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John Stern: England out of Harm's way

October 7th, 2009 by John Stern in England, Test cricket


So, having recovered from the white blazer fiasco, TWC Towers has turned its attention to the make-up of England’s tour squad to South Africa, which is announced tomorrow.

In the post-Flintoff era, we’re back to trying to get 12 players into an XI. Six batters or five bowlers? That’s the conundrum. Duncan Fletcher was adamant that England needed a five-man attack. For most teams, it’s a luxury that they have rarely entertained. Or perhaps, they just have better bowlers.

Matt Prior at six seems to be one of the cornerstones of the Strauss-Flower philosophy but are we happy with Broad at seven in South Africa? The thought of Collingwood in a top five depresses the hell out of me – he has so obviously peaked and England’s progress is hampered by the reliance upon him that high in the order. Colly at six is a different matter and it’s clear that he is very highly regarded for his dressing room presence and mental toughness. Bell and Bopara could both go though I’d take Rob Key instead of Bopara on the basis that he can open or bat three.

Adil Rashid is surely Graeme Swann’s shadow with bags of potential with bat and ball. He could be in the side within a year.

And then the quicks: Anderson, Broad and Onions are shoo-ins. But who fills the other two places is where it gets interesting. Is Steve Harmison among the best five fast bowlers in England? Yes. So there shouldn’t be any doubt about his selection. But of course there is and with good reason. He’s said he doesn’t want to be a bit-part player but England can’t and shouldn’t guarantee him a place in the starting XI. So what’s to be done? Probably leave him at home which means that the last major symbolic tie with 2005 will have been cut.

Which leaves Ryan Sidebottom and one other. Tim Bresnan? Maybe it’s time to start rehabilitating Liam Plunkett after a very decent all-round season for Durham.

I have to say none of this makes me feel very optimistic about England’s chances in South Africa.

John Stern’s touring squad: Andrew Strauss (Middlesex, capt), James Anderson (Lancs), Ian Bell (Warks), Stuart Broad (Notts), Paul Collingwood (Durham), Alastair Cook (Essex), Steven Davies (Surrey, wkt), Robert Key (Kent), Graham Onions (Durham), Kevin Pietersen (Hants), Liam Plunkett (Durham), Matt Prior (Sussex, wkt), Adil Rashid (Yorks), Ryan Sidebottom (Notts), Graeme Swann (Notts), Jonathan Trott (Warks),

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer

Posted in England, Test cricket | 1 Comment »

One Response to “John Stern: England out of Harm's way”

  1.   Jon Merrell says:

    i would have loved Harmy to Toured, i really believe he brings alot to a bowling attack, Sidebottom and Onions are questionable for me, id have harmy any day of the week.

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