Ollie Pope has insisted that England are ready for the challenge of facing a fiery West Indian pace attack next week, despite three days of preparation on a “slow” wicket in their intra-squad warm-up match.
West Indies officially added Shannon Gabriel to their squad on Thursday evening, and he looks set to go straight into the side that plays at the Ageas Bowl on July 8. He is expected to be joined by Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph and captain Jason Holder – who averages 14.22 with the ball in Tests since 2018 – in the same formidable fast-bowling line-up which blew England away in Barbados and Antigua last year.
Pope has an imperious record against bouncers in his fledgling Test career to date, scoring 67 runs off the 54 short balls he has faced to date and being dismissed only once, and managed to withstand a brief barrage from Ben Stokes and Jamie Overton on the final day of the warm-up.
But despite those positives, the pitch was slow from the outset, with several balls dying on their way through to the wicketkeeper and several short balls sitting up nicely. The Ageas Bowl’s head groundsman, Simon Lee, is in his first season in the job after joining from Somerset, and – perhaps harshly – came in for criticism in his final years at Taunton for obliging when asked to prepare challenging batting surfaces. He has not had the luxury of a county season in which to get used to his new surroundings in preparation for his first Test pitch, but will undoubtedly hope the bounce is slightly truer next week.
“It was quite a slow wicket,” Pope admitted. “On the first day it felt a little bit soft, and there wasn’t a lot of carry. Nicks weren’t always carrying through. We’re not sure what kind of wicket we’re going to get out there come next Wednesday, but it was quite slow. It started turning a little bit at the end.”
In particular, Pope highlighted the contrast with what had been served up in training. “We’ve played on some quite spicy wickets in the nets, and obviously just against our own bowlers. There’s no net bowlers around, so the quality of bowling has been seriously high on some pretty spicy wickets.
“Sometimes it’s trying to get through the net and keep your wicket rather than feeling good and finding the middle of the bat. We’re gone from one extreme to the other. That’s great for our games, because it’s good to adapt.”
And Pope maintained that he had few qualms about which type of surface he played on, saying that it was up to England’s batsmen to adapt. “Sometimes on a wicket with truer bounce, it makes playing the short ball a little bit easier, but then again it makes it a little bit easier to pull if it’s a slightly slower wicket,” he said. “It’s just adapting, whether you want to take on the pull shot or get under a few more, depending on how quick it is and how consistent the bounce is.
“The quality of competition going on out there was really high-class throughout the three days. I think we’re getting there. I felt pretty good in the first innings, and it was nice to spend a bit more time out there today. We’re all moving the right direction.”
England will name a squad for the first Test on Saturday morning, with seven players from their enlarged 30-man training group set to leave the bubble at the Ageas Bowl. Joe Root has already been confirmed as missing the first Test to attend the birth of his second child, and the side will be led by Ben Stokes.
The selectors were due to meet on Friday evening to finalise the details, but 22 players will be named in total, with around 15 in the main squad and a smaller group of reserves. Those likely to miss out include Keaton Jennings, Lewis Gregory and Amar Virdi, while question marks over Olly Stone’s fitness (he took no part this week due to a tight hamstring) and Sam Curran’s lack of match practice following his self-isolation this week could count against them.
Jofra Archer only bowled three overs on Friday, and twice received medical attention in the match – first on his foot on Thursday evening as he tried to break in a new pair of bowling boots, and later on Friday as he hurt his left wrist in the field – but is understood to be fully fit and available for selection in the first Test.
Ireland name uncapped Curtis Campher, Harry Tector for England ODI series opener
Curtis Campher and Harry Tector are in line to make their Ireland ODI debuts against England on Thursday after being included in a 14-man squad for the first match of the series, which will kick off the Men’s World Cup Super League.
Campher, a 21-year-old allrounder, toured England in 2018 with South Africa Under-19s, but decided earlier this year to use his mother’s Irish passport to boost his international prospects. He signed a development contract earlier this year and travelled with the Ireland Wolves on their A-team tour to Namibia before the pandemic struck.
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An attacking middle-order batsman, Tector has already won 20 T20I caps at the age of 20, but is now in line for a 50-over debut. He warmed up for the series with a pair of fifties – in Ireland’s intra-squad practice match and in their fixture against England Lions – and showcased his ability as a hitter in the T20I series against Afghanistan in March.
The high-profile omission from the squad is Mark Adair, Ireland’s leading ODI wicket-taker in 2019. Adair got through eight overs against the Lions following an ankle surgery earlier this year, but is not yet fully fit after limited cricket so far this year.
Ireland will name squads on a match-by-match basis, with a 22-man group staying on-site at the Ageas Bowl. Left-arm spinner George Dockrell and middle-order batsman Gary Wilson are also left among the reserves, with the selectors looking to give younger players an opportunity to bed into the international set-up.
“Curtis has impressed selectors and coaches with both his batting and bowling, played very well for the Ireland Wolves against Namibia in February, has trained well in recent weeks and provides a great balance to the side,” said Andrew White, the chairman of selectors. “Fans saw a little of what he can offer during the intra-squad match last Wednesday, and we believe he’ll be ready to step up if called upon.
“Another exciting one for Irish fans is Harry Tector, who comes into the reckoning now to make his ODI debut. Harry has already featured in 20 T20 Internationals for Ireland, and has demonstrated during warm-up games and in training that he is ready for this format of the game. His half-century on Sunday was against an excellent attack, and demonstrated a maturity in his batting for a player so early in their career.
Our deliberations on selection took into account not only those two warm-up games, but also form shown earlier in the year before lockdown. In addition, we also took into account that we have a larger squad here than would be normal, so we decided on a side for the first game only at this point. This means that the eight players who miss out on this playing squad may still have an opportunity to feature in the series.”
Ireland squad for first ODI: Andrew Balbirnie (c), Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, Josh Little, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Kevin O’Brien, William Porterfield, Boyd Rankin, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young
Reserves: Mark Adair, Peter Chase, George Dockrell, JJ Garth, Tyrone Kane, James McCollum, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson
James Anderson backs Stuart Broad to break England record as he claims 500th Test wicket
James Anderson says that his team-mate Stuart Broad could go yet on to outstrip his own England-record wicket tally, as he stood on the verge of becoming the fourth seam bowler in history to reach 500 Test wickets on the final day against West Indies at Emirates Old Trafford.
Broad went into the final morning of the match on 499 Test wickets, and duly pinned Kraigg Brathwaite lbw shortly after a brief rain delay to reach his milestone. It was his ninth wicket in a remarkable personal performance, which also featured a 33-ball half-century in England’s first innings, and followed on from six vital wickets in the series-levelling win at the same ground last week.
“The way Stuart’s bowled in the last two games has been absolutely phenomenal and an absolute credit to himself and the work he’s put in over the last few years,” Anderson told Sky Sports before the start of play.
“He’s now getting the ball to shape away again. We’ve seen how lethal he is with that wobble seam that nips back and hits batsmen on the pads. It’s incredible to watch and a real inspiration, not just for the younger members of the team but for me, seeing someone like Stuart work as hard as he has, and deal with the things that he’s had to deal with over the last few years.”
Broad is currently the leading wicket-taker in the series with 15 wickets, despite being controversially omitted from the first Test at the Ageas Bowl. During that match, he expressed his anger at being overlooked despite being England’s best bowler in both the Ashes last summer and the tour of South Africa in December and January, and Anderson was impressed with the manner in which he’d backed up his words with deeds.
“Obviously he was disappointed at Southampton,” he said, “but just seeing the way he dealt with that, he’s come back and got picked in the second Test match, and from there he just looked like he had a real point to prove, and I think he has proved it.”
Anderson has now played alongside Broad in 117 of his 140 Tests, and is himself 11 wickets away from becoming the first fast bowler to reach 600 in Tests. And with their contrasting methods – swing versus seam, skid versus height – they have now claimed a combined total of 894 Test wickets on the occasions they’ve lead the line for England since 2008.
Asked if there were any parts of Broad’s game that Anderson would wish to take for his own, he replied: “I quite like to be six foot six. That’d be a nice addition to what I’ve got. But to be honest I’m always amazed at how he gets on a spell and just blows people away.
“He got three wickets in 14 balls in the first innings, and his six-for. He just gets on a roll and I don’t feel like I’ve got that in my game. If I get a five-for, it seems to take me a few days to get it.”
“But to be honest, I don’t think either of us is that fussed about the actual wickets tally. What we enjoy doing is winning games of cricket and celebrating those moments together.
“We love bowling together in Test matches as well, we have a really good understanding and we bowl well when the other guy bowling is at the other end, we seem to know what each other is trying to do. We enjoy playing cricket for England and winning games of cricket for England, and the wickets will take care of themselves.”
Nevertheless, while Broad has often been considered the junior partner in their alliance, and not just in terms of their four-year age gap, Anderson was confident his team-mate has the drive, the fitness and determination to keep leading the line for England for several seasons to come.
“There’s a very good chance that he’ll get more wickets to me if he carries on like this,” Anderson said. “I heard him say the other day, why can’t he carry on until he’s my age and that’s absolutely true. He’s in great shape.
“He’s working so hard on his game and whenever he gets the opportunity to play, as we saw in South Africa and against Australia last year, he leads the attack brilliantly. He can go on and get as many wickets as he wants.”
R Ashwin: Disallow the run or give bowler a ‘free ball’ for non-striker backing up
R Ashwin has revived the discussion around non-strikers backing up before the ball has been bowled, suggesting that technology be used to spot and penalise the errant batsmen, by either disallowing the runs scored off the ball in question, or giving the bowler a “free ball”.
Ashwin went on to explain – on Twitter – how non-strikers, by backing up, could give their team an advantage as they could put a better batsman on strike. He said penalising the batsman could address the “grave disparity” between bat and ball in what he called an “increasingly tough” environment for the bowlers.
Just hope that technology will see if a batsmen is backing up before the bowler bowls a ball and disallow the runs of that ball every time the batter does so!!Thus, parity will be restored as far as the front line is concerned. #noball #dontbackup
— Ashwin (@ashwinravi99) July 28, 2020
“Just hope that technology will see if a batsmen is backing up before the bowler bowls a ball and disallow the runs of that ball every time the batter does so!!Thus, parity will be restored as far as the front line is concerned #noball #dontbackup,” Ashwin started off tweeting. “Many of you will not be able to see the grave disaparity here, so let me take some time out to clarify to the best of my abilities. If the non striker backs up 2 feet and manages to come back for a 2, he will put the same batsmen on strike for the next ball.
“Putting the same batsmen on strike might cost me a 4 or a 6 from the next ball and eventually cost me 7 more runs instead of may be a 1 and a dot ball possibility at a different batsmen. The same will mean massively for a batter wanting to get off strike even in a test match.
“It is time to restore the balance in what is an increasingly tough environement for the bowlers. #thefrontcrease #belongs to #bothparties @bhogleharsha we can use the same tech that we are proposing for a no ball check 120 balls in a T 20 game.”
This came after the ICC announced that TV umpires would watch front-foot no-balls in ODIs during the World Cup Super League, which starts July 30 with the first England v Ireland game in Southampton.
The debate has divided opinion afresh since last year, when in an IPL game, Ashwin, the Kings XI Punjab captain at the time, ran out Rajasthan Royals’ Jos Buttler at the non-striker’s end without delivering the ball. The dismissal sparked off the old debate, with the MCC first deeming the dismissal “legal” and a day later calling it against “the spirit of cricket” because Ashwin had “paused too long” before taking the bails off.
When Twitter users disagreed with Ashwin for asking for alternate penalties, Ashwin replied: “Make the run invalid of that ball or give the bowler a free ball the next one.
“Instead of Disallowing the run, may be the bowler can get a free ball the very next one where the batsmen has backed up. Some fairness to start off may be.”
While Ashwin did not clearly define what he meant by “free ball”, it could mean a bowling version of a free hit – no runs allowed, but the batsman can be dismissed.
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