There is something special about the oval test race. Lord’s is good but a little stuffy. The Oval, on the other hand, is a great arena for everyone – the crowds are loud, the pitch is generally better suited for cricket entertainment, beer is a little cheaper and England usually play better there.
Although this test was dead, I was actually looking forward to a good game. No results would surprise me. If the Australian bowlers get their lines and lengths right and find a way to release Root early, England could be in trouble. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Australian dollar crashes again.
Since we can’t always count on Super Joe to save batting, I think this is an important game for Alastair Cook. He has a good track record in the oval — pitches that have traditionally offered less seam movement, allowing him to play his signature cuts and pulls without worrying too much about his technique — so let’s see how he plays in Whether the summer spent by the late Virgo Century can be sealed. You can feel the script is written…
This test is also fascinating because careers are at stake. With the likes of Chris Rodgers withdrawing from Test cricket in their own way, we may see some careers curtailed by poor form. I’m looking at you, Adam Voges, Adam Lyth, even Jos Buttler.
While I’m a big Joss fan, I’ve heard Butler is too talented to fail at Test level (especially among the Sky cricket writers on TV). I find this statement very strange. Talent is only part of the equation in Test cricket at the highest level. Technology (and mental toughness) are just as important.
Mark Ramprakash, Graeme Hick, Neil Fairbrother and Michael Bevan are all examples of very talented players — as talented as Joss (if not more) — who for one reason or another failed to reach the highest level. No matter how talented you are, if your opponents can spot weaknesses and exploit them.
I wouldn’t really turn Butler out, I’d most like to see him score at the Oval, but I don’t like the England XI picked at Trent Bridge. If England played the same 11 – and there are rumors they will – the team would have a very peculiar balance.
If you think about it, England opted for two goalkeepers and zero professional spinners. That doesn’t make sense for cricket. You should only pick two goalies if they’re both actually top-seven hitters in the country. Imagine Australia selecting both Neville and Harding but skipping Lyon (or anyone).
Butler’s top-flight scoring average of 33.5 is somewhat disappointing, and he’s only scoring in the 5th percentile. Do you really think he’s a better player than Vince, Hales or James Taylor? Even though he resembles him, it’s a bit of a stretch to say he resembles him.
Above all, Birstow is a versatile keeper who is no worse than Joss behind the post. There is no need to choose both of them. It occupies a valuable spot on the team with the option of a pro hitter or, as many purists prefer, a pro spinner.
Personally I think Adil Rashid should have played in this game. England may be wary of making Kerrigan, but giving Adil some dead glue experience on a pitch he’s unlikely to excel at is far better now than throwing him into deep water against Pakistan in October. Expect him to win the game.
I understand the statement that Rashid has not bowled much lately but I doubt how much he has bowled before the first Test at the Emirates. I’m not saying Rashid is going to be the next Shane Warne, but it’s better to see him sooner rather than later.
England seem more willing to touch their noses in Australia than prepare for the extremely challenging winter ahead. With the cinders already won, a typical oval surface – a dry pitch which would make bowlers work hard for their wickets and help spinners late in the game – would likely result from another green top .
As for the Australian, it will be interesting to see what names Rod Marsh can name this time around. I think Mitchell Marsh will come back at the expense of Shaun’s anger. It’s a bit tough to give up the latter after a game, but the Australian bowlers need reinforcements. I wonder what Geoff Marsh will do?
There are also rumors that Pat Cummins will replace Josh Hazlewood, who was one of the guys who let me down this summer. If so, it would be nice to see the promising Cummins back in action. I’m not sure how much his injuries have affected his bowling, but the last time he played for Australia he looked like a real prospect.
Anyway, that’s good enough for me. What do you think? Feel free to add your thoughts on the first day as it progresses.