The Light Roller: The Ashes will be won and lost by old men and new-fangled salads
Diary of a cricket obsessive
Wednesday 13 November 2013
There are some serious judges - most notably Ian Chappell - who doubt the ability of George Bailey to succeed at Test level. And with the announcement of the Australia squad for next week's Ashes opener, we will soon discover who is right: Chappell or the official selection panel.
Bailey's one-day performances have been outstanding and he will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Michael Hussey, who made his ODI debut at 29 before beginning his test career a year later with extraordinary success. Experience counts for more at test level than it does at the top level in many other sports - just ask Graeme Swann. Moreover, England are likely to have a near-debutant in their starting XI next week who is the ripe old age of 33.
The fact that Bailey's first-class batting average is a modest 38ish may not be a barrier either. It's better than Michael Vaughan's career average, for example. And in any case, his record in domestic 'list A' matches hardly hinted at what was to come when he pulled on his yellow and green pyjamas. The battling qualities he has displayed in recent internationals suggest Bailey could be more of a Mike Hussey than a Michael Bevan and it is to be hoped that he will be given a decent run in the team so we can know for sure.
Plenty of quinoa for England but not enough proper practice
England's amazing health food of the world menu seems to have taken everybody off guard. The days of Mike Gatting and roast beef are very much pie in the sky, or at least 'stale buns', as a former boss of mine would have put it.
The Aussie media are delighted of course, glad that the English obsession with soggy beans has distracted attention from the increasingly Saggy Green. But away from the tedium of quinoa-gate, it cannot be denied that England's Ashes preparations have been less than ideal.
The bowlers have had insufficient meaningful practice; the top seven have been disrupted by injury; and Joe Root has shown himself the most schoolboyish wicketkeeper since Chris Read was bowled by Chris Cairns' slower ball. Luckily, nobody is yet convinced that Australia can bowl, bat or field either so we should be alright.
Bairstow can look to Prior example
It is a measure of how snugly the wicket-keeping gloves have fitted Matt Prior in recent years that his calf injury leaves England at so much of a loss.
57 consecutive tests is an impressive record: a consequence of impeccable fitness, consistently excellent keeping and pugnacious middle-order batting. But Prior is nearly 32 and, weird though it may seem to those for whom the last decade has been something of a blur, he may soon be one of yesterday's men.
Jos Buttler's meander up the M1 shows he means business but Johnny Bairstow is the next man in line and he should look no further than Prior for inspiration. After all, the Sussex man wasn't an immediate success at Test level but he relied on improved glovework to regain and retain his place. Keeping wicket for England may not have been part of Bairstow's masterplan but when the moment comes for Prior to boil-wash his sweat-stained inners for the last time, he may be the perfect all-rounder successor.
Batting like a crab is not recommended
The world of cricket has seen some funny old batting stances. Kim Barnett scored well over 28,000 first class runs, mostly taking his guard some miles west of leg stump, which is pretty good going. Michael Yardy has had his moments too, while John Carr made 24 first-class tons in the 1980s and '90s with what appeared to be a periscope in his hands. Graceful it was not.
Jimmy Adams began his test career with a bang: four centuries and six fifties in his first 14 matches. But by the end of his time at the top his front-on stance had vastly restricted his shot-making ability so that in his final thirty games for the West Indies he scored only one hundred.
In this context, Shiv Chanderpaul's 150th test match, which will be overshadowed by Sachin Tendulkar's 200th, is a truly remarkable achievement, since to look at him taking guard you would think he was a baseball-playing American only recently introduced to the purer game. 10,000 and more runs, 28 centuries and a career test average of over 51 bear testimony to a great of the game, even if they do not offer much insight into about one of its strangest techniques.
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