In this blog, Gladstone gives us his thoughts on what we can expect from Summers 22 England cricketer fixtures
Oh Yeah...it’s somewhat of a relief to feel excited that test match cricket is back amongst the sporting diet again this coming week!
On arrival back home in March following another series lost in the West Indies, I was a bit dejected as not only I was back to Old Blighty’s bleak wintry weather after 4 weeks of wonderful Caribbean sunshine and hospitality, but I must admit that watching some poor test cricket though admittedly played on turgid pitches that weren’t helpful for either batting strokeplay or dynamic bowling, had left me in an unusual downbeat mood.
But with my golf game now back on point for some solid summer rounds after my fabulous girlfriend had her coach fix my swing; Aston Villa not getting relegated; the BBQ primed for a thorough workout and the fridge well-stocked; the social diary engagements mixed with a few planned holidaying excursions, and test matches to savour; the summer of ‘22 might well be a memorable one after all!
Brendan “Baz” McCullum's appointment as England red ball cricket coach could well be an inspirational choice for a team that needs to find direction, swagger, style and a winning mentality. Baz was an exciting, swashbuckling player who played his cricket with an admirable, unselfish purpose that brought success to his team and earned respect throughout the game. That does not guarantee automatic success as a coach, but should he be able to convey his astute playing thoughts, competitive and combative flair, and a “let’s get out there to enjoy this” attitude into his England team, then they might become the outfit that they are capable of to climb back challenging for major honours.
Indeed, Ben Stokes captaincy skills are unknown, but what we do know is that he will lead gallantly from the front. The challenge for him is that he must not try to do it all by himself all the time as that could be detrimental to his increasingly fragile body. I do like his move back to number 6 in the batting order as that will allow him to play his more naturally attacking style rather than the ultra-defensive mode he has adopted far too often in recent innings. Also, Stokes is a fine bowler who stands the seam on the ball up better than most, so I would prefer he uses himself more as a wicket-taking option rather than the negative short-pitched stuff we have seen from him all too often.
This England team has the players: Root is a top-quality batsman and credit is due for how he has regained his runs scoring form – let's now that scowling look that has been constant on his face replaced by his boyish smile as he enjoys his cricket as this team needs his class; Crawley and Pope can count themselves lucky after inconsistent periods of form, and alike Lawrence, are all fine stroke players who just need to learn that they first have to earn the right to display their range of shots; Bairstow has repeatedly shown his undoubted value to this team with his recent centuries cementing his position in the middle order; Foakes is the best wicketkeeper and also has batting skills to score vital runs
However, our bowling is not quite as straightforward with injuries to the main quickies and inadequacy of a decent test match spinner. Of course, Anderson and Broad are world-class bowlers, and at least one of them should have been in the Caribbean for that last series – but I do also sympathise with the decision that replacements have to be developed, so I hope to see Matty Potts make his debut even at the expense of one of these stalwarts. Archer will be missed and his long absence and injuries are worrying – bowlers with his pace and menace are uniquely generational, and it would be a real shame to see such talent loss to test cricket; Wood has been brilliant and did a sterling job during the winter, but the demands of bowling that quickly has seen him sidelined so hopefully the long rest will have him charging in again soon, this team needs his spearheading speed; I would have gambled on Parkinson to at least give a more attacking spin bowling option as Leach has still to convince that he is a test match spinner
New Zealand as defending test cricket champions are a bright, well balanced, focussed team and are deserving favourites to win this series. South Africa cricket seems to be in continual disarray, and though they have a couple of talented players, I expect England to win that series quite comfortably. And let’s not forget the rearranged test against India!
We are in for an exciting summer of test match cricket, so to coin a line from England cricket's new MD... "Buckle up and enjoy the ride”!
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