Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Who will be England’s keeper come Brisbane?

Chris Read’s three impressive innings for England at the back end of last summer appeared to settle matters once and for all; he, rather than 2005 Ashes winner Geraint Jones, would take to the field for the First Test. But then along came the ICC Champions Trophy.

Three disastrous innings later, including a second-ball duck against Australia and humiliation at the hands of Dwayne Bravo’s slower ball, and Read may just have played himself out of the Test team. Equally significantly, Read’s keeping evoked memories of Jones circa 2004. Jones, himself a pundit for Sky TV, was perhaps England’s chief beneficiary from the tournament.

Jones, lest we forget, performed simply atrociously in his final nine games, scoring just one half century. Though his glovework was improving steadily, he was palpably not scoring an acceptable number of runs; and, as such, he deserved to be dropped.

It looks increasingly likely England will employ four specialist bowlers in addition to Andrew Flintoff. One of the two, therefore must bat at number seven. Read at number seven remains decidedly unconvincing; though he scored a vital 55 against Pakistan in the Third Test, he enjoyed considerable luck; in the Champions Trophy, he looked largely out of his depth. Can he handle Shane Warne? Is he good enough to handle either the metronome-like accuracy of Glenn McGrath or Brett Lee’s fusion of short-pitched bowling and yorkers?

Of course, we don’t know the answer to either question, even if his performances in India suggested the negative. Jones, however, has played two fantastic innings against Australia in the past, scoring 85 at Trent Bridge in the Fourth Test and 71 in the Natwest Final last summer; the latter constituted over a third of England’s runs. Clearly, his best is better than Read’s best.

Call me fickle, but the affection I developed for Read while watching him score a peerless 150* for England A against Pakistan has slowly dwindled. Jones’ recent batting performances for England have been diabolical; but he could benefit from a few months out of the international scene and the chance to escape the relentless grind of international cricket. Geraint Jones has been relatively successful against Australia; whether it is rational or otherwise, I would prefer to see him walking out down under. I suspect the inherent Jonesite Duncan Fletcher will think the same.

Tagged with: , ,

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

Couldn't disagree more. You play your best keeper in Australia because if you drop a Ponting or Gilly that will be worth far more than the 5 or so runs more that Jones may or may not get you.