Since the submission of the PhD means that almost everything has been writing related for a week or two, and since I'm short of something to do, a cricket related post.
England announced their test team for the tour to South Africa the other day, and there were a few inclusions and omissions worth commenting on:
Steve Harmison is out, probably for the last time. The Durham fast bowler has had a poor few years, but kept getting second chances (and presumably third/fourth/fifth, why do we always call them second chances?) because A: he once demolished the West Indies on a bouncy pitch at Sabina Park, B: he did rather well in the 2005 Ashes, and C: because he has a reputation for frightening batters. Unfortunately, he also has a reputation for homesickness, and for showing up for winter tours half-fit. And, sadly, he never seems to have equalled his burst in and around 2005 since. I suspect this is the end of his international career, and it doesn't particularly bother me as a fan.
Ravi Bopara is out, probably only temporarily. The Essex batter (let's not pretend that some medium pace dribblies make him a test all rounder) had a horrible Ashes series, and nothing better came along in the Champions' Trophy. Presumably the idea is that he goes back to county cricket, gets things together, and comes back.
Which brings us nicely to Owais Shah, also dropped. Again. He seems to be in and out of the side as often as Mark Ramprakash and Grahame Hick were before him, though possibly without quite their talent. Perhaps the lack of consistent runs is the problem, but if England are going to have an official one day policy of all out batting attack, they have to expect a certain amount of inconsistency.
Flintoff, of course, has retired from test cricket. Irreplacable according to the commentators. I doubt it. Stuart Broad already has a better average with the bat, and seems to have worked out what he's supposed to be doing with the ball. Plus he's nabbed Flintoff's place on the physio's bench with an impressive streak of minor injuries.
Tim Bresnan's performances in the one day Champions' Trophy weren't enough to earn a test place, perhaps because people latch onto ideas about bowlers and get stuck. People refer to him as a fast medium bowler, or an honest seam and swing bowler, apparently ignoring the bit where the speed gun is consistently in the top half of the 80s. He's replaced, instead, by Liam Plunkett. Admittedly Plunkett seems to have improved as a bowler, but with little to choose between the two, it does feel awfully like change for change's sake.
Adil Rashid of Yorkshire has cemented the second spinner's spot, ahead of Monty Panesar. This probably says more for Panesar's loss of effectiveness than Rashid's growth as a bowler, and probably also has something to do with Rashid's ability to bat. My only slight worry is that, following his back injury, Rashid seems not quite as dangerous with the ball.
Steve Davies gets a go with the wicket keeper's gloves. Why not? Everyone else has. Though there is the little matter of Chris Read, who was dropped for not being good enough with the bat, being third in the county batting averages for the season.
Oh, and Sajid Mahmood is back for the one day series. Expect the extras count to rise.