Matthew Potts and Harry Brooks would herald a brave new era in England Test cricket
So how brave will they be? What statement will England’s redesigned interim selection panel make when they name their squad for the first Test against New Zealand on Wednesday?
Will England really try to blast themselves out of the Test World basement while we all buckle up and enjoy the ride as Rob Key suggests? Will there be a return to Joe Root’s all-too-brief ‘total cricket’ policy, which for a while looked like heralding an aggressive new morning for English Test cricket?
There should certainly be more substance this time around in the style, which briefly flared in England before being eroded by the ECB’s neglect of the Red Ball game, the demands of the pandemic and the struggles of Root and Chris Silverwood’s partnership.
Brendon McCullum (L) and Ben Stokes (R) will try to put their stamp on the team early on
With Key, Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum at the helm and Matthew Mott confirmed today alongside Eoin Morgan at the helm of the almighty white-ball teams, England will rarely step backwards from now on.
And with Stokes determined to surround himself with selfless cricketers and McCullum keen to implement the ‘no d***head policy’ that has worked for New Zealand rugby and cricket, it will be fascinating to see which ones players are left behind.
With England’s bowling department extremely exhausted, it’s likely that Matthew Potts will be called up to the squad for the first time
A panel of Key, McCullum, Stokes, performance director Mo Bobat and chief scout James Taylor is unlikely to be too radical. At least until McCullum gets his feet under the table and sees his new charges up close.
So Alex Lees will likely get another chance at Lord’s on June 2 to prove he can be more than a limited option at the top of the order. And Jack Leach could keep the spin seat ahead of the more offensive but yet untried Matt Parkinson. But that’s probably where any reference to conservatism begins and ends.
England plan to name an extended squad, potentially as many as 17, and insist Dan Lawrence and Ollie Robinson prove their fitness for Essex and Sussex respectively this week if they are to survive the final cut.
There will be newcomers, most notably Durham’s Matthew Potts and possibly Surrey’s Jamie Overton as so many fast bowlers are unsuitable. Also keep an eye out for the prolific Harry Brook and perhaps a callback for Middlesex opener Sam Robson.
Harry Brook from Yorkshire is said to be of interest to the English selection committee for the series
But the biggest absentee could be Jonny Bairstow, despite his two Test centuries against Australia and the West Indies this winter. He’s been out for months and there doesn’t seem to be an appetite to bring him back from the IPL.
England may say Bairstow is “rested” but his future Test chances could depend on how Ben Foakes, disappointed by his own high standards in the Caribbean, fares against New Zealand.
As is the intriguing possibility of a recall for Jos Buttler, a big Key favorite and a cricketer who fits the Stokes-McCullum mold very much.
Ben Foakes (R) could secure his long-term England future with a strong series against tourists
No talk of the hundred when Harrison leaves
In all the list of “achievements” in the ECB statement signaling the overdue resignation as chief executive of “Teflon” Tom Harrison, there was one glaring omission. The hundred were not mentioned. funny that.
Yes, Harrison may have landed big TV deals and steered cricket through the pandemic, but it will be an insistence on introducing an unnecessary new format at the expense of Test Cricket and wasting the bulk of the ECB’s sizeable reserves on Harrison’s legacy.
Not to mention his shameful decision to pocket his share of a £2.1million bonus for delivering the hundred at a time of ECB sackings, despite a passionate and compelling argument for him to forego it, from our own Lawrence Booth in this year’s Wisden Almanack.
Now comes the chance for the ECB to set another positive date. There are some good candidates – like West Indies’ Johnny Grave, Durham’s Tim Bostock and, if his personal situation allows, Sir Andrew Strauss. But one thing stands out. The ECB should reach out to former Surrey chief executive Richard Gould and ask him to return from football to cricket and do what he did so successfully at the Oval.
Tom Harrison resigned as ECB chief in 2014
Are dodgy balls the reason for the running glut?
Pitches may have been fresh and weather good, but the main reason for the oversupply at the start of the Championship season, which has already seen 20 points out of 500+, was a mass of balls which an English bowler had told World of Cricket was like “bowling with a Kwik cricket ball”.
He added: “There was some real fighting with the balls. They go out of shape very quickly. And they are soft. Every team has the same problems.”
Maybe not anymore. Dukes recognized the problem and shipped a new batch to each county this week. It will be fascinating to see if they make a difference.
Dukes recognized the problem and shipped a fresh batch of balls to every county