A few months have now passed since the six men now in charge of the England cricket team were confirmed. A few months in which Graeme Onions has faded away like the dreams we had as children, in which Jonathan Trott has sadly been scratching around in the same old hole and in which it was revealed that Liam Plunkett was all part of The Masterplan after all.
In April we set out 10 things that we would like the Man-Band version of McBusted to do in order to begin improving the England team after the Ashes shambles. After a trio of series defeats to Sri Lanka, there are plenty of gloomy thoughts circulating, most of which concern either Alastair Cook’s ability as captain or whatever Kevin Pietersen’s new best mate is spewing out of his arse.
We consider ourselves a bit more rounded than that particular arse and think that changes within the setup are part of a long-game. Although England were expected, rightly, to beat Sri Lanka at home, the performances in the Test series weren’t as terrible as the 1-0 defeat suggests. Therefore, we thought we would revisit the 10 things we asked of New England to see how they’re getting on.
1. Sort out the coaches 6/10
Well the broom of change has swept some of the dusty coaches of mediocrity out of the stable of doom. As demanded, Graham Gooch has gone (though we suspect he had a wry smile as England arsed their way to 57/5 on Monday evening), which we took to mean that Downton and Co. at least read our article. Mushtaq Ahmed has also left the set-up. This leaves David Saker. The bowlers rarely let England down on the pitch down last winter, but the pre-Ashes obsession with height and bounce which turned into a curse for England, might be attributable to Saker. Similarly, we suspect the pre-prepared plans for Sri Lanka must have been, er, prepared in consultation with the bowling coach and the lack of a Plan B, plus the poor execution of Plan A in the second innings could also be partly blamed on him (although Cook’s admittance that England failed to bowl as full as they wanted suggests Anderson and Broad were guilty of just being shit, like Oasis after 1996).
2. Keep their senior players fit and in form 3/10
Well Matt Prior and Stuart Broad both overcame injuries to play in the two Tests, but neither had a particularly great series. Prior’s runs were helpful, but he survived very early chances in three of his innings. His keeping wasn’t consistent enough either and he must be grateful there is no obvious replacement for him. Broad doesn’t seem fully fit, even though it must be said that he often fades in and out of form with the changing tide. James Anderson also looked to be struggling by the end of the Headingley Test even though he averaged 21.50 with the ball across the series. At least Ian Bell and the captain are always fit, and at least Bell is always in some kind of form.
3. Decide on an approach to the 2015 World Cup 5/10
England’s performances against Sri Lanka suggested they had settled on a strategy for the World Cup (which was nice, because previously they seem pretty clueless), but also demonstrated the weakness with that ploy. The feeling is growing stronger and stronger that Cook should step down from the 50-over side as soon as possible, so that he can focus on regaining his Test match composure and to allow Alex Hales to play at the top of the order. It’s not too late to do this now, but will it be a sign of strength or a sign of weakness if it did happen?
4. Attitude 4/10
After a promising start at Lord’s, when the batsmen scored at a quick rate, things soon faded. Over rates were abysmal (unless you work at the ICC, in which case they were marginally short of acceptable) and the declaration issues will be debated ad nauseum. The captain whining about Shane Warne hardly strikes of a brand new positive attitude either. With a young team around him, Cook must lead from the front in this regard. Disappointing.
5. Determine what is expected of fringe players 7/10
Hard to say with this one, as we are not party to what goes on between players and the management. But thus far there seems to be a consistent approach to selection and we sincerely hope there is limited chopping and changing this summer and that this benefits players both inside and outside of the squad. The likes of Jonny Bairstow and Steve Finn must be left to improve their trade back in county cricket, under watchful but not intrusive eyes.
6. Ability or potential? 7/10
Well England went down the ‘potential’ route and it turns out that they seem to have found players with ‘ability’ as well. It is too early to say that Sam Robson, Gary Ballance, Moeen Ali and Chris Jordan are going to be long-term England players, but all made significant contributions that justify their selection. Although we aren’t yet convinced of Robson (his two innings at Lord’s were that bad) and Jordan looks likely to be replaced by a fit again Ben Stokes after an ineffective game at Leeds, this was very encouraging: in particular three maiden centuries in a series (of any length) is a rare achievement. We would tell you just how rare if the Work Experience Boy spent his time using Statsguru rather than watching Oasis songs on youtube.
7. What is the point in – and purpose of – the Lions? Not Applicable/10
8. Help the spinners to help themselves 4/10
We were pleased that England chose Moeen Ali as their spinner (contrary to our hitherto insistence that every team must feature at least one front-line spin bowler) but considerably less pleased about how little Cook bowled him. His splendiferous century will keep him in the side for the summer, but there is still a chance that AN Other-Spinner will be selected at some point against India. Please, no. Not unless the pitch is as spin-friendly as Tony Blair.
9. Remember how to catch 2/10
Oh for fuck’s sake.
10. Buy Giles Clarke a new suit 0/10
We cannot find any photographs of him at the current ICC Annual Conference shindig thing. But he is there and he is stinking up the place, in conjunction with Wally Edwards of Cricket Australia and the not at all dodgy N Srinivasan. And we bet he is still wearing that bloody ill-fitting suit. The prick.
Conclusion? England show sign of improvements, but like most Oasis albums, they really should do better.