Friday, 11 July 2008

Ambrose and Collingwood: why they have to go

It sounds more than a little callous, but for England's long-term development it is excellent news that the 'right men' failed today. Lavish praise is merited for Kevin Pietersen's exhilarating 152; Ian Bell's 199 - the innings that showed him as the classy, technically proficient and aesthetically-pleasing batsman we all know exists, but, unlike on so many other occasions, able to dominate an innings; and Stuart Broad's wonderfully mature 76, indicative of a man who may soon be a viable option at number seven. However, the twin failures for the two most vulnerable members of the side helped to clarify England's selection issues if, as expected, Andrew Flintoff returns for the second Test.

Paul Collingwood has looked desperately out-of-form in the Test side for some time, for all his scrapping qualities: he has averaged 33, 33, 41 and 11 and in his last four series. Whatever the evidence of a double-hundred against Australia, ultimately Collingwood may lack the technique to be a long-term success at Test level. Recently, he has not just failed but - in stark contrast to Bell's typically classy, but too often brief, knocks - appeared out of his depth, lacking the confidence to attack or even defend with authority, his innings characterised by a certain timidity. Even in CC cricket, he has been desperately short of runs. At 32, and with a pressing need for a shoulder operation, this could conceivably be his final Test. That would be a great shame for such a tenacious player, but his shortcomings have been painfully exposed of late.

Tim Ambrose
barely had time to celebrate his superb, counter-attacking hundred in his second Test before the murmurings over his place began to appear. An inevitability of being any English keeper in the post-Stewart era? Perhaps. But, though this is only his seventh Test, the time is right to dispense with him: not only is he low on confidence but his batting technique seems fundamentally not up to the challenges of international cricket. His technique is fragile when denied the opportunity to feed his cut shot, as international bowlers have realised since his Test century: repeatedly, he has been dismissed playing half-heartedly, often with a closed face, to balls outside off-stump. In 12 international innings since that century, he has passed 11 only twice and 31 once - and even that when New Zealand's bowling was extremely loose. Add in the cracks that emerged in his keeping in the ODIs and it seems that Ambrose is the worst of both worlds. If you want someone who can score heavily for England, pick Matt Prior; if you want someone who can snaffle virtually every chance pick Chris Read or James Foster.

So a balanced side England could look to develop prior to first Ashes Test next summer is:


Chrispy said...

Completely agree with you Tim upon my return from holiday. Prior is your run man, Read and Foster your proper keepers as it were. If you want a five man bowling attack and Flintoff you need Prior as I have said before unfortunately. You want a four man attack then you can have the best keeper. It is sad but true, although Broad's ability provides more scope maybe. Ambrose excells in neither area. Kieswetter in two years prehaps...? Until then Prior, Foster or Mustard for me, and I doubt Mustard is a real contender for Test matches.

Prasanna S said...

Jones for Anderson? You sure?

Richard Lake said...

I agree with most of what you say there Tim. Certainly Ambrose doesn't look up to the job withthe bat and if he starts dropping catches (like yesterday) then he's on borrowed time.

Prasanna pretty much echoes my main problem with your team.

Firstly, Anderson has become in test cricket a consistent performer and has been the pick of the bowlers in the current match.

Secondly, from a balance point of view, none of Broad, Flintoff or Jones are new ball bowlers. To balance an attack, there needs to be two bowlers who can use the new ball to maximise its impact: eg Hoggard, Harmison, Sidebottom, Anderson.

Flintoff, Broad, Jones are much more effective with a slightly older ball and can get more out of it. Certainly the advantage of Jones would be in overs 40+ with a ball as it starts to reverse swing.

10 out of 11 for your side, Tim, and Jones is useful to have in reserve when Freddie breaks down!

Rob said...

Collingwood has looked a weak like for a while and with those series averages it is a surprise he is still in the side (oh no wait, I forgot we don't do selection any more). He even looks like a man waiting for execution. He was unlucky with his decision on Thursday but then 'that is cricket'.

I first read your post a few days ago and thought you were being harsh on Ambrose. After watching him fumble and drop some yesterday now I am not so sure. My concern is whoever has had the gloves has made a mess of it, are we just changing one klutz for another.

I like Broad although he doesn't seem to get many wickets. He looks the part ... I just wish he would get a few out -- maybe today.

Of course Sidebottom's back may force a decision for Friday...

Rob said...

The selectors should be congratulated for doing the minimum they could do whilst getting Flintoff in the squad (leaving out Tremlett). They should design work algorithms... they seem to have found a way not to do any.

Tim said...

Agreed Rob. Typically over-cautious from the selectors.

Hope Jones is on standby in case Siodebottom's injured, but I expect they'd just use that as an excuse to keep Collingwood in the team!

Very good point about new-ball bowlers Richard, but I'd back Jones to do a decent job with it. Incidentally, Harmison's new-ball record for England was pretty shocking in his last few years! I remember a stat saying he got a wicket in his opening spell less than 25% of the time...

And well bowled Jimmy. More of the same and he might even convince me!

Richard Lake said...

Rob.I personally think the selectors have made one change too many in leaving out Tremlett while bringing back Flintoff. Either that or they are supremely confident that Sidebottom will be fit. With a doubt over Sid, I've have just brought Flintoff into a 13 man squad, with the expectation that he'd play in front of Colly and Tremlett covers Sid.

You're right about Harmison, Tim. He seemed to have difficulty contolling it. The best new ball bowlers England have produced recently are swing bowlers: Hoggard, Anderson and Sid.

Rob said...

My lad came up with what they will do to justify keeping Collingwood: drop Panasar as its 'not a turning wicket' for Freddie.

Rob said...

I think they have a problem dropping Collingwood - he is the one day captain. With so much money potentially at state in a few months dropping Colly could put them in a difficult situation. I wonder if some players have been promised things (like selection) to keep them sweet with all the IPL goings-on.

Rob said...

Good work! The exact side that I chose in Patrick Kidds blog.