England Missed A Trick When Failing to Road Test Adil Rashid in Barbados
Yorkshire leg-spinner is in form but we really should know if he can cut it at Test level with an Ashes series starting next.
The England selectors have risked provoking the ire of Mr Dickie Bird, proud president of Yorkshire County Cricket Club. They have achieved this difficult task not by selecting Adil Rashid in their Test squad for Cardiff, but by creating the possibility that they might leave him out of their final XI next Wednesday morning. (Adil Rashid Included in England's Squad)
Dickie was grumpy about Rashid's treatment in the Caribbean, when the wrist-spinner was permanently on the sidelines throughout the three-Test series while Yorkshire were compelled to soldier on without him at the start of their defence of the Championship. Bird pleaded for England to send Rashid home early. This time round he may be equally exasperated if Rashid is omitted again from the Test team, having missed Yorkshire's next match, which begins against Warwickshire at Edgbaston on Sunday. (Australia Ready for Ashes Defence: Clarke)
Dickie may well have a point, not about the ECB's reluctance to release Rashid early from his England duties, but about the folly of the selection process in the Caribbean, where they declined to play him in Barbados for the third Test. That short-sightedness is now exposed again. (Bayliss Targets Triumph After Tragedy)
If Rashid had played against the West Indies, England may still have lost the Test, but they would have been so much better informed about how the much-travelled yet uncapped wrist-spinner reacted to Test cricket.
The game at Cardiff against Australia will be a more pressurised affair than that Test in Bridgetown and the risk of playing an unknown quantity, which was not taken in the Caribbean, will be greater.
Back in Barbados, England encountered a two-spinner pitch, far more obviously so than is likely to be the case in Cardiff. Rashid was their second spinner. But they would not dare to play him. He had been bowling badly in the nets, we were told, as if that was a decisive piece of information: he was bowling too slowly. Hence we are none the wiser as Cardiff approaches.
Thus playing Rashid there becomes a huge gamble rather than just a substantial one. The last time England gambled with a spinner was when they selected Lancashire's Simon Kerrigan for the Oval Test against Australia in 2013 - with the retention of the Ashes secured.
The selectors were subsequently pilloried for their choice as poor young Kerrigan froze under the spotlight and lost control of his bowling. Yet even though this was a cruel occasion for Kerrigan - he has not been sighted at international level since - the decision to select him was valuable because it was so informative. If only England had had the courage to glean a bit more information about Rashid in Barbados.
On Wednesday James Whitaker, the national selector, explained Rashid's inclusion by saying "it provides Alastair and Trevor with plenty of bowling options and the surface at Cardiff will dictate who makes the final XI". The implication here is that Rashid could be the second spinner. This is more likely than Rashid replacing Moeen Ali, even though the off-spinner has not shown much form this summer.
When Cardiff hosted its first ever Test match against Australia in 2009, England, bowing to the reputation of the ground, selected two spinners, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, both of whom were far more proven than the current crop. Between them they bowled 73 overs and took one for 246 - although both batted rather well on the final day. Both Cook and Andrew Strauss were playing in that game. They will take some persuading that picking two spinners is the best option this time round.
The selection of Rashid is the only surprise, albeit a mild one, in the squad. Otherwise the personnel come from those who played against New Zealand or who bonded in Spain this last weekend. Steven Finn, who has not played a five-day match since the Trent Bridge Test Ashes Test of 2013, has earned his recall but his passage will have been eased by Liam Plunkett's recent calf-strain.
Apparently the batting order will remain the same - hence Gary Ballance, so statuesque against the New Zealand new-ball bowlers stays at No3 - and so will the slip cordon. This represents quite a vote of confidence in Ian Bell at second slip even though Adam Lyth's credentials, gained in county cricket, are much more convincing.
England have not selected a spare batsman in the squad and maybe this really is to placate proud Yorkshiremen.
The pecking order just beyond Test level has probably changed in the past few weeks.
If a fresh batsman was required this may now entail a call-up for Jonny Bairstow, who has been scoring runs aplenty against any colour of ball. It really might be bad for the health of dear old Dickie if Bairstow as well as Rashid was called up and then not required.