The England cricket team is slightly diseased

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We’re not sure what the disease is called. Nor can we tell whether it’s a mild virus that you soon overcome or a more serious illness, like rigor mortis.

Either way, symptoms include caution, timidity and a fear of failure. Observing these qualities, relatives yearn for the patient to display freedom of expression – although this also often results in their pleading for what would, in normal circumstances, be considered recklessness.

A sickly morning

In the morning, the top three of Cook, Trott and Ballance looked to have the capacity for frozen shotlessness. But it is a question of degrees. In other circumstances, on another day, it might not be a problem at all. Strauss, Cook and Trott usually proved rather productive, for example.

The issue, instead, seems to be that players, whether naturally attack-minded or of a more patient nature, often seem disinclined to take the initiative. There is an air of paralysis surrounding all involved and the medically-minded among you will know that paralysis cannot be treated by simply asking the patient to move.

So how do you free up a team like England? Most people call for the inclusion of players who they consider to be freewheeling risk-takers. It seldom works. Either they’re flavour of the month and not up to standard or they’re eventually picked on for wilfully unravelling the carefully woven platforms bequeathed to them by their colleagues.

Soon enough everyone’s playing responsibly because at least it looks right. To lose responsibly is the aim of a fool.

Just go out and whack it

You can’t tell a player to ‘go out and whack it’. You first have to tell them that if they go out and miswhack, they’ll keep their place in the team. Second of all, you have to somehow convince them that what you just told them is the truth.

Peter Moores is fighting to keep his job. Alastair Cook is fighting to keep his. They need people to succeed right now. They can’t really afford failure today in the pursuit of success tomorrow. For them, whatever they may say to the contrary, “don’t throw it away” will be the subtext.

We have sympathy. They’re being asked to produce a viable long-term plan knowing they’ll be judged on what happens in the next three weeks.


Fortunately for them, Joe Root’s still in the team. Joe Root ain’t getting dropped, so he can play how he likes. After overcoming Ashes paralysis, Root appears to have resolved that such a thing will never happen again. Ian Bell’s pretty secure in his place too. Let him get warmed up and he’s not afraid to try and hit the odd four. And Ben Stokes hasn’t been dragged into conservatism just yet. Nor Jos Buttler.

Perhaps if these sorts of players can do okay, England can get some wins and if they get some wins, maybe the surfeit of black bile that is the cause of the illness will ebb away. Who knows, a fit and healthy England might be a different beast.


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


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  1. Sending out a nightwatchman for one over to protect the wicketkeeper – what do you make of that? Tactical masterstroke or further evidence of bilious black malaise?

    1. The important thing is that he didn’t need to face a ball, so it’s actually just funny.

    2. I think he has maybe been sent in as early-morning watchman, in case of ball nipping around early in day-2
      maybe (as some suggested in twitter) he was sent in to protect Butler from being Mankaded
      Butler wants to play the finisher like Dhoni

    3. I think it was an attempt to rile everyone enough that we would all write and read about that rather than the fact that England’s top 3 scoring 21 runs between them.

  2. Early-morning watchman makes sense I guess. At the very least, it shows some willingness by England to be flexible with the batting order, which they failed to do at any point during the WC, IIRC. The evening session run rate of 5.62 exceeded most of their batting performances there as well…

  3. just noticed this…

    the ads for King Cricket Mug/T-Shirt, at the bottom, seem to be missing. Instead there is a link to Gideon Haigh’s book on Warne

  4. The issue that I have is the choice of watchman rather than the use of a watchman.

    Tredwell is a grinder of a “bowler who can bat a bit, so his morning role is unlikely to morph into attacking.

    Chris Jordan, for example, might well develop into a bowling all-rounder and his use as watchman might be seen as developmental and even slightly attacking.

    Mind you, Tredwell has a test average of 37 before this match, so might be described as the Ashford Atherton. [Warning to statos, it might be argued that a rather small sample is involved in that last stat].

    1. England have used Jimmy in the role for ages. Where do “bowlers who can’t bat a bit, not unless the pitch is an absolute flatty anyway” come in?

    2. Using Jimmy in that role is precisely the “negative watchman” approach that I dislike.

      Matthew Hoggard, one of Jimmy’s predecessors in that role, was another such.

      Super fellas. Super bowlers. Dreadful watchmen.

      In a film trailer voice: “Mr Magoo IS The Nightwatchman.”

  5. Other positives to take away from this innings include the precise nature of the fall of wickets: 1-1 (Trott, 0.5 overs), 2-22 (Cook, 7.6 overs), 3-34 (Ballance, 16.5 overs), 4-211 (Root, 63.2 overs). England doing quite decently on most accounts.

    1. Today, meanwhile: 357-6, 357-7, 361-8, 361-9

      I can only conclude that batting isn’t quite as easy today.

  6. Based on the available evidence, I would say that England have fixed exactly two thirds of their problems. Specifically, afternoon and evening sessions seem to be perfectly OK. But mornings… there is a whole different story.

    What this will mean is that opposition captains, on winning the toss, will immediately put England in to bat. As this is what they will do themselves when winning the toss, it means we will bat first in every test. The idea will be to try to ensure England don’t get to bat in the afternoon or evening sessions, a tactic I think will be successful about half the time.

  7. Are there really only 9 batsmen better than Broad in this team?

    Is it time for a designated hitter rule in cricket?

  8. The squad seems to be an opening batsman short (or possibly two given Cooks form). At least Root, Bell and Stokes all look solid.
    Looking forward 3 months I wouldn’t be surprised if KP comes back into the team at Edgbaston with England 1-0 down. Throw in someone like Sam Robson and you would have a solid batting lineup with a good mix of youth and experience.

    1. Hmm, Robson needs to find some form in a hurry. I saw both dismissals at Lord’s over the past couple of days and they were both sorry ones for an opener.

      KP is a long way down the pecking order still and remember the value we place on Division 2 runs. As for runs against (with all due respect) students…I also cannot believe that KP’s PR campaign, including his own tweets, are endearing him to the ECB – new brushes or no.

      Not very Glen McGrath, wolf, expecting England to be only 1-0 down come The Edge.

  9. It’s good to see that in the absence of Paul Collingwod we have another player who puts an emphasis on his fielding. Ladies and gentleman, fresh from the Grauniad, I present this quote from Mr Chris Jordan:

    “Yes, I stay very low,” he explained. “ I try to do this against seam or spin because it is easier to go from low to high rather than the other way round. For many the tendency is to stand up too early. I try to work really hard on my catching, as hard as I do on batting and bowling.”

    1. I hope that people don’t forget that Jordan essentially took two wickets yesterday.

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