Are the ECB selectors getting lucky?

Ben Foaks
Written by Adam Oliver

Two tests down in Sri Lanka, and England have won the series. Once again, the batting has been okay, but not much better than that. A major theme recently has been that within the batting line-up, one big innings from one player has saved the blushes of the rest of the team. In the first test, Ben Foakes was on fire. And in the most recent match, the centuries of Keaton Jennings and Joe Root have been so important, in the eventual securing of the English victory.

I’m still not convinced by the English batting line-up – Ben Stokes batting at three is a farce, quite frankly. However, what is noticeable is the unusually solid bowling outfit, and there seems to be two main reasons for this.

Firstly, the loss of the old guard. I, as a fan, first and foremost, have been wanting new blood in the team, preferring replacing the ageing Stuart Broad, and so the loss of him has meant that some of the younger guns have managed to shine. And secondly, in particular, the wily Jack Leach has performed well, taking key wickets, whilst also providing much more stability with the bat than the Nottinghamshire bowler, Broad. His five-wicket haul in the second innings of the second test shows just how important Leach has become to this team in such a short period of time, and along with Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, the three look like a serious force to be reckoned with.

However, one may recall that prior to this series, Leach was not selected for the team throughout the entirety of the Summer back in England. Admittedly, he was injured for a short amount of time. However, given his relatively solid performances in the Ashes last Winter despite England’s overall car crash, it’s strange that he was no longer in the selectors’ minds in the matches since his debut series.

It is common knowledge that in countries like Sri Lanka, spin is often the way to go, with pitches offering more for the spinners than some do in English conditions, but is this Leach revelation just a happy coincidence that the selectors have stumbled upon? Much of the same can be said for Rory Burns at the top of the batting order, who has looked like, despite no great scores as yet, he has serious potential. But would he have even been selected had it not been for the sudden retirement of Alistair Cook?

So the selectors seem to be getting things right. But is it by luck, more than judgement?