Friday, 21 December 2007

The England Diagnosis: Bowling and Fielding

What can England do from here? (Click here for the batting diagnosis)

Matt Prior batted with gumption and no little skill in the series, making two excellent half-centuries. However, his keeping looks like it may never be good enough: he has now missed nine chances in 10 Tests, a success ratio of just 72%, around 10% worse than Geraint Jones. Add to this the problems caused by his positioning behind the stumps, leading the slips astray, and his failure to convince keeping to Monty Panesar and England have much to consider. They would have hoped for a 'keeper who could average close to 40 with the bat and keep to a competent level. Prior looks like he may be able to do the former but should probably be dropped for his keeping, as Simon Hughes has suggested. Who should replace him, if indeed he should be replaced? How long have have you got?

England's fielding in this series was worse than for some time, with two of the side's best fielders, in Bell and Collingwood, disappointing in the slips, and few bright spots elsewhere. The importance of a reliable cordon is easy to forget; but England have lost Messrs Trescothick, Flintoff, Strauss and Giles, four excellent close fielders, without replacing them. The solution is not easy to find but, clearly, must work must be done on the close fielding before the New Zealand tour.

England only bowled Sri Lanka out once in the series although, considering the shoddy catching and unhelpful conditions, there were mitigating circumstances. The biggest concern was Monty Panesar, who was a huge disappointment for the second consecutive series and may not be an automatic selection for much longer if Graeme Swann continues to excel in the limited-overs game.

Of the seamers, it may now be time to dispense with the perennially frustrating Test version of Jimmy Anderson, while Stuart Broad may is not quite be ready yet. Ryan Sidebottom should be dropped based on his series average of 63, but he was supremely unfortunate yet again and should be effective in New Zealand. Meanwhile, Matthew Hoggard confirmed he is England's most resourceful seamer with his supreme spell on the series' opening day, while Steve Harmison cut out the extras, proved his desire, and will almost certainly start the next Test. The man who deserves a recall is surely Chris Tremlett; though unimpressive with the white ball, he claimed 13 wickets at 29 against India and possesses tremendous bounce and good consistency.

What should England do from here?

1 comment:

Richard Lake said...

Prior did alright in the first couple of tests before falling to the same collective malaise that affected the team in the third match. He's shown that he is a test class batsman in the most trying of circumstances rather than just a flat track bully (which is something that Geraint Jones never did). The problem with his keeping appears to be technical in that he stands too narrow to left arm bowlers - which is surprising given the amount of times he must have kept to Jason Lewry. If that is worked on, then there's no reason to look for another keeper yet.

It's difficult to criticse the bowling - the difference between the teams was in the fielding. Certainly Harmison looks back to something approaching his best, while Hoggard bowled the spell of the series at the start of the first test, before he got injured.

Like the batting, we don't have a real star in the bowling and certainly no one looks as if they will regularly skittle teams, so this does need to be backed by the fielders. However, by having our best two outfielders in the slips (Bell and Colly) we look a terrible fielding team. An argument for bringing Strauss back into the team is that he is a genuine slip catcher and thus releases Bell to an area where he can be more effective.

An improvement in the fielding must be Peter Moores' priority as he takes the test team on - much in the same way that he has for the One Day side.