Well, I enjoyed my first class a lot. This is probably the funniest segment of the series. England’s tail know they won’t last long, so they basically drop the bat on everything and hope for the best. The fact that we almost scratched 350 is a small miracle. It’s just a pity that we used up five days of luck in the process.
But with Australia acting so weirdly, can you really call it “luck”? After Steve Smith flew left and caught Malan with one hand when he slipped in the second – a fine display – Australia dropped two catches that would have caught most of the Village’s thirties a player. It was bad enough that Cummins conceded a dribble, but then Hazlewood conceded an absolutely sonic mid-wicket. He didn’t even pick it up. He looked like a blind seal waving in vain at a wet fish.
Fortunately, Tom Curran and later Stuart Broad were able to capitalize on the hilarity – whose eerie nature must have left cynics wondering about the scene restoration. Curran hit a number of impressive strokes, proving some of his talents with the racket. He’s not yet an eighth Test, but has something to work with. Meanwhile, Broad waited for the short ball and managed to loot some boundaries.
Overall, though, I feel England’s 348 is about 100 points below par. It was fun while it lasted, but you could tell Australia was always in the driver’s seat. The fact that they finished the day at 193-2 and the court looked so flat seemed ominous. England will be disappointed that Usman Khawaja of all people is approaching his centenary. A ton of Khawaja here would really rub salt in the wound and raise questions about England’s attack after Mitchell Marsh scored a per cent in Perth.
Before I say goodbye, I want to make a quick mention of two lunatics in the UK. What do you think of Mason Cranes? From what I’ve seen, he hit a few bad shots, but overall he looks comfortable on the big stage. He also gets the ball spinning a bit, which is nice to see after giving Mo a buffet this winter.
If England let Crane out wide now – which is likely against New Zealand, India and then Sri Lanka and the West Indies – would it be the end of Mo’s Test career? Unfortunately, I think it can.
I have been Mo’s biggest supporter for many years. I remind everyone on Twitter that he scored 24 goals in 16 appearances against South Africa last summer. Also, I found out a few months ago that Mo’s batting average was better than Graeme Swan’s at one point after appearing at Lord Field in July. However, we can’t keep picking a weirdo who only acts at home.
Moeen averaged 33 points in England but 65 in India, 49 in South Africa, 49 in the United Arab Emirates and 152 so far in the series. That means he has let us down four winters in a row. All is well at home, but the team needs a reliable spinner abroad (when our seamen are more supported) than they are on the greens of England.
I’ve heard the argument that England doesn’t have anyone better, so Mo has to keep playing. But the “no choice” argument doesn’t hold water for one simple reason: Unfortunately, Mo hasn’t improved a bit in his four years as an international bowler. In fact, one could argue that his best series performance came against India at home in 2013.
So England need to invest in a newcomer – someone who can really improve. Nathan Lyon wasn’t particularly efficient when Australia initially drafted him, but he has gradually emerged as a top international spinner. Maybe Mason Crane is the viable alternative we were hoping for? Or maybe Jack Leach or Dom Bess?
Mo’s batting ability has also been very disappointing on this tour and I don’t think he’s capable of batting alone anymore. Frankly, his innings yesterday were embarrassing. This is one of the places where it might be better to get a Golden Duck (since early exits can happen to anyone). Mo was easy prey in the short game, and his shot selection was never particularly good.
I watched Moeen in Worcs as he was still a dork, I always thought he was brilliant, but ended up being too easygoing to be a consistent performer at the highest level. That’s why his first-class average is only 38 points.
It pains me to say that Mo can play well at times, but if he doesn’t play well enough to make the team a batsman or a bowler, is he a luxury the team can afford? It might be time to look for someone with less style but more substance.