S.N. Don's blog

A step in the right direction

Why does everyone in the media go completely overboard whenever England play? Fast rewind back to the tour of Sri Lanka last year and a resounding 3-0 test series win and what were we told? Ben Foakes was the top run scorer on either side as well as being more than capable behind the stumps; Keaton Jennings, after a promising start, fell away; Jonny Bairstow, with a century batting at number 3 solved that particular problem slot in the batting line up. Very little was said about the preparation before the Test Series as England comprehensively swept aside the poorest Sri Lankan side for many years.

Fast forward to the New Year and the tour of the Caribbean and how has the media reacted? The preparation was nowhere near good enough as was highlighted by the team selection for the first Test. Sam Curran, albeit a hugely talented youngster, just does not have the physical presence to thunder down deliveries in the region of 90mph. This was compounded by the selection of two spinners which would never have happened had there been better preparation before the test series began.

Having been taken to the cleaners in the first Test, the changes made were the dropping of Keaton Jennings for Joe Denly and Adil Rashid making way for Stuart Broad. A crushing defeat inside three days had everyone bemoaning everything about English cricket. It’s an old theme but if you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail still stands true.

The excellent Simon Hughes on Twitter picked up on an article attributed to Micky Arthur regarding the way forward for future touring sides. I remarked that whereas we all knew what the problem was, what was the solution. Simon’s reply was that there needs to be two 4-day fixtures against recognised opposition and a further 4-day game against the host’s A side. It’s all well and good to have more meaningful tour fixtures and this is where the ICC must get involved. If this approach is adopted globally, the ICC need to ensure that the sides selected by the hosts provides a proper acclimatisation exercise for the tourists. Too many times in recent years, practise matches have taken on more of a Sunday stroll feeling. These games just have to be competitive.

This summer, it’s the Ashes. Australia will prepare by playing one game against their own A team. England meanwhile, have arranged a Test match with Ireland.

Three days into the final Test against the Windies and England appear to have learnt something from the first two Tests but not without considerable head scratching. What had Ben Foakes done to deserve being dropped in place of Jonny Bairstow? What sort of message does recalling Keaton Jennings send out after he was dropped for the second Test? It’s not as if he had the chance of a practise match between the two Tests. Couldn’t the selectors have chosen to keep Joe Denly as opener and brought in Jennings at 3? Then throw in the suspension of Jason Holder and the third Test being a dead rubber, it is not surprising that the intensity shown by the Windies in the first two Tests has tailed off.

The latest player to be given world class status by the media is Mark Wood. All the praise based on 8 overs of fast bowling. Don’t get me wrong but one of the best sights in Test cricket is seeing a truly fast bowler working over top order batsmen with pace and purpose. But why did it take until the third Test to give Wood his chance?

Thankfully, at first glance at County Championship fixtures this summer, there will be more of an opportunity for players on the County circuit to put their collective hands up and say “Select ME!” by having a lot more fixtures in June and July.

Perhaps, by the time the Ashes starts, Jonny Bairstow will have worked out where his off stump is.

S.N. Don

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