Simon Hughes in The Daily Telegraph
Alastair Cook insists he and returning head coach Peter Moores will be free to forge a new England without undue influence from Andy Flower. Moores, who was sacked from the same job in 2009 after less than two years in charge, will join captain Cook in attempting to reinvigorate a side that has limped to the lowest of ebbs this winter. The task in front of the pair is a sizeable one, with a raft of decorated senior players having exited the stage and a winter of dreadful results – including an Ashes whitewash – to put right.
Flower, having resigned from his role as team director following the debacle Down Under, remains on the England and Wales Cricket Board’s payroll and enjoys good relations with both Cook and Moores, under whom he worked as batting coach before inheriting the top job.The exact scope of Flower’s new post, technical director of elite coaching, is not yet clear but Cook is clear that the rebuilding of the senior England side will be squarely down to him and Moores. So who will they cast their eyes over?
Bloggers step forth
Samuel Honywill • 3 days ago
I reckon there’s some great talent out there that we could forge an exciting team with, but I have little faith that the set-up & leadership will do that. Willing to be proven otherwise, but nothing Downton has done so far fills me with confidence, and Cook’s captaincy seems designed to destroy the confidence of young bowlers. Hope he’s spent his time off talking to the likes of Brearley and Vaughan on the art of captaincy. Mini-rant over, some babbling, incoherent thoughts on the Test side only: the limited overs ones would require their own essay!
Robson the only real stand-out currently, although there are still five rounds before the Tests start yet so plenty of time for others to put their hands up. After his winter with the Lions though it would appear he’s ready. Would love to see a more aggressive player come through with a big season, like Lyth or Hales if Mick Newell actually backs him – a massive part of England’s struggles in Australia came from the inaction of the top order squeezing the life out of the middle and an opener more willing to shift some pressure back on to the bowlers would help free up the entire line-up, Cook included. That said it would be difficult to argue with Robson being picked. Deserves his chance, especially as it would annoy the Aussies!
Bell bats at three for mine and is encouraged to put his stamp on the game – his problem in the past at 3 & 4 has been seemingly going into his shell trying to bat more ‘responsibly’, not playing with the same freedom he tends to at 5 & 6. There are more ways than just dropping your strike rate and leaving short wide ones that should be being spanked for four to show you’re taking responsibility – get out there and play like we know you can, Belly. Ballance takes one spot and I’d go with Taylor for the other, although Root is almost certainly inked in. That’s OK as long as he bats at 4 or 5 rather than in the top 3, but it’s worth remembering he was dropped after being exposed by the Aussie seamers – he should have to work harder to get back in the side. Can certainly counter that by saying he shouldn’t really have been dropped in the first place however, and the management didn’t help him, or indeed Bell, by putting him at 3. Vince is the one I’m keeping an eye on closely – has started the season in fine form and brings the enforcing, aggressive approach we’ll lack in the absence of KP. Stokes a shoe-in at 6 if fit – if not you can either go for a like-for-like in Woakes, Moeen to provide a spin option and allowing the extra seamer or just another batsman, meaning all of Ballance, Root & Taylor could play.
In an ideal world Prior comes back in, but his injury concerns are getting worse: not only has his achilles flared up but it’s kept him from actually keeping wicket so far this season. Considering his form with the gloves as well as the bat was a major reason in getting him dropped, it’s a big deal. Can’t pick him unless he gets back behind the stumps. Davies or Kieswetter would be the prudent choices in the interim: both fine players and like to get a shuffle on, Davies the better keeper of the two but Kiesy the slightly less infuriating batsman and an ever improving gloveman. Buttler is tempting though, and I’d love to see him striding out and flaying a tired attack to all parts of the ground. Quiet word for Adam Wheater, a dark horse: glovework is again ever improving but his batting is as destructive as anyone going around. In a side depriving itself of KP’s firepower it does need to be made up elsewhere.
Er… difficult! Quietly a very encouraging performance from Kerrigan against Warwickshire this week: defending a small target and with the batsmen coming at him he held his nerve, and with his county coach taking the reigns he may well feel more comfortable in the England set up. I really like Borthwick but he doesn’t get enough overs – ideally needs a move away from Chester-le-Street to a home pitch that doesn’t render him irrelevant. He isn’t yet a batsman who bowls but he’s on that path. Rashid a possibility too, although it’s difficult to say he’s a better bowler now than he was when originally picked and discarded by England. I hope Moeen is not considered as a spinner who bats – he’s better than a part time bowler, but that puts him into all-rounder territory and therefore in competition with Stokes, who I don’t think he gets in ahead of. I also don’t think he’s otherwise one of the best five batsmen in England to get in ahead of anyone else and looked some way out of his depth in the WT20, although he wasn’t alone in that to be fair! Panesar either needs to be fully embraced or moved on from and Tredwell’s just been dropped from first class cricket by Kent so is not a realistic option. Long term I’d be looking towards Craddock, Rafiq and Sayer, who all look great prospects. For now though, it’s far more difficult.
Rosier. Jordan hopefully ensures we don’t see Bresnan again, who has never been the same bowler since his elbow injury and has only gotten worse in recent months. Anderson a shoe-in for a home summer, although he’s possibly no longer the leader of the attack. A lot hinges on Broad’s fitness: I know his knees are a major concern and he seemed quite downbeat about his prospects of playing much in the early summer after the WT20. If he is his batting ability combined with Jordan’s means that I’d be much more comfortable picking Kerrigan or Panesar as spinner (whatever anyone says about batsman batting and bowlers bowling, a massive part in England’s decline has been their lack of lower order runs – it was one of the major differences between them and Australia this winter). If he’s not, I’d look to Borthwick or Rashid to stiffen the lower order batting and throw in one of the young quicks. None of this ‘they have to learn their game’ guff – everything needs a freshen up, time to practice what they’re preaching in their constant invoking of Stuart Lancaster. He hasn’t been afraid to throw in youngsters – Ford, Nowell, Launchbury, the Vunipolas – and he’s been rewarded. Dunn was mightily impressive against Essex, Mills has been so far too, whilst I rate Mark Wood highly and Meaker should be back in the frame now he’s fit. Finn should be left alone to bowl and bowl and bowl – it’s encouraging to see him back in the wickets but he without fail goes back to Middlesex and takes said wickets when not on England duty. I’d prefer him to work his way back into rhythm without England stepping back in and potentially destroying his confidence again. I’d be looking to get him involved for the West Indies tour or the limited overs games against India later in the summer.
Sorry for the essay! Basically, I think my side, assuming everyone’s fit, would look something like:
Cook, Robson, Bell, Taylor, Ballance, Stokes, Buttler, Jordan, Broad, Kerrigan, Anderson
Which, given all the pronouncements over the past few months, doesn’t look half bad. For me it’s not necessarily the personnel but the style: I want to see more positive cricket being played.
Evan • 3 days ago
Cook is playing very well, as is Compton. And I think Kieswetter deserves a chance as a specialist batsman, or even to push Prior. I’m actually hoping that Moores will operate like Stuart Lancaster and pick from relative obscurity. Some of the youngsters are fearless, and not already cosy in the England coterie
matt_h88 Evan • 2 days ago
As purely a batsman, Kieswetter isn’t scoring the weight of runs that the likes of Taylor and Ballance have been getting over the past few years.
He is a good batsman though – him and Davies should be the only viable alternatives to Prior.
Evan matt_h88 • 2 days ago
He’s on form this year tho isn’t he?
matt_h88 Evan • 2 days ago
A couple of fifties so far. Puts him in contention for the WK position considering Prior’s Achilles is playing up, but not a specialist batting position.
dant83 • 3 days ago
I would play:
Compton scored a hundred yesterday and deserves a crack at no.3 in my opinion. I wouldn’t risk putting Bell or Root there. Stokes lost a lot of the credit he gained in the Ashes during the 1 day series but still gets back in if fit, not convinced that he is a test no.6 long term though.
Spin is a concern, I would reluctantly stick with Monty until someone better comes along. Alternatively, go 4 pacemen and play Ali to provide a spin option alongside Root.
Evan dant83 • 3 days ago
And Moeen should definitely play instead of Monty
borishater • 4 days ago
Not much of a choice, the cupboard is exceedingly bare, both for decent players and especially for decent MANAGEMENT
Max • 4 days ago
England are rubbish.
Stef Papenfuss • 4 days ago
Against Sri Lanka you guys already picked Farbrace. You are set for an easy series win and by that to forget the whole KP affair.
matt_h88 • 4 days ago
01 Cook – despite poor captaincy, our best opening batsman
02 Robson – can’t argue with the volume of runs he is scoring, though Aussie background is disconcerting
03 Bell – time to play #3, where he scored a double ton against India at 3 a few years ago
04 Root – more of a touch player than the previous #4 but his adaptability a good skill
05 Taylor/Ballance – undecided atm, big fan of Taylor who scores big runs for Leics/Notts/Lions, but Ballance has started season with a century and also has an impressive record. Both play if Root’s finger doesn’t heal.
06 Stokes – good Ashes but lost form in one-dayers where his role isn’t clear. If unfit then Woakes is a like-for-like replacement.
07 Prior – good to see him start Sussex season with a century. Buttler needs more Championship cricket, so Davies the next best if Prior’s Achilles rules him out.
08 Jordan – looks a decent find and although I’m not sure about his long term place with Finn to come back, he could do a job this summer.
09 Broad – best bowler in Australia, we need him fully fit otherwise Finn can return.
10 Anderson – also need him fully fit as he’s appeared fatigued since Trent Bridge. Still leader of the attack and will want to finish as our top Test wicket taker.
11 ??? The main problem area. Could be a spinner. Kerrigan has the best domestic record but could be taken apart by Sangakkara and Jayawardene, Tredwell has been dropped by Kent, Panesar troubled and a poor fielder, Borthwick doesn’t have the control. Spinners generally are untrusted by Cook. Alternative is to go with Ali as an extra batsman or can fill in, or go all-pace with Onions.
With the amount of places up for grabs, I imagine that most people’s teams will differ in some way!
Alex Peake • 4 days ago
On current form (both international and county):
1. Cook (only because he’s captain. If it were me, I wouldn’t have him in the side)
2. Robson (young, and very exciting, as Hughes says, needs to improve front foot)
3, Bell (Root is too fragile to be coming in at 3, Bell is the best batsman in the England side, now that Pietersen is gone)
4. Root (needs to imrpove on front foot, but still a good prospect for the future)
5. Morgan (done more than enough to warrent another crack, scapegoat in UAE, been playing well for England and Middlesex for a long time now)
6. Buttler (has to overtake Davies, but explosive batting puts him above Prior)
7. Stokes (along with Buttler and Jordan, only glimmer of hope from Ashes. Needs to calm down, then again a bit of anger is what we need right now)
8. Broad (England’s best player in Australia. Just keep doing what you’re doing)
9. Jordan (needs to up his pace a little. But still a good foil for Broad and Anderson)
10. Anderson (only gets in because of ability in English conditions, but India will hopefully be his last series)
11. Onions (cannot believe he was not taken on the Ashes. Not exactly a gamble in English conditions)
Others in contention:
Finn (needs more time to build up confidence, but starting to look like his old self. Needs to up pace again, and ignore everything that Saker tells him)
Ali (played quite well against WI and in the WC, and has shown good form over the past few seasons)
Compton (age slightly against him, but must still feel like he’s in with a chance)
Taylor (played pretty well against Middlesex against aggressive bowling from Finn, Harris and Murtagh)
Ballance (looked pretty good in Australia. Played well so far this season 77 and 174 in first two matches)
Woakes (played well on Lions tour, and adds another all rounder dimension, if Stokes punches another locker, he’s my pick for 7)
Borthwick (only a slightly better economy rate than Kerrigan from their respective Tests. But played well on Lions tour)
Carberry (was excited for him in Australia. But he builds pressure on himself. Very good innings against Gloucestershire. Just ahead of Compton)
I am only including a token spinner here. No one looks that promising. WIth Stokes as a 5th seamer, and Root improving as an extra spinner, Robson as an occasional leg-break and Ali bowling well against WI and during the WC, I don’t think we should have a spinner if they aren’t ready, which it appears no one is.
That 5, 6, 7 of Morgan, Buttler and Stokes could be what England need in terms of getting quick runs later on in the innings. Morgan and Buttler play 360 and can move the field round, while taking the pressure off the likes of Root or Stokes.
I see Cook getting runs against Sri Lanka. Their pace attack isn’t much to look at, and it will be English conditions. Maybe this will help him relax. England played well in India when he was getting runs.
Frankly I see England either drawing, or winning unconvincingly 1-0 against Sri Lanka, and maybe 2-1, 3-0 against India. For all of India’s batting strength. Their bowling outside of India is largely ineffective. Though against England’s batting lineup as it is currently (not my selection), would be interesting.
Samuel Honywill Alex Peake • 3 days ago
‘Been playing well for Middlesex for a long time now.’
Morgan’s 80 last week was his highest score for Middlesex since 2009.
matt_h88 Alex Peake • 4 days ago
Cook scored a 170+ last week and is currently is 100 not out. He’s in form again now and, despite what’s gone on over the past 6 months, still has more Test centuries than any England player past or present. He has to play.
“5. Morgan (done more than enough to warrent another crack, scapegoat in UAE, been playing well for England and Middlesex for a long time now)”
Disagree with this. He has barely played for Middlesex and when he does, he hasn’t scored much. Last week’s 80 was his best Championship score in several years. Hardly banging down the door is it. As for the UAE tour, he was brought into the Test team because of his ability against spin and looked pretty clueless, the difference between white and red ball being too much. Our senior batsman in the ODI team, I wouldn’t want to affect his form in the short formats by trying to make a Test cricketer out of him. Meanwhile, Taylor and Ballance have been scoring loads of runs, season after season, for their counties and the Lions – one of them deserves a proper go.
I’d have Prior ahead of Buttler who I do not feel is ready. Not enough first-class experience with the gloves and not reliable enough with the bat. But he is young and exciting (and a must-pick in the ODI/T20 teams) and may well play Test cricket in future, but I’d give him the season at Lancashire to hone his skills.
Ali was poor in the World T20 but it is his weakest format and shouldn’t affect Test standing. An interesting Test prospect, if he can keep scoring runs for Worcs (inconsistency has been his downfall in previous years). Borthwick barely bowled on the Lions tour – it would be madness to pick him again. Kerrigan is known to Moores and may get another chance, but lack of batting ability may hurt him (Anderson, Finn/Onions and Kerrigan all #11s).
But other than that, some good observations. We can’t always agree!
Evan matt_h88 • 3 days ago
Kieswetter should be in as a specialist batsman and could take Morgans slot. He’s been batting well and might even push Prior. Buttler will likely be better placed later in the year after learning the gloves more consistently at his new county as you suggest. And Moeen must play, and must work hard on his bowling too as a complement to the batting skills he most definitely has
Alex Peake matt_h88 • 4 days ago
Hmm I guess we’ll have to disagree about Morgan.
The Buttler/Prior call was a bit contentious, you are right that Buttler hasn’t had enough time behind the stumps, but I just think that Prior is so shot, and if we’re going to start moving people on, we need energy behind the stumps, and Buttler certainly provided that in Aus and the WI.
Ali does look good in the 4 day format doesn’t he, and his bowling will be a big help, along with Root and Stokes.
I don’t think any of our spin bowlers are ready, or deserve a Test place, based on international and county form. Tredwell bowled well in the WC, but he was largely ineffective during last year’s county season.
Robert Puddy matt_h88 • 4 days ago
I agree with you about Morgan, (mostly) My feeling is though he would make a great captain if cook is ever released from that role. So I’d be tempted to give him a go this summer
BRUCE • 4 days ago
Jonas anders • 4 days ago
Batting line up should be:
SABlogger • 4 days ago
A word about Adil. He is 26 now and desperately needs to take a step up. A leggy
with huge potential and the lad can bat. Give the Yorkshire man a break. Inclusion of Anderson and Prior will depend on their mental condition. Stokes unlucky not to be there.
No11 SABlogger • 4 days ago
Taylor is good. Rashid has failed to train on. Finn, yes, pls, Onions, where he? Spinners? See none yet ready.
We need another opener and none of the above, IMO, is him.
matt_h88 SABlogger • 4 days ago
Rashid barely bowls for Yorkshire these days. Good batsman though.
Stokes plays at 6 if fit.
Vian SABlogger • 4 days ago
Stokes would be more than unlucky to be left out, it would be perverse. Along with Broad, he’s the only one to come out of the winter shambles with any credit.
Samuel Honywill Vian • 3 days ago
This idea that he’s not a certainty for the first test of the summer, fitness permitting, baffles me.