Who should be in England’s Ashes squad?

It’s very simple: who should be in England’s squad to tour Australia in November? It’s the most important squad announcement since, well, whatever. It’s huge. You get it, we all get it.

Should Jon Lewis get a chance? Has Stuart Broad shown enough? And who will you have as captain; Strauss or Flintoff?

All that kind of thing. I’m not around much today so leave your opinions and let’s work out the squad.

Bell recalled by England

Ian Bell and Steve Harmison earn recalls. No luck for Jamie Dalrymple. Monty’s in, Never Knowingly also in – and Sajid Mahmood. More at CI.

England v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Lord’s, 1st day

Live cricket
Live chat of the first Test between England and Sri Lanka

So, the first Test of the summer gets underway this morning. Half of England’s first-choice XI are either covered in bandages or hobbling on crutches; chances are they’ll have their feet up and will be watching on TV. That’s if they subscribe to Sky, of course…

This is the first summer that the first Test hasn’t been available on terrestrial TV which, being a non-Sky subscriber, I’m peeved at. I don’t doubt Sky will do a great job, but it’s back to TMS for me on my days off. Or the pub.

Chat away!

UPDATE 10.36 England win toss and bat. Sajid Mahmood (debut) and Monty Panesar to play. Ian Bell and Jon Lewis miss out.

Cricinfo scorecard

Cricinfo bulletin

Jon Lewis and Sajid Mahmood called up

So then, Sajid Mahmood and Jon Lewis (hereafter known only as Never Knowingly) are in the squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka, as is Alastair Cook. The only curious announcement from David Graveney was the confirmation of Cook to bat at No. 3 in place of Ian Bell. Graveney will deny speculation that Bell is living on borrowed time – after all, he did have a pretty good winter – but this surely does ring warning bells (sorry) for him.

It does show the strength in depth in our batting, though. Cook is so ridiculously gifted – he’s hardly out of nappies, either – and it’s quite some ask to be asked to bat in such a pivotal position so early in your career. I suppose also it sends a message of arrogance to Sri Lanka; yep, he’s young and inexperienced but we think he’s good enough to play there against you lot.

Either way…an interesting choice on a day where little else of interest happened. South Africa nearly did what only they seem able to do these days: cock up spectacularly. But they didn’t and, in all fairness, deserved to win the Test. Their 2-0 series victory is a little generous though and, despite their rollicking three-day win today, they are very much a team in transition with some old pack-leaders in decline.

Jon Lewis – never knowingly underbowled

Cripes, that’s the best headline I’ve ever come up with. I’m sure that my cavernous conscience has retrieved it from someone else but sod it. It’s mine now. In fact, anyone not living in the UK won’t even know why it’s so good. I’ll shut up now.

Moving on. Jon Lewis, the England and Gloucester wobbler. Jagadish, known here as Jag with a vague and irrelevant nod to the once great British auto manufacturer, has chosen him as his English target for the summer. Last year it was Ashley Giles who bore the brunt of his ridicule, and Giles then proceeded to bowl rather better than most people thought possible (including dismissing Australia’s top eight at least once? I think that was the stat-famouse). I’m not suggesting Lewis will have the same effect on this summer, but Jag is unfair on him.

Marcus Trescothick has just made me nearly roll on the floor laughing. He was dismissed twice in a day against Gloucestershire.

Jon Lewis, an unlikely star last year when England thrashed Australia in the Twenty20 game, trapped him in front twice!

King Cricket wonders if he is a forgotten man.

Umm, I don’t know. I didn’t even remember him!

Now, Lewis is never going to take 200 Test wickets for England, or even 100. But he’s a fine county bowler, and absolutely lethal in early season conditions. If England’s battered bowlers don’t fix themselves in the next few weeks, don’t be surprised to see him playing against Sri Lanka.

Replacing the Welsh swinger

My article on Cricinfo about Simon Jones’s replacement is up:

Replacing the Welsh swinger

The things the modern cricketer has to endure. Twenty years ago, prominent England players would have winced at the thought of sitting in an Oxygen chamber, no doubt scoffing at its supposed benefits. Simon Jones has little choice: after he injured his ankle in the last Test, England have been doing everything they can to patch him up for the final fling. He has been a key, reverse-swinging cog in England’s success this summer, and if he fails a fitness test, his replacement could hold the key to wrestling the urn from Australia’s 18-year-long grasp. Or not…

Who could replace him? His long-term understudy, James Anderson, is finally playing cricket regularly. For Lancashire this season, he has taken 48 wickets but averages over 30: this is not what England, or Anderson, wants. He’d played just three games for Lancashire in 2002, before England called him into the one-day squad against Australia the following winter, and his success was instant. But his confidence was fragile, and attempts by England’s coaches to modify his bowling action sapped it further still. He remains promising and, importantly, is still only 23, but England can’t afford to risk his selection in what is the biggest match of England’s recent history.

Chris Tremlett, 24 tomorrow, has usurped Anderson as the young, English fast-bowling hope but is yet to play a Test. He played three one-day matches earlier in the season, and performed reasonably well, picking up 4 for 32 on debut against Bangladesh, and the useful wicket of Adam Gilchrist in the following match against Australia. Importantly, he has remained in the England “bubble”, Duncan Fletcher’s protective cushion, throughout this series which signifies he is very well regarded. Indeed, his extreme height has excited many observers: he is 6′ 7″ and generates bounce from a natural short-of-a-length, something Michael Vaughan can testify to as Tremlett smashed a ball into his elbow at Edgbaston. For Hampshire this season, he has taken 45 wickets at 26 – a good performance, if not a spectacular one – but he doesn’t move the ball a la Jones. Worryingly, in Hampshire’s latest match against Warwickshire, his two wickets cost 98 runs and included six-no balls.

Paul Collingwood is desperate to play Test cricket again, to add to his two matches played against Sri Lanka in 2003. While he is primarily a batsman, his bowling has improved steadily this season with 19 wickets for Durham. He remains very much a wobbling medium-pacer, though and it is a front-line bowler England needs to win at The Oval. His inclusion would strengthen the home side’s batting considerably, and this could yet win the selectors over. England, after all, only need to draw the fifth Test to regain the Ashes. But the remaining England bowlers’ workloads would be become even heavier. He is in excellent batting form, though, and his catching and fielding abilities are almost without peer. His bowling won’t win England the Test, but his batting and fielding could.

England’s former pace bowlers Andrew Caddick and Darren Gough are both a year either side of 35, but each would give their eye-teeth to be a part of a successful England side, and especially one which has, at long last, dominated an Ashes series. Caddick, 36, last played for England in Sydney in 2002-03, a Test England won, but injuries have since forced him out of the side. Despite his age, he is still the leading English-qualified wicket-taker this season with 54 at 27.79. Meanwhile it has been rumoured, rather cheekily, that Gough was asked to attend a training session by England. Mind you, Gough is the closest like-for-like replacement for Jones: he was England’s best exponent of reverse-swing throughout the 1990s, but with age comes medium-pace. England’s consistency in selection has arguably been a key factor in their successes spanning two years, and it remains unlikely Gough or Caddick will buck that trend.

Whoever is chosen – and other names in the mix include Kabir Ali and Jon Lewis – it is unlikely they will match the skill Simon Jones has shown this summer. His rare and surprising ability to move the new and the old ball is almost irreplaceable. Britain will be praying the German doctors can work their oxygen-chamber magic on him; and for Jones himself, it would be devastating to miss the finale of a series he has played such an integral part in swinging England’s way.