Friday, 24 August 2007

Coming of Age

England’s resounding victory over India at the Rose Bowl on Tuesday was not just important for morale, it also saw the emergence of two of England’s most promising batsmen as One Day International players. Both Alastair Cook and Ian Bell brought up their first centuries for England in One Day Internationals. They were two vastly different innings though and Bell was the main man in the partnership which the two shared. From the moment he strode to the crease he demonstrated the body language of a man who was in control, who knew what he wanted to achieve and how he was going to go about it. He used his crease and feet brilliantly against the spinners and he offered a chanceless innings, importantly seeing it through to the end. Playing on the centre pitch at the Rose Bowl meant that there were fairly deep boundaries on either side of the wicket and Bell used this to his advantage, superbly placing the ball between fielders in order to turn ones into twos. When the run rate seemed static he stepped up to the plate and found the boundary, once with a glorious straight six. He also finished with a healthy strike rate of more than a run a ball, a great achievement.


Ian Bell unleashes a pull shot for four off Zaheer Khan

It has taken Bell a long time to register his first tonne for England in this form of the game, this was his forty-eighth match. However, the manner of his innings suggests that it will not be his last and that now that he has broken his duck he can push on and cement his place in the side for the next decade. Bell has always had the quality to be a very good played indeed at International level. It has always been the mental side of his game which has needed the most work. As he matures with age though he looks a calm, composed and complete player and there will be many more hundreds to come from him.


Alistair Cook clips to leg for a single

Cook on the other hand registered three figures in just his sixth One Day International, most impressive. However, he did struggle to regularly find the boundary and unlike Bell played the spinners with less certainty, a pre-meditated sweep appearing on the occasions when he did score, a sign that he has been working with Andy Flower no doubt. In fact, during one over Cook struggled to score against the spin of Piyush Chawla. Showing his growing confidence in the team, Bell strode down the wicket and spoke to Cook, the very next ball out came the sweep and the strike was rotated once more. Cook will though continue to develop and learn and once he has more confidence in hitting over the top in the latter half of the innings he will be a more complete One Day player. He is certainly worth persisting with, especially if he continues to take catches like this:



The success of Cook and Bell was not all good news though. The exclusion of Owais Shah was a slightly puzzling move from England, after he had been the main success story to emerge from the games against the West Indies earlier in the summer. He has shown that he can succeed at this level and play a very important role for England during the middle overs, with his wristy play of both pace and spin alike, along with his explosive hitting. One solution would be to bring him in for Dimitri Mascarenhas, whose overs could probably be bowled by Ravi Bopara, who has been criminally underbowled and Paul Collingwood. By dropping Matt Prior down the order and moving Bell and Kevin Pietersen up, England could fit Shah in at number four. The alternative would be to drop Cook and open with Bell, but that would be a shame. One thing which Tuesday did prove, is that England do have a capable top order, that they can win without a major knock from Pietesen and that perhaps Pietersen should be coming in at number three, to maximise his effectiveness throughout the innings.

Chris Pallett

3 comments:

Tim said...

I agree Chris - my favoured lineup would be: Cook, Bell, KP, Shah, Collingwood, Flintoff, Bopara, Prior and the three bowlers. However, it could also be worth moving Bopara up to three and everyone else down a spot. Anyway: some sort of progress, at last!

Richard Lake said...

Today's game probably got closest to the team I'd like to see playing, with Fred in for probably Tremlett.

Credit where it is due and Prior has plyed a vital part in all three games so far. He just needs to kick on rather than get out now, but he's keeping the early pressure off Cook.

The really encouraging thing though is that is now three excellent batting performances without KP contributing. There's a long way to go, but there is certainly room for optimism about the way the team is playing

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