Jos Buttler, Dom Bess, Ed Smith – Imaginations Run Wild

On the 15th May, the new England national selector Ed Smith announced his first England squad since taking up the role. In that squad was Dom Bess of Somerset and, more surprisingly, Jos Buttler of Lancashire (insert relevant franchise here). The decision to select these two players has been characterised variously as great, exciting, bold, and imaginative by members of the Nazi media of the UK.

Obviously one retches seeing tweets embedded in an article, but these aren’t randomers in the street okay? These guys have press cards – they’ve been to cricket matches – you wouldn’t believe how much hardcore leather on willow action these peeps have seen. Their opinions, whether we agree with them or not, matter. Particularly when we want to bitch about them. Anyway, back to Bess and Buttler, the new chain of pubs taking over test cricket. We’ll start with the latter.

If you hadn’t heard, that freak Jos Buttler has been biffing big sixes all across India. Name an Indian city and Jos will have biffed a six there. Kolkata? Biffed. Jaipur? Biffed. Delhi? Definitely biffed. Mumbai? Of course he’s had a biff there! Such has been the recent destructive nature of Buttler’s biffage that he’s forced his way into the England test side. It’s hard to argue that Jos is not in form – he’s amassed five 50s in his last six t20 innings. Ed Smith has seen that form, he’s seen it alright, and he’s pushed his imagination to a bold and exciting new realm and said ‘we need a counter-attacking batsman at number 7’. Ben Stokes and his fastest ever 250? Not attacking enough. Nah, Buttler’s the boy. More importantly too, with Moeen Ali out of the team (for the time being one imagines), we need to fill that spot of flaky, can be good but fails more often than not batsman in the lower middle order. You’re meant to think that Bess is the replacement for Leach, who had originally replaced Ali, but really, Buttler’s the long-term replacement for Ali the batsman. England had so much success with that sort of batsman in the lower order, they simply had to return to that model. If imagination and excitement mean doing what was done before, i.e. picking a man we’ve picked before with a penchant for playing aggressively and sticking him down the order to give him ‘licence’, then put away the Tame Impala and hide the acid, we’re in for a hell of ride. Buckle up kids, we haven’t even got to the nitty gritty of Buttler’s consistent failure to actually ever succeed in first-class cricket. The statistics do not make great reading – not for the longer formats at least.

Jos Buttler

Type Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave SR 100 50
Test 18 30 5 784 85 31.36 55.52 0 6
First Class 81 126 12 3593 144 31.51 58.77 4 20
T20 226 205 41 4905 95* 29.90 144.09 0 31

Gotta love numbers in a table. In truth, selecting a man with a test average of 31 at a staggering rate of 55 (stinks of counter-attacking) really is very bold. What’s really exciting though is that his test figures are curiously consistent with his first-class figures, as if those actually have any bearing on how he will play in test cricket. If he hadn’t been picked before it might be imaginative. If England wanted to be really be imaginative and had picked a player who could counter-attack, but hadn’t been tried before, there is one chap they could have gone for – Jason Roy. I mean, he’s only actually had consistent success doing exactly what Ed Smith wants Buttler to do for England.

Jason Roy

Type Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave SR 100 50
First Class 78 127 11 4376 143 37.72 82.22 8 20
T20 172 169 9 4378 122* 27.36 143.72 4 28

It’s interesting to see that he not only has a higher average than Buttler, but that’s also at a much quicker strike rate – not to mention he has twice as many hundreds and as many 50s (in only one more innings too). Too obvious probably. To be fair to Smith though, Dom Bess is actually an agreeable and exciting selection – though it’s still not imaginative. Bess has only been one of the more highly-rated spinners plying their trade in the County Championship over the past year, and was probably the next logical selection after Leach got injured. It’s probably too soon for Amar Virdi, Liam Dawson’s such an excuse, and the cricketing world just isn’t ready for Ollie Rayner. Bess has consistently performed well for Somerset when picked, as reflected in his statistics, and deserves a go (unlike Mason Crane).

Dom Bess

Type Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts Ave Econ SR BBI
First-Class 16 28 2867 1417 63 22.49 2.96 45.5 7/117

Look though, we could harp on forever about how the statistics suggest that there maybe better options than Buttler, and that evidence indicates he’s not equipped to play the test format, but this is a selection based on gut and instinct okay? Forget numbers, we want guys who can biff big sixes. Ignore the different conditions those sixes were scored in. Ignore the batsman-friendly setup of the t20 format. Just wait for Mohammad Amir to bowl full-toss after full-toss in the first test as he attempts to ‘execute his yorkers’ because the fielding restrictions have all but forced him to do it. Buttler will be dispatching him to all parts. Just wait. The imagination runs wild.

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The Fear of Momentum in Lewisham East after Heidi Alexander’s resignation

I am a resident of Lewisham (Lee Green to be more specific) and have been since I was born — despite being born just across the border in the warzone that is the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Lewisham East is the only constituency I have ever voted in, I know, I know, don’t be too jealous. Since my birth in 1994 we have only had two MPs — Bridget Prentice and Heidi Alexander, and we have been incredibly lucky with both of them. Both were very visible in the community, stood up for the values of the community, and rarely, if ever, let their constituents down. On the 8th May Heidi Alexander resigned from her post as MP for Lewisham East. The writing had somewhat been on the wall since she resigned from the shadow cabinet in 2016, and has since shown next to no support for current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The main core of Corbyn’s support — Momentum — are seemingly delighted by the fact that she is gone:

 

The reason for their delight is that at the last election in 2017, Heidi Alexander managed to take 67% of the vote, building on the 55% portion she had taken only two years before. This made sense as Lewisham had voted overwhelmingly in favour of Remain in the Brexit vote, and Alexander was a staunch Remainer herself. The size of the majority won by Alexander, and Prentice before her, makes it very unlikely that Labour will lose the seat — it’s also very worth bearing in mind that during the 2018 local elections, Labour increased it’s hold over the Lewisham council by taking all the seats available. It is safe to say, the Labour party will have to do a lot wrong to lose this one and could put up virtually anyone. Not even Momentum, the religious cult of Jeremy, could screw this one up — and that’s where the danger lies.

With Momentum looking to increase their stranglehold over the Labour party, and flood the House of Commons with their acolytes, there is a good chance that a Momentum supporter will be put up for Lewisham East. It’s the sensible thing to do on their part, as Labour should still win. Lewisham East is likely to lose in the long run though. There is every chance that we might be alright –we might get a Momentum supporter who ends up representing the issues of Lewisham East constituents brilliantly, but there is every chance we will get an ideologue. Someone who is there to strengthen Jeremy’s position, not represent Lewisham East. Someone more concerned with other things.

By other things I’m referring to their entrenched dogma which, as a local resident, I would prefer to be secondary to the actual operations of my local services. There is a chance that a far-left agenda may work very well in Lewisham East, it may be what the area needs. The worry is that a Momentum devotee will adhere to that agenda, irrespective of the outcome. They may well be blinded to the result by their unbeatable belief that they are right, and someone or thing must be wrong if what they do does not work. This worry is not borne out of nothing — it was interesting to see responses to the defeat of Momentum members in the recent local elections that seemed to blame the electorate.

From the sidelines, across the way in other constituencies, it’s very easy to say that it would be great to see someone from the BAME community representing Lewisham East — as of 2011 almost half the area was defined as BAME. However, when it’s your views that are going to be represented in the House of Commons, and your issues that need to be discussed, what’s really important comes sharply into focus. If there was one thing that defined Heidi Alexander and Bridget Prentice, it was their competency. You could rely on them to represent you effectively in parliament. It did not matter that Prentice was from Glasgow, and it did not matter that Alexander was from Swindon — all that really mattered was that they knew what they were doing and that they were committed. If someone from the BAME community is elected that’s only great if they are actually up to it, the actual election has the potential to be very harmful if they aren’t capable. With the rise of Momentum, the fear is they won’t be.

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I am hopeful though that the election in Lewisham East will not become merely an opportunity for Momentum to increase its hold in the Labour party, that the electorate of this area gets treated with the respect and consideration it deserves. They should not take for granted the support that the Labour party has gained in this area. It was won through listening and representing the residents of the area, not dogma.

Rory Burns & Sam Curran – Application and Talent

The BBC commentator Mark Church had it bang to rights as Worcestershire captain Joe Leach sent Surrey’s Sam Curran back to the pavilion for a duck during the second day of their match – “he never really got going”. At the other end of the pitch was his captain Rory Burns, very much going, consistently and patiently accumulating runs as he made his way to his first 150 of the summer. He, like everyone else in the Oval could only watch as the youngster strolled off the pitch having failed to trouble the scorers. The question many regular watchers of Sam Curran will be asking is when will he let himself get going?

Burns and Curran could not be more different as cricketers – Burns is an opening batsman, Curran is an opening bowler. There’s more to their difference though, Burns is a player defined by his application, Curran is a player defined by his talent. Watching the latter, there is little question that he has the shots and he can time the ball as sweetly as anyone in the Surrey lineup, particularly since Kumar Sangakarra left. The former, on the other hand, has to work and work and work at the crease. He remains focused and when he gets in, boy does he look hard to get out. Curran looks very relaxed and plays shots from the moment he gets to the crease. For first-time viewers Burns can look incredibly awkward with his backside jutting out as he cranes his head over to mid-on during the bowler’s run up. Almost all who take a close look will comment on it. Neither at this stage needs to change anything about their techniques, as both seem to work fine. However Curran needs to work out what he wants to do as a batsman. Does he want to play the situation, knuckle down and score, or does he just want to play all those shots he has? It’s matter of showing the same application that Rory Burns shows for almost every innings he plays. If he carries on playing as he does, Sam Curran will not become the all-rounder his talent suggests he should be.

The issues that Curran faces with his batting are even more pronounced in t20 cricket. At the time of writing, Curran has a batting average of 15.48 in t20 cricket, while his older brother Tom averages 17.47. There should be no way that Tom has the higher average, as it is clear that Sam is the more talented of the two with the bat. It is worth remembering that Tom Curran has stepped in as an opener for Surrey on occasion, most notably when Burns suffered concussion against Lancashire in 2015 – Tom played a very resolute innings as Surrey attempted to save the game, and was the last man out having opened. Sam, on the other hand, seems utterly intent in playing as many strange or different shots as he can almost regardless of the conditions, match situation, or the bowling. It’s a huge strength to be able to play shots like the scoop, but there is a time and place. You will struggle to find a batsman more dynamic than Eoin Morgan, but he brings a measured dynamism – it’s mind-games as much as anything. Morgan doesn’t have to play those shots to score runs, the threat is enough to affect how captains will set fields to him. He knows that having all those shots is a waste of time if you’re going to get yourself out playing them without care or caution.

Curran has it in him though, there is no question. Those who saw him play for Surrey at Chelmsford last year against Essex in the County Championship can vouch for that. When the youngster made his way out into the middle the match was 10 overs old and Surrey were 31-5. The man waiting for him was the legendary Sangakarra. When Sam Curran departed, Surrey were 222-6, with the left hander having scored an absolutely vital 90 off 164 balls. His contribution was overshadowed by a 200 from his partner, but all those watching can attest it was an innings of great maturity. He didn’t stop himself from playing his way, still scoring two sixes, but he picked his shots. He didn’t force them. Surrey ended the innings on 369, a fantastic total considering where they were.

It could be said that I’m simply asking Sam Curran to play better more often, which is obviously easier said than done. The issue is that, he’s not currently giving himself a chance of playing as well as he. At the time of writing Curran has failed to score a first-class hundred. If that hasn’t changed by the end of the season, he will only have himself to blame.