Understudy tourists

England will soon have to pick its squad for the winter tours and the three understudy roles up for grabs are those of top-three batsman, wicketkeeper and spinner. My calls for Bob Key were largely dismissed, so I’ll move on to the ‘keeper, who will start as Matt Prior’s back-up, but may get a crack if the Sussex man drops Sangakkara on 0 and becomes Murali’s latest bunny.

It seems England now have an embarrassment of riches at keeper with several stumpers scoring regular runs this season. Foster, Ambrose, Mustard, Read, Jones, Batty have all scored well. Read and Jones have likely had their turn, but Foster may be due another one? Ambrose has been excellent too. Tricky. Mustard must be in line for ODIs, because he’s brilliant at the top of the order for Durham. It’s a shame for Steven Davies that Worcestershire have hardly played this season.

Spinners are more of a quandary. I don’t agree that Pietersen and Vaughan can fill in the gaps. We need a genuine spinner to support Monty, especially in Sri Lanka. The problem is that, as ever, there are no English spinners topping the charts, although I can’t see what Graeme Swann has done to upset the selectors. He would do alright. Adil Rashid has great potential and can bat too. As can Alex Loudon. But would any of them bowl out Sri Lanka? I’m at a loss.

Bring back Shaggy?!

Positive spin

Only yesterday, at Sky’s only televised County Championship match of the season, David Lloyd was to be found grumbling at the lack of positivity in modern English first-class cricket. Although the Roses match is normally a lure, I’m afraid, Bumble, you were just at the wrong game.

For most teams in the County Championship, it would be fair to say that the days of the sporting declaration have, for the most part, disappeared. This is especially so when the first 5 teams in the top division are within elbows distance of each other. The bonus system, which rewards first innings performances with bat and ball, boosts the meagre four points handed to teams who draw without an over bowled. As such, when Yorkshire were all out this morning for 320, Lancashire merely began their first innings as if there were still days to play.

Shane Warne has brough many things to the County Championship. Yet high on this list must be his forthright version of captaincy. Hampshire are not a team to draw many games, and today was no exception. In a deal that must be applauded, Warne, and Warwickshire counterpart Darren Maddy, arranged a declaration and forfeiture to set up a run chase, which was so closely contested that it took a career best 192* from Michael Carberry to secure the game in the final over for Hampshire.

Does it seem right the Warwickshire are in a worse position for playing a competitive match than either of the Roses teams are after a draw in which the only tension rested in whether Lancashire could make it to their second bowling point before they ran out of overs? Yorkshire’s former captain, Darren Lehmann, was rather vehement on the subject and but two years ago, Warne himself accused David Fulton, then captain of Kent, of handing Nottinghamshire the Championship by refusing to accept such a deal on the last day of the season.

Certainly, the Australian system is far more rewarding of results over ‘score draws’, and the whole point of the extention to four day cricket was to avoid games without victors. However impressive the scorecard of Essex’s game against Nottingham these last four days, neither team showed any hunger for the win over inflated career averages and record breaking. Unfortunately for Chris Read, the two overs he bowled in a final session dedicated to over-rate improvement did not yield him his first wicket in all competitions. That, at least, might have been vaguely entertaining.

First-class ducks

I’ve been accused by venerable Corridor readers of being something of a duck fetishist, although I suspect there are more specialist websites for that. However, for the sake of consistency, it would be wrong to overlook the misfortune of Thomas Poynton, the new Derbyshire gloveman, who this week got a pair on his first class debut. But at the age of 17 years old, he will have better days and do one heck of a lot more in his career than me. In fact, he already has.

Hopefully he will be smashing the ball about in an England shirt before long, although with the recent form of English keepers, he has a lot of frogs to leap. Foster, Ambrose, Mustard, Read, Nixon all in the runs, putting pressure on Prior. Good to see.

Jones versus Read (vote)

It was inevitable. Certainly in my eyes, anyway. Duncan Fletcher has a memory like an elephant, and an intense loyalty to those who have \”been there and done that\” (come to the party, put their hand up, etc.). Chris Read has done neither. The cynic in me ponders whether this was a master plan by Fletcher. Sack Read; send a rocket up Jones\’ backside to get him fired up; wait for Read to fail before reinstating Jones on the grounds of Read\’s inadequacies. The wicketkeeping debate is then quietened for another few months and Fletcher looks like a savior.

Should Jones have a poor Ashes series – and you can almost guarantee Read won\’t play a single Test in Australia – then we\’ll be back to square one. But for now, Fletcher\’s got his own way – and I\’m glad with the decision too. Read is the best keeper in the country by a distance but, with willow in hand, is little more than a rabbit in the headlights in Test matches. Since reinstating him in the summer, Read has done his cause no good; he has dropped some uncharacteristic clangers, too.

The duel between the two has been rolling on furiously on the blog, so it\’s high time we opened it up to you lot. Good decision? Vote, then leave a comment. (if you can\’t see the voting thing below, click here).

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England XI vs New South Wales

It’s the tour match no one is talking about. Literally. After the shocking performance the other night, the first 3-dayer got a couple of mentions. But tonight, after consulting both my web sources (Cricinfo, naturally, and the Beeb) and finally the last resort of 24 hour news (Sky Sports, Sky, BBC) I’ve come to the conclusion that Britain is in some kind of denial. For a while I thought I was getting the date wrong.

The BBC now seem to be paying enough attention to note that England have lost the toss and have taken the field. As with most warm ups these days, England have managed to convince the opposition to let them field almost their entire squad in some way or another. Of the 14 players taking part, 11 may bat. Not making even the initial cut are Chris Read and Liam Plunkett.

I’m not sure which I’m more interested in. Some kind of live coverage? Or an accurate measurement of the size of Geraint Jones’ smirk?

Update: Cricinfo are back in the race! Click here for the scorecard. It isn’t linked from the main page. Cricket Australia seem to be slightly quicker in updating at the moment.

England win a one-day international

How dastardly rude of them. It’s just not the done thing in England circles, ending tours on a high. How dare they? Did anyone else laugh at the fireworks at the end? How inappropriate can you get?

Nice to see them win though. Me and my editor have been musing on them all day, almost praying they’d lose just to ease our final pieces. Mine’s here and his is there.

Also…why have I not written more about Michael Yardy? I’m sure he’s a terrific bloke but I’m unconvinced he should be playing cricket (for England). As for Chris Read, well…say goodbye to Brisbane I’m afraid. Geraint Jones was like a pig in proverbial at Sky…

Time for wine.

Same old England…

England and limited overs games don’t seem to be a good mix. I wouldn’t like to take anything away from Pakistan, who played the unfamiliar format extremely well, especially when put in the context of what has happened off the field in the last week. However, anyone who has ever so much as glanced in the direction of a Twenty20 match could tell you that 144 after electing to bat is not enough.

I don’t like to appear jaded, though, so instead of listing what went wrong, I’m going to pick up a couple of positives. After several months of shuffling various opening partners around the ever-present Trescothick, Bell’s promotion to number two seemed one of the more convincing attempts to find two styles that compliment each other. Before Bell misjudged a late cut to Younis Khan in a wide slip, the England innings had looked to be fairly secure. Good to see Trescothick find a bit of form. The only other batting of positive note belonged to Michael Yardy, who did well to provide some impetus in the last over.

In the bowling department, it was nice to see my concerns over introducing Stuart Broad to the big stage too quickly seem to have been unfounded. With confirmation that Harmison is going to miss the entire one day series, he is certain to be given another outing tomorrow. Yardy, too, might also make the mark after contributing well to what was a generally good fielding performance by England.

Oh, and, after losing a tooth in the domestic finals at Trent Bridge, I’m glad Chris Read has decided to wear a helmet when standing up to the stumps. But I’m not sure that counts…

Eng v Pak, Twenty20 – who to pick?

In the last week, with the ongoing ‘Ovalgate’ saga, the big media questions on the one-day series have not been the usual deliberations over selection. Now that it seems that there will definitely be a series, with both sides confident that Pakistan will be competing, the next couple of days may bring a resumption of normal service.

There are certainly some potential headaches for David Graveney and company when it comes down to converting their 16-man squad to an 11-man side. It seems unlikely that Ed Joyce will interrupt the ongoing battle for an Ashes place. But with both Collingwood and Pietersen set to come into the team that lost to Sri Lanka at Headingley, it seems likely that one of the batsmen will have to make way rather than reduce the bowling attack. Jamie Dalrymple will retain his place as Fletcher’s favoured spinning all-rounder, and Chris Read must be looking forward to proving he is the best English ‘keeper in the shortest form of the game.

It is well documented that England’s recent one-day problems lie on a foundation of wayward pace bowling. The inclusion of six pace options, with only Harmison and Mahmood retained, suggests that the selectors are trying to meet this head on. But who to pick? Broad and Gough are certainly popular choices in the media, with impressive Twenty20 pedigree. Who do you think should be on Monday’s team sheet?

We’ve come a long way from ‘mental disintegration’.

Steve Waugh would be horrified:

John Buchanan believes his Ashes opponents have improved as a team unit since Andrew Flintoff’s injury-enforced absence. Buchanan has been impressed with the way England’s players have not sat back and looked to their stars to perform in consecutive Test wins over Pakistan.

“I think what we have seen from them is a gradual build-up in terms of the way they’re playing, their teamwork, and responsibility being shared around the team, which I think has been a real plus for them,” Buchanan said in The Age. “It hasn’t been a case of turning to Freddie Flintoff all the time to take a wicket or turning to [Steve] Harmison or [Kevin] Pietersen to deliver something. They’ve actually had the ability to share it around … the likes of Cook, Bell, Panesar and now [Chris] Read’s come in.”

This is probably all actually true. But Waugh would never have tolerated Buchanan saying such things if he had been in charge.
I’ve not been able to watch this latest England season, so I can not really comment on what has been going on. I have a vague feeling that this latest England side could be said to be rather greater then the sum of its parts, which is a good sign for England.

But like Steve Waugh, I was just about choking on my wheaties reading what Buchanan had to say.

Fourth day thoughts from Headingley

What an interesting day, and a very good one for Chris Read who I wrote about at Cricinfo. The match is definitely in the balance, even though it will take a monumental and record-breaking effort from Pakistan to win. They have three of the best batsmen in the world to do it. Tuesday will be a thriller.

I’m exhausted and have nothing else to add. There is a batch of articles at Cricinfo so go and check them out