Ed Joyce is an excellent, stylish left-hander. Once it became clear England had no intention of recalling either Mark Ramprakash or Mark Butcher, it amounted to a three-way choice between Joyce, Owais Shah and Rob Key.
Key, despite his undoubted guts, has never really struck me as a Test-class batsman, so I was relieved he wasn’t selected. Shah certainly has: undeniably classy and a dexterous player of spin, he has already shown he can thrive at Test level. He scored 88 and 38; but I can’t help thinking that, had he scored 100 and 0, he would now find himself in the side.
But, for all Shah’s merits, Joyce averaged 21 more – 58 – for the same county in Division One last summer. Shah can count himself very unlucky, but Joyce has been a consistent, accomplished county performer for some time; his first-class average is 47. Additionally, the perceived notion that Shane Warne is less effective against left-handers may also have counted in favour of Joyce.
Like Shah, he has just turned 28 which, as players such as Andrew Strauss and Mike Hussey have shown recently of late, is far from too late to build a highly-profitable international career. In his three ODIs so far, all as opener, Joyce has only scored 31 runs. But England no longer make sweeping judgments based on the odd innings – which would have also counted against Shah – and he has clearly impressed the coaching team in that time.
If he plays, Joyce’s role will not be as an opener but in the Graham Thorpe role in the middle order. The Irishman is a phlegmatic character who will relish the opportunity if he gets it. But the fact none of England’s top seven have played a Test in Australia before does make you question the decision not to select either Butcher or Ramprakash.
Tagged with: Ed Joyce, Owais Shah, Rob Key, Mark Butcher, Mark Ramprakash