‘One of the most ridiculous selections ever’
CRICKET: Former England captain Michael Vaughan says if leg-spinner Mason Crane is left out of the XI for the final Ashes Test in Sydney it will prove his inclusion in the squad was "one of the most ridiculous selections of all time".
The 20-year-old is a strong chance to play in the harbour city in place of first-choice spinner Moeen Ali, who is down on form and confidence after a shocker of a tour.
Ali has taken just three wickets in four matches and has been expensive as well as unthreatening, failing to tie down an end for skipper Joe Root as the Aussie batsmen have feasted on his limp offerings.
His woes mean Crane could make his Test debut in the new year. The only other specialist tweaker in the squad besides Ali, Vaughan says the single reason the youngster won't play at the SCG is because he hasn't done enough at training to suggest he's ready for an international call-up.
If that's the case, Vaughan said the decision to bring Crane Down Under in the first place is inexplicable.
"If England don't play Crane in Sydney then the only reason must be they have seen in practice that he is not ready yet," Vaughan wrote in an article for The Telegraph.
"If that is the case then he is one of the most ridiculous selections of all time.
"They picked a reserve spinner, who averages 43 in first-class cricket, knowing he would not play in the first three games which meant he would not have any match practice coming into the final two Tests when they might need him.
"The selectors have got things wrong in Test cricket for a while now. It is not one person's fault but they have made mistakes. Who is accountable? Do we continue with the system we have now?"
Going against Crane at the selection table is his poor average (43.98) after 29 first-class matches, but he was picked on potential as much as anything - a gut call made with the hope of finally unearthing a long-term wrist spinner.
His experience with Australian conditions and the fact he's already played at the SCG will work in his favour. The leggie played for Gordon in Sydney grade cricket last summer and emerged as the leading wicket-taker in the competition with 45 scalps from 11 appearances.
He was so impressive NSW selected him for the second-last round of the Sheffield Shield season and he took five wickets against South Australia on the Blues' home deck.
Ali won't be able to argue if he's dropped in favour of Crane. Troubled by a finger issue, he's hardly looked like taking a wicket and he's conceded less than 3.5 runs per over just three times in seven innings.
That's in contrast to Aussie off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who's been sensational this summer in taking 17 wickets.
Vaughan said England needs to find a spinner who can attack but also play a holding role in the first few days when the wicket isn't taking much turn.
He suggested left-arm orthodox bowler Jack Leach, who plays for Somerset and averages 26.47 with the ball across 51 first class matches, as the man the Poms may need to gamble on when they host India later this year before travelling to Sri Lanka and the West Indies.