Which England pace bowler will throw the biggest strop if he isn’t picked for the Third Test?

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The ‘nice problem to have’ cliché klaxon is ringing out deafeningly this week. England need to take two full seam attacks and turn them into one.

Three of the six pace bowlers to have appeared in this series so far will be selected for the third Test and three of them won’t.

Three will be happy. Three won’t.

Some of those who won’t be happy will throw full-on hissy fits.

Who will throw the biggest strop if he isn’t picked?


What we need to look at here is each player’s innate narkiness – their predisposition towards throwing a wobbler, no matter what the circumstances. We then need to factor in that player’s justification for doing so in this specific instance because righteous anger is of course the most powerful form of anger.

If we can find a colossal mard-arse with a strong and legitimate case for dispatching their toys from their pram, that’s our guy.

Let’s go in reverse alphabetical order. (It has to be said, this group of bowlers doesn’t spread itself around the alphabet very evenly.)

Mark Wood

Innate narkiness: Wood is an emotional man. At times he brings to mind an actress from the early years of Hollyoaks who we always referred to as “Overreaction Girl”. (We’ve no idea who it was and can’t be bothered finding out.) Wood’s is a short-lived combustibility though. As Roy Batty taught us, the light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long and Wood’s emotions burn so very, very brightly. (‘Roy Batty’ is the greatest character name in the history of science fiction, by the way. Sounds like a shopkeeper from Corrie; is in fact a Nexus-6 combat model replicant.)

Justification: Mark Wood doesn’t play Tests often, but he’s been man of the match in two of his last four, a period during which he’s generally bowled quicker than any England player ever. His record in England is fairly toss though.

Score: 9/20 (3 for narkiness, 6 for justification)

Chris Woakes

Innate narkiness: Even his beards are agreeable.

Justification: Bowled effectively if unspectacularly in the second Test. Bowls effectively if unspectacularly pretty much every time he plays in England. (He actually averages less than Stuart Broad and James Anderson in home conditions. Set against that, he doesn’t especially do anything that someone else doesn’t already do though.

Score: 8/20 (1 for narkiness, 7 for justification)

Sam Curran

Innate narkiness: Hard to say really, but he does look very serious when he plays. He definitely has a stroppy air about him.

Justification: Punches above his weight so consistently that eventually we’re going to have to ask him to step on the scales again. Bustling 79mph left arm swing shouldn’t really deliver much. But somehow it does – and England pretty much always win when he plays. Curran must be among the most annoying bowlers to face in world cricket.

Score: 13/20 (7 for narkiness and 6 for justification)

Stuart Broad

Innate narkiness: Well it’s Stuart Broad, isn’t it. We’re tempted to give him 11 but actually we’re going to go the other way because his is often a controlled – perhaps even calculated – stroppiness. (See his first Test interview or his career-long dealings with umpires and opposition.)

Justification: 491 Test wickets and he also made several decisive interventions in the second Test. 14 wickets at 19.42 in England’s previous series in South Africa. David Warner on toast in the last home summer.

Score: 19/20 (9 for narkiness, 10 for justification)

Jofra Archer

Innate narkiness: To say he has more edge about him than Woakes would be to say very little. To say he has about three times as much edge is still saying very little, but that’s what we’re going with.

Justification: Unique in that he can fill in for Broad or Anderson as a controlled opening bowler, but also for Wood as a first-change fast bowler. The best bowler in the last innings he bowled in. Anderson is the only one of this lot who averages less than him in Tests.

Score: 11/20 (3 for narkiness, 8 for justification)

James Anderson

Innate narkiness: Pure grumpy.

Justification: England’s best bowler. Ever. There are still zero signs that he’s deteriorating with age and honestly, if you put your mind to it, you could probably make a reasonable case that he’s actually still improving.

Score: 30/20 (10 for narkiness, 10 for justification and a bonus 10 if he’s forced to sit and watch two consecutive Tests at a ground where they’ve NAMED A FRIGGING END AFTER HIM.


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  1. Going by score you end up with Anderson, Broad, and Curran. That feels a bit fast-medium (apart from Curran who’s slower).

    Does narkiness increase with decreasing speed? I think we need scientific confirmation.

  2. There are some special circumstances here, Archer probably needs some points taken off because it’s going to be more socially awkward for him to bemoan his hypothetical leaving out bearing in mind the naughty thing he did to miss the second Test (which he apparently wouldn’t have been selected for anyway).

    Also what about the bowlers who have been in the bubble for weeks but not played yet? That must also be annoying especially on a “the next one is my turn” basis, though I don’t think England really have a third pace attack ready to go, at least not one they’d play for a decider.

  3. Not that this is one of your more serious think-pieces, but I think you’re being too harsh on Woakes and a bit too kind to Anderson: he seemed fairly innocuous at Southampton (though he did admittedly bowl a lot of good balls). Anyway, if the batsmen manage to score around 400 again, and it doesn’t rain, then they’ll probably be able to manage a win whoever they pick.

    1. You’re picking players overwhelmingly based on their most recent Test appearance? You’re in the wrong era!

      1. Hah. I see what you did there… But no, not really. Just his injury record isn’t great recently and he just seemed a bit “past it” in the last match (I know you shouldn’t judge on one game, and a ‘proper’ Anderson is an automatic selection. I just felt that Woakes wouldn’t have deserved to miss out for Anderson. As it happens they seem to have used Anderson to replace Crawley so it doesn’t matter!

  4. Anderson’s grouchiness seems to be mostly on the field of play (or on the stairs leading from it, if I remember rightly). Off the field he has more of a slightly shy good grace. Mind you, that is in the context of his always getting picked and interviewers universally treating him with a kind of nervous difference. I suspect if he was dropped when fit and fresh for a home test the goaded by Key, your score might be justified.

    1. We would consider ‘being denied the field of play’ a ‘field of play’ scenario.

  5. I’d pick them all. All the batsmen are useless anyway so let’s just have all the bowlers. Broad’s going to get promoted to #6 though, hope he’s ready.

    1. I don’t think you were too far off daneel…

      Stokes at 4? Woakes at 7?

      Maybe it’s a Met Office selection policy, but still…

  6. Funnily enough, when Daisy and I discussed the alternative question, “which three pace bowlers would you choose to play in the forthcoming test”, my choices were Anderson, Broad & Curran, for cricketing reasons.

    Anderson & Broad quite simply should both play in a series decider at Old Trafford.

    I’m not convinced that sheer pace is going to achieve much on that ground at the moment – the weather simply hasn’t been dry enough – unless the pitch chosen for the 3rd test looks significantly bouncier and dryer than that for the 2nd test.

    Spin is likely to play a part, though, so Curran making some rough for Bess makes sense. I also think the left arm pace bowler does add some variety to the attack, even if he is mere medium-fast rather than fast-medium.

    My opinion might change if Stokes is deemed to be unfit to bowl. Then you might need to forego Curran and choose one of the “out and out quicks”.

    All this is mighty harsh on Chris Woakes for the reasons set out so eloquently by KC above. What a luxury it is to have an attack from which it seems almost inevitable that a player of Chris Woakes’s quality is likely to miss out. In most cricketing eras during my lifetime, his name would have been one of the first to be inked onto the team sheet.

  7. What has Jack Leach done to offend the selectors? Bess was toss in the last game from what I saw. And they’ve got ten right-handers.

    1. That’s about right for the general population. Left-handers have been over-represented in cricket for too long, and it’s about time that some fairness was established.

      Next targets, shortness, fitness, and lack of cricket ability. Together we can make cricket truly representative.

      1. Doing my bit by turning out for my local 3rd XI this weekend.

        I haven’t played for five years.

        I think I might die.

      2. One in the eye for the lefties with Curran and Leach on the sidelines.

        But joy and rapture for followers of rotund cricketers everywhere, as we get to see Cornwall on our own shores.

      3. Good luck Sam, I look forward to the detailed match report (probably in the lead-up to the next Ashes Test, given usual publication timings….)

    1. Cornwall is exceeding my already high hopes for how he’d be since I’ve seen live footage of him.

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