Thursday, August 22, 2013

England selectors hand the advantage to Australia at The Oval

Shane Watson was in such good form yesterday, on a flat pitch and in ideal batting conditions, that he would probably have scored a hatful of runs against any attack. Though had he faced Chris Tremlett and Monty Panesar instead of the ineffectual Chris Woakes and the disastrous Simon Kerrigan he would have had to work a great deal harder for his runs.

The stupidly of England's team selection almost defies belief. Losing Tim Bresnan was a blow and the selection of Woakes was presumably some sort of like for like swap. Except that it wasn't. Bresnan is a bowling all-rounder who gets in the England side mainly for his bowling. His batting is a bonus. Woakes is a batting all-rounder who in the sub-standard domestic game also takes quite a few wickets. Had he been picked as a fourth seamer and front line batsman you might have said that Jonny Bairstow was unlucky but maybe the gamble would pay off. Under this scenario Chris Tremlett would have taken on Bresnan's third seamer role and Swann, maybe with support from Root (who is more than a part time tweaker) if necessary would have provided the spin.

To play two spinners is unusual in the England Test team but if the selectors were certain that The Oval pitch would eventually turn square then Monty Panesar would have been the obvious choice to partner Swann. Given Monty's non availability the selectors decided rather than calling up the battle-hardened James Treadwell they would go for a Monty-like slow left-armer and plumped for the tyro Simon Kerrigan - with disastrous results. Every Test player has to make an international debut somewhere of course. But in an Ashes Test Match? It may be that Kerrigan is pencilled into  the Australian tour party in the selectors' minds and they wanted to give him a run at home first. If so why not in the One Day Internationals? Why throw him into the cauldron that is an Ashes Test Match? 

The muddled thinking of this Oval selection puts Australia firmly in the pound seat after day one. If you choose a five man attack and two of your five bowlers lob up pies you then have a three-man attack - which is what happened yesterday. As bowlers Woakes looked on a par with Jonathan Trott and Kerrigan was nowhere near the level of Jo Root. What the hell were they doing there at all? When England bat the pressure will be on Woakes at number six. Remember he has replaced a specialist batsman - was he really the next best batting choice if Jonny Bairstow was to be dropped? No he was not. I hope he does well, but it is asking a lot and given that his bowling was unimpressive he won't be going to the crease with wickets in his locker - unless something remarkable happens today.

The benefit of having a settled, successful side is that the selectors can take a back seat. When injury and loss of form take members of that settled side out of the equation then the selectors emerge and start selecting ! If they do it again as badly as they did it yesterday they will be the laughing stock of our game. Taxi for Mr Miller.... 

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