Shuffling bread

Posted by
2 minute read

Have we all made realistic New Year’s resolutions? No more drinking on Wednesdays? One takeaway a week, but you won’t deliberately order enough for breakfast the next morning as well? Or maybe you’ve resolved to stop playing Australia quite so frequently.

Vivisection’s tempting, but let’s not reach for the scalpel until this England Ashes tour is actually cold. There’s a fifth Test of horror to live through yet.

That said, some of the errors of recent years should perhaps inform selection for this final five-day fiasco. There’s talk of Michael Carberry being dropped and this pretty much sums thing up. His omission would have an impact on an opening position and one in the middle order – in short, the two spots which England haven’t been content with for a long, long time.

There must be better bread

There’s been a lack of regard for the number six slot and a lack of conviction when it comes to openers and so we’ve ended up with the same four batsmen as filling between ever-changing types of bread.

The middle order slot has seen a number of players ‘given a go’ of whom only Joe Root made a decent fist of things. But England weren’t happy with that. Do well at number six and they want you out of there and into what they think of as being one of the proper batting spots.

Root was promoted to England’s other problem position – opener – and despite an Ashes hundred, was deemed a failure. Nick Compton was discarded too, shortly after hitting back-to-back hundreds. It seemed there was always someone better and by a process of deduction, it was determined that that person was Michael Carberry.

I thought you weren’t doing a post-tour dissection

No, we’re not. We just got a bit sidetracked. The point is the dropping of Michael Carberry and the ramifications of that. In this instance, England will presumably pick Gary Ballance. He seems to have good credentials to be a fixture in the middle-order – in which case, stick with him. Show conviction.

But will that happen? Joe Root will, presumably, move back up to opener should Ballance play. Root’s high quality sourdough at number six, but stale Mother’s Pride in the top three. Should he fail again, would they drop him or move him down the order and drop Ballance?

Too much shuffling

A number of openers and number sixes have been killed off, but Root’s been suffering collateral damage from England’s dissatisfaction and uncertainty too. A certain proportion of England’s batting shitness stems from all this low-key shuffling and the lack of conviction from which it stems. It’s rare that a player’s tossed aside after just one match these days, but it’s not unusual for someone to be out on their ear after four or five. It looks better, but the impact’s similar.

Other fifth Test selections

But that isn’t to say that players always get at least a series. Remember Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan? They didn’t even make it onto this tour after playing in the previous Test. Ben Stokes may have benefited from the ‘give ’em a chance’ approach to selection, but it doesn’t usually work.

This is worth remembering when names like Scott Borthwick crop up. Good luck to him and good luck to any young player picked for England, but he was literally a long way from the England Test team a fortnight ago.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


Why risk it when it's so easy to sign up?


  1. That sums thing up nicely.

    Also, I was saying ages ago we shouldn’t have shuffled Root around, and should’ve probably stuck with Compton at 2 while Joe got a few matches under his belt. Being proved right about this is almost as good as watching your side win the Ashes. Almost.

  2. Hear, hear!

    The trouble with introducing players as replacements for those dropped for poor form is that it absolutely must must must work straight away. It’s not like you’re saying to young player X, “You’ve done so well on the county scene that we can’t ignore you any more, well done”. What you’re saying is, “You are the same player you were when you weren’t selected, but our standards have dropped low enough now, so you’re in.” And that is only OK if young player X then goes on to prove that he should have been selected all along. If he fails, you have absolutely nowhere to go. Dropping him at that point is just chasing yourself down to the bottom. Carberry’s replacement (if there is to be one) cannot fail, otherwise he is automatically as bad or worse than someone just recently considered not good enough (cf. Bairstow).

    I said before Melbourne that the team selected should be the one the selectors want to play at Trent Bridge. That’s even more true now.

  3. Expect the post-Sydney dissection to include reference to that recently retired leg spinner’s not-many-for-a-lot on debut. We’ll be kidding ourselves

  4. Clearly the solution is to pick a team of replacements (call them The Expendables), and start substituting in the Bells and Pietersens as and when they fail. This way, the management/selection committee won’t look like a bunch of idiots. At least not so much.

    1. They’d be telling the opposition “Try beating these fellows first. Our main guys are getting massages from hot Thai girls after they printed out advertisement coupons from some kingcricket site”.

      What do they call those? Statements. Yeah, they’d be making a statement.

    1. Seconded.

      There’s clearly more than cricketing ability in all this. Woakes did nothing wrong at the Oval last year, why was he dismissed after one Test?

      Kerrigan had a nervy nightmare, and they suddenly decided he was in the queue behind Panesar, Tredwell and Borthwick?

      As for Compton, who knows. I wish someone would explain. Could someone, Agnew perhaps, ask Flower or Cook straight out why they seem to be returning to the “one test to impress” theory of the bad old ’90s?

    2. Some chap called pyramidboy is stealing your comments on here and posting them on the Grauniad.

    3. I just noticed Sam made the exact same Kerrigan/Woakes comment on a Guardian article, is all.

    1. What is it with these England supremos of the “Yorkshire born, Leicestershire playing” variety?

      Does it not occur to them that their methods, which might just work occasionally for a normally-down-trodden county team, are not ideal for England?

      Unless we are content for England to be a normally-down-trodden national team.

    2. I think England should keep with their ex-Leicestershire and Ireland poaching techniques, and tap up Phil Simmons for head coach.

      Just because he’s awesome.

      And hire Mullally to replace Saker.

  5. Hang on a minute. Wasn’t it not so long ago that England was LAUGHING at an Australian side that couldn’t fathom out an opening partnership and even picked the top 6 via tombola! Chuckling openly at their attempts to replace a spinner who was once the lynchpin of the team.

    Hasn’t life got a wonderful way of going topsy turvey on us all in front of our very own WIDE OPEN eyes without anyone in charge realising it, mentioning it or even trying to do anything about it

    1. To be fair, that WAS pretty funny. And it’s important to take those opportunities to laugh precisely because you know it’s only going to be a matter of time before your side’s back in that position or one similar.

    2. If you can meet with triumph and disaster
      And treat those two imposters just the same;
      If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
      Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools
      Then you’re probably an England cricket supporter.

    1. What are you talking about?

      Ballance has been having a great tour. Really kicked the door down and demanded inclusion. Just look at his FC results – he’s averaging….



  6. Don’t worry. It’s grey and slightly drizzly here in Sydney this morning. Cook and Co. will be madly working on their fail-safe tactics: dithering at the crease, vacillating conversations in the middle, shilly-shallying with the side screen and other such time-honoured in-the-spirit-of-cricket English strategies for not-losing.

    No doubt a little dance practice is going on in the hotel lobby, even as I type.

  7. Root dropped. I’ve been quite reserved in my criticism of England this winter, but that is a joke. Two to six to three to dropped. They’re messing with the kid’s head and his future.

    1. That is astonishing! And wrong. And unutterably stupid. And proof that this hasn’t actually been a real series, just a bad parody of 90s English cricket done to raise money for Comic Relief, even down to Merv Johnson’s moustache. In fact, when you think about this series, that is the only way it makes any sense.

    2. So England begin the rebuilding process by dropping their most promising young batsman, who also happens to be a passable defensive spinner…which might be a handy thing to have in your side of you were to say…I dunno…hand a debut to a young inexperienced spinner against the side who smashed your last young spinner out of the park and have already promised to do the same to this one.

  8. England have done just what Aus did, earlier in the year – drop the player of the future who at least show some ticker, as Root does, for desperation stakes. Take comfort – it worked out for us in the long run. Even if it did stuff up Hughes, possibly permanently, and Lyon, who got over it.

    1. I was going to say Root is really getting the Phil Hughes treatment on this tour. Maybe the selectors have taken on board all the feedback about how the team needs to demonstrate “mental toughness” by deliberately setting out to traumatise their young prospects in the hope that whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
      It’s a good thing the England management doesn’t have a history of players experiencing stress related conditions, otherwise someone could question whether they are providing the right environment for their players to flourish.

  9. Well, this is going well. Going to have to bowl Anderson and Broad into the ground. Again.

  10. I dont rate Carberry, but he has probably had a better series then Root, he has more runs, and a better strike rate. And 33 is not really that old, when you look at Haddin and Rogers. Root looks shot to pieces and i think another stinker would have done more for him mentally then anything else.

    But ive read there were issues with Rankins fitness before hand, so why bother playing him?

    And Ballance looks a bit chubby for a professional sportsman.

  11. Carberry is more of a short form specialist and I thought at first that the ‘management’ (And I use that term loosely) wanted him to be the ‘Warner’ of the England side. Trouble is he looks like he’s been given the instructions to a) hit hard, but b) don’t take risks. So he just stands there, sinking in a quandry mire. Then he’s out.

    The Rankin fitness issue was commented on the broadcast. Apparently the England physio entourage was with him in the practice nets before the match. Then he played, now he’s out. So they earnt their dollars this morning.

    I don’t mind the wheels falling off, that happens in sport, it’s just when the failing side stop the car then go to town loosening all the nuts and bolts themselves that it becomes annoying.

Comments are closed.