy
      Graeme Stick
      Sophie Tough
      I.Ron Bell

  4. Australia sitting pretty right now, with those extra NINETEEN runs that they got from not STUPIDLY declaring their first innings. Meanwhile, England’s INSANE approach to batting lost them three wickets for a mere 34 runs, an opinion not altered ONE JOT by the 188 runs for one wicket they got from batting exactly the same way earlier.

    Honestly, I don’t know what they are thinking these days. At least punditry is a point of stability in all this chaos.

    1. Nice one Bert. You should commentate. I always like your points and the way you make them.

      1. Indeed. I’m willing to overlook the (presumed) arithmetic error if this were to come to pass.

    2. England didn’t declare at Edgbaston as soon as the 8th wicket fell, Bert. There was an insane and reckless period during which Root and Robinson put on 43 runs in 44 balls for that 9th wicket prior to the declaration. England might very well have gone in to score an infinite number of additional runs in that first innings had they not declared.

      Having spent the afternoon yesterday with a well-informed but not necessarily enlightened cohort in the members’ areas, I can report an interesting mixture of opinion on England’s approach, ranging from unreconstructed pundits ranting in the style of Bert’s parody, to wide-eyed evangelists for the attacking style. Actually many/most were taking a nuanced stance on the matter.

      Joe Root looked out uncharacteristically out of rhythm yesterday. Perhaps he would have been better off trying to ride the short-pitch barrage storm, as Stokes subsequently did, but Root clearly was choosing to try to hit his way back into rhythm. All three others, as Bert subtly points out, lived rather well by the sword before dying by it.

      The weather is set to get murkier again as the day goes on today (Day Three). Then set to improve again for Saturday/Sunday. England don’t currently hold all the cards but Day Two was a very good day for England – another good day from the lads and it really will be “advantage England”.

      1. Do we come here for nuance, Ged? Do we? No, we don’t. We come here for pterodactyls. Failing that, we come here for whatever the opposite of nuance is. No-ance maybe.

        Bazball is the living archetype of the famous Angry / Amazed dichotomy. These are the only two options available. Nuance be damned, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said. Or was it Stalin? It doesn’t matter, because that would be just nuance. What matters is that nuance be damned, and nuance be damned.

        On the other hand, were I down in the members’ area (fnarr) yesterday, my nuanced view would have been that the correct order for doing things in sport is 1) win, 2) lose, and 137) try to avoid losing. (FYI, 136 is try to become a leopard.) As long as England are trying to win, I am happy. It might not work, but then again it might work, and I can’t see any other tactic that this England team could use to provide that latter option. I think we are somewhat limited. This seems the best argument against the unreconstructed pundits, that they don’t really have an alternative they can point to and say, “That will work”.

        I have a dozen bottles of wine on this, so I’m not an uninvolved observer. Also, the other party to that bet IS VISITING THE UK! We’re going to the Old Trafford test. We could lose, I could lose, WHILE HE IS SAT NEXT TO ME! If that happens, I will need some serious TLC from you good people here to get me through it. Current number one idea is to buy him the wine there and then, ten thousand miles from his house. That will help, but it won’t take away all the pain.

  5. I am in so much trouble with Daisy for, as she puts it, “failing to keep the faith” yesterday evening when Australia were 300+ for 3.

    Well, as the prophet Isaiah predicted: “a wolf will reside with A Lamb, and a leopard will lie down with [Patrick] Kidd; a calf and young Lyon will graze together….”

    With the benefit of hindsight, Nathan Lyon’s (suspected) calf injury was foretold thousands of years ago. Could be hugely significant in this match and indeed the rest of the series. Potentially a leveller in more ways than one.

    It’s starting to look like another captivating match.

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