Saturday, 22 August 2015

Still work for England

So England have won the Ashes and what do they do? They went back to the bad old days. Conservative when winning the toss and sticking the Aussies in, their batting came unstuck against the short ball. You would think that this England side were world beaters judging by some of the comments I have read recently, yet this was the worst Australia side I can remember since 1985, possibly even the Packer era when we played their second string. Yes, England are improving but there is a long way to go. Problems at the top of the order and in the spin department still exist, as Geoff Boycott has reminded us once or twice over the summer. The Ashes may have been won, but all is not quite right in the garden of England. UAE might be next to Dubai, but it could be bye bye for some of this side.


We all got a bit excited a few weeks ago didn't we? Yesterday we came back to earth with a massive bump and too many of the cracks of recent times have opened up again. Far be it for me to be negative, but the same chasms open up time and time again. If we want to build a side for the future we have to sort out our scheduling to find a decent spinner and also to find batsmen who can cope with the short ball. Yes you can say the series is won already and we have taken our foot off the gas but for me, these problems have gone on for too long. If we want to be the best, we need to get to the Root of the problem, and I am not talking about the genius who bats at four for England.

England are a good young side, now playing with a positive attitude but thrashing a poor Aussie side who cannot handle the moving ball, will not do them much good in the UAE this winter. Alastair Cook's side need to change things over there, or they will take as much of a lashing as if he took them on a shoplifting spree and then were caught hanging around the street corners drinking beer. England may well need to take three spinners with them and you wonder who the third one will be? Do you chuck an eighteen year old like Mason Crane at Hampshire into the mix as has been mooted around social media this week? He certainly spins the ball and I like a leg spinner who gives it a proper rip as opposed to one who just rolls it out of the hand. However it is a big risk to take a youngster and also do we really need two leggies? Or will they go for someone who can bat a bit? Ali and Rashid will almost certainly go and Pakistan do not lose many in this part of the world due to their fine spin options. England meanwhile have a serious lack of flow in the spin production line, and this is due to playing most of our four day cricket by the middle of June.

Rashid...UAE bound

I like Ali. A glorious batsman, he has improved immensely as a bowler but I am not sure if he is the man to bowl forty odd overs in the fourth innings of a Test match and pick you up six wickets to win you the game. He would make an excellent second spinner but he lacks control. A good spinner needs to keep it tight and offer the skipper a way of controlling the game. In the dust of the UAE, this will be massively important. Ashley Giles may have had his critics but he did a great job for England back in the day on tours to India and Pakistan and England need someone who can do a job in hot conditions, or our pacemen will be flogged.

Then there is Adam Lyth. England still haven't sorted out their problems at the top of the order despite trying for three or four years. The exposure of our middle order follows every game and the skipper needs to also score runs. Despite how good Cook has looked this summer, the runs have not been forthcoming. Joe Root will not bail them out every time, and we musn't make the same mistakes as the Aussies. Frailties in their batting were papered over by the brilliant form of Steve Smith in the last couple of years, and England need to learn from this. The jury is out whether Lyth will be England's Steyn remover this winter in South Africa. Or if he will Vanish? Lees the other opener at Yorkshire looks a far more natural opening bat, and Sam Robson and Nick Compton will both fancy their chances of being on that plane, along with Alex Hales who scored a timely 190 this week.


The other worry for me is Buttler. He looks like he badly needs a rest and he is someone we need to look after. Playing in all three formats, he looks like he is fatigued. His keeping is improving and I like Buttler. However, he looks a shadow of the player who slapped it around when he first arrived on the scene. I would strongly advocate giving him a break so we have him fit and firing for South Africa. This series he has been dismissed four times in twenty one balls for eight runs by Nathan Lyon. He will get examined by spin in the Middle East. Let's not ruin him.

I wonder if Bairstow might get the nod with the gloves, so that England can accommodate the second spinner. In the UAE we need someone who is a good gloveman, as there will be plenty of work standing up to the stumps. Jack Russell told us that James Foster and John Simpson were by far the best technically in the country, Simpson averages more or less the same as Buttler in first class cricket, and plays in a Division One side who are decent in the longer format of the game. Foster at 35 may be too old to get the nod, whilst Sam Billings not only picked up a nasty finger injury yesterday but plays in Division Two, compared to where Simpson hones his craft in the top league, and would have to make a massive step up to Test cricket. For me, Simpson should go as reserve keeper. He also shows plenty of character when the chips are down too, as his hundred against Yorkshire last year showed when Middlesex were 15-4.

Simpson...technically proficient

The short ball problem shouldn't be a major issue in the UAE but again I believe it stems from us playing too much cricket when the wickets aren't bouncy enough, in April and May. Even when they do, the bounce is slow and vastly different from facing Mitchell Johnson in Perth. I should imagine Mr Steyn and his chums have made one or two mental notes and England should expect plenty of chin music in South Africa.

Seam bowling has won us the Ashes. Behind a decent seam attack England have got plenty to work on.

So despite what you might read out there, and the hype that surrounds England at present let's not get too carried away. The ECB were masters of trying to tell us it wasn't too bad during the dark times recently so if we didn't pop the pills back then, let's not pop the champagne corks too loudly now. Let's keep a sense of perspective. Enjoy the Ashes win by all means, but there are many questions to be answered before we start giving it the 'big one'.

1 comment:

  1. The scheduling problem is a circle that can't be squared.

    T20 cheerleaders want that played in the school holidays, whilst playing 50 over cricket in April and May was a joke. So when do we play the Championship? Somehting has to bookend the season

    Perhaps the last 2 weeks of July need to last 6 months.

    As for the side, Lyth is lucky in that the side has been winning, last chance saloon I think. Cook and Bell have underperformed. Thank goodness for timely knocks from Root, Ali and, yes, Ballance.