I've been putting this blog off for quite a while. All week, in fact, since the announcement that Jade Dernbach was called into the England squad for the second test at Lord's. Quite honestly, it's because I feel a bit naughty doing it. I've been a long term champion of Steve Finn, ever since his Middlesex debut as a gangly teen through to his England debut as a gangly 20-odd year old. But were I Andy Flower, I'd overlook Finn in favour of some tattooed South-African born lout from Surrey. It goes against everything I should stand for as a cricket blogger.
But it sort of doesn't. I'll overlook Jade's tats, background and general Surrey-ness for a minute to look at England's bowling options for this test. Tremlett. Finn. Broad. All big men. If they're all selected, England will field their tallest ever fast bowling attack, measuring in at not far under 20 feet between the three of them. While it would be unfair to generalise the games of all three in such a way, it could be said that all are "bang-it-in" bowlers. Yes, Sri Lanka appear to have a weakness to the short ball, but not to that extent. By all means, play two quicks who are going to stick it back of a length and work the Lankans over, but playing all three smacks of unneccessary overkill. Quite simply, England's attack will be very samey and far too simplistic. What if the pitch doesn't offer much bounce? Or if the Sri Lankans play the short ball well? Suddenly three-quarters of England's plans go down the proverbial Lord's gurgler.
With England naming four fast bowling options, and a tall three man attack unfeasible, there can only be one option. Playing Jade Dernbach.
So onto Jade himself. Looking at the stats, you'd think Jade is more of a one-day specialist, but he has improved leaps and bounds in four-day cricket. Averaging 29 in last year's County Championship (no mean feat when playing half of your cricket at the run-friendly Kia-Ora Oval and considering he had a pretty bad injury right way through the season), Dernbach has pushed his way through the England pecking order to appear a genuine international prospect. At the start of the season, all of the county coaches were polled as to who the best bowler on the circuit was. Dernbach won with 33% of the vote. He's certainly taken his chances when they've been offered to him - his excellent form over the winter (and against Sri Lanka where he took 9 wickets) for the Lions has shown he has the ability to succeed, and the big-match temprament to do it on the big-stage. (In that he knew how important the Lions matches were for his international chances and took his opportunity). With Shahzad bowling balloons and Onions not really fit yet, Dernbach's selection wasn't the biggest shock in the world, and he more than deserves his chance in England colours.
There's more to this argument than just "England shouldn't play three back-of-a-length" bowlers - Jade Dernbach has earned the right to play test cricket. While there are eyebrows raised about his earrings, tattoos and South-African heritage (he has a Croydon accent, which is good enough for me), there are certainly no questions over his bowling, which ultimately is why he should be selected for this game. While I'd personally prefer to see Finn, Tremlett and Dernbach play (with Broad dropped), this won't happen, so a Trem-Broad-Dernbach triumvirate would be good enough for me. Jade Dernbach has been banging on the door of test cricket - now I just hope the selectors are brave enough to let him in.