Tuesday, 26 August 2008

What can't King Kev do?

Well, what to make of that?

England beat South Africa in the first ODI - impressive enough. But to obliterate them in the second was an extraordinary display. After all the false dawns, can we finally say England's one-day side are making progress?

Kevin Pietersen can seemingly do no wrong as captain: he has succeeded in reinvigorating a side who, following Michael Vaughan's tear-leaden resignation, appeared close to crisis point. It remains to be seen whether he can make the sides consistently successful, but, suddenly, the one-day outfit has been transformed into one of the most powerful line-ups around.

Since the defeat to New Zealand, three players - Matt Prior, Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison - have returned to the side, and each has performed outstandingly to date.

With Flintoff and Harmison providing the middle-over penetration England have perennially lacked, the bowling line-up is powerful indeed. Stuart Broad today produced his best showing to date, and has been a consistent one-day performer, unlike in Tests. Conversely James Anderson, once regarded as worth his place only in the limited-overs side, has discovered consistency in Tests but seems to have regressed in ODIs. His figures over his last 18 games are damning indeed: 13 wickets at averages (56.61) and economy rates (5.37) that are unacceptable. If he does not improve in the remaining three ODIs, England should look elsewhere: at Ryan Sidebottom, who has proved a canny one-day operator with variations aplenty; or Kabir Ali, in outstanding form for Worcestershire for the last two years.

Prior has, so far, outperformed Tim Ambrose and Phil Mustard, keeping surprisingly well and batting assertively at the top of the order. While he certainly deserves a place in the side, there may be a case for replacing Luke Wright with a specialist opener (Rob Key, Joe Denly or Vikram Solanki) and moving him down to Wright's slot at seven.

Doubts persist over the suitability of Ian Bell opening - he has all the shots, but too often fails to be assertive - and Owais Shah at three. Shah performed superbly against New Zealand batting at six, but may prove a little vulnerable to the moving ball early on. Ideally, he would bat at four or five, but with Pietersen and Flintoff settled there and Paul Collingwood at number six, he should be given an extended run at three. Providing he is free to express himself, Shah should prove capable there.

From four to six England's batting has an imperious look. The remaining selectorial issues concern numbers seven and eight. Wright is on the periphery of the side, but at least provides true destructive, game-changing potential at seven - unlike Ravi Bopara, who is not comfortable attacking from the off. Perhaps the experience and phenomenal six-hitting ability of Dimitri Mascarenhas - also probably the best bowler of the three - is the best option.

Samit Patel has started promisingly - but England may be better off choosing their best spinner, Graeme Swann, who has shown he is an attacking off-spinner and has played some fine innings at number eight. It is ironic that Swann, who many felt was selected over Monty Panesar for his three-dimensional game, has now seen the same fate befall him.

Under King Kevn's reign, England have the tools at their disposal to, finally, establish themselves as a one-day force. They have a brilliant middle-order, bat deep and have a fine, four-pronged pace attack. More work needs to be done - but it is a long time since England's ODI side has had such a convincing look.


Chrispy said...

Agree with pretty much everything Tim!

The pace bowling looks awesome, bar Anderson, but if he is replace I would go with Kabir or Bresnan because they are in form and aside from Sidebums injury he also has a bad ODI record over the last year.

I'd keep Bell and Prior opening and leave the likes of Denly to mature for now. I've always said Shah should be at four, so we are spot on there. I think that Wright does have more than Bopara for number 7/8, though Mascarenhas could be a better option at 8. I think Wright will develop though and his ability to bowl well at the death is handy. I am worried with Fred at 5. I think maybe he and Colli could be swapped.

Finally Swann is very unlucky to be dropped, though Patel did deserve a chance. I am worried that Patel will prove a bit more like Yardy with the ball than we want, though he hasn't really had a chance yet. I think they want his batting because of the four pace bowlers. The only other option would be to bowl Colli and Wright for ten between them, with Swann in for Patel and Bopara or Mascarenhas in for Anderson.

Richard Lake said...

If you do replace Anderson with Bresnan then that is the strongest batting ine up in world cricket by a country mile!

I thought Jimmy bowled pretty well yesterday. He seemed expensive, but a lot of the runs came from the edge and he will come into his own more in more testing bowling conditions or against a team that can be bothered.

I'm not sure you can read too much into yesterday's game as SA were so poor. That was the worst performance I've ever seen by a top class side and their players ought to be utterly ashamed by it.

A good confidnece boost for England and good to see that we can gring teams into the dirt, but the game against Scotland would have been a better indication of how we are progressing.

Chrispy said...

The one thing that can be said of yesterday is that England actually killed SAF off. Often, England get to a good position and then let the opposition reach 180-220 still. However, like Richard says, SAF were shocking.

Christopher said...

King Kev may eventually be shown to have no clothes.

But perhaps not yet!!