Thursday, 30 November 2006

England’s three keys: Mahmood, Panesar and the toss

A lot of people have written pieces on how England can level the series. Almost all of them involve a) winning the toss and batting first and b) playing Monty Panesar. I need hardly add that, for either strategy to be a success, England need to post 450 in their first innings.

England have been in defiant mood since the Brisbane anti-climax, though they would have undeniably benefited for a warm-up game between Tests. If Glenn McGrath misses out through injury, then, besides the inevitable Edgbaston comparison, England will face either fiery left-armer Mitchell Johnson or explosive tearaway Shaun Tait. A seam attack of Brett Lee, Stuart Clark and Johnson or Tait, on the relatively docile Adelaide pitch, hardly appears the stuff of nightmares.

For England, James Anderson will certainly be dropped. Despite Australia refraining from selecting Stuart MacGill, England may well play two spinners. Panesar, who offers both attacking threat and enormous control (his Test economy rate is 2.58), has the mental strength to cope with being attacked by Australia’s batsmen, and must play.

But Ashley Giles shouldn’t. Though he scored 47 runs in the first Test, he took just a solitary wicket; meanwhile, his bowling average crept above 40, which should only emphasis how lucky we appear to be to have discovered Panesar. What is the point of playing two left-arm spinners when one is as palpably unthreatening as Giles?

It may weaken the batting a touch, but I would select Sajid Mahmood, who offers a reverse-swinging threat and genuine hostility, in addition to Panesar. In doing so, England would bring in two of the four most likely match-winners they have in their squad, imperative considering they are 1-0 down and another potential match-winner, Stephen Harmison, is less GBH and more harmless.

England will be dreaming of winning the toss, batting first, reaching 300-3 after day one before topping 500. But, if they lose the toss once more, they will be happier in the knowledge they have Mahmood and Panesar in their ranks.

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Chrispy said...

I rather agree that playing Panesar and Giles is rather pointless as Monty is capable of holding up an end all day and surely the quicks will be rotated at the other. If Australia will attack Panesar then they will do the same to Giles so why play both, when Monty is the more threatening and KP offers variation in spin bowling?

There has been an occassional history of up and down movement at the Adelaide Oval in the past and it is the hit the deck at pace bowlers, like Mahmood and Harmison, rather than Anderson, who will exploit that variable bounce late on in the match more. And Mahmood has shown that he is almost as capable with the bat as Ash, when he doesn't try to hit out of the ground that is.

If Harmi were firing though I'd stick in the extra batsman to make sure we get that 400 plus because without that you are not going to win the match. Whether it be first or second day England should still be capable of making 400 in their first innings and thus preserving their life in this series. If they do not then they do not deserve to retain the urn.

Nick Gammons said...

Unfortunately, England chose not to go down the sensible selection route you advocated and stuck with the same line-up. This inflexibility is likely to cost them dear when they are trying to take 20 wickets to win the match. At least they won the toss and have the opportunity to post a big score, but Flintoff will regret not being able to throw the ball to Panesar or Mahmood when a breakthrough is needed. We can only hope that Harmison and Anderson bowl much better than at Brisbane.

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