Don Topley: Tom Westley unlucky to miss out on Ashes squad, Ben Stokes must make changes
PUBLISHED: 13:24 28 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:25 28 September 2017
Don Topley discusses the Ashes squad, why James Vince isn’t a good selection and the Ben Stokes saga in his latest weekly cricket column.
The 24-year-old heralds from Frinton-on-Sea and has represented Frinton Cricket Club since the age of nine.
This week, he has been selected as the second keeper in England’s Ashes squad, but can also bat in the lower order if needed – I fully expect him to make his full debut sometime this winter.
While one North Essex man has been chosen to join legend Alastair Cook, another – Tom Westley – will be disappointed and perhaps disillusioned.
Westley has surprisingly lost out to Hampshire’s James Vince, who hasn’t played a Test since June 2016.
Having commentated much on Essex and Hampshire this season, Vince for me is not an international number three batsman.
He has technical issues outside the off stump and in my opinion, is not tight enough to bat at 3 - this Australian bowling unit will be severely testing! The selectors have gone on a hunch.
Solving the other problematic number five batting spot is simple – promote Jonny Bairstow up the order as he never disappoints England.
We have two all-rounders in Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes and therefore can play an extra bowler in those demanding back to back Tests.
Possession is nine tenths of the law so Mark Stoneman continues as Cook’s 12th opening partner, but Westley will be aggrieved, even if selected for a Lions’ slot shadowing the main act.
Australia traditionally bat their best player at three, where England always look to bat their best at four.
This is causing an issue as Joe Root wants to bat at four and we probably need him to bat at three, especially in Australia.
England aren’t confident of Mark Wood playing regularly therefore Wood has been overlooked for the main party.
The Durham bowler was instructed to play for Durham last week to prove his long game fitness. Will Wood become another bowler who prioritises white ball cricket because of injury? Wood has been to hell and back in the last two years.
This season’s find, Toby Roland Jones, will be sorely missed after discovering he has a stress fracture in his back. It gives a deserved chance to uncapped Somerset all-rounder, Craig Overton, who has enjoyed a successful season to show his skills.
Moeen Ali is our leading spinner after a terrific summer, but I’m not surprised by the call up for Mason Crane.
Adil Rashid simply has not improved in red ball cricket and Crane has the ability to become a far superior Test Match bowler. Uncapped Crane may only play in the final Test in Sydney, after New Year.
James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Woakes look a good set of bowlers to lead the attack and hopefully adding Ben Stokes – legal issues aside – will make that a good four-pronged attack.
I have got to know Stokes over the last couple of years and he is a cracking chap. He is a talented, charismatic, personable and resilient 26-year-old man.
But with two young children, and soon to be married to his long-term partner, I think he urgently needs to address his lifestyle.
Yes, all-rounders are a different breed. Just look at Ian Botham and Freddie Flintoff. But while Ben the man hasn’t changed, his circumstances have.
As with all international sportsmen, cricket demands he spends much time away from his family. Cricketers spend the winter/off season mainly overseas, with significant periods of our summer time all over England – it results in a lot of time spent in hotels alone and bored.
Stokes’ parents are also not about as they reside in New Zealand. His father, Ged, has sporting prowess as he was a professional rugby league player representing NZ before spending time in Cumbria.
In the coming months, the Australian players will goad him but Ben will also be a target for the average Aussie man in the street, in every town hosting an Ashes Test Match.
He will need to be prepared for that, mentally strong and ready to turn the other cheek.