On the Front Foot: Twelfth set of openers show England's T20 numbers don't add up

  • @stephenbrenkley

England have used more players in Twenty20 cricket than any other country. It probably follows therefore that they have also had the greatest number of opening partnerships. The idea that they are casting around in the county wilderness, hoping that something, anything works, was hardly dispelled by the squad named for the World Twenty20. Although it might be full of promise and potential, it still contains four players – Eoin Morgan, Graham Napier, Rob Key and James Foster – who have never played international T20 cricket. As the chairman of selectors Geoff Miller (does anybody want to call him by his strange official title of national selector?) said, they will soon find out if they can make the step. It's just that the world championship seems to be an odd time to be doing the discovering. If all four play at some point, England's total number of T20 players will be brought up to 41. England – 15 matches, nine defeats – will have their 12th different opening partnership. No pair has done the job more than twice. The selectors are always banging on about continuity, bless them, but in T20 they have shown anything but. Australia have had eight opening partnerships in 20 matches but Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist did it nine times. Presumably, Ravi Bopara and Key are pencilled in to do the job for England. If they are still doing it by the time the group stage comes round, should the hosts qualify by beating Holland, they will have broken a national record.

Barclay's cheque to bank

What a thoroughly engaging speech the winner of the Cricket Society's book of the year prize gave at a dinner in the Lord's Long Room last week. John Barclay was wry, amusing, self-deprecating. Just like his book, 'Life Beyond the Airing Cupboard', a memoir of his life in cricket as captain of Sussex, manager of England tours and, perhaps most importantly of all, head of the Arundel Cricket Foundation. It was apparently a narrow winner ahead of three others on the shortlist including Joseph O'Neill's 'Amsterdam', but a winner – complete with cheque for £3,000 – for all that. Barclay was speaking to his audience not only as the award-winning author but also as president of the Cricket Society, which was giving the prize. No harm in that, of course, though the Society is making a habit of keeping things in house, so to speak. Four years ago the winning book was 'Red Shirts and Roses', written by Eric Midwinter, who has also been chairman of the judging panel for the past seven years.

Compose yourself Strauss

There will be another splendid occasion in the Long Room tomorrow at the England Player of the Year dinner. Ryan Sidebottom was a deserved if unexpected winner last year. Picking the player this year is difficult given England's record. This column's vote has gone to Andrew Strauss for rediscovering his form and picking up the pieces. But he will not waltz home.

Onions a sage selection

If that last line was not side-splitting enough, be prepared for a feast (geddit?) of gastronomic delights in the headlines if Graham Onions does well for England. It is as well that England's left-handed opener from Essex is not in the opposition and in the runs against Onions because otherwise Cook would be spoiling the broth.