With no other platform to write an opinion type piece on cricket, here I am deviating on my 365 Sporting Days Blog. Once 2015 has finished I’ll be carrying on with my Events posts, but I’ll also be writing more articles like this as well as the interviews I’m lucky enough to get.
With an explanation written it’s time to move to the matter in hand; England Cricket announced their squad to tour South Africa today. I would say that I did have a small chuckle at my County, Essex, congratulating Alastair Cook on being picked to tour. I’d have thought his name might be the first on the team sheet, teams tend to need their captain and, without wanting to put the mockers on, he seems to have found his form with the bat.
Rather than concentrate on those not picked I’m going to start with those brought back into the fold.
Nick Compton, Grandson of the great Dennis had a spell in the team in 2012 and in spite of playing in 9 tests, scoring 479 runs in his 17 innings including 2 centuries he was ‘dropped’. That’s always seemed a strange choice, in his first class cricket career he’s amassed 10,408 runs with a high score of 254 runs. I hope he gets his chance in South Africa as an answer to a partner for Cook.
Gary Ballance is back too, after being dropped after the 2nd Ashes test in the summer, rather harshly I thought, he went back to Yorkshire to find his mojo and work on his positioning in the crease. I was in line with the crease at Lords, making it very easy to see how far back Ballance stands. That hadn’t stopped him making 4 centuries and 6 half centuries in the 15 tests he’s played in. I admit to calling for his inclusion at the cost of Ian Bell (I’ll come to him soon).
Two players given a chance against Pakistan get a spot on the plane Alex Hales and James Taylor join Captain Cook and Vice Captain Joe Root. Alastair Cook, 31 on Christmas Day (I didn’t know he was a Xmas baby!) is working his way to being one of the most prolific batsmen to have graced an England shirt – with 9780 test rubs to his name and a total overall of just under 37,000 runs he is hopefully going to South Africa in fine form.
Joe Root who I have to say is a joy to watch whether he’s batting or fielding or bowling come to think of it, is 25 on December 30th (something about these Christmas babies!) he has established himself in the England team scoring 8 centuries, converting one into a double finishing not out, and 16 half centuries.
One man missing from that line up is of course Ian Bell, he’s the man taking all of the headlines today. He’s struggled to find his form over a significant length of time, scoring only 2 centuries in his last 28 innings. I’m surprised by the selectors decision, yet I feel it’s absolutely the right one, and not a pathetic move as one Kevin Pieterson has suggested. To win matches you must pick in form players. Bell has been one of the most complete batsmen England have seen, he has a technique which is a joy to behold, but he can’t be picked based on what has been. He has promised to fight for his place, but at 34 I’m not sure we’ll see him back in an England shirt.
I’m not going to say too much about the potential bowling line up – but I hope that both Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad stay fit and in form. I’m disappointed to see Adil Rashid cast away after being given a chance in Pakistan and I’m struggling to understand why Chris Jordan has been included while Liam Plunkett who is useful with a bat as well as a ball stays at home.
It seems to be a very unusual occurrence for teams to win away from home, there is still unfinished business in the UAE, but the series in South Africa will hopefully be a competitive one. And of course as an England fan I hope it’s a series that sees the visitors return as victors!
The full squad –
Alastair Cook (Essex, capt), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire, wk), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Jos Buttler (Lancashire, wk), Nick Compton (Middlesex), Mark Footitt (Surrey), Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Samit Patel (Nottinghamshire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), James Taylor (Nottinghamshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire).