Imagine living a simple life, one where the only real thing that brings pleasure is a cricketer having a funny name. Whether it’s #Devereux, Jefford, Verity or the never-ending debate about where exactly the missing e in Peter Nevill’s name has gone, we’ve derived enormous amounts of pleasure from these unusual collections of letters. So imagine our excitement as this particular series of events began to take place:
Now imagine our annoyance when, with the Stokes/Foakes/Woakes middle order surely just a matter of time, this happens:
All of which is a rather long-winded way of saying that, were it actually up to us, we might well have picked Ben Foakes for the first Test at the Gabba, mainly because we like how his name complements those around him. And, almost as importantly, because it might actually make sense from a cricketing perspective. With England’s top order being blown away as easily as Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, one potential solution would be to move Jonny Bairstow up the order to number four (with Joe Root therefore at three). England’s batting would suddenly look a lot stronger, particularly with future legend Dawid Malan ensconced at five. That would, in turn, leave space for the all-rounders from six onwards: Stokes, Foakes, Woakes and Moeen Ali. Plus Broad and Anderson, although that probably didn’t really need saying.
Just like that, we’ve fixed England’s batting problems, although that does just seem to be a case of finding a way to not pick James Vince or Gary Ballance, to be fair. And even with Stokes now looking more likely to be facing Bristol Crown Court than Mitchell Starc, the logic still holds – everyone can shuffle up a place with Craig Overton or Mason Crane coming in. Sure, it puts even more pressure on Dawid Malan to actually score a bucketload of runs but we have every faith in him doing that, as we’ve discussed before:
If it seems a bit harsh to take the gloves off Jonny Bairstow, now that he’s finally got his keeping up to a decent standard, that’s because it is. But for us, it’s better for the balance of the side – Bairstow can focus purely on his batting and can nip off the ground to put more sunscreen on at the end of every over without making a mockery of England’s over rate. The only people losing out are those doctors who charge a fortune to cut melanomas out and we’re sure they’ll be alright in the long run.
It’s important to remember in all this that, as well as being an excellent keeper, Foakes is also a pretty decent batsman in his own right, as eight First Class hundreds and a batting average of just under 42 can testify. For a relative youngster (aged just 24), it’s a pretty impressive record.
The more we think about it, the more this idea actually makes sense. Normally the opposite is true – the more we talk about one of our ideas, the more it starts to fall apart. So we should probably stop right here.
To quickly wrap things up then, we seem to have used the fact that some players have similar names to stumble upon proof that England actually have an excellent middle order batting option that can simultaneously solve one of their problems in the top order, while also reducing the number of chances shelled behind the stumps. An option in no way driven by the fact that the squad is carrying some of the shittest batsmen we’ve ever seen and we had to resort to the most desperate thing we’ve ever seen to try and keep them out of the side.