The Light Roller: England's Ashes selections confuse recent precedent with considered history
The diary of a cricket obsessive
Tuesday 24 September 2013
Bowlers needn't be tall to reach heights Down Under
The fate of Graham Onions is enough to bring a tear to the eye. A week after helping Durham to a brilliant County Championship title, and having trailed round after the England 1st XI for half the season, he misses the cut for this winter's Ashes squad because there are apparently five fast bowlers ahead of him in the queue (or six if you include the estimable Stokes and seven if you throw in the burly but injured Tim Bresnan).
England's focus on taller pacemen is understandable to an extent, bearing in mind what happened Down Under last time - notwithstanding that Finn is out of form, Tremlett may not be back to his best and Rankin is untested.
But it is instructive to recall that in 2009/10 James Anderson bowled 90 more overs than any other seamer and took more wickets by a distance. He was the real key to success.
In the dismal 5-0 drubbing of 2006/07 Matthew Hoggard was the top wicket-taker. And further back, Dean Headley in the late '90s and Gladstone Small in the '86/'87 campaign have both shown that swing and seam can be more important than height and bounce - even in Australia.
The Championship is reaching it's climax - but we already know how it ends
As the first-class season begins its final chapter, there are remarkably few details left unresolved. The champions of both divisions have been crowned, Surrey have been relegated after a thoroughly grim campaign and Northamptonshire are virtually guaranteed promotion.
The remaining interest lies in the identity of the second team to be relegated from the Championship's top tier. Derbyshire must hope for a positive result between Somerset and Notts (with few bonus points for the loser) while defeating Warwickshire themselves.
It's interesting enough for those in Derby, Taunton and Nottingham (and for Lancashire fans hoping that Jos Buttler will want to move north) but it is hardly the mass-appeal climax that the ECB must have hoped for with September sun finally peeking through the fog.
No joy for Surrey till the club re-establishes its sense of identity
Nevertheless, the balmy weather has been enough to bring a decent crowd to the Oval this morning, where Surrey's top-flight last rites are being said before they start life anew in division two next summer.
That a club with Surrey's resources, playing at a ground as glorious as the Oval, can find itself in this predicament is extraordinary. With Pietersen, Smith and Ponting on the books at the start of the season, it was not supposed to end this way.
More than most counties, Surrey seems so often to struggle with its sense of identity. And until that changes, the club will remain like much of the bowling on display this morning against Yorkshire: full of talent but not always well-directed.
Simon Jones can still show young Lions a thing or two
There was no fairytale ending for Simon Jones in Saturday's YB40 final at Lord's, in spite of his own excellent performance.
Like Harmison, who hasn't played at all, and Hoggard, who has played irregularly - in between times in the Masterchef kitchen - Jones will retire from first class cricket this season and take with him the gratitude of Britain's cricket lovers as well a few 'what ifs'.
He was a big-match player and despite ending up on the losing side at the weekend, it must have pleased him to take the key wickets of Alex Hales and James Taylor. Yet it is a marker of time passing to note that the Notts pair were 13 and 12 respectively when Jones made his England debut in the summer of 2002.
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