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Old 6th April 2016, 15:20   #21
JRC67
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I agree with most of the points. I'm not so sure is a definite plan not to play a specialist spinner as I think in international cricket you are a bit limited by the talent available and have to pick the best balance based on that. I tend to agree that Zafari would appear to be more of an accumulator than a stoke player and therefore not really suited to bat below six and Stokes is clearly most suited to playing that role - although his problem elsewhere is probably more psychological. What might be interesting is if Zafari came through as the best opening bat would we still persist with Ali at 8, or go with an additional batsman, or maybe Rashid as a more attacking spin alternative.

England are in a bit of a strange position currently, at test level there seems to be a lack of spin and batting talent pushing at the door, but there seem to be some decent all rounders pushing for international consideration. Its possible that in a couple of years time Rashid/Ali, Zafari, Stokes and Curran could all be in the side and there a number of others who could make the step up. I don't think we'd have beaten Australia or South Africa without the lower middle order, so it is compensate for the weakness with the first 5.
Think I agree with all that. England's strength over the last 18 months has been runs from 6 - 8 and the all rounders contribution has been compensating for a pretty ropey performance in the top 5. Without being certain I'm pretty sure that we would have lost to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa without those runs. The problem is that the players we try at 1 - 5 end up averaging less in each series than 6, 7 and 8. My guess is Ali is pretty safe until someone nails down 2 of the first 5 slots currently available.

I'm not wholly against the concept of packing a team will all rounders, if the specialist aren't making the grade. It is entirely feasible Ansari will emerge as a genuine opening batsman, so not picking him because he also bowls left arm spin seems a bit strange. For years bowlers have been expected to work on their batting, so there isn't a reason why batsmen can't also work on their bowling. Root is a decent option as a more defensive right arm spinner even with Ali in the side. He doesn't give it the same rip but he's a reasonably accurate right arm twirler. I think he's had some back problems, but if they clear up he's a useful alternative for a captain.
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Old 6th April 2016, 16:10   #22
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Think I agree with all that. England's strength over the last 18 months has been runs from 6 - 8 and the all rounders contribution has been compensating for a pretty ropey performance in the top 5. Without being certain I'm pretty sure that we would have lost to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa without those runs. The problem is that the players we try at 1 - 5 end up averaging less in each series than 6, 7 and 8. My guess is Ali is pretty safe until someone nails down 2 of the first 5 slots currently available.
...
It's not clear to me that the value of Ali's runs have much to do with what the top order does. He's there because his net contribution to the side is thought to be higher than that of the alternatives. I think that for top order performance to affect that, Ali would have to be DNB fairly often. I used to argue that the preference for Jones over Read was a damning indictment of the top order (who shouldn't need the keeper to score the runs for them), but in the end I think the question was whether Jones's extra runs (compared to Read's) were cancelled out by his shoddy keeping (compared to Read's). Intuitively it might seem that the extra runs from the lower order are more valuable if the top order is failing; but the advantages of the lower order's non-batting skills apply right down the oppo's order, and in the end I think the only other relevant factor will be whether the team that opts for e.g. Ali over Panesar might run out of time and draw high-scoring games that it might possibly have won as lower-scoring ones instead.
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Old 6th April 2016, 16:38   #23
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How would the tails look

Broad, Finn, Anderson, Panesar - 56.7 - 47.4 - 58.1 - 74.7
Ali, Broad, Finn, Anderson - 64.5 - 56.7 -47.4 - 58.1

I don't think Panesar would replace Ali but as second spinner in the sub-continent.
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Old 6th April 2016, 17:09   #24
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It's not clear to me that the value of Ali's runs have much to do with what the top order does. He's there because his net contribution to the side is thought to be higher than that of the alternatives. I think that for top order performance to affect that, Ali would have to be DNB fairly often. I used to argue that the preference for Jones over Read was a damning indictment of the top order (who shouldn't need the keeper to score the runs for them), but in the end I think the question was whether Jones's extra runs (compared to Read's) were cancelled out by his shoddy keeping (compared to Read's). Intuitively it might seem that the extra runs from the lower order are more valuable if the top order is failing; but the advantages of the lower order's non-batting skills apply right down the oppo's order, and in the end I think the only other relevant factor will be whether the team that opts for e.g. Ali over Panesar might run out of time and draw high-scoring games that it might possibly have won as lower-scoring ones instead.
Why would moeen run out of time when his strike rate is significantly better? England batting too long because he scores runs and monty doesn't?
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Old 6th April 2016, 17:27   #25
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How would the tails look

Broad, Finn, Anderson, Panesar - 56.7 - 47.4 - 58.1 - 74.7
Ali, Broad, Finn, Anderson - 64.5 - 56.7 -47.4 - 58.1

I don't think Panesar would replace Ali but as second spinner in the sub-continent.
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Why would moeen run out of time when his strike rate is significantly better? England batting too long because he scores runs and monty doesn't?
Ali and Panesar are just examples. If you don't find those particular examples helpful, then please invent better ones. On the one hand imagine a poor spinner who bats well, and on the other hand imagine a fine spinner who bats badly; and imagine that the former is being preferred over the latter because his net contribution is thought to be slightly greater. And yes, Sir Virgs, batting for longer is part of it.
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Old 6th April 2016, 17:47   #26
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Ali and Panesar are just examples. If you don't find those particular examples helpful, then please invent better ones. On the one hand imagine a poor spinner who bats well, and on the other hand imagine a fine spinner who bats badly; and imagine that the former is being preferred over the latter because his net contribution is thought to be slightly greater. And yes, Sir Virgs, batting for longer is part of it.
Thanks for clarification. I am trying to think of a fine English spinner but my imagination is not that good. Sorry.
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Old 6th April 2016, 18:40   #27
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Think I agree with all that.
I'd hope so as you seemed to be quoting yourself!

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It's not clear to me that the value of Ali's runs have much to do with what the top order does. He's there because his net contribution to the side is thought to be higher than that of the alternatives. I think that for top order performance to affect that, Ali would have to be DNB fairly often. I used to argue that the preference for Jones over Read was a damning indictment of the top order (who shouldn't need the keeper to score the runs for them), but in the end I think the question was whether Jones's extra runs (compared to Read's) were cancelled out by his shoddy keeping (compared to Read's). Intuitively it might seem that the extra runs from the lower order are more valuable if the top order is failing; but the advantages of the lower order's non-batting skills apply right down the oppo's order, and in the end I think the only other relevant factor will be whether the team that opts for e.g. Ali over Panesar might run out of time and draw high-scoring games that it might possibly have won as lower-scoring ones instead.
As Ali is a free-scoring batsman when 'in' this might actually count in favour of Ali over Panesar. His late order runs could enable us to only have to bat once.

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How would the tails look

Broad, Finn, Anderson, Panesar - 56.7 - 47.4 - 58.1 - 74.7
Ali, Broad, Finn, Anderson - 64.5 - 56.7 -47.4 - 58.1

I don't think Panesar would replace Ali but as second spinner in the sub-continent.
What are those figures?

Bowling speeds?
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Old 6th April 2016, 20:11   #28
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It's not clear to me that the value of Ali's runs have much to do with what the top order does. He's there because his net contribution to the side is thought to be higher than that of the alternatives. I think that for top order performance to affect that, Ali would have to be DNB fairly often. I used to argue that the preference for Jones over Read was a damning indictment of the top order (who shouldn't need the keeper to score the runs for them), but in the end I think the question was whether Jones's extra runs (compared to Read's) were cancelled out by his shoddy keeping (compared to Read's). Intuitively it might seem that the extra runs from the lower order are more valuable if the top order is failing; but the advantages of the lower order's non-batting skills apply right down the oppo's order, and in the end I think the only other relevant factor will be whether the team that opts for e.g. Ali over Panesar might run out of time and draw high-scoring games that it might possibly have won as lower-scoring ones instead.
3 of England's last 4 series our top 5 have averaged 180 or less and that isn't enough to regularly win test matches. Almost as importantly if you discount Root and Cook there's only Lyth vs New Zealand who has made a significant contribution throughout a series, so the middle order are too often coming in to bat without enough runs on the board to create any pressure on opposition batsmen at test level. At the moment its not just the runs 6, 7 and 8 are making it also means Root and Cook haven't been running out of partners.

Our problem in high scoring games is we wouldn't have a high score in the first innings to run out of time if 6 - 8 don't contribute, because 2, 3 and 5 aren't producing enough runs.
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Old 6th April 2016, 20:22   #29
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3 of England's last 4 series our top 5 have averaged 180 or less and that isn't enough to regularly win test matches. Almost as importantly if you discount Root and Cook there's only Lyth vs New Zealand who has made a significant contribution throughout a series, so the middle order are too often coming in to bat without enough runs on the board to create any pressure on opposition batsmen at test level. At the moment its not just the runs 6, 7 and 8 are making it also means Root and Cook haven't been running out of partners.

Our problem in high scoring games is we wouldn't have a high score in the first innings to run out of time if 6 - 8 don't contribute, because 2, 3 and 5 aren't producing enough runs.
I think that's a little unfair on Bairstow in South Africa, where he was one of our best batsmen, probably most consistent. However, you are right to point this out. We can experiment a little more with a weaker tail again once we are more confident our top 6 are chipping in.
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Old 6th April 2016, 20:37   #30
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3 of England's last 4 series our top 5 have averaged 180 or less and that isn't enough to regularly win test matches. Almost as importantly if you discount Root and Cook there's only Lyth vs New Zealand who has made a significant contribution throughout a series, so the middle order are too often coming in to bat without enough runs on the board to create any pressure on opposition batsmen at test level. At the moment its not just the runs 6, 7 and 8 are making it also means Root and Cook haven't been running out of partners.

Our problem in high scoring games is we wouldn't have a high score in the first innings to run out of time if 6 - 8 don't contribute, because 2, 3 and 5 aren't producing enough runs.
I agree that our top order are not very strong at present. But see my post again ... I think that's beside the point when it comes to deciding which bowlers to choose. Better bowlers who can't bat means you get fewer runs but you don't need as many runs, and worse bowlers who bat better means you get more runs but the oppo are going to get more as well.
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Old 6th April 2016, 22:06   #31
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I agree that our top order are not very strong at present. But see my post again ... I think that's beside the point when it comes to deciding which bowlers to choose. Better bowlers who can't bat means you get fewer runs but you don't need as many runs, and worse bowlers who bat better means you get more runs but the oppo are going to get more as well.
Yes, but the selectors are not in the situation where they can make such decisions, so are having to find a balance by making choices between all-rounders in order to make the team as a whole more likely to win.
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Old 7th April 2016, 10:12   #32
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Yes, but the selectors are not in the situation where they can make such decisions, so are having to find a balance by making choices between all-rounders in order to make the team as a whole more likely to win.
It's hard to know what the selectors really think. I was just responding to JRC's suggestion that Ali's position would be more vulnerable should the top order get their act together. Ali's been a fixture for several years now, during which time, as one would expect, the top order have been up and down. Our runs scored are not to be judged in isolation, though -- they're only to be judged in comparison with the runs the oppo scores (which our bowling can affect). In any case, though, as you imply, the whole thing is a bit hypothetical until such a time as there is an available alternative spinner who is generally thought to be a better bowler than Ali. Whether that situation will ever arise, though, remains to be seen.
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Old 7th April 2016, 11:06   #33
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It's hard to know what the selectors really think. I was just responding to JRC's suggestion that Ali's position would be more vulnerable should the top order get their act together. Ali's been a fixture for several years now, during which time, as one would expect, the top order have been up and down. Our runs scored are not to be judged in isolation, though -- they're only to be judged in comparison with the runs the oppo scores (which our bowling can affect). In any case, though, as you imply, the whole thing is a bit hypothetical until such a time as there is an available alternative spinner who is generally thought to be a better bowler than Ali. Whether that situation will ever arise, though, remains to be seen.
One hopes it will happen soon, or that Mo or Dilly up their game somewhat.
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Old 7th April 2016, 14:23   #34
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I think that's a little unfair on Bairstow in South Africa, where he was one of our best batsmen, probably most consistent. However, you are right to point this out. We can experiment a little more with a weaker tail again once we are more confident our top 6 are chipping in.
I agree about Bairstow in SA, but he was batting at 7 there. His average at 5 has been poor. It would be interesting to see how he would perform if moved back to 5 with a bit of confidence. I'm not sure how much of his improved form is down to less pressure on his batting when he's keeping, improved technique, confidence or playing against tired bowlers with an old ball. He's always looked a bit below international class when he's batted at 5 for me in previous series, but the South African series may have been when he came of age.
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Old 7th April 2016, 14:36   #35
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I agree about Bairstow in SA, but he was batting at 7 there. His average at 5 has been poor. It would be interesting to see how he would perform if moved back to 5 with a bit of confidence. I'm not sure how much of his improved form is down to less pressure on his batting when he's keeping, improved technique, confidence or playing against tired bowlers with an old ball. He's always looked a bit below international class when he's batted at 5 for me in previous series, but the South African series may have been when he came of age.
To be honest I forgot he batted at 7, thought he was at 5. But then it's easy to overlook James Taylor.
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Old 7th April 2016, 14:40   #36
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I agree that our top order are not very strong at present. But see my post again ... I think that's beside the point when it comes to deciding which bowlers to choose. Better bowlers who can't bat means you get fewer runs but you don't need as many runs, and worse bowlers who bat better means you get more runs but the oppo are going to get more as well.
I agree there is an element of that, but also bowlers need batsman to set a target. First 3 bowlers on the team sheet should definitely be picked because they are the best you have. Its more of a balancing act when you pick your 4th and in England's case fifth bowlers. In English conditions you'd hope your 3 front line bowlers (who are all currently seamers for England) would take most of the wickets and bowl 20 over a day. That leaves you with 30 overs for your 4th and 5th bowler. That really means you have to have a spin option if you play 4 bowlers only. Stokes is good for 15 - 20 overs (for me his bowling isn't too far behind Finn who I think is currently the 3rd best English bowler), so your only really looking at a 10 - 15 over contribution from your spinner/5th bowler and then only when you bowl first and don't bowl the opposition out in a day.

What will be interesting is to see what happens when Stokes gets injured. Do they go for a spinner who can bowl 30 overs at an economy rate of 3 (probably dropping Ali), promote Ali to 6 or 7, or try an alternative from the group of decent county all rounders.
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Old 7th April 2016, 15:21   #37
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... What will be interesting is to see what happens when Stokes gets injured. Do they go for a spinner who can bowl 30 overs at an economy rate of 3 (probably dropping Ali), promote Ali to 6 or 7, or try an alternative from the group of decent county all rounders.
That's the million-dollar question with all-rounders. With specialists, because there are a lot of them around, there's always a next cab off the rank; but all-rounders can very quickly change the way a team is constituted, and that can cause difficulties when they're injured. I suppose it would depend on how long-term the injury was thought to be, and what the imminent fixtures were. But I agree that Stokes and Ali seem to come as a package.

I think the most likely response to a short-term Stokes injury would be to pick Woakes in his place (he batted well at no. 6 on debut for England); but the other option would be to replace him with a batsman (which could be Ali if you think he's a better batsman than Ballance etc.) and pick a more dependable spinner like Tredwell in Ali's place.

I think it's still early days with Stokes, and it remains to be seen whether his batting will consistently be better than that of the reserve batsman, or whether the bowling of the third-best specialist seamer will be consistently better than Stokes's.
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Old 7th April 2016, 18:27   #38
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Not just in England but all over the world the role of a specialist seems to a dying art. First we saw specialist wicket keepers becoming less and less popular, and eventually we got to the stage where having a keeper in the side who wasn't as good as the other batsman was a rarity. The individual needed to be able to bat otherwise their keeping skills would be irrelevant, no matter how good they behind the stumps. A Jack Russell or Chris Read probably wouldn't get anywhere near the England side today, because batting is the skill that is prioritised, not the bowling.

Now I think history is repeating itself with bowlers. How many people thought Reece Topley, a number eleven, shouldn't be in the England side because he couldn't bat. A few on this forum. Topley is a throwback to days of old. If you talk about potential England bowlers, nearly all mentioned could be classed as all rounders, or bowling all rounders.

So it's no surprise that when it comes to choosing a spinner, batting is taken into account. And young spinners coming through need to work on their batting otherwise they won't be in the side. And even if there is a young spinner deemed good enough to play, it is often their batting that is worked on because you don't have to be an excellent batsman to score runs in England, but you do have to be a high quality spinner to take wickets on English pitches throughout the year.

Of course, the irony with Ali is that it's almost gone the other way round. When Ali first came to the fore in international cricket, he looked like he could play at number five and not look out of place. However, he's focuses on his bowling and this has been detrimental to his batting. At present, it would be difficult to say Ali didn't deserve his place in the team, but it would also be difficult to say he is one of the best five bowlers in England. Ultimately, it may be that even when if England find a spinner better than Ali he will stay in the side as a batsman, and if he does that says a lot about how important England view the role of a spinner, and this lack of interest in picking and developing an out and out spinner will likely continue in a vicious circle.
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Old 7th April 2016, 20:19   #39
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Not just in England but all over the world the role of a specialist seems to a dying art. First we saw specialist wicket keepers becoming less and less popular, and eventually we got to the stage where having a keeper in the side who wasn't as good as the other batsman was a rarity. The individual needed to be able to bat otherwise their keeping skills would be irrelevant, no matter how good they behind the stumps. A Jack Russell or Chris Read probably wouldn't get anywhere near the England side today, because batting is the skill that is prioritised, not the bowling.
Nor, quite possibly, would Alan Knott. An eventual Test average of 41 batting at number 7 but very little to recommend him with the willow at the time he was first selected for England.
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Old 7th April 2016, 21:29   #40
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Not just in England but all over the world the role of a specialist seems to a dying art. First we saw specialist wicket keepers becoming less and less popular, and eventually we got to the stage where having a keeper in the side who wasn't as good as the other batsman was a rarity. The individual needed to be able to bat otherwise their keeping skills would be irrelevant, no matter how good they behind the stumps. A Jack Russell or Chris Read probably wouldn't get anywhere near the England side today, because batting is the skill that is prioritised, not the bowling.

Now I think history is repeating itself with bowlers. How many people thought Reece Topley, a number eleven, shouldn't be in the England side because he couldn't bat. A few on this forum. Topley is a throwback to days of old. If you talk about potential England bowlers, nearly all mentioned could be classed as all rounders, or bowling all rounders.

So it's no surprise that when it comes to choosing a spinner, batting is taken into account. And young spinners coming through need to work on their batting otherwise they won't be in the side. And even if there is a young spinner deemed good enough to play, it is often their batting that is worked on because you don't have to be an excellent batsman to score runs in England, but you do have to be a high quality spinner to take wickets on English pitches throughout the year.

Of course, the irony with Ali is that it's almost gone the other way round. When Ali first came to the fore in international cricket, he looked like he could play at number five and not look out of place. However, he's focuses on his bowling and this has been detrimental to his batting. At present, it would be difficult to say Ali didn't deserve his place in the team, but it would also be difficult to say he is one of the best five bowlers in England. Ultimately, it may be that even when if England find a spinner better than Ali he will stay in the side as a batsman, and if he does that says a lot about how important England view the role of a spinner, and this lack of interest in picking and developing an out and out spinner will likely continue in a vicious circle.
I think the days of 5 batsmen, 5 bowlers and a keeper are pretty much dead. Most teams seem to set up with 4 bowlers now, 3 seamers and a spinner who in most cases is there to keep things tight, not concede many runs while the quicks have a break. Bowlers are a bit fitter so they generally can bowl more overs than 30 years ago. You want your best bowlers bowling most of the overs. The emergence of Stokes as a frontline batsman and bowlers has changed that dynamic for England and we don't need 30 overs a day from a spinner. If a spinner was one of the best 3 bowlers in England I'm pretty sure he would be in the team. I can't think of a spinner in the top 20 English qualified bowlers, or one who offers more of a wicket threat than Stokes. The emergence of bowlers who can reverse swing the ball has also diminished the need for a spinner as the traditional time from 50 - 80 overs for spinners to be on and keep things tight waiting for the new ball is often reverse swing time now, so your quicker bowlers can also offer a threat.

I'm pretty sure England management would love to have a Warne or even a Swann in the team and India might be a defining moment for a spinner coming in to the team and really emerging. Or it may replicate the UAe where really it showed that even on a spinning wicket our seamers were a bigger threat than our spinners for all but one afternoon.
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