As England completed the formalities of their fourth Ashes win in the last five series – a statistic that still seems mindboggling to those of us who grew up in the 80s – talk in the 51allout office quickly moved from that whole bad light malarkey to the question on everyone’s lips: was Simon Kerrigan’s the worst Test debut we’d ever seen? It certainly wasn’t Narendra Hirwani’s, that’s for sure.
Of course, we wouldn’t be foolish enough to write him off after just a single Test match. After all, Shane Warne had an absolute mare on his Test debut and he turned out alright. Apart from being an absolute fuckwit in the commentary box, obviously. So when Kerrigan has 709 Test wickets we’ll look back on the day we added him to our list of Unlikely Lads and laugh.
Before we start, we should say a few things about Kerrigan’s selection. Firstly, it was the most un-English thing we’ve ever seen. Not in terms of it being genuinely offensive to all and sundry, but because it’s just not what England do these days at all. Even with the series in the bag, absolutely no-one at all expected Kerrigan to play (including, presumably, the man himself). To quote from our wildly inaccurate preview:
“Simon Kerrigan is there purely to have a bowl in front of Andy Flower and prove that he’s mentally stable enough not to wee all over the security guards while Chris Woakes is there just to give hope to non-Test standard allrounders everywhere.”
Clearly Andy Flower was massively impressed by Kerrigan’s ability to not urinate on members of his backroom staff – it seems to be something England actually practice. Perhaps he places too much emphasis on players not passing water on civilians though, because it’s hard to see any other reason for the Lancashire man’s selection ahead of Chris Tremlett or Steve Finn. It led directly to the selection of Chris Woakes, due to England’s reluctance to use the two seamers, two spinners attack that actually served them extremely well in India last year (and in the UAE back in 2012) with such a novice in a key role. It also led directly to Geoff Boycott being really annoyed though, so it can’t have been all bad.
Kerrigan’s bowling was genuinely horrible to watch. His first over went for ten; his second for eighteen and out of the attack he went. When he returned more than 30 overs later things improved slightly – his two overs went for just ten runs this time – but this was more to do with the massively defensive field than anything Kerrigan did. Indeed his variations consisted of either bowling almost into his feet or at the batsman’s head. His attempt to decapitate Steve Smith, which we consider nothing less than a failed attempt at regicide, was particularly memorable. Out of the attack he went once more.
There were four more overs later in the day that saw a slight improvement. But that was it. Throughout the second day Alastair Cook kept Kerrigan away from the bowling crease, the damp conditions much favouring the seamers (and spinners capable of landing the ball on the cut strip). As Australia looked for quick runs during their second dig, both he and Woakes were nowhere to be seen.
As debuts go, it was bloody awful. But where does Kerrigan go from here?
The first, and obvious answer, is back to county cricket, where he’s had a superb season in Division Two, taking 54 wickets at just over 20. Even in a (mostly) hot and dry summer the only other spinner with a remotely comparable record is New Zealand’s Jeetan Patel (50 Division One wickets at 29). After that, the next best spinners we could find are 35 year old Dean Cosker (32 wickets at 34) and England discards Adil Rashid (27 at 41) and Monty Panesar (27 at 42), so it’s not as if England’s spin cupboard is exactly overstocked. Unlike ours, which is once again rammed full of gin after a brief (but fruitful) liberation of the 51allout credit card from Editor Steve’s office.
As for the winter tours, Kerrigan should still be in Australia, although it seems much more likely that it’ll be as part of the development squad than the full side. There’s no point in having him in the squad if everyone (bar Australia) is terrified of having to actually play him. Instead we reckon England will take the conservative option and pick James Tredwell. They’re not going to pick two spinners anywhere in Australia, so they only need cover for Swann, a role Tredwell was born to do.
Following the Ashes down under, England don’t play another away test until they tour the West Indies in early 2015. That’s a long, long time away until the prospect of a second spinner will raise its head again. By then we should have a much better view of whether a more mature Kerrigan will be around the Test squad once again, or relaxing in the Unlikely Lads hall of obscurity, alongside the likes of Gareth Batty, Ian Blackwell, Richard Dawson, Min Patel, Samit Patel, Ian Salisbury, Chris Schofield, Peter Such and Shaun Udal. Now that’s an impressive list of incompetence; hopefully it really makes you appreciate how utterly, utterly fucked England would be without Graeme Swann.