England’s forgotten man

In times past, England selectors could generally be relied on to make at least one howler a summer. Alan Wells, Aftab Habib and Alan Igglesden are all examples of county makeweights plunged without warning into the limelight and shunted mercilessly and remorselessly back out of it soon after.

 

Since the central contract era, however, we like to think that the more erratic selectorial decisions have rather been purged; there’s been the odd hunch that’s gone wrong (step to the front of the class, Anthony McGrath), but by and large the new slim-line committee has unearthed some cracking talent. Vaughan, Trescothick and Sidebottom certainly wouldn’t have got a look in had they been around a decade earlier. None of this, however, will be much comfort to Ed Joyce.

 

Joyce’s performances during the CB Series in Australia were solid, excellent in places, and he was by no means the most culpable of England’s World Cup donkeys. But he fell victim to the general call for cull after the Caribbean debacle and hasn’t been mentioned in the same breath as the England team since. Joyce wasn’t even selected for the England Lions teams to face Pakistan and India, a privilege granted to such stellar young talent as Alex Gidman. He appears to have fallen silently but ruthlessly from view, like the myriad Mike Smiths and Warren Heggs before him.

 

Fair enough, you might say. Ed Joyce is no PowerPlay demon, still less middle-overs innovator. But a man who scored two fifties on the biggest one-day stage really deserved better than to be lumped in with the likes of Andrew Strauss (who really did have a stinker in the West Indies, by the way). And besides, Joyce has always been more of a five-day cricketer. He was selected as Marcus Trescothick’s replacement on the Ashes tour, but didn’t get a chance. Now, incomprehensibly, he has been leapfrogged by Owais Shah, Ravi Bopara and, very possibly, Rob Key. Perhaps Joyce might soon be lugging his kit bag back to Dublin in search of an international game.

 

Joyce hasn’t exactly helped his case with some ho-hum county performances this summer. But his anonymity speaks of a more worrying trend – the tendency to judge Test potential on the basis of one-day form. It happened to Chris Read, Kabir Ali and even Jonathan Trott, who may never be seen in England colours again. Joyce deserves a better fate than these, for on his day he can be one of the most effective batsmen in the country. A bumper start for Middlesex next season might swing him back into contention; on the other hand, perhaps he’d be better off perfecting his reverse sweep this winter instead.

Prior and Shah included as Nixon misses out

Since Peter Moores took over the task of rebuilding England’s Test and ODI teams after what was undeniably a disappointing winter, speculation has been rife over which players the former Sussex coach wanted to take the field at Lord’s this Thursday. Though the role of coach as selector is set to diminish when the Schofield inquiry airs its views, there is no doubt that Moores has had his hand in choosing his first full international squad. Thus, it is not overly surprising that two of his Winter Academy squad have already taken two of the twelve places.

Squad:
Strauss(captain)
Bell
Cook
Collingwood
Flintoff
Harmison
Hoggard
Panesar
Pietersen
Plunkett
Prior (w/k)
Shah

So Nixon misses out to Moores’ former county teammate, though after a good winter at the Academy, Prior has so far failed to impress in the Championship. The other talking point, of course, is Owais Shah. Whilst Shah has been much tipped in the media, he has backed this up with decent batting performances this season, and deserves to build on his Indian experience. Plunkett’s selection is to be expected – with Flintoff’s batting having been proven to be in poor international form, then a bowler with pretensions to all-round capabilities must be included over the more one-dimensional Anderson.

So what are your thoughts? Has Nixon been robbed? Is Strauss the man for the job? Would you have preferred one of any number of alternatives? Let us know your views below.

Luck of the Irish?

William asked for it (not me; I’m not speaking the third person), so I thought I’d offer thoughts on Ed Joyce’s call-up to replace Marcus Trescothick. I find it baffling, quite honestly. I’ve been a big supporter of him for many years. He’s a calm individual, relaxed at the crease – unfazed by situations – and bats accordingly. He’s very talented indeed but what I saw of him in his brief one-day appearances didn’t inspire much confidence. Worse still, what must Rob Key feel?

Interestingly Key is one of Flintoff’s best buddies, and there will have been no shortage of bellowing from the captain. Stranger still that Owais Shah wasn’t called up, perhaps England’s best player of spin (I can’t think of too many who play spin with such ease). Perhaps they just wanted another left-hander…

Your thoughts, ladies and gents.

Beginners’ luck

My article on debutants, and beginners’ luck – which I began to muse on the other daywent up on Cricinfo today.

Owais Shah added to squad

So then, Owais Shah has joined an ever-increasing list of “cover” players to join England’s squad in India. He acts as cover for Marcus Trescothick, who’s flown home citing personal reasons. Alastair Cook has also been called upon; in fact, he was called up for England’s tour of Pakistan, too, when Michael Vaughan’s knee played up. Cook smashed a double hundred against Australia in the summer (for Essex) and is a fabulous talent. More thoughts at The Googly.

National Academy squad

As mentioned earlier, three English squads were announced today – including the National Academy squad. It is worth mentioning that a couple of years ago, Andrew Flintoff decided he needed sorting out and went, of his own accord, to the academy. Look what has happened since.

I’m a huge supporter of this academy, so I always take great interest in the names chosen.

National Academy Squad Gareth Batty, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Rikki Clarke, Alastair Cook, James Dalrymple, Steven Davies, Mark Footitt, Ed Joyce, Robert Key, Sajid Mahmood, Liam Plunkett, Chris Read, Owais Shah, Tom Smith, Luke Wright, Mike Yardy

There are some useful names there, some familiar, some not so. Alastair Cook was this year voted the Young Cricketer of the Year, and smashed 200 against Australia. Nasser Hussain and Gooch rate him hugely, and by all accounts he is a fine prospect.

Ed Joyce I have written about extensively; he is an even finer prospect, and I hope he really kicks on. He’s a joy to watch, as is Owais Shah. I have my reservations about Shah, though…he has enough talent, and has apparently “settled down” and matured (not that I’m condoning such scandalous happenings). He could well be a bit of a Mark Ramprakash; obscenely gifted, but can’t quite cut it. I’d suggest next summer could be his last chance to make an impression.

I’m also pleased about the third Middlesex player, Jamie Dalrymple! Really useful cricketer; bats, bowls useful offspin, fields well. Really professional cricketer. Could be a dark-horse next year, much as Strauss was. One of those names you never expect to perform for their country, but do.

Exciting seeing and watching these young players. Only a few of them will make it to the England side, so keep your eyes peeled on these names. Any of you seen them play?

Thankfully, they’re ALL UNDER 36!
……………

Middlesex chasing Glamorgan hard

The pitch at Southgate must be an absolute belter. Set a giant 406 to win by Glamorgan, Middlesex are going for it in style and are 234/0 at Tea – Ed Smith making his first hundred for his new county, and Owais Shah too reaching three figures. What a game. They need another 172 in the final session…

UPDATE: Middlesex require another 109 runs with 9 wickets remaining! Could be tight. Joyce is in – can he make it to 1000 runs?