Tuesday, 22 May 2007

What next for topsy-turvy England?

Rarely can an England team have given such an uneven performance. Six players made it onto the Lords honours board, five are probably now wishing they hadn't bothered. As the team is selected for the next test today, what are the options ahead of the Selectors, and should they be held responsible for the previous selection?

The Successful six
Alistair Cook - He has started the season on form and scoring runs for fun. A brilliant century given the bowler friendly conditions in which he started, albeit against some pretty wayward bowling. Safe from the impact of the returning stars now and will look to make up for his disappointing Ashes series

Kevin Pietersen - Admitted to still being in One Day mode in the first innings, his second inning century was a masterclass in accelarating an innings. He seemed to slip back into One Day mode towards the end of the innings, getting out to an ugly reverse sweep. His "confrontation" with Chris Gayle was another highlight!

Paul Collingwood - They say there's no such thing as a bad century, but this got pretty close to it. Being dropped twice is one thing. The fact that they were both absolute sitters is another. He should also have been given out early in the innings, when umpire Rauf gave his one bad decision of the game. Still, if you're given a chance, then you have to capitalise, and he did that. One blinding catch in the slips and probably England's best seam bowler.

Ian Bell - Another match in England and another ton. That's four in the last five home games, the missing match being the abandoned game against Pakistan. As steady and chanceless as always, he allowed Prior to play his shots, while he just calmly moved along. He is still touted as the one to make way should Flintoff come back.

Matt Prior - What a debut! The batting was brutal, although the other batsmen had taken the pressure off somewhat. In particular, 21 off 9 balls int he second innings gave some impetus that only hte weather could take away. However, it was the keeping that was most impressive. Certainly tested by Harmison and Plunkett, he was tidy and in the end unlucky to concede the four byes that he did, as Monty fired one down the leg side and through the rough. My Man of the Match, and we won't be talking about the wicket-keeping position again for a little while.

Monty Panesar - His best bowling figures, thanks largely to some decent umpiring and wonderful control rather than outrageous turn. It's a good job he showed up otherwise the West Indies innings could have gone on until Christmas.

The Flawed Five
Andrew Strauss - This is beginning to get worrying for Strauss. Two starts and two loose shots while nicely set. This started in the winter, with freak dismissals and unfortunate umpiring decisions. However, it is now becoming a habit and he needs a big score and soon.

Owais Shah - Back to county crisket for a bit I fear. He didn't look comfortable in either of his brief innings, one glorious cover drive apart, despite having played at Lords all his life. He should now be left out to accomodate Michael Vaughan. He'll be back, hopefully via the One Day team where he should cement his place and gain some confidence at International cricket.

Matthew Hoggard - If ever we needed a fit firing Hoggy, this was the game. Unfortuantely injured after ten overs and that was it. The world's best bowler at left handers, if he'd have stayed fit, the chances of the West Indies avoiding the follow on would have been greatly reduced.

Liam Plunkett - In his defence, he's probably not played at Lords much and he seemed to struggle with the slope. Howeve, for someone who periodically shows himself to be an International class bowler, this was another huge step backwards. England have to understand what they need from him. Plunkett needs to understand discipline.

Steve Harmison - The top wicket taker in county cricket this season, bowling at a place where he takes wickets regularly (Lords was his only Five-fer in the Ashes series 2005) against the team that he made his reputation. What could possibly go wrong? And who could blame the selectors for picking him? Unfortunately, pretty much everything and everyone. He doesn't do himself any favours either by claiming he "has nothing to prove" or that he was pretty pleased with the way he bowled on Saturday. Hoggard's injury could give Harmison and Plunkett another chance, but the selectors must be praying that Simon Jones, Stuart Broad and Freddie are available sooner rather than later.

The second test
Michael Vaughan should rightly return as captain. He looked in pretty good nick for Yorkshire against Hampshire before breaking his finger and Owais Shah's scratchy performance shouldn't give the selectors a head-ache.

Andrew Flintoff should only return if able to replace a bowler. Paul Collingwood's performance with the ball shows that he can be trusted in the fifth bowler role and Flintoff's batting of late shows that he can only be seen as a bowler who can bat rather than the true all-rounder he was a couple of years ago. If he is fit, he would replace Plunkett in my team. Harmison survives on the basis of his county form this season, but he is certainly drinking in the last chance saloon.

James Anderson should come in as a direct replacement for Matthew Hoggard. He bowled well with little support in the World Cup and deserves another chance.


The Atheist said...

Maybe we should drop Flintoff in favour of the next great all-rounder: Colly.

Tom said...

I will be very annoyed if its Ian Bell who makes way fr Flintoff. Flintoff who has done next to nothing with the bat for sometime now.

Tim said...

Personally, I'd like Vaughan to play one first-class game before returning. And Anderson has been wayward of late - what about Onions or, going down the horses for courses route, Sidebottom?

Unlucky for Jon Lewis that he's injured, otherwise he'd be a certainty.

Richard Lake said...

the atheist
I think one ofhte problems we have is that neither Colly or Fred can be considered to be a genuine all-rounder. Fred has to be considered to be a bowler who can bat, so must only come in at the expense of another bowler in a four man main attack.

If Vaughan had been out for longer, or it had been a different type of injury, then I'd agree with you. However it was just a broken finger and he's played a lot of cricket recently. The fairly lengthy innings against the combined attack of Stuart Clarke and Shane Warne shows that he's in decent form. And it was a run-out that cut that one short.

As for the bowlers, Onions has been comprehensively out-bowled by Steve Harmison all summer. Ryan Sidebottom went off injured in Notts last game, I believe. I don't know how fit he is.

Richard Lake said...

Ah - I guess he's fit then. Good call Tim. However, I think it's a bit harsh to call it Horses for Courses. He's better than that.

Chrispy said...

Bell should not be dropped. I it's a five man attack then Colli goes with Bell five for me. Lewis has been unlucky, but I suspect Anderson would have played anyway. Harmi is a problem and the younger bowlers just don't have the consistancy, hence why they have gone for a more dependable sort in Sidebottom who knows his game.