Maybe England should have picked a sixth right-arm fast-medium bowler

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As a parent of young children, we encounter our fair share of repetition. Green bottles, speckled frogs, monkeys on a bed, little men in a flying saucer. Nothing could prepare us for England’s second Test bowling attack though.

If there is one thing England have been sure of these last few years, it is that they wanted to tour Australia with a varied attack – fast bowlers, spin, a left-armer.

It therefore makes perfect sense that they have picked five right-arm fast-medium bowlers for the second Test. Have best-laid plans ever ganged more agley?

“Behold the fruits of our many years of planning!” they seemed to say. “Fifth one’s the charm!”

It is of course easy to criticise when there have been injuries and some of the alternatives maybe aren’t that good. But it is also pretty easy to not pick five right-arm fast-medium bowlers.

We’ve been here before. We’ve been here many, many times before. We’ve been here so many times, in fact, that we have a special page for when it happens.

It’s like a weird gravitational thing. A year or two out from an Ashes tour, everyone in the England setup knows for definite that the one thing they don’t want to do is go into a match with a bunch of right-arm fast-medium bowlers and no variety. But then once they’re actually there, the pull is too strong. Components are assessed individually with no thought to how they fit together.

“We believe that this is our strongest bowling attack,” they say.

If your four best bowlers are all new ball bowlers, then they probably don’t combine to become your strongest bowling attack in a place where the ball remains ‘new’ for about 35 seconds.

We can only guess at the thought process. The pink Kookaburra can, at times, offer more swing and seam than the red one. England appear to have talked themselves into believing that this means it will offer plenty to their bowlers.

But here’s the thing: More than nothing is not necessarily a lot.

England could have done with a fast bowler, but knowing Mark Wood can’t play every Test, they saw this match as the best opportunity to rest him.

They could have done with a spinner, but Joe Root and Chris Silverwood don’t particularly like, understand or back them. Exactly as we predicted, they said supportive things about Jack Leach and then dropped him. Dom Bess, meanwhile, is implicitly unavailable for selection until the series is already lost.

So it was that England’s key bowling tactic became asking their second-best batter to welly down bouncers as he regains match fitness following a long period out of international cricket. Their best batter got through a good few overs too.

You look at this England bowling attack and it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this is simply not enough. So which batter should they drop for Craig Overton?

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35 comments

  1. Five medium bowlers, standing on the pitch
    Five medium bowlers, standing on the pitch
    But if one medium bowler
    Was accidentally spanked for twelve an over
    There’d be five medium bowlers, standing on the pitch

    1. Five medium bowlers at the Adelaide Oval, spanked round the park one day
      They looked left and right, but everyone was shite, and the Aussies just made hay.

      1. There’s a lot of work going into these, KC. You’d better be singing them to your kids after all this effort.

      2. One man went to bowl
        Went to bowl a long-hop
        Ten men, nine men, eight men, seven men, six men, five men, four men, three men, two men, one man and the skipper
        Went to bowl a long-hop

  2. Unfortunate that even after preparing for a year for this series, all they can manage to do is field 5 right arm medium bowlers. Now, they might have been preparing for longer, but I don’t remember for sure if the West Indies and Pakistan tours of England in the summer of 2020 were part of the preparation…

    1. Think as a rule they only look ahead when they don’t want to look at the defeat that just happened, so probably not.

      1. What exactly does Silverwood bring to the table, as it were? Also, if we wanted to let Root get on with just scoring runs, who could be made captain? (I’m not saying that captaincy is hurting his run scoring, it clearly isn’t, but he’s not a particularly good captain)

      2. It’s weird because Silverwood owes a good proportion of his domestic success with Essex to Simon Harmer, a spin bowler, who was routinely picked to play on green UK pitches in the spring and autumn.

        Buttler is technically next in line. Burns has a captaincy track record.

  3. Jimmy the pink-ball specialist
    Had a very poorly calf
    He didn’t play at Brisbane
    That made all the Aussies laugh

    Broady was also left out
    And he shouted out in pain
    He’ll never let poor Rooty
    Get away with this again

    Then one scorching Adelaide morn
    Silverwood came to say
    Jimmy, Broady, come on blokes
    You’re our last remaining hope

    How all the Barmies loved them
    Even though they weren’t match fit
    Jimmy and good old Broady
    Please get us out of the shit

      1. We’re withholding praise until you’ve rewritten the first verse so that it rhymes for us.

  4. Yes, yes, all well and good, but still – is Bert doing a crossword for us this Christmas? Pleeeeeeeeeeeease?!

    1. Are you threatening me? Oh my god, I think you are. You’re saying, “Make us a crossword or we’ll release the photos.” Well go right ahead, see if I care. That’s just me and a famous cricketer discussing cricket. Nothing more. The cheesecake just slipped.

  5. Picking right arm medium pacers in a pink ball game is the default setting in the Silverwood programming. I believe they’re trying to fix the glitch in the next edition, but the AI isn’t yet sufficiently advanced to factor in the actual pitch.

  6. Dom Bess can presumably look forward to the inevitable 4th/5th test call up. The one where England’s players are so injured/demoralised/retired in an Ashes series that they start to call-up all the waifs and strays (see Mason Crane, Scott Borthwick, Simon Kerrigan, Boyd Rankin, Tom Curran)……

  7. Well this is fun, isn’t it. I think I preferred it when the worst had already happened by the time I woke up.

  8. We’re going to lose four series in a row for the first time since 1999, I think. Not sure getting rid of the national selector role has been an unqualified success, really. Correlation, causation, three of those series were against the two best test teams, etc. But still, we’ve been awful pretty much continuously since the first test against India back in February. The Silverwood Supremacy is going very, very badly.

    Also, why when you Google any man is the first autocomplete option “wife”? Are there really people with a burning desire to see what Ed Smith’s wife looks like?

    1. Pedant’s corner – did we actually lose the unfinished home India series? I’m going to the fifth Test in July next year.

      1. Me too – Sam – Edgbaston days 1 & 2. Charley the Gent, Nigel Father Barry & Harsha Goble will also be there. Our regular spot at the front of the Raglan IIRC. Hope to see you if you’ll be there on one of those days.

  9. Watching this series has been painful. Watching England down under is never easy, but this series has essentially been the most self-inflicted disaster I’ve ever seen in English cricket.

    Selection fuckups, ridiculous planning, and a complete lack of awareness as to what work it takes in the first class system to construct a decent Test side.

    Pity. Australia were there for the taking, but England have royally fucked this up.

  10. I’m a big fan of Jos Buttler. He’s the most naturally talented player I’ve ever seen. But that was an awful shot. He’s on nought and launches at a wide one with no feet movement.

    Australia were so good at leaving the ball, they scored slowly but earned the right to get to 400+.

    Flat pitch. Sun out. Aussies’ best two bowlers missing.

    In the immortal words of Alan Sugar, ‘You haven’t got a bloody clue.’

  11. The day/night element is making this worse, I think, for the England fan.

    I am used to getting my Away Ashes gut punches all in one go when I wake up, but this Test has been more a case of waking up to a gut-punch but then being subjected to a number of regular jabs throughout the morning.

    What it must be doing to the touring party’s mental clocks, I can only imagine

    1. It works really well for me. I’m only awake for the first session, and generally those have been going quite well.

      Normally I’m awake for all the misery of an Ashes tour, this time I’m getting to sleep through large chunks of it.

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