Friday, 10 November 2006

Does England's loss matter?

So England didn’t just lose their first warm-up match. They were annihilated in every department. But does it matter?

Clearly, England would have preferred to have got their tour off to the perfect start. But England losing – even in a manner such as this – is a not uncommon scenario during tour matches. Most of us have given up paying too much notice to them. And this, after all, was only a one-day match.

The most worrying facet of this defeat was the bowling of Sajid Mahmood. His nine overs for 97 were a reminder that, for all his ability, there is always a chance he will be pulverised. On this occasion, his bowling was reminiscent of Steve Harmison’s infamous sea of wides in lilac Hill four years ago. Does it matter? We will probably see whether his confidence has been truly tarnished when he bowls against New South Wales in the next game.

Worryingly for England fans, Ashley Giles bowled his full quota of overs, while Monty Panesar bowled just three overs. Are the selectors actually contemplating picking a half-fit Giles over Panesar, already such a thrilling exponent of the old fashioned attacking left-arm spinner’s arm? For England, such a decision would be egregious. Duncan Fletcher, seemingly so keen on his spinner offering containment, would do worse than remember Panesar, despite having a better average and strike-rate than Giles, also has a superior economy rate.

Of particular note was Geriant Jones’ decisive dropped catch. He did take an excellent catch, of course, but the fact Phil Jaques went on to score a fantastic century was a reminder of how costly his errors can be. England’s mistakes were plentiful. Save for the facet Andrew Flintoff was able to bowl his 10 overs and Andrew Strauss continued the form he showed in India, they can take nothing positive from this game. Yet things will only begin to get serious if their play is equally poor against New South Wales.

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