Spectator sport

Let’s give young Ben Foakes a chance to sweep out the Ashes

25 November 2017

9:00 AM

25 November 2017

9:00 AM

So the Ashes has finally got over the line, and not a minute too soon. At the time of writing we don’t know what happened in the first day but it’s a fair bet that it hasn’t turned out well for England — they haven’t won in Brisbane since 1986. Steve Harmison’s first-ball delivery to second slip heralded the 2006-07 whitewash and Mitchell Johnson’s merciless spells on the second day set up another 5-0 Ashes wipeout in 2013-14, as well as ending the careers of a few England players.

Which is what Nathan Lyon wants this time too, but you can’t get that worked up about Aussie trash talk, especially from an off-spinner generally agreed to be a thoroughly nice guy. The English policy of keeping shtum seems more sensible.

On the bright side, I do hope that the selectors haven’t forgotten that Ben Foakes is a rather good batsman, and arguably England’s best wicket-keeper. His Surrey coach Alec Stewart, who knows a thing or two, rated him the best wicket-keeper in the world. Under the experienced tutelage of Kumar Sangakkara, his first-class average is well over 40. If the selectors run out of patience with one or two of the duffers, then Foakes might be the answer — his performances in the lower middle order have been remarkably consistent. I am sure he will get his chance and give us the pleasing scorecard line of ‘ct Foakes b Woakes’.

What a privilege it is to watch Manchester City in the age of Pep Guardiola. I can’t recall a club side so lauded so early in the season, but the lavish praise seems justified. Could his Midas touch be young England’s best hope in Russia? Noel Gallagher, yes him, has been speaking about the ‘cosmic’ football City are playing under Pep, and who are we to argue? Guardiola seems to be getting the best out of Stones, Walker and Sterling. These three plus the Tottenham backbone of Kane, Dele Alli and Dier bringing their club form to the national team, along with the young England talent that did so well in the international age-group tournaments, could add up to a thrilling new team. But we have been here before…

As for the rest of the Premier League? I am not so sure. Brighton vs Stoke anyone? That was last Monday. Or any takers for Palace vs Stoke, Newcastle vs Watford or Swansea vs Bournemouth next weekend? A lot of football outside the top six clubs is pretty poor. The clubs are largely foreign-owned, and managed and staffed by overseas mercenaries. Take Watford, a spunky little club punching above its weight thanks to the cash and players pumped in by the Italian Pozzo family. Now Marco Silva, their Portuguese manager, indicates that he wouldn’t mind a bash at managing Everton despite being at Vicarage Road for about 15 minutes. Wasn’t the question of him hanging around for the whole season touched upon when they gave him the job?

The ATP finals were rescued by the presence of Roger Federer in the early stages then given an exciting climax by two relative unknowns: Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin. Dimitrov has the most impressive girlfriend CV of any sportsman I can think of — he has already dated Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova and is now with the very pulchritudinous Nicole Scherzinger. She has form with sportsmen, but I reckon a five-setter with Grigor is probably more fun than a few laps with Lewis.

Only one black mark on Eddie Jones’s charge sheet: it was surprisingly feeble of him to apologise for his outburst of swearing during the rather plodding England win over Argentina. If you can’t use the f-word about the England rugby team, when can you use it? Poor show, Eddie.


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