Updated: May 30, 2021
Talking points for the English summer
Summer has arrived- sort of. The birds have chirped at some points over the past 4 weeks and the sun has shone, occasionally. But to the cricket fans summer arrives when the red ball does and the county championship is well and truly alive. Over the past few weeks we have been treated to many wonderful games of county cricket and some truly wonderful moments including Darren Stevens nicking off Marnus and the conversation about getting him on the plane gained some real movement. Now it’s time to look ahead to the international summer and what we can expect from England. What are the challenges they are going to face and what are (in my opinion) the big things we need to discuss ahead of this behemoth of a few months.
Earlier this year Joe Root notched up 3 consecutive hundreds all in excess of 180 and carried England to three away wins on the bounce whilst simultaneously reminding everyone why he is the best player of spin England have ever produced. However there was reason to be worried. In both the first and the fourth test against India there was a moment when the ball was swinging. Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah had the ball reversing just before Lunch on day 1 of the first game whilst Mohammad Siraj had the England batsmen (specifically Root) all over the shop. In neither instance did Root look comfortable. Root's footwork was shocking and they both had him on toast and ahead of an International summer against bowlers of the highest ilk (especially in terms of swing bowling) England fans did have reason to be nervous. However Root proved against Glamorgan that he is almost back to his best. In a game where runs were almost impossible to come by Root batted long and he batted patiently facing near 200 balls for his 99 runs. Root wasn’t anxious to get going nor was he impatient instead he took his time played it late and with soft hands and didn’t do anything he would’ve done in years gone by. He remained in the bubble we saw him occupy this winter where no one can even fathom removing him; if Root can remain in this zone for the summer England have a serious chance against the two best sides in the world. Joe Root has now gone 2 consecutive years without a home test match hundred and even he would admit it’s time he shook that bug; this summer provides Root with the perfect chance to make big runs that mean something and get himself in perfect nick ahead of the big trip this winter. New Zealand can lay claim to having the best test attack in the world and they will offer a real challenge to Root and the same can be argued of India. Root needs to make runs this year and all signs are pointing towards the fact that he might well do that. Keep an eye on Joe Root this year and see how he goes.
Jofra is Englands best talent across all formats. Ollie Pope is the only player who can truly push him close in terms of pure natural ability but day by day little by little it is becoming more and more worrying with Jofra. He looked the high class seamer we all know he can be bowling short 4 over spells for Sussex against Kent and removed his England team mate Zak Crawley in the process. In the 2nd innings he was reduced to only 5 overs as his elbow once again flared up. The elbow is not an issue as of yet but of course the worry is England will push Jofra and will lose out on their most mercurial talent since Root. This summer England need to manage Jofra with extreme care with him being crucial to any chance of success across the winter. In terms of test cricket there is a very strong argument that actually England do not need to play him in most if any games this summer. The seam bowling stocks are packed with the likes of Woakes, Curran, Overton, Robinson and Stone showing they can do it in England and to good effect so does Jof really need to play? Surely it would make more sense for England to have him in the white ball bubble regaining fitness and dominating in his arena once again? Now of course Jofra will want to play test match cricket but when it comes down to it is he needed? Jack Leach’s performances over the winter and growth of his bond with his test skipper have nailed down his spot in the side meaning that unless you bat one of Leach or Archer at 8 (which you quite simply cannot do) or go down the 5 seamers route (again very dangerous) for Archer to play you have to leave out one of Broad or Anderson and in English conditions who offers you more? Look Jofra will almost undoubtedly play test cricket this summer and rightfully so he is a world class bowler but in terms of longevity and sustainability of the bowler himself having him ruin all kinds of batsmen with the white ball all summer isn’t the worst idea. Jofra has also shown that he can manouveur between formats with ease and can quickly adapt from one to the other. Jofra is a world class talent and this home summer how England decide to use him is huge.
Englands second white ball spinner:
England’s T20i side is seemingly settled ahead of the world cup except for a few spots. Now, Eoin Morgan didn’t opt for a second white ball spinner in any of the games against India but to not have one on the plane would just be ridiculous. Whilst Moeen can offer something with the ball he is more a one over powerplay bowler or to be used fleetingly for specific matchups though with his recent IPL form you can’t help but feel that he will be in the starting Xi so England could choose to go down that route but this does feel unlikely. When you combine this with the poor form of both Chris Jordan and Tom Curran there is a second spinner spot up for grabs. Now whether this comes down to a pure spinner or more batting all rounder is yet unknown (my natural inclination is the latter) but the names that England have available are actually pretty exciting. In terms of batting all rounders Will Jacks probably can lay the biggest claim to being in the side but he will need a superb 100 and Blast to recover from a terrible winter away with the Hobart Hurricanes. In terms of pure spinner Danny Briggs is a very solid option but he suffers from the same issue as Matt Parkinson (who is almost certainly the next in line) with him turning the ball the same way as Rashid. Mason Crane at Hampshire boats an impressive t20 record and has come on leaps and bounds as a white ball bowler since making his t20i debut against South Africa and should almost certainly be in the conversation. In the middle of the batting all rounders and pure spinners is Liam Dawson who almost certainly will play for England this summer and unless he has a disarstorous summer or 100 will be on the plane for India. England have a big decision to make on the second spinner front and this summer provides them with a good chance to observe how some of the previously mentioned options deal with the international stage and what they can offer to the side.
England have a supreme pace attack and even their second string attack is world class in most conditions but how do they get the best out of them and who do they play? England have 7 tests this summer and 9 seamers who deserve a go (Broad, Anderson, Archer, Woakes, Curran, Wood, Robinson, Stone, Overton) but how do you fit them all in? The answer is the dreaded phrase of the winter rest and rotation and to do this ruthlessly. All great sides do this and it makes sense especially with bowlers. Bowling in a test match is tiring and taxing on the body and out of Englands options nearly all of at 100% fitness offer more than another at 75%. When England were at their absolute best in 05 they had a magnificent pace quartet who eventually crashed and burned but even then England didn’t have the luxury they have now; Woakes, Overton and Anderson with a few overs from Stokes is a superb test match attack in England. In my opinion England should only play one of Broad and Anderson at a time to ensure that one of their premier seamers is always at 100% fitness and build the side from there. At number 8 Curran, Woakes and Overton are all viable options, leaving one of Wood, Jofra, Robinson and Stone to fill in at 10 with either Broad or Anderson at 11. England need to make sure that all of their seamers have overs bowled and are fit and firing in each game. Australia did it in 2019 and to good effect selecting players based on the venues and the wickets. England need to be relentless and not take the approach of trusting the players. Last summer we saw something along these lines for two games until a spanner was thrown in the works and the whole plan got messed up. Of course the idea of just always playing your best seam attack is true and it is not a bad plan but it is not the best in terms of squad building and seeing how players cope at the highest level. Truth be told the thought of a seamer playing their first test match in months or maybe ever in Australia is one that worries me. England have the greatest seam bowling depth in the world; they just need to use it. Of course ideally England would have done this last summer ahead of their monster year but they didn’t and by forcing their own hand they have to do it now or run the risk of having an uncooked bowler taking the new ball at Perth. To put it quite simply, if Olly Stone, Craig Overton and Ollie Robinson don't play a test this summer then England have made a vital error.
So there we have my talking points ahead of the English summer. Have I missed anything out? Do you agree with what I put? What are your thoughts on the points mentioned? Feel free to let me know by commenting below or reaching out on to me on Twitter @therunoutblog1.