Amid all the loud noise of a World Cup-winning Ashes summer, a back-to-basics approach is needed to help an England side violently swinging from meteoric highs to hysterical lows.
Watching England can be bad for your health.
This summer, I’ve sat through a World Cup final and super over, seen England bowled out for 85 and 67. I’ve watched Jofra Archer arrive, Ireland bowled out for 38, and THAT Ben Stokes century at Headingley.
There doesn’t seem to be a bridge between horrendous collapses and supernatural individual brilliance and it’s completely unsustainable.
It’s the result of a lack of concentration and focus.
Major elements of the Test side that played in that World Cup team, have struggled, bar Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer.
Jason Roy’s selection has been a catastrophe, with just 57 runs versus Australia.
Joe Root, has scored two ducks and two unconverted fifties while Jonny Bairstow is averaging 20.50 in 2019, down from a below-par 30.45 last year.
Jos Buttler has been practically non-existent in this Test side, averaging 19.41 this year, down on his already poor Test record of 32.90.
It’s almost like importing ODI stars into Test cricket won’t work if they can’t adapt their games in a short space of time.
What has worked, has been Rory Burns, a Test specialist scoring a century in the first Test and a fifty in the second.
Ben Stokes decided not to play against Ireland, but took a break to settle his mind, and scored two back-to-back tons.
Archer didn’t face Ireland either, or play in the first Test of the Ashes, and everyone can see his impact.
What has worked also, is Jack Leach, a 28-year-old who has never played a T20 and has only 16 List A games to date.
He has focussed on being England’s Test spinner, and has helped give composure for the format.
The reality, is England have been looking for a ‘proper’ spinner since Graeme Swann’s retirement.
Moeen Ali has been the custodian with 181 wickets at an average over 36, which isn’t terrible. But so far, in seven Tests, Leach has 25 wickets at an average of 25.
England fans have been screaming out for someone like Leach.
And what’s the first thing that happens after Headingley? He is dubbed a ‘village cricketer’.
He responded to the ‘village’ remark, saying it was:
“… probably because I look like a village cricketer out there in my glasses, the bald head – maybe people think ‘that could be me!’ All the others look pretty professional.”
Fans know he isn’t a superhuman athlete, as he cleans his glasses between deliveries. We know he doesn’t have 15 variations or an unusual action that bamboozles people.
Leach is an Orthodox spinner that will do a job, and as a specialist, he can hone his game in the format and become more refined and effective.
Every team needs a mixture of mavericks and workhorses, and in Jack Leach, England may have the perfect counter-balance to the crash-bang-wallop of Stokes and lightning pace of Archer.
A pinch of ordinariness to keep the immortals in check.