Friday, 30 March 2007

England’s top-order woes show no sign of abating

Ian Bell’s 74-ball 31 was an excruciating, unassertive innings against willing but limited opposition. He was incapable of hitting boundaries, despite batting primarily during the Powerplay overs. Had he seamlessly given the strike to the more obtrusive Kevin Pietersen that would have been fine; instead, he proved incapable of even picking up singles, leaving Pietersen with just a ball or two an over. It was not an isolated incident; rather, the latest disappointing showing from England’s top three. Ed Joyce and Michael Vaughan, meanwhile, contributed just seven runs between them.

So England’s top-order problems are twofold. Save for Joyce against Kenya and Canada, they have recently been incapable of making substantial scores at the top of the order. To compound this, the few runs they have been making have been scored far too slowly. While other top nations are routinely 100-1 after 20 overs, England tend to be nearer 80-3.

Vaughan, given that he is captain and is doing little worse than Joyce and Bell, must be persevered with, and told to bat through the innings, rather than attempt to exploit the opening overs and succeed only in getting himself out. Joyce scored a fine hundred against Australia two months ago but, save for some runs against the minnows, still appears unsure of himself. Bell was England’s finest ODI batsman in 2006 but has regressed of late; as highlighted against Ireland, he can find it very difficult to consistently score singles.

Andrew Strauss was rightly dropped at the start of the World Cup but the time has come for his return. He has palpable class and pedigree and, though hardly explosive, probably utilises the fielding restrictions better than any other member of the top three. Hopefully, the break will have reinvigorated him.

Who should he replace? Probably Joyce, though it is a very marginal decision. What England really need, of course, is a Marcus Trescothick-like figure to attack from the off. At the risk of saying ‘I told you so’, the answer is Mal Loye. Thrown into tough circumstances in Australia, Loye fared reasonably well, giving England momentum with his audacious cameos and playing his finest innings in the second final; even when not making huge scores, his fearless stroke play was vital in giving the side momentum and the run rate an early boost.

Mike Selvey, writing on Shaun Tait’s World Cup impact to date, asked: “Would England select such a maverick in similar circumstances, one wonders, or would they concentrate on what a player cannot do - Monty Panesar, say, or Mal Loye - rather than what he can?” Alas, the answer is in the question; England will just have to hope Strauss is out to make for loss time and the top order can learn from Paul Collingwood’s risk-free accumulating.

46 comments:

Nick Gammons said...

Tim, I heartily agree with you. England missed a trick not either persevering with Loye or looking for someone similar, while they had matches to experiment in. Now the damage is done and England need to
consider who is the best partner for Vaughan. As I see it there are three options:

1. Tell Joyce to attack more, even if he gets out doing so.

2. Bring Strauss in to play his shots - he's no Trescothick, but can score far quicker than Joyce, especially off the new ball.

3. Consider a more radical option like opening with Bopara, telling him to hit over the top as often as possible in the first 10 overs.

I favour the second option, as I believe Strauss can score quickly against pace and has the experience to build big innings.

Bell should either be dropped or moved down to six, where he can bat with the lower order when England are in trouble. Pietersen, Collingwood and Flintoff must all go up one in the order to maximise England's run scoring.

River Taff End said...

Unless something drastic happens in the next week or two, I think we are coming to the end of Vaughan's time in the one day side.

He's never really cut it in ODIs. A new coach(!) should split the captaincy: Vaughan for Tests, Colly for ODIs.

The top three needs major surgery.

Chrispy said...

Like you Tim I believe we never replaced Tresco. I'm still going Matt Prior! He'll average more than Nixon and get us off to rapid starts and if he falls for nothing it isn't so bad if he's a wk. He did average slightly more than Loye too and has more time on his side.

Good idea to move Bell down or out. KP must bat three, especially if we are opening with two of Strauss/Joyce/Bell/Vaughan.

Those are still my two beliefs and I don't think they will change that quickly.

Richard Lake said...

The more I see of the tournament, the more it is obvious that England are treating the game in a totally different way to the other teams.

The others are hitting big at the start, sacrificing wickets and looking to make best use of the Powerplay. We are keeping wickets in hand to exploit the last ten overs. I haven't got any stats to hand, but I'd gues that we probably score more runs in the last ten overs than most of the other teams with this tactic.

Given this is the way we are looking to play the game, the make up of the team is correct. Whether we should be playing this way or not is another matter.

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