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  • Writer's pictureSean Sandys

Questions?-Yes. Answers?-Maybe.

Questions arise in response to England's announced squad ahead of the New Zealand test series in June

The Aussie ex port trudges in and bowls again, while others may be bathing in the 19 degree Northamptonshire heat the Aussie's rather cold in these 'nippy' conditions, this time its short and the tall framed batsman goes back and works this into the off side. Its an unusual shot for the 6' 4" batsman, usually he stands tall utilizing his frame and driving balls off this length but this time he relents. Still on strike, the next ball drives in to his pads and he works it elegantly into the onside for four, this is much more typical of this batsman. Next ball holds on a length and he's squared up, feebly only able to provide a nick on the delivery as it passes threw into the keeper's gloves. Now its his turn to trudge away, back to the pavilion for his season best 62. No centuries, two fifties and a handful of low scores and failed starts. He will be playing for England in two weeks though.

Many articles and remarks have been tossed about in the aftermath of Rob Key, Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes' first squad selection as the 'three musketeers'. 'A new era of English cricket' stated Michael Atherton. But seeing the team sheet I see nothing new, nothing to indicate a change in fortunes for English test cricket. For starters, Johnny Bairstow hasn't been home since the Ashes. Journeying from Australia, to the West Indies and now the IPL in India. Surely he deserves a rest? Dan Lawrence is a no, unfit and still battling a hamstring injury. So the first choice is out of the question. But what about Harry Brooks? The Yorkshire man has been averaging 151.6 so far this season and is the top run scorer in division one this year. All at number 5, with his best innings coming from situations where he was required to steer Yorkshire clear of a collapse. Surely that is the credentials and mindset (his runs have come at 4.38 an over this year) of a batsman this 'new look' England are after. But no, unless there's an injury, the tired, fatigued and home sick Johnny Bairstow will be starting at 5 on the 2nd of June, in my opinion that's ludicrous.

Furthermore journeying back to the batsman described at the start of this piece, that was of course England opener Zak Crawley. Ever since being the most confident (of which the list makes for bleak reading) batsman at the fag end of the Ashes series to scoring a big tone in the West Indies to being run less in what has been an absolute run fest of a start to the county cricket season. We could have a 34 year record broken this week, first batsman to reach 1000 runs before the end of May since 1988, and yet Zak Crawley's highest score of the championship this year is 62 against Northamptonshire this week. Does Rob Key have such little trust in the county system? He wrote and transcribed a rather bleak and at points il-factual description of county cricket in his biography 'Oi Keysey', so has this out dated and remorse infused idea of what county cricket is like lingered with him and affected his selection? Ben Compton at the time of writing has 781 runs to his name this year opening the batting as partner to Crawley. Having sampled the same bowling, conditions and scenarios as Crawley all year and has returned much more runs and multiple centuries. That is a straightforward indication that Compton is playing better and in better form then his counterpart. So why stick with Crawley?

England are reshaping their look, desperately eager to improve their fortunes in the WTC, rebrand themselves as a young and exciting side. So why stick with someone who is low on confidence and out of form over the fifth highest run scorer in the country this year. But when you dig deeper the answer is simple. Rob Key, McCullum and Stokes' are in search of a 'new England' a 'vibrant'' young team. But the required credentials aren't based off stats, strike rate and results but style, exuberance and character. While the likes of Haines, Barnard and Compton are scrappy and doggedly defiant in the way they score their runs. Pope, Lawrence and Crawley are extravagant and exuberant in how they compile their runs. Key sees a cricketer in Pope who he can turn into a stats padding, centuries scoring player but much prefers his foundations and style existing already over Ben Compton's subtle, patience in the way he already pads his stats and compiles his 100s. In short, Compton may have toiled away in the Northamptonshire sun for a century, but the elegance and class in the way Crawley scored his runs is what earns him his spot, not his eventual dismal score.

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