SWANNY'S WORLD OF SPORT: England's Ballance is all wrong
Oh dear Joe Root. Your captaincy of England's Test team couldn't have got off to a worse start. Picking your mates is never a good look.
Gary Ballance has twice proven he isn’t good enough for the toughest standard of cricket. A current County Championship average of 100 will mean little when South African speedster Kagiso Rabada has him in his sights.
Even if England and Ballance do scrape through this series against an under-powered South African side, the Aussies are lying in wait in our winter and they will hardly be quaking in their boots when a left-handed, flat-footed prodder emerges at number three.
Australia probably thought they’d ended Ballance’s career in a previous Ashes series. They’ll be confident they can finish him off for good this winter if he manages to survive that long.
It’s a risky selection as when it inevitably goes wrong, England will be in a panic trying to blood someone else in a key role in time for the biggest cricketing contest of them all.
They could probably pick me to bat three against the West Indies later this summer and still be confident of winning that series.
Scoring runs against that fading nation will be no proper warm-up to face the likes of James Pattinson and Josh Hazlewood in Perth.
I know England chief Andrew Strauss is striving to make England a force in white ball cricket (without serious success so far) but the Ashes is the match-up that supercedes all others.
Worryingly England could go Down Under with a rookie skipper in Root (right), star bowlers like Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad who are unlikely to play more than three Tests because of injury and uncertainty at the top of their order.
They also have a star all-rounder in Ben Stokes who struggles to fulfil the bowling part of his role.
If the weight of captaincy affects Root’s form, England will be in a right pickle.
Thank goodness Alastair Cook appears to be thriving now the pressure of captaincy has been taken off him.
Unfortunately Cook’s opening partner for the South African series is likely to be a South African.
I’m sorry, but I’m not having Jennings as an England player.
He’s doubtless a good player, but he’s a South African good player.
It can’t be right a player can turn out for South Africa Under 19s and then become an England Test player.
Why does patriotism come below expediency in professional sportsmen these days?
We saw it with oafish Kevin Pietersen in cricket and we’ve seen it with Alijaz Bedene in tennis.
Every Jennings interview makes me cringe. He’s about as English as Castle Lager.
England have also blundered in selecting Liam Dawson, a journeyman county cricketer who bowls a bit of left-arm spin, in their 12 for the first Test.
Last month England were bigging-up young leg-spinner Mason Crane’s ability and potential. He’s now nowhere to be seen.