the wrong 'un

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bowl selector

In a perfect world, a cricket team would consist of five batsmen, a wicketkeeper, and five bowlers. Pragmatism then takes over, and selectors insist on at least two of the bowlers plus the wicketkeeper being able to wield a bat in a productive fashion, to give that all-important balance to a lineup. This leaves the England selectors with a problem ahead of the Ashes series. Of the bowlers likely to feature, Harmison, Hoggard and Panesar are shoe-ins for positions nine, ten and eleven, and none of the other possible seam bowlers (Plunkett, Mahmood, Anderson and Lewis) have shown any particular aptitude with the willow, despite some ludicrously extravangant claims on behalf of the first two, that have been shown this summer to be presumtuous in the extreme. I think all England supporters would be wary of a team that had Read or Jones at seven, then four rabbits.

My solution would be to play a batting all-rounder at seven, who would need to be able to bowl ten to fifteen overs in an innings without being a liability, but who need not necessarily be expected to be a wicket taking force. The possible candidates for this slot could be Clarke, Dalrymple, Yardy or Loudon. Loudon seems to have slipped out of contention since last winter, and his bowling would probably be the weakest of the four. Clarke had the opportunity during the one-day series, but failed to make any impression with the bat, ball, or in the field. This leaves Dalrymple and Yardy, both of whom exceeded expectations in the same tournament. A brief perusal of the years averages tells me that Yardy barely bowls in first class cricket, a mere 40 overs this year, Loudon's batting average is a paltry 27, and Clarke has easily the best batting numbers (over a thousand runs at 57), albeit in a weaker division than the other three.

My suggestion would be to play Dalrymple at Sydney and Adelaide, where the pitches are reputed to spin, (and any other possible bunsen burner the Aussies have in store), and Clarke for the other tests. Unusually for a England spinner of recent vintage (Monty apart), JD spins the ball significantly, and although the Aussie batsmen would attempt to get after him, it is much harder to do against a turning ball. Clarke is the superior batsman, and except perhaps on a swinging track, I can't see him posing a great threat with the ball, although as I pointed out above, that need not matter when his job would be to lock up an end for five or six overs at a time to give the others bowlers a breather.

A fifth specialist bowler is a luxury this England side cannot afford.

Oh, and the ICC Champions Trophy is imminent. If it's as exciting as the last one won by [insert winners here] at [insert venue here], won't it be great!

UPDATE: Oh, what's the bloody point.


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