Trickling down the order in desperate times

No, I didn’t have Brad Haddin in my Ashes squad. Thought his time might have passed. Didn’t believe he had done enough to displace the incumbent Matthew Wade, or even earn a touring berth ahead of the younger Tim Paine.

But, counter-intuitive as it might seem, it was reassuring to see his name among the 16 announced on Wednesday. A sign of desperate times? The whimsical thought that the deeds of a now distant past can be repeated? Or a reaction to the obvious vacuum in experience and leadership in a team that seemed at odds with itself in India?

Or – more optimistically – was Haddin’s selection resonant of an experienced (read elderly) Ashes squad that sends an unexpectedly encouraging message: Yep, this is going to be tough. Perhaps too tough. But we are going to do everything in our powers to be competitive. Not in two years or four years or when the progeny of Boon and Warne and some Waughs reach the age of cross-Pacific-can-drinking-record consent. But now.

Hold your fire. Do not hit the button on angry missives about the shortcomings of a batting order that seems, on paper, as fragile as my psyche standing over a downhill two-footer. Put yourself in the selectors’ Hush Puppies and remember they were shopping at a garage sale, not a Brighton boutique.

Yes, they have more openers than a wine taster’s kitchen drawer – although, admittedly, none who would displace the still raw Nick Compton from the England line-up. Let alone Captain Cook, the English skipper with the dashing Downton Abbey land baron good looks and serene born-to-bat manner.

We have been left with no choice but to institute a form of trickle-down selection whereby openers are redistributed to fill the gaps. My batting line-up is Cowan, Rogers, Hughes, Clarke, Watson/Khawaja, Warner.

Keep your fingers off that keyboard! There is method here.

Cowan and Rogers are real openers. Blunt the attack, take the shine off, tire the bowlers. That sort of thing. I’m trusting Roger’s experience in English conditions and Cowan’s cussed nature and professionalism. At least for the first two Tests.

Hughes? Iffy against the swinging ball. But I’m ignoring the way he was tortured by the Indian spinners, rewarding the manner in which he fought back, and reaching for a blindfold.

Clarke at four. Not voluntarily, but obviously. Watson plays if he proves in the tour matches he can give me 10 overs per-innings with the ball, that his form with the bat has improved and, of course, if he has completed his homework and kept his room tidy. If not, Khawaja gets his chance.

Warner at six? Why not bring him in when the ball is doing less and he can attempt to discombobulate the English bowlers with his cross blade? Alternatively, some might suggest he will be in before lunch anyway. So not much change there.

Much better Warner at six than the unfortunate Wade. His elevation to No.6 was an act of desperation, and his glove work has let him down. Haddin’s leadership, experience and – fingers crossed – form with the bat prevails. With the caveat that, despite the vice-captaincy, he is not immune from being dropped.

The bowling? Pattinson, Siddle, Harris and Bird. (Four seamers for Trent Bridge. With Lyon to get his chance at the Oval and other spin-friendly venues.)

By now, every New South Welshman will have screamed ”What about Mitchell Starc?”

Harris is a strike bowler with a big heart and a consistent line. Bird is dangerous and miserly. But Starc gets his chance when the first MRI comes back showing a stress fracture in one of the other bowler’s back or shin.

So here it is: Cowan, Rogers, Hughes, Clarke, Watson/Khawaja, Warner, Haddin, Harris, Pattinson, Siddle, Bird.

Not exactly The Invincibles. But, I reckon, not utterly vincible either.

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