Sunday, 23 November 2008

Playing a different game

India’s series-clinching defeat of England was in doubt for large portions of England’s run-chase, as Owais Shah and Andrew Flintoff valiantly hauled England back into contention. But had they seen England home it would have concealed a desperate lack of flexibility in the side’s batting – and perhaps most fundamentally, a lack of collective skill.

The decision to open with Bell and Bopara, as if it was a 50-over chase rather than a 22-over one, betrayed a complete inability of England’s management to think on their feet. Bell has shown signs of being a good one-day opener, playing second fiddle, but simply lacks the explosive hitting crucial in a match that was virtually a Twenty20.

England needed to show intent from ball one to chase down the target of 198. Instead, they mustered a paltry 21 from their first six Powerplay overs, a familiar tale. They should have done everything to ensure their best players faced as many balls as possible – obvious, perhaps, but they palpably failed to do so. Opening with Shah, alongside Bopara, and having Pietersen at three and Flintoff at four would have showed a flexibility that would have worried India. Bell’s 12 runs from 15 balls hardly constituted the flying start England needed.

Owais Shah played an exceptional innings, displaying his powerful straight-hitting and unorthodoxy: finally, he has cemented his role in the one-day side, though his best position remains the subject of conjecture. Yet had he taken England home it would only have concealed their pitiful efforts at the start and end of the innings, at their complete inability to adapt to the demands of the situation. Put simply, they appeared to be playing a different game from India, lacking firepower at the start and end of the innings and, save for Shah, Flintoff and Pietersen, the ability to hit sixes.

This side below may be the best England can muster in Indian conditions in 50-over games, although it probably still isn’t good enough:
Bell
Bopara
Pietersen
Shah
Flintoff
Collingwood
Prior
Mascharenhas
Swann
Broad
Harmison (given that Sidebottom is injured)

4 comments:

Rob said...

I seriously wondered if the Indians were deliberately not getting Bell out.

Chrispy said...

Pretty much agree with that side Tim. Not sure about the openers, though I think Bell is good enough to open in ODI's, not T20. Everyone, including myself is critical of his slow scoring the other night, but he does often score at a decent lick in ODI's now, or makes a substantial contribution as the anchor of the innings. We need one player like that up top and he is a better bet than Strauss or Cook.

How Mascarenhas isn't playing I do not know. He is the lower order six hitter we need. Without him only Shah, KP and Flintoff are capable of regularly clearing the ropes, with Colli pitching in occasionally, but he is woefully out of form again. The other night, once Shah and Flintoff were out we knew the gigg was up. India only needed 3 wickets to beat us!
And it isn't as though Patel is proving to be an inspired pick. His batting is ok, but what is the point of having him or Prior at 8? Might as well have a better bowler or a six hitter in there. Napier, Wright or Masca are the stand out options for 8 for me and Masca has proven the best so far, granted Napier hasn't been tried.

As for the bowling Anderson has underperformed in ODI's for a long time, despite his Test improvement and Harmi has never really impressed with the white ball, especially away from home. Sidebottom is at least something different. The big miss from the side though is Monty Panesar. If you are going to have two spinners in India at least have one who is a proper attacking spinner to give you more options. Batting to ten is all well and good, but it's no good if you're chasing over 300 most of the time, with a load of players who can't hit the boundaries regularly.

Bell
Bopara/Wright/Napier
Pietersen
Shah
Collingwood
Flintoff
Prior (wk)
Mascarenhas
Swann
Broad
Panesar/Sidebottom

If Bopara doesn't for some reason work out, and I think he should, then Napier probably deserves a chance, though you want a balance between hitters and good players and Napier might take it a bit too far towards hitters.

Tim said...

Cheers - agree Panesar is a good shout for this series, mediocre one-day bowler that he is.

Re the openers - think Key and Denly both have strong cases, especially Key. 'Proper' openers in the Hayden/Smith mould who don't slog like a Wright but still score quicker than Bell/Strauss/Cook.

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