Monday, 1 September 2008

Winter touring squads Part Two

A trip to India follows hard on the heels of the Antigua cash bonanza, which marks the start of England’s preparations for next year’s Ashes.

A seven match One Day series in India in mid-November would normally see a vastly different-looking team to one that performs in England, but only one change should really be expected. The spin department will require strengthening, so Swann will surely replace Wright in the first choice line-up.

Bopara will travel as reserve batsman and Mascarenhas’ ability to bowl cutters on the slower wickets should guarantee his recall. Tim Bresnan and Chris Tremlett will battle it out to join Sidebottom as back-up seamers and James Tredwell, a member of the preliminary 30 man Champions Trophy squad, could get the nod to provide a spin alternative.

The selectors might decide to take two wicket keepers, which will re-open perhaps their most discussed issue. That the same England keeper does not play more than three consecutive series is one of the safest cricket bets around.

Matt Prior is guaranteed a berth and Pietersen’s apparent desire for consistent selection might see the Sussex gloveman regain his Test spot. A readymade One Day understudy exists in Steven Davies – three fifties and two tons in six NatWest Pro40 knocks this summer – although a more experienced stopper will be needed to challenge Prior in the Test series.

James Foster’s expertise in standing up to Danish Kaneria for Essex this term might be a crucial factor and he has improved his batting form at the right time, hitting successive unbeaten Championship tons. Tim Ambrose and Phil Mustard have had disappointing seasons and will be surprised to see their names in either party.

Another key area for discussion in the Test squad selection will be the top order. Alastair Cook, Pietersen, Ian Bell, and Paul Collingwood are guaranteed selection in a 16 man squad, but the necessity for two keepers, three spinners and four seamers to supplement Flintoff means two of Michael Vaughan, Andrew Strauss, Owais Shah and Bopara will miss out.

Pietersen might be reluctant to have two former skippers in his Ashes side, so the out-of-form senior pair might be omitted, as it is important to have as many places in the team as possible stable ahead of the Australia showdown. Bopara and Shah’s selection would necessitate another move in the order for Bell, this time to opener.

Patel and Prior can be viewed as top six batsmen, allowing plenty of back-up to be taken in the fast bowling department, although Harmison should be properly prepared after taking part in the preceding One Day series.

There are plenty of common names on my parties for the first leg of the winter tours, which is the route I believe the current regime want to go down.

15 man squad for three Stanford matches: Pietersen, Bell, Prior, Flintoff, Collingwood, Bopara, Wright, Patel, Swann, Broad, Anderson, Shah, Mascarenhas, Sidebottom, Harmison

16 man ODI squad for India: Pietersen, Bell, Prior, Shah, Flintoff, Collingwood, Patel, Swann, Broad, Harmison, Anderson, Bopara, Mascarenhas, Wright, Tredwell, Sidebottom

16 man Test squad for India: Pietersen, Cook, Bell, Bopara, Collingwood, Flintoff, Patel, Foster, Broad, Anderson, Panesar, Shah, Prior, Swann, Sidebottom, Harmison


Nick Gammons said...

I agree with the general principles of your selections. Consistency of selection is sometimes to restrictive, but I think the success under Pietersen should be built on and the players who have peformed in recent matches should be given time to show they can play at this level consistently.

I wouldn't argue with any of your three squads. The Test 16, which is the one of by far the most interest to me, is extremely close to what I would select. The third spinner was the only selection I was unsure of, but Patel's brilliant ODI series has clinched that spot.

I am particularly pleased to see you mention that Bell should be promoted to open. One of the other writers on this site mentioned some time ago that Bell was keen to open and his showing in the ODI series has been very promising. A couple of years back I thought number six looked his best position, but recently I've been advocating him moving up to open.

I also think Foster is the right choice as the second keeper. Any lapses from Prior and he should earn a recall. It is clear that Prior was duly chastened by being dropped and seems to have improved his glovework. However, he needs to prove himself in the five day arena, where Foster would surely be more at home.

All in all I expect all three England squads to have success in the first part of the winter.

Penguinissimo said...

It's hard to argue with either of your one day squads. I would have thought that (regardless of squad make-up) the team for the Stanford game will be identical to the one which is currently cleaning up South Africa.

The only possible exception could be Sidebottom for Anderson, who has been going backwards in the one day game recently and is increasingly expensive with the new ball. I think Broad and Anderson will have too many bad days as a pair to be reliable, whereas a fully-fit Sidebottom is unlikely to go miles. It is arguable that this reduces our wicket-taking chances with the new ball, but with Flintoff and Harmy following up I can live with that.

With the Test squad:

- I doubt we will bring three spinners, but if we do maybe the third one should be Adil Rashid as a learning experience.

- Whether the second spinner should be Swann (better bowler but not as good bat) or Patel (vice versa) depends on one question: is Broad going to the one making way for the second spinner?

If the answer is yes, then Patel's batting will be a factor, because with Flintoff at 6 our batting line-up needs a potential number 7 at no 8 - that way we get 3 Test sevens a at 6,7 and 8. I'm giving Foster the benefit of the doubt and saying he is a Test seven if he plays.

- Matt Prior looks like he'll be the man in possession of the gloves, but what he needs to prove is that he can concentrate for the longer sessions of a Test match. An ODI is fast and furious, and one mistake might not be the end of the world. But in a Test on the subcontinent, you might be in the field for two days at a time, and if you drop a guy on 30 he might bat for another day and make 150+ on you. Particularly a sharp chance off a spinner - and Foster has been particularly excellent standing up to the stumps.

- There's no way we can go on this tour with only one specialist opener. For reasons I have gone into before (see my comments on this post, I have major problems with Bell at the top of the Test order. I'm including number 3 in that. He has no demonstrated consistently enough the concentration necessary to play a big innings, and a pretty 60 is going to be more useful more often at 5 than at 1, 2 or 3. I'm going to go further, though, and say that he should be dropped from the team until he gets his head right in favour of Owais Shah (although I can't see this happening).

- On openers generally, I can see that case for dropping Strauss, and on the whole I agree with it. He seems to have been emasculated now he can't rely on his cut and square drive, and he's not going to get much to pull from the Indian bowlers. I would like to give Michael Vaughan one last run in the side, now the weight of captaincy has been lifted from his shoulders (although, again, I can't see that happening). He still has the talent to take apart any attack on his day, and has the full range of shots all around the wicket to thrive in any conditions against any bowler. With someone as consistent as Cook at the other end (please, please start converting), I think we can afford that risk.

My Test squad: Pietersen (c), Cook, Vaughan, Shah, Collingwood, Bell, Flintoff, Prior, Foster, Broad, Harmison, Anderson, Sidebottom, Panesar, Swann, Rashid.

My preferred Test team:

Harmison / Swann (pitch-dependent)

What I think the Test team will be:


Broad / Patel


Chrispy said...

I agree with you regarding the keeping situation Penguinissimo (Prior needs to concentrate for five days and if he can't then Foster should be brought in and Prior left as specialist ODI keeper) and that we need to take two openers in the test team, however to say Bell should be ditched all together is something which rightfully just will not happen. I am at a loss as to explain why you perceive him to be so unworthy, yet Cook, who has a worse record over the last year, and as you yourself point out, has a similar conversion problem, is a definite?

Collingwood, Shah, Patel and Bopara in the top four would all worry me a hell of a lot more than Bell and there is no better person to give an extended run in that position.

I think there is a case for Prior batting six with Flintoff seven, especially if Broad is not selected. However KP appears to want him at six and as it has done him no harm to bat high in the ODI's we can only trust KP's wisdom and hope the confidence is repaid.

I would consider Denly or Key above Andrew Strauss. Although Denly has not done quite as well as hoped in the four day game this year every time I see him you can see he has something worth giving a go. He may well pick his game up at a higher level and he plays spin quite well. I don't think Vaughan will get the runs needed to get back in just yet, plus slow pitches and MV don't really go together.

As for the T20 side I'd ditch both Anderson and Sidebottom (Their ODI records over the last 12 months have both been lousy) and go with Flintoff, Collingwood, Wright, Patel, Broad, Swann and possibly Harmison as my bowlers at present. I am firmly of the opinion that two spinners is a must in Twenty20 and if not you at least need 6-7 good bowlers, a few of which can take pace off and bowl with guile and variation.