Vic Marks

Author's posts

Oct 07

Steven Finn a logical England choice but not a Ben Stokes replacement

Given Ben Stokes’s prowess with bat and ball, England would need to select two extra players to replace him as they prepare for Ashes without the all-rounder

Ben Stokes has not been replaced by Steven Finn in the Ashes squad. Andrew Strauss, the cricket director of the England and Wales Cricket Board, was keen to stress that after Friday’s announcement of Finn as an additional member of the touring party to Australia.

“Steven is a high-quality cricketer with considerable experience of both international cricket and Australian conditions,” Strauss explained. “The selectors believe he will add to the range of options and the squad will be further supported by the arrival of the Lions in Australia in November. We have spoken to Ben and assured him that our decision in no way prejudges the outcome of the ongoing police investigation or cricket discipline commission process”.

Related: Has Ben Stokes’ late night out and arrest already lost England the Ashes?

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Sep 30

England can still retain Ashes without Ben Stokes, says Moeen Ali

• ‘It would be great to have him out there, but we can still win’
• Moeen may have to move up the order if Stokes cannot make tour

Moeen Ali has acknowledged that England may well have to play this winter’s Ashes series without Ben Stokes but believes Joe Root’s tourists can still win the series without their inspirational all-rounder.

England would clearly be a weaker team in Stokes’s absence but Moeen, the man of the series for the one-day internationals against West Indies, responded positively when asked about the chances of retaining the Ashes in the wake of last week’s incident outside a nightclub in Bristol.

Related: England clamp down on player behaviour after Ben Stokes affair

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Sep 30

Ian Botham missed an England tour of India and the team’s burden disappeared | Vic Marks

Team balance will need addressing if Ben Stokes misses the Ashes but it need not all be bad news for England’s tourists

Leadership is supposed to encompass planning for every eventuality (let’s leave Brexit to one side for the moment) so one must assume that the England hierarchy is taking the precaution of planning for the possibility of an Ashes campaign without Ben Stokes.

The thought of it has the Australians rubbing their hands. They sense a win-win scenario here, which is how they like to place their bets. Without him, England are neutered. They are suddenly two players short. With him they will – rightly or wrongly – be accused of hypocrisy, especially after the ECB posturing over the David Warner affair in 2013.

Related: England clamp down on player behaviour after Ben Stokes affair

Related: Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow rocket England to ODI victory over West Indies

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Sep 27

England opt for a ‘pick your mates’ policy as Stokes overshadows Ashes selections | Vic Marks

England put their trust in a group who know each other but they are light on openers and must also hope their talisman’s right hand heals in time

When the selection of Ben Stokes for the Ashes tour becomes headline news, something’s up. At the moment we are assuming – no more than that – Stokes will be available for the start of it. Sadly that depends on the investigations of the Avon and Somerset police and the state of his right hand.

Related: Ben Stokes named in Ashes squad despite broken finger and arrest

Related: England chase 357 to beat West Indies: fourth ODI – live!

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Sep 25

England strive to solve Ashes puzzle with key pieces still missing | Vic Marks

The selectors pick their touring party to Australia this week, a task made tougher by losses of fitness and form among key contenders

The selectors meet and decide their Ashes squad this week – the names of England’s tourists will be announced at 10am on Wednesday – and maybe they deserve some sympathy. Their task is tricky and familiar to anyone who has agonised for hours over a jigsaw puzzle only to discover that there are some key pieces missing.

Those selectors have already been in the firing line from Durham’s chairman, Sir Ian Botham, who is enraged by the way so many of his county’s talented cricketers are heading south in pursuit of greener, First Division pastures. Botham has hinted that players are seduced by the prospect of playing for county cricket directors who are also national selectors. Andrew Strauss, England’s cricket director, has countered strongly in defence of Middlesex’s Angus Fraser and Nottinghamshire’s Mick Newell.

Related: Toby Roland-Jones out of England’s Ashes squad after back injury diagnosis

Related: ‘Not good enough’: Australia must arrest trend of batting collapses, says Smith

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Sep 23

Chris Gayle raring to settle scores against England in ODI showdown

The West Indies batsman is fast approaching the end of his career but England are justifiably wary of his ability to push the boundaries as they prepare for the Ashes

The ODI circus has descended upon Bristol in the hope of reigniting the series against West Indies. The first match at Old Trafford was a cakewalk for England, the second at Nottingham was ruined by rain. The series needs a lift and the man most likely to provide it, Chris Gayle, is expected to be fit to play after tweaking his hamstring in Manchester. “He seems to be raring to go,” said his captain, Jason Holder. It is sometimes hard to tell with Gayle.

His presence in this series is to be welcomed. Gayle does look faintly ridiculous wrapped up in his sweaters, shambling the odd single between the sixes when batting and neatly plonking his foot on the ball in the field when he has been removed from his favoured position at first slip.

Related: Toby Roland-Jones out of England’s Ashes squad after back injury diagnosis

Related: Haseeb Hameed’s Ashes hopes dashed after injury to right hand

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Sep 11

England put emphasis on tried and tested in selection thinking for Ashes | Vic Marks

Selectors have plenty to ponder for Australia with batting issues, such as whether Joe Root will come in at No3, and a fast- bowling pack lacking variety

The handbrake on Ashes speculation has been released with the conclusion of the Test series against West Indies. This may not be a good thing but it is inevitable. Even Trevor Bayliss, usually so wary about looking too far ahead, seems eager to enter the fray with observations about who he would prefer to bat at three and the likely provenance of the tour party. After the Lord’s Test he said the squad was likely to comprise only players chosen in the past 18 months, which is bad news for any blind-side runners around the counties.

For local readers it is possible to start on an optimistic note. England can set off for Australia with the No1 bowler in the world in their ranks. After nine more Test wickets at Lord’s, including his 500th, James Anderson now sits above the Indian spinners, the two Ravis, Jadeja and Ashwin. At 35 years of age Anderson remains a huge asset to a captain, wherever the Test is played.

Related: England eyeing Ashes win over ‘far from stable’ Australia, says Trevor Bayliss

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Sep 06

England’s third Test decider against West Indies carries unexpected intrigue | Vic Marks

Final Test of England’s summer carries greater interest than might have been anticipated, with hosts’ inexperienced batsmen under scrutiny and West Indies’ expectations raised after their Headingley heroics

The final Test of the summer is upon us and, glory be, it is still possible to skip down St John’s Wood Road with a sense of eager anticipation. That happy scenario was beyond most people’s expectation when they first studied the fixture list.

The assumption was that all the significant Test cricket would be done by now and that the focus would be upon the scrap for tour places for Australia. The second tourists of the summer, ranked ninth in the International Cricket Council’s table, would not be able to cope. But, as Brian Lara pointed out in his Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s earlier this week, “a West Indian side, described as the worst Test team of the last 50 years, stood up and was counted at Headingley”.

Related: Jimmy Anderson puts focus on England series win rather than 500th wicket

Related: County cricket: Lancashire v Essex, Surrey v Hampshire and more – live!

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Aug 30

Joe Root declaration freed West Indies from restraint of having to defend

England captain went for the win in second Test but played into West Indies’ hands while displaying an overreliance on Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson

“Same squad, different performance” is the message from the selectors after England’s startling defeat at Headingley. With surprising speed they announced the same 13 names in their squad for the decisive Lord’s Test against West Indies, which starts next Thursday. The most relieved man will be Tom Westley, who failed twice in Leeds, an outcome that inevitably reduces his chances of making the squad for Australia.

The Lord’s Test has everyone salivating after West Indies’ brilliant five‑wicket triumph, which leaves the series level at 1-1. Indeed within 24 hours Test cricket around the world has been given a welcome boost by dramatic wins for West Indies and for Bangladesh over Australia in Dhaka. Of these, West Indies’ victory at Headingley was the most unexpected.

Related: Joe Root defends ‘positive’ decision to declare after West Indies win Test

Related: Bangladesh claim historic Test victory as Australia capitulate

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Aug 24

A tight Headingley Test would be good for cricket but England won’t care | Vic Marks

West Indies’ struggles show the problem with the big three’s grab for resources, while teams generally struggle to battle back in matches these days. Joe Root will be happy, though

For anyone who lived through the period of domination by West Indies, which lasted about 15 years from 1976, a certain amount of self-pinching has to be done on the eve of a Test match. Yes, we do really yearn for West Indies somehow to find the resolve, the skill and the luck to ensure a good contest at Leeds.

Shrewd Yorkshire folk have already come to their conclusion. The ticket sales for the first three days of the Headingley Test are healthy enough. Beyond that no one is prepared to commit and who can argue with that after Edgbaston? A quick West Indies defeat now seems as inevitable as a subsidence by England was in the late 1980s.

Related: Paul Collingwood named in World XI squad to play Pakistan in Lahore

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Aug 23

England’s search for batting balance moves to second Test against West Indies | Vic Marks

England still have to determine three batsmen who can be relied upon during the forthcoming Ashes tour and time is getting short

“If it was eight-a-side then we would have a great chance in the Ashes,” mused a cricketing friend – an observation that reinforces two realities.

After the Edgbaston Test, the series against West Indies has already been relegated to being a gentle, mildly helpful precursor to the winter tour – so, yes, we are now in official Ashes preview territory.

Related: The Joy of Six: England v West Indies memories

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Aug 21

West Indies lack time to deal with problems in all departments | Vic Marks

Shannon Gabriel and Devendra Bishoo may get a game at Headingley after the West Indies bowlers served up a diet of leg-side fodder to Cook in the first Test

Joel Garner, the West Indies’ team manager, and Stuart Law, their coach, in their own different ways and accents, had warned England not to underestimate their side before the Edgbaston Test. Well, it is fair to conclude Joe Root and his team did not fall into that trap. Instead they won by an innings and 209 runs inside three days (and nights). Now there is a greater danger England might underestimate West Indies before the Headingley Test, which starts on Friday.

Before the first match it was mentioned here that bowling was probably the West Indies’ stronger suit – certainly they have a bit more experience in that department. After they had yielded 518 runs, 243 of them to Alastair Cook, one felt chastised and obliged to think again. Then came the West Indies’ batsmen. In essence they were bowled out twice in a day on an Edgbaston surface that may have started to deteriorate – as a good pitch should – but which was still relatively benign.

Related: Deep-thinking Stuart Broad in no mood to ease up despite mismatch of a series | Ali Martin

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Aug 16

Batting the big question mark for West Indies to make series competitive | Vic Marks

They will have the fastest bowlers on show at Edgbaston, but a new batting star will need to emerge if the tourists are going to find the runs to put England under pressure

With uncertainty comes excitement. So it must be a good thing that we don’t quite know what to expect at Edgbaston over the next few days. We do know that the ball is pink, that ticket sales are good and that it might be a good idea to bring a jumper (and maybe a blanket and a balaclava for the final session, which will probably end around 9.30pm every evening). Even better; get an invitation to a swish, warm hospitality box.

We are less sure about how the pink ball will behave or how good this West Indies team will be. There has been a rapprochement of sorts between the players and the West Indies board, though that is not obvious from the Test squad selected. While the youngsters in the touring party prepare to do battle with England’s finest in Birmingham (the leg-spinner, Devendra Bishoo, is the only man over 30 in the tour party), the more familiar names are participating in the Caribbean Premier League. Understandably the older players are pondering their pensions.

Related: Pink balls and a witching hour: what to expect at England’s first day-night Test | Will Macpherson

Related: Mark Stoneman’s debut against West Indies offers chance of Ashes place

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Aug 12

Selectors hope Mason Crane can conquer English history on step into the unknown | Vic Marks

The 20-year-old Sussex leg-spinner is unlikely to play in the day-night Test against West Indies at Edgbaston but he could soon buck a troublesome trend

It seems we have some dewy-eyed romantics as selectors. From Hampshire they have plucked the young wrist-spinner, Mason Crane, whose bowling average is twice his age. A fresh-faced novice of 20 is on the verge of playing Test cricket after 25 first-class games.

It is an eye-catching selection and a heartwarming story and – who knows – might have a happy ending. Whether Crane actually plays in Birmingham against West Indies is debatable. This is England’s first ever day-night Test with the devious pink ball, which sometimes get up to tricks when the sun goes down. During the twilight hour it is the seamers who usually prevail. So Crane may not make the final XI.

Related: Heather Knight: ‘I was panicked. I thought I’d lost the World Cup’

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Aug 08

Joe Root’s form and leadership reassure but England top order still an issue | Vic Marks

Two batting places are up for grabs in Test series against West Indies as selectors search for settled line-up in time for the Ashes in Australia

It is quite an achievement to beat South Africa for the first time in two decades in this country with what was to all intents a nine-man side. England were dependent on their old guard for victory while those seeking to establish a place in the side were unable to make telling contributions.

The combination of Liam Dawson, Gary Ballance and Dawid Malan mustered 138 runs in 12 innings in this series – though one should not discount Dawson’s five wickets at Lord’s. At the top of the order Keaton Jennings scored 127 runs in eight visits to the crease – and he was the beneficiary of several dropped catches.

Related: Joe Root believes England’s Test series win could be the start of something

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Aug 03

England’s recent batch of final Test defeats are a bad omen

• England have lost eight out of nine final Tests since 2014
• South Africa need a victory in Manchester to level series at 2-2

A draw at Old Trafford is all England need to win the series against South Africa but that would be a fatal frame of mind with which to approach the final Test that starts on Friday.

Related: South Africa ‘had a few hard chats’ after third Test, says Vernon Philander

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