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England have named their Test squad for the tour of Sri Lanka. Rory Burns is in, Olly Stone is in, and – a mere 10 years after we tipped him – so too is Joe “No Pants” Denly.
The Burns selection isn’t really worth commenting on, so let’s concentrate on the other two.
Ashley Giles went full Partridge when talking up Olly Stone this week. He said the fast bowler was injury-prone in much the same way that a Ferrari apparently is.
“With many bowlers – your BMWs or your Audis – you just get in and go but if you have someone who bowls at pace and has had his history of injury you have to treat them very carefully.”
The fragile fast bowler is an important role to fill in any team. Ideally, his fragility is such that he misses more games than he plays, so that when you’re losing you can say: “If only our 488 GTB hadn’t done his knee/fractured his scapula/ruptured his pancreas/lost both of his pelvises – we’d have won this by tea on the second day.”
Olly Stone appears to be very effective, so there are two ways England are likely to use him.
(1) They will use him as a drinks waiter while picking both James Anderson and Stuart Broad in the first XI on the grounds that if one of the two senior bowlers proves ineffective in Sri Lankan conditions, the other one will almost certainly be useless too.
(2) They will only ever pick him on the least helpful pitches and reward him for this by eventually forgetting all about him because he has a high bowling average. England’s attitude to fast bowlers and leg-spinners is that you only resort to them when absolutely necessary and at all other times it’s best to keep things 100% fast-medium.
We’ve no real idea what this is all about. Denly’s batted in the top order in 2018 and not been completely humiliated. We suppose that’s enough at the minute.
Right, let’s get this over with.
First, let’s restate the qualification criteria:
Think that’s it. There might be other things. Who knows? Presumably us, but we don’t like to scrutinise the workings of our own mind in case we damage it. We reserve the right to apply further criteria later on if we feel like it. Continue reading
This isn’t specifically about Joe Denly. He’s just the example. It’s about being a young English cricketer and what you have to do to play for the national side. It’s also about Australia’s wicketkeeper, Tim Paine.
Paine and Denly are just starting their careers and have been opening the batting for their respective nations in the one-day series between England and Australia. Paine hit one hundred and one fifty in seven innings. Denly hit two fifties in five innings.
Honours pretty much even – Paine perhaps slightly ahead – but it shouldn’t really be like that. Paine is a wicketkeeper primarily and arguably Australia’s fourth choice in that position. Denly is a specialist batsman and has been identified as a key player for the future.
How do young cricketers make themselves known? They do it through consistent, solid performance, don’t they?
Do they balls. Not in England anyway.
There are 18 first-class counties playing every week, so there are about a hundred batsmen fighting for column inches in newspapers that have half a page at most devoted to county cricket. One 95-ball hundred on a flat track is far more likely to get you a mention than three consecutive fifties on difficult pitches.
If you can make some noise by playing such an innings, then you’ve got to go for it. If you fail, it doesn’t matter because there’s always the next match. This season, Joe Denly’s Kent side will have played 16 first-class matches, eight 50-over matches, 12 Twenty20 matches and eight 40-over matches.
In contrast, Paine’s side, Tasmania, have 10 first-class matches, 10 50-over matches and five Twenty20 matches next season. There isn’t always another chance for Paine and even if there were, he doesn’t need to make a name for himself in the same way as Denly. There are only six first-class sides in Australia, so you don’t need occasional exceptional performances to get noticed. Consistency is noted.
So our two points, which are closely linked, are:
Neither makes for good preparation for international cricket.
We know that many of you spent your childhoods betting how many quail eggs your servants could find in half an hour, but we went to a normal school.
We played football pretty much every day for five years and never once got injured. When England’s cricketers get a football out, it’s like a battle scene from Braveheart. Even Andrew Strauss admits it, saying ‘it gets the blood flowing’.
Joe Denly‘s injured this time, but Matt Prior and James Anderson have also fallen foul of this seemingly life-threatening sport within the last year or so.
Maybe this is what happens when you pit competitive individuals against each other in a sport they can’t play. We move that the ECB force the players to wear huge foam costumes when they warm-up from now on, like from It’s A Knockout.
Joe Denly has been picked in England’s Fewer Overs squads for the arse end of the summer.
This is pretty good. We get the impression England’s selectors have identified him as an attacking opening batsman who’s actually an opening batsman and not just a sloggy all-rounder who has a bit of a go at the job. You need that. You need to actually be a decent batsman if you’re facing Zaheer Khan or Shane Bond.