Specialist Test match batsmen are overrated. Right? They must be, because England have just beaten the number one side in world cricket, with five all-rounders. Half the side are made up of players who certainly do not spend hour upon ceaseless hour with their pads on. Instead they are jack of all trades; batting, bowling, keeping. With only three ‘specialist’ batsmen at Southampton, the hosts squeezed over the line by 60 runs. A juicy test match series has been decided. For all you dummy’s out there. This is how…
45.16 Leagues Under The Sea
Batting wise England still have as many problems as the contestants of Celebrity Big Brother. Actually hang on surely only ‘Celebrity’ should be in inverted commas. And with a small ‘c’. Which of course stands for a multitude of rude words when it comes to Jermaine Pennant. Aside from what Geoffrey Boycott has been watching during his convalescence, our missed Yorkshire tyrant was as cheerful as ever. From lamenting Cook’s downward spiral to haranguing the batting coach, Mark Ramprakash, Boycs was unimpressed. ‘Me Mam could coach this lot better than him, with one hand tied up in her pinny and a stick o’ rhubarb in her hand.’
To be fair to Geoff, I’d champion him as batting coach. Or at the very least chief selector. England have looked as comfortable with bat in hand as Chris Evans did on Top Gear. At least they aren’t as shouty. Flashing cover drives. A distinct lack of mental will and tentative pokes occur in innings. They haven’t scored 400 since the Adelaide test. Jennings and Cook average less than 30 as an opening pair. Frequently they reach 100, four wickets down.
Skipper Root’s form continues to deteriorate. Guilty of playing round his front pad whilst facing Ishant Sharma. That, combined with his razor haircut is enough to put him behind bars. At least in the second innings he stood up to tyrant Bayliss and batted at 4. Albeit sacrificing Moeen in his place. Sometimes the very best generals, have their troops slaughtered. Take General Haig for example. Hang on, might have got my history a bit mixed up there. England must find a 3. Root’s perfect position is 4; keep him happy, he should stay there.
Alternatively Sam Curran could be promoted. After all his average of 45.16 washes over Root’s right now.
Free Ali 3
Making a splash in his comeback to the side was one Moeen Ali. Flipping the fin to his critics, Mo was instrumental in spinning England to victory. Not playing a test in 2018 must’ve been a stinging story. However instead of sinking to the ocean bed, Mo sharpened his teeth and returned with extra bite. Supporting Curran’s 78 in the first innings was crucial in heaving England to a respectable 246. Respectable that is considering they were 36-4 and 86-6. Although he was eroded by the cleverness of Sharma in the second, Moeen took one for the team in protecting Root.
With ball in hand though Moeen Ali is Shamu like in his influence. Last summer against South Africa he achieved the remarkable feat of 25 wickets and over 250 runs. That trickiness of spinning it out of the foot holes was evident over the weekend. Figures of 5-63 and 4-71 do not lie. In England, Moeen Ali is England’s most feared spinner by far. Adil Rashid? Well I think we have to give this one to old Vaughan eh? Rashid’s inclusion was not the masterstroke Ed Smith had hoped. Adil contributed nothing at Lord’s, a couple at Trent Bridge and zero victims here. Might as well be dropped for the final test, as England can experiment. Mind you, not that they haven’t been doing that already!
The Hunt For Red September
That’s two of England’s all-rounder’s dealt with then in this dummy’s guide. Both Curran and Ali were sensational at The Ageas Bowl. But what of the others? Well it appears HMS Bairstow has gone off radar this week. For Jonny Bairstow scored 6 and 0. The psychology of Bairstow is an interesting one, for he relishes wicket keeping. With all the talk of him being promoted up the order and relinquishing the gloves, it appears Bairstow ain’t too keen. Here was a phenomenal chance for him to stake a claim. We all know Jonny can bat; he’s a wonderfully attacking player. Since opening in the ODI side the confidence is there for all to see. But perhaps he’s a tad overzealous.
Certainly the horrendous waft at a straight one from Shami spoke of a man in turmoil. Without the gloves it seems Bairstow was lost in this side. Didn’t have a place. Sinking beneath the ocean waves. Playing like that he’s definitely not a number 4. But what if Jos kept the gloves and Jonny concentrated on batting? Cemented a place at number 5 say? You sense Root and Bayliss need to have a serious chat with him. As a keeper he’s handy; not sensational but decent. Mind you the best wickie in England right now is Surrey’s Ben Foakes; go for the hat trick and let’s have three in the eleven!
Speaking of Jos Buttler. The majestic 69 in the second innings lifted England’s lead to over 200. Unlike Bairstow, it appears he does not panic, nor do anything stupid. A far more circumspect Jos Buttler is what we are currently witnessing. And boy is it working wonders. If a T20 thumper like Buttler can knuckle down and play the longer format, that should be an example to Bairstow and co.
Curran, Moeen, Buttler, Bairstow. Four of the all-rounder’s dealt with. Making it a sweet 5, is Ben Stokes. A man who, not since the Edgbaston test, has been firing on all cylinders. In many respects we shouldn’t condemn Ben. Like his not guilty verdict, with bat in hand he has been innocent of slogging. Or indeed any entertaining shots. However this is an extremely positive reaction to undertake. If Stokesy heaved like a maniac, then Buttler wouldn’t have reached his century at Trent Bridge. Out of the five, Ben Stokes has been the most cautious. More Marlin, than Nemo if you like.
Swimming With The Currant
With a few tightening of the screws these England all-rounders might just be the way forward. As cricket becomes increasingly focused on limited overs, why not attempt to be more attacking in the test arena? Add in Chris Woakes and 6 of England’s XI are multi taskers. Yes they’re not perfect right now, but they are the main reason why England have just pulled off victory over India. Of course you throw in the wizardry of Jimmy and aggression of Broad, but everyone else has been flat.
Gone are the gritty players, such as Jonathon Trott or Rahul Dravid. There might still be the odd one or two, like Pujara, who play the ‘old fashioned’ way but this is not England’s policy. If it were, then Rory Burns would have been opening a long time ago.
But he hasn’t and probably never will. So let’s all embrace the Smithion way of thinking and f**k it.
Play every all-rounder and get swimming with the currant!