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Opinion

Bumble: Crane must play – but not as an experiment

Mason Crane
David Lloyd by David Lloyd
@BumbleCricket 5 minute read

David Lloyd, our Wisden columnist, says Moeen Ali should be taken out of the firing line at Sydney, with the leg-spinner Mason Crane coming in to replace him. But not for the sake of experimentation.

Trevor Bayliss has said that the final Test at Sydney is an opportunity to “look at some different people”, but I wouldn’t experiment in a Test match. You hear it on Twitter: ‘Just give X a go’. Well, why not give Tom, Dicky or Harry a go! You’ve got to earn the right to get in the team, or somebody’s got to be playing that badly that they get dropped. There is a big difference between experimenting and changing the team because someone is in chronic form.

In this case it’s time to leave Moeen Ali out. He’s too good a player not to rediscover his form eventually but he’s had a bad time of it on this tour and needs a break. It’s just not happened for him and he isn’t suited to Australia. They have selected young Mason Crane as their second spinner. Now play him.

Moeen Ali

Moeen has taken three wickets at 135 so far in the series

Kevin Pietersen caused a stir by saying there’s “zero pride” in winning after a series has been lost but I don’t subscribe to that. I’d assume that Graeme Swann felt the same, because he went home at 3-0 in 2013/14. That’s the alternative: you can all just go home. That would leave people without cricket to watch, plus it’s a chance to get back into form, to find some rhythm. Ask any Australia or England player – to lose 5-0 is the worst thing in the world. That’s not something you want on your CV.

Sydney is a brilliant venue and the ground will be full. It’s an iconic place. Yes, it’s a dead rubber but a lot of people are still interested in it. You can’t just pack up and go home. You keep going.

Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad both showed at Melbourne that they’re prepared to keep fighting. Neither had enjoyed a good series up to that point but I found it extraordinary that someone like Mike Hussey would question Broad’s desire. You have to be in the dressing room to make that call. I thought it was quite an extraordinary thing to say. Everyone in the media wants to have their say but sometimes it’s just better to shut up and let them get on with it.

Stuart Broad

Broad returned to form with bat and ball at the MCG

It’s the nature of the beast in any sport that questions will be asked about players’ form but Cook’s double-century showed he still has that determination and hunger. He was putting in the extra hours, trying to find form, and it worked for him. Everybody’s now pitching it up to Cook so he will have been working hard on his driving. He’s never been a great driver but at Melbourne his driving was excellent. How long he continues to play Test cricket entirely depends on him but all the signals are that he wants to carry on. He likes batting – it’s as simple as that.

England still need Cook and I think he and Mark Stoneman can form a good opening partnership. Stoneman hasn’t scored as many runs in the series as he would have liked but I go back to Adam Lyth: he scored a hundred against New Zealand, then came up against Australia on spicy English pitches and they jettisoned him. I think they got rid of him too early and I hope they don’t make the same mistake with Stoneman. He will be a far better player for this experience.

A word on the pitch at the MCG, which has been rated ‘poor’ by the ICC. These drop-in pitches are a bit like Russian Roulette. If they don’t get them absolutely right, they’re just a graveyard for everybody. Both captains and the umpires marked it poor, which you don’t get very often. Usually someone says, ‘It was absolutely fine, the opposition are just whingeing’, but it was interesting that even the home captain said it was a poor pitch.

Back in the day a draw was considered fine but it’s not as acceptable now. Run-rates are much higher these days and both teams are generally going for a positive result, but that is very dependent on the pitch. I’ve always been told by groundsmen that if you have an even coverage of dry grass, with a very good root system, you’ll get a very good pitch which will be a proper contest between bat and ball. This clearly wasn’t the case at the MCG.

***

And finally…

I’ve joined the Dry January crew! I’ve never done it before – I usually go for a Thirsty January – but I’m getting ready to go to New Zealand and I want to be in top form for that.

I’m also touring the country doing a show with Aggers, called An Evening With Aggers and Bumble. We’ve done three shows already and we’ll be coming soon to a theatre near you, if you live near Malvern, Liverpool, Nottingham or Bath.

Bumble was speaking to Jo Harman

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