It’s a generally held consensus that one of the reasons for England’s excellent results in Test cricket over the last couple of years has been their consistency of selection. To reuse an old saying about the Australian team, it’s harder to get out of the team than it is to get in. There was a lot of talk about Alastair Cook losing his place last summer but the two Andys had none of it, with fairly defnitive results. Similarly, the entire winter was spent discussing whether Paul Collingwood should be replaced. Again, he kept his place and, well, it turned out okay in the end.
But what if we had a throwback to the good old days, when a couple of decent performances in the County Championship would see journeymen cast into the role of England’s latest saviour? What if the failure to beat Sri Lanka at Lord’s led to the selectors going back to square one? How would the England team actually look, based purely on performances this season?
There’s only one way to find out….fight!*
Marcus Trescothick – Somerset (978 runs at 81.50 with four hundreds)
Varun Chopra – Warwickshire (726 runs at 55.85 with two hundreds)
Two very different stories here. While Chopra is very much one for England’s future, Trescothick is very firmly in the past. His mental illness issues are very well documented (incidentally we highly recommend the TMS podcast from last week about depression in cricket – genuinely moving stuff) and it’s long been clear that it’s best for everyone to just move on. But England’s loss is very much Somerset’s gain.
Chopra, on the other hand, is a name to watch. There’s currently a dearth of opening batsmen for England to choose from so an opportunity could be just a broken finger away. The recent Lions game saw Jimmy Adams and James Taylor open, suggesting that the selectors want to see Chopra perform over a longer period than just this breakthrough half-season.
Gordon Muchall – Durham (566 runs at 43.54 with one hundred)
With Jonathan Trott continuing to plunder runs at almost Bradman-esque levels, the number three position is probably the position least up for grabs. And there’s a real lack of contenders in county cricket to put any pressure on. Gordon Muchall is the leading scorer from number three, just ahead of Somerset’s Nick Compton, but at 28 and with a first class average of just above 30, it seems unlikely that he’ll get an opportunity at a higher level. Let’s just move quickly along.
Ben Stokes – Durham (609 runs at 55.36 with three hundreds, plus 17 wickets at 33.00)
Now we’re talking. There’s certainly a vacancy in the England side for a genuine allrounder and Stokes fits the bill perfectly. At just 20 years old, time is very much on his side but (injury permitting) there’s every chance he’ll make an appearance in the ODI setup at some point this summer. Plus he was born outside of England, although in New Zealand rather than South Africa, so he really does tick all the boxes.
Jonathan Bairstow – Yorkshire (749 runs at 68.09 with two hundreds)
Another youngster seemingly destined to play full international cricket, Yorkshire’s young wicketkeeper/batsman has really blossomed this season, finally making his first hundred at first class level (after passing fifty 17 times). His main problem will be that Matt Prior is only 29 and may well have another five or six years as England’s first choice behind the stumps. Bairstow will need to score a serious weight of runs to persuade the selectors to give him an opportunity. Again, a way in via the ODI side may be more likely.
Tom Maynard – Surrey (560 runs at 56.00 with one hundred)
Still early days for Matthew’s son, who has benefitted from a fresh start at Surrey after the madness at Glamorgan. He still has a very long way to go before he he makes it into the selectors’ plans but at least he’s unlikely to do as poorly as his father at test level (just 87 runs in eight innings over six years).
Chris Woakes – Warwickshire (262 runs at 52.40 with one hundred, plus 24 wickets at 18.54)
An adept batsman (and a remarkably clean hitter) as well as a pretty decent bowler, Woakes is already a part of England’s ODI and T20 setups. Assuming he stays fit, he’s unlikely to be out of the reckoning for quite some time. The real question is whether he can force his way into the test side with such competition for places.
Jon Lewis – Gloucestershire (316 runs at 31.60, plus 28 wickets at 20.93)
Lies, damned lies and statistics. England have shopped around for one-day bowlers over the past few months but are unlikely to ever go back to Jon Lewis. But at county level he continues to turn in decent performances for Gloucestershire.
An oft-forgotten fact: during England’s famous first ever T20 game, the 2005 victory over Australia at the Rose Bowl, it was Jon Lewis who was the chief destroyer, taking 4/24 to rip the heart out of the Australia batting lineup.
David Masters – Essex (85 runs at 7.73, plus 8 wickets at 21.37)
A 33 year old county journeyman bowling medium paced dobblers in English conditions? We’d have to be mad not to pick him!
Steve Kirby – Somerset (53 runs at 5.89, plus 31 wickets at 25.00)
Another one for whom the chance of international cricket has surely long gone, Kirby has nevertheless enjoyed an excellent first half-season at Somerset. Plus he’s something of a character. Selecting players because they’re good for the dressing room is perfectly acceptable at international level these days (in some countries).
Gary Keedy – Lancashire (45 runs at 6.43, plus 34 wickets at 22.35)
Fittingly enough, 36 year old Keedy is exactly the sort of player that the old England would call up for the final test of the summer at The Oval. Following a decent performance in an irrelevant victory he’d then earn the right to spend the winter being launched into the upper tier of the MCG by various Australians before never being seen again. At 51allout we actually miss those days. Young cricket fans today don’t even know they’re born.
So what has all this shown us? Mainly that you can’t pick a team on statistics alone. Well you can, but you’ll end up with a odd mix of (too) young batsmen and (too) old bowlers. It’s still a worthwhile exercise though and, given England’s current strength in the seam bowling department, it bodes that there are actually some young batsmen making serious inroads in domestic four-day cricket.
We’ll be looking at England’s next generation in some more detail over the next few days.
*other ways to find out are available