This summer’s cricket has been so entertaining, it is worth pausing a while to appreciate it. It’s all very well watching England consistently thrashing weak opposition, and as England supporters we want to see victories, but sport is also entertainment. The back and forth of this series has been really enjoyable to watch. That’s not to say we should ignore the warning signs ahead of the Ashes, of course.
We know our top order isn’t as stable as it needs to be and the middle order has been beset by injuries and withdrawals. Our bowling attack still struggles for variety and backup plans and the team management hasn’t worked out the right spin option.
It seems that Leach is uncertain to play at Old Trafford which suggests there is no intention to take him to Australia. That seems a shame, as Moeen got tonked at The Oval and while remaining a totally likeable player, he hasn’t exactly nailed himself in as the front line solo spinner.
Conversely, Jos Buttler’s return to the side has been confirmed and this one is also tricky. Buttler missed the last Test to be present for the birth of his second daughter, Maggie – congratulations to Jos and Louise on her safe arrival! Totally behind that decision and the plan to bring him straight back in. Except that he has intimated that he may make himself unavailable for the Ashes tour. Again, totally respectable decision: to be honest and as I think I have written before, I think the tour should be postponed or played in a neutral venue. It just isn’t fair or right for the England team and entourage (and still possibly the players’ families) to enter Australia when so many Australian citizens have been barred from returning home for over 18 months.
The most emotionally charged selection decision has to be whether or not to play James Anderson. At Lord’s this summer I was acutely aware I could be watching the great man play for the last time. Anderson is almost certainly going to Australia, which means there is every chance of him playing again at home next summer, but you just never know. You can argue that sport is no place for sentimentality but as far as I am concerned Jimmy gets to pick when he plays and when he rests.
I am optimistic about this final Test and the evening up of the series, if only because India seem to be almost as mercurial as us. It’s been great to see full cricket grounds this summer and so many Addis members and friends catching up, so the whole summer of entertainment has been well worthwhile. It may be time to hibernate from cricket – the Ashes is almost certain to be a disaster – but I can’t wait to get back to it again next summer!