We like a good moan here at 51allout. Sometimes it’s about declarations, occasionally we rant about the use of substitute fielders and often the subject of our vitriol is Nick Knight. But something else that we like to witter on about is the scheduling of limited overs games after a Test series. Obviously the Test matches should be the climax, the crescendo, with the less relevant T20s and 50-overs providing a pre-dinner aperitif and nibbles.
So excuse us if we struggle to get excited about the three ODIs about to start at Lord’s on Friday. Admittedly the timing does make a bit more sense than usual, what with these matches effectively serving as a warm-up for the Champions Trophy, but by now we’re a bit sick of the sight of New Zealand and no doubt they’re bored rigid at playing England too.
But, with more than one eye on the ICC event that follows, here’s our preview of the series.
With one of the most uninspiring squads of recent times, the likely England XI will be unsurprising – but this form of the game has become a place where predictability and reliability can pay-off. The top three of Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott pick themselves in English conditions, though undoubtedly there will be grumbles about scoring rates at least seven times an hour. The five first-choice bowlers are also pretty certain to be known in advance, with Tim Bresnan added to the four Test bowlers. Add in Jos Buttler at six and it leaves Joe Root, Johnny Bairstow and forgotten man Eoin Morgan competing for two spots in the middle order. The squatty Irishman would normally be nailed on to play, but having been nailed on to a substitutes bench for the IPL (as far as we are aware, but we did grow bored after three overs of the first game), there is a fair chance that nine of the starting team will have played in the Tests.
In reserve, there is Ravi Bopara, who we suspect was selected in an elaborate Noel Edmonds prank, off-spinner and token dweeb James Tredwell, and Chris Woakes, who should get at least one gig in the interests of rotation. Furthermore, apparently Jade Dernbach has been named as cover, in case Bresnan heads off on paternity leave.
If you thought the England squad was short of left-field selections, brace yourself for the Kiwi big guns. James Franklin. Kyle Mills. Grant Elliott. Nathan McCullum. A trilogy (in four parts) of thirty-somethings characterised by underwhelming mediocrity. Hopefully, in the interests of sanity, Mitchell McClenaghan will feature, because he at least looks like a talented and exciting prospect – and as Trent Boult is injured (replaced in the squad by Ian Butler) this is a distinct possibility. Colin Munro is also in the squad, but from his previous matches he appears as forgettable a cricketer as his name suggests.
As was evident from the Test matches, it is the batting that is most likely to let the tourists down – even if Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson score runs, there is a high chance that the supporting roles will contribute little more than half-arsed cameos.
Our opinion of the New Zealanders has also been tainted by the news that Dan Vettori – even if fit to play – has shaved off his beard. A sad moment in modern history, though so long as he keeps his spectacles we’ll find a place for him in our otherwise stoney hearts.
The rain to come and save us all from mediocrity. But at least that would give us more time to look at Dan.