I have been requested by a dear friend, devoted reader and quasi-relation to share my views on the selection of the England cricket team to tour Australia this winter.
I could just say "Ashley Giles" and leave it at that, but that would not be fair to all of those of you waiting eagerly to be better informed.
A team has been selected with only one reserve batsman (assuming that the captain bats at number six) and a handful of bowlers who are all either out of form, unfit or not quite up to standard.
Giles is clearly so far below standard that he hardly merits discussion. It would be kind to say thank you and goodbye. You were an almost adequate stop gap until a genuine attacking spinner could be found. I hope that Panesar continues to develop and learn, although he will have to play extraordinarily well to make a real difference in Australia. I would have chosen Dalrymple as the second spinner, if one is needed. He is a better bat than Giles, and looks to be a better bowler, at least he is unafraid to experiment and they certainly don't need two left arm spinners.
Anderson is clearly not fit. Flintoff may be fit. Harmison and Hoggard are well below their best. Mahmood and Plunkett are (and they may improve), at the moment, reminders of the nameless and mediocre bowlers who were back up in the bad old days of Caddick and Gough. Not that there is much alternative. It is right to send Broad to Perth for the winter. I know that Lewis is not suited to Australian conditions, but I think he might be more reliable than Mahmood. It is a great pity that Simon Jones remains injured.
Nothing very original there, alas.
I doubt whether the bowling attack will be strong enough to win the series. If I am wrong, I will echo the sentiments of the sainted Michael Holding who expressed the view this evening that if England were to steamroller Australia, he would not cry for the Australians.
On the other hand I have never seen an England team with so many batsman who are so good to watch. Not even in the days of Cowdrey, Graveney and Dexter.
I realise that this post is entirely devoid of the normal levels of filth and humour, but at least I can guarantee that this is one thread that will not be taken over by the smutty comments of that dirty old man, Tom.
Let's finish with a story told by Fred Trueman about his time in Australia. In the days when there were more first class and exhibition matches than in current times. The team had a fixture against a country eleven, whose big star was the opening batsman. As was customary, the umpires were local. The first ball from Fred to their star player took the outside edge and was cleanly taken by the wicket keeper. Not out said the umpire. The second ball was plumb lbw. Not out said the umpire. The third ball removed the middle and leg stump. "I bloody nearly got him that time, didn't I?" said Fred.