Weather looks set to save face for England selectors

Rain check: Downpours were a blessing in disguise, as it meant the new recruits could not embarrass England any further. Photograph: PA
Rain check: Downpours were a blessing in disguise, as it meant the new recruits could not embarrass England any further. Photograph: PA
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“OOPS!” said the England selectors after their gamble of selecting two debutants in the same match failed and failed in some style – or if they didn’t, they should have.

The last time the selection panel threw a curveball like that was in 2008 against South Africa. Anyone remember Darren Pattinson? Thought not.

After that fiasco, when Michael Vaughan, the then captain, admitted he had never seen Pattinson bowl, the selectors vowed never to be so adventurous. Maybe Monty Panesar’s recent inability to hold his bladder in sight of nightclub bouncers or Australia’s obvious weakness had twisted their minds, but the selections of both Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan was unexpected, even by the players themselves. To the rest of us it was extraordinary.

England have been fortunate that Saturday in its entirety was abandoned due to rain, as otherwise there was still a chance they would be embarrassed and lose the match.

For years England lost Test series and held on to every late series victory as a glimmer of hope, so why they are suddenly offering such chances to beaten opponents is beyond comprehension.

Is it future planning as it will no doubt be spun? Or an unsubtle coded message to Panesar and others with the propensity to misbehave? Who knows? The hope must be that it is not complacency or arrogance.

Poor old Kerrigan. He was the proverbial rabbit in the headlights. For England Lions he had turned his arm and been smashed by Shane Watson, so what the selectors expected when they gave him his cap on a flat one at the Oval with Watson chomping at the bit is difficult to fathom. He got, quite frankly, what his recent form deserved.

His failure is not his but the selectors’. Sporting vernacular is full of phrases such as “the toughest survive” and “sink or swim”, but those in charge do need to be a bit cuter.

The shame has been that Chris Tremlett has bowled wonderfully for Surrey this week. He was in the squad and should have played, something acknowledged by Watson himself. There is a thought that a team should do what the opposition least like.

If teams could pick the opposition they least like to face it would prove an interesting exercise. On that basis neither Woakes nor Kerrigan would have played and to prove that they will not play in Australia this winter. There are five Ashes Test matches to come between November and 
January and Australia will feel a 
little better about that prospect than they should.

Watson has just amassed his highest Test score and a big one at that, while Steve Smith has performed well all series with the bat and now has his maiden Test century. Ryan Harris has been one of the best seam bowlers on both sides and Peter Siddle has worked his usual disciplined plans to his usual good effect.

Now the experiment with Ashton Agar has finished and Nathan Lyon is back as the main spinner, Australia are starting to put together a decent, workmanlike side.

The suspicion is that the series Down Under will be a lot more challenging for England.

Neither Alastair Cook nor Jonathan Trott has looked comfortable this summer and they were the stalwarts in 2010-11. They scored in excess of 1,200 runs in that series and this time round they have mustered fewer than 500.

That could mean they are due to produce some good performances or could herald a weakness in England’s top order.

On the recent evidence would anyone be really confident about winning the Ashes in Australia again this winter? Not if the likes of Woakes and Kerrigan are selected.

This final Test match of the summer was actually the first match of the winter series. Australia has bossed it. England has been playing catch-up, partly because of the pitch and partly selection.

The reckoning will come in Brisbane in November. If Australia is resurgent then this match will be under the microscope.