Eng v Ind

Published on July 30th, 2018 | by Rohit Sankar

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England’s third seamer conundrum

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Tom Curran or Jamie Porter? Who would fit in as the third seamer? 

When England announced their Test squad for the series against India, the whole of next week went in throwing mud at Ed Smith and co for their disastrous choice of bringing back Adil Rashid into the Test squad.

It hogged so much of the headlines that barely anybody discussed the introduction of Jamie Porter, perhaps the most exciting quickie since Stuart Broad in England cricket. While Ed Smith and his team seemed to have completely disregarded the County Championship on the one hand – as suggested by their backing of Rashid who had retired from red ball cricket – they had given weightage to it too if you go by the much applauded selection of Jamie Porter.

A promising right-arm seamer and a product of the Darren Lehmann Cricket Academy, Porter has lived up to his hype with some stupendous performances in the Championship. In the 2017 season, he was the highest wicket-taker in the County circuit with 75 wickets in 13 games at a stunning average of 16.82.

Porter was so incredibly good that he had picked up five five-wicket hauls in that one season alone. In 2018, he has shown glimpses of carrying on from where he left off, with 28 wickets in 7 matches including two other fifers.

The trend is evident for all to see. When Porter picks wickets, he goes for the full bounty. England fans will remember a similar bowler, a part of their current Test team and well acclaimed for his savage 8/15 against the Aussies at Trent Bridge.

Porter’s similarities with Broad might end there but in him, England have a treasure worth holding on to for anything. They might be a tad too eager to play him, but have refrained from picking him as the third seamer in the side with Sam Curran the incumbent and the favourite to take up that spot.

In their last Test, against Pakistan at Leeds, it was Sam Curran who played the role of the additional seamer in the side although they had Chris Woakes as well to complement Anderson and Broad. Curran was impressive nonetheless and bowled steadily right through, picking up two wickets, one in either innings.

It is here that England will face a challenge. Anderson and Broad will have to play five Tests in six weeks which could be a tad too hard at this stage of their Test career. Broad himself had admitted there could be a rotation at some stage in the series.

“I think there has already been small conversations saying don’t be disheartened if you are left out for a Test match, it’s not a personal attack or dropping its management of your bowlers to make sure we give ourselves the best chance,” Broad had said as revealed by Telegraph.

“I won’t get to the stage where I am left out at say, Lord’s, and go back and play county cricket. It’s you’re missing out, fresh bowlers come in, you stay around [the squad], keeping talking, stay part of the unit so it’s only natural to expect small changes throughout five Test matches but the bowlers have to be able to take it,” he added.

The plot is pretty clear. This time around Curran won’t be there to merely add up the numbers and bowl a few here and there. On his debut and only Test, Curran bowled 14 overs across the two innings’ while Anderson and Broad bowled 25 and 27 respectively.

England will, of course, be dependant on the experienced duo for hauling them out of trouble every now and then but they will need their third seamer to step up. Ben Stokes is the fourth seamer and would inevitably be bowling a few but the workload of the third seamer could be more than what they are used to in the past, particularly with the series played out without too much in between time.

There is unlikely to be a toss-up between Curran and Porter for the first Test but it is almost certain that both of them will feature at one point or the other in the series, probably even together if Broad or Anderson is rested with England ahead in the series.

Since Broad’s debut in 2007, England have virtually relied on the two senior bowlers to bail them out. It is evidenced by the bucket load of wickets the two have. Broad has 417 of them in his career while Anderson has 478 since Broad’s debut. It is worth noting, though, that the only other seamer with more than 100 wickets since then is Steven Finn with 125. Ben Stokes has 98 and Chris Woakes has 64.

The two who would be in charge of the third seamer’s role will have two between them. Numbers won’t matter as long as they perform on the day but the problem is they might not have a huge spell to showcase their skills. Broad and Anderson are likely to bowl the bulk of overs with Curran or Porter being a sideshow unless they manage to pull off a Roland-Jones and steal the thunder. The onus is on them, whoever plays, to impress in the limited time they have got. With England also tempted to play two spinners in the hot summer, both of them being benched isn’t a far-fetched thought either.

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mm

A cricket enthusiast striving to convey the finer details of the game in a capsule. I hope to present a bird's eye view of the game as I see it to the readers. PS: I am smitten by the likes of ABD but crush on pace bowlers who can make the ball talk.



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