If it feels like you keep seeing the England Men’s Cricket Team making the same mistakes, then it’s probably because you are. No, this will not be a piece bemoaning losing to India or New Zealand. Indeed I’ve made peace with England being maybe the fourth best team in the world. Instead, this is more a bit of a ponder about why England keep managing to make things harder for themselves.
Quite impressively, they have a range of mistakes that they keep making. You’ve got a couple of fun selection ones, and a fun in-game one. The more the merrier really.
The first, of course, is their slightly strange squad selections. The pattern seems to be
- Get picked
- Play your way out of the team
- Wait for someone else to do 1 +2
- Get picked again
The latest beneficiaries of this have been Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, and Moeen Ali. In their last stint in the team, all three had genuine issues. Bairstow was struggling with nip-backers, Malan against anything on a good length, and Moeen just generally with the bat.
This time round, it’s hard to say that anything has changed. Bairstow has taken a step across the stumps, the result is that semi-comically he gets done LBW as opposed to bowled. Malan has still looked a bit uncomfortable against on a length, round the wicket bowling. Moeen still struggles to bat, particularly as high up the order as at 7.
The result is that it becomes almost impossible to trust or comprehend the wider selection process. None of them really went away and specifically worked to fix their problems, not to their fault necessarily, they just sort of got invited back in due to frustration with the current options.
The current process seems to confuse a set of familiar hands with a safe pair of hands. It takes comfort in familiarity when it knows that the outcome will sadly be the same. Instead it might be time to make some permanent changes.
One step further, you have some slightly bizarre picks in the starting XI. One that’s already been mentioned is Mo at 7.
I love Mo, I wish Mo could be a key part of the team. I just do not think that he’s good enough to play at 7 as an all-rounder. Thus, he’s relegated to a spinner, a role which England repeatedly show that they have little interest in playing.
Not picking a spinner is of course another mistake that England keep making. Jack Leach might be getting a last minute Test, but England have needed him in this series already. Playing a frontline spinner allows for the quicks to get a bit more rest, as well as the fact that all the pitches so far have actually offered a good amount of turn.
This is something that England have been committed to all summer, and it feels glumly predictable that they are attempting to remedy it in the last Test of the summer.
Not playing a spinner has also allowed England to play one of their greatest hits, running their fast bowlers into the depths of the ground.
Roughly two years on since England attempted to destroy Jofra Archer in The Ashes and in New Zealand, they appear to have learnt precisely nothing. This summer, Ollie Robinson is the shiny new toy who simply has to bowl approximately a million overs. Quite predictably, Sky had the totally tactless approach of ‘if he breaks, he breaks’.
On so many levels, this is a stupid thing to say, One, you do not want players to get injured. Two, they are not robots or animals who simply go on and on. Three, a tired bowler is unlikely to be the best version of themselves.
Over five Tests, fast bowlers suffer. England’s approach seems to be to just play Jimmy Anderson and Ollie Robinson every week and pray for the best. Naturally, they look absolutely shattered.
Quite simply, England have to change how they manage fast bowlers. I would say ‘before something bad happens’, but it already has to the most exciting English bowling prospect in years.
None of these mistakes take a genius to point out, yet they will continue to be made over and over again. England are by no means a great team, but they could probably be a better one if they just made a few more sensible decisions.