Yes, England – you do win things with kids!

It was when Jason Roy landed a ball on top of my car for the third time in the over that the thought occurred to me! There we were, watching England Lions playing a 50 over match against Sri Lanka A at Taunton last August.

There was the orthodox off-spinner Sachith Pathirana, bowling from the Old Pavilion End.

There was Roy, of Surrey, hitting the first five deliveries of the 41st over back over our heads into the car park for six with such a pinpoint-accurate grouping that, while any one of a number of vehicles could have been hit, mine, some 30 yards beyond the long-on boundary was directly in the line of fire.

And there was England selector Mick Newell taking in the fact that the Lions, under the captaincy of James Taylor and with opener Alex Hales hitting 101 from 105 balls and Roy smashing 51 from 25, were amassing 339 from their 50 overs at 6.78 runs per over on their way to victory by 51 runs.

Bearing in mind that, in the previous ODI match played by the senior England side, against Sri Lanka in Edgbaston in June, their batting line-up began Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Gary Ballance, the opportunity to ask him whether Lions players like Hales, Roy, Taylor, James Vince and Jonny Bairstow might come into the reckoning for the 2015 World Cup was too good to miss.

On a personal level it is possible Newell, in my experience a good judge and a top bloke, broadly agreed with such sentiments. Whether he had no option or genuinely felt obliged, however, out trotted the party line anyway…

“It has been made clear to the players what is on offer,” he said. “Clearly there’s a bit more on this series than there normally is. With the World cup coming fast I think all the Lions players are in contention.”

So far, so good.  Then, however, came the ‘but’.

“But,” he insisted, “You’re not suddenly going to throw out all that experience and bring in a load of kids.”

Those words clanged inside my head this week as SKY TV treated viewers to a view of the England balcony in the moments Bairstow and Adil Rashid were dragging them to a series-clinching victory in the fifth Royal London ODI against New Zealand at the Riverside.


There they were, a load of kids, winning matches in a way the grown-ups they eventually replaced would never have been able to do, scoring at better than a run a ball throughout the innings, amassing huge scores and going on relentlessly with attack upon attack even when seemingly mortally wounded, in a way that would have warmed what was left of Monty Python’s Black Knight.

There was Ben Stokes, on the extreme left of our picture, making sure the players stuck to the convention of remaining in exactly the same positions as they had been throughout the Yorkshire pair’s match-winning stand.

There directly behind him was Paul Farbrace, the acting coach. Behind him was Alex Hales, England cap turned around baseball-style, joined briefly by Steven Finn.

In front of them were Mark Wood and Sam Billings each nervously scratching their stubbly chins, one left-handed, one right, and beside the Kent man was Taylor, resplendent in his high visibility jacket, scarcely able to contain himself even though he had not had a hit all series.

In the very front row was Roy and after Bairstow had crunched the ball through the infield for the winning hit, David Willey also emerged to join in the fun.

And a quick look at the scorecard for that ODI against Sri Lanka a year and a bit ago, confirmed that not a single one of those players mentioned above was there in Birmingham that day. Granted, Stokes might have been had he not been recovering from his argument with a locker door and Steven Finn might have been had he not been left in such mental turmoil by doubts over his action that he was still “unpickable”.

But of the XI that completed the series win over the World Cup runners-up just two, Joe Root and Eoin Morgan, remained from the side that scored 219 in 48.1 overs against Sri Lanka and lost by six wickets. A third, Jos Buttler, sat out the match in Chester-le-Street with injury.

Many theories have been advanced as to why, once the penny finally dropped with the selectors and they sacked Cook as one-day skipper on the eve of the World Cup, new skipper Morgan’s England were unable to produce the “no fear” brand of aggressive cricket which has thrilled the crowds all summer in all forms of the game.

Of course the dreadful form Down Under of Morgan himself did not help but one possibility is that, adhering to the rule that you never win anything with kids, they just kept picking too many of the wrong players for too long.

Why they left Stokes out of the World Cup squad remains one of the great mysteries and Hales must have been wondering whose shopping basket he had to carry in order to get a gig there before it was too late.

In appealingly candid and honourable interviews with Paul Newman of the Daily Mail and Cricinfo’s “Georgeous” George Dobell, former coach Peter Moores commented this week about their dismal World cup showing: “Our senior players couldn’t get to the point where they were grabbing the game by the scruff of the necks like they have done against New Zealand.

“Sometimes you have to get to a point where you say ‘enough’.

“If you can’t win the World Cup the next best thing in some ways is to bomb.”

Leaving aside the temptation to suggest that the next best thing to winning the World Cup is actually to finish runners-up, Moores has a point and at least the new England management seem to have got it.

Who knows what might have happened had the old lot got it a year sooner?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *