It was quite a stroll against the Kiwis, wasn’t it? Well, at least the Test Matches were. When you bowl the opposition out for less than a hundred, it’s far easier to look over your batting failures, rather you almost want to ignore them, claiming that the ‘winning combination’ must be kept in tact.
England bulldozed through what must surely be one of the weakest New Zealand teams in recent times, crushing the visitors comprehensively in their series that preluded the ICC Champions Trophy.
Joe Root, having played only a handful of matches on the international stage, was lauded as a talent of immense proportions, a saviour almost, and the one guy who was there to save England from any disaster that may fall upon them, playing with grit and determination amidst overcast conditions that seemed to be posing questions to even the best of batsmen in the team, a view that I’m sure Alistair Cook will agree to.
So what do you do with your most in-form batsman? Convert him into an opener, of course! Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t rate Andy Flower as a coach, in fact, I do believe he has been quite brilliant with the guys (but then again, you can’t get much worse than Duncan Fletcher, can you?), stringing together a team with the right mentality, a mentality of winners, which again must be something he has learnt strictly while picking up his coaching badges, considering the fact that he won squat with Zimbabwe as a player. Quite why you would shuffle your batting order around is beyond me. Kevin Pieterson merits an automatic selection after successfully making his way back from injury, agreed.
Nick Compton was inconsistent, rather quite useless, so he probably did deserve the axe, granted. So are the England Cricket Board sending out a message to their entire county set-up that there is absolutely no one who is good enough against the new ball and they’d rather have an untested option playing for them there? Not a smart move. I can imagine being completely distraught and annoyed if I was James Vince or Michael Carberry.
In addition, it’s been terrible for Joe Root himself, who seems to have lost all the momentum that he had from the series gone by, sheepishly feeling for deliveries that you’d normally expect him to leave, but this is exactly what pressure does to you, especially when you’re at that tender age. And trust me, his smile does not hide the kind of unease he is facing out there in the middle.
Alistair Cook could do no wrong till some time ago, until New Zealand found him out, and his lack of runs is a cause of huge concern. However, he’s a fighter and he has the temperament to get out of it. Expect him to score a couple of centuries by the time this series is done and dusted.
Trott is sure to remain in the team for years to come, contributing significantly to the run tally as well as keeping the South African contingent in the dressing room very much balanced. I really do wonder if Jimmy has picked up some Afrikaans over the years.
Ian Bell, almost seems like a character from the Game of Thrones, doesn’t he? Lord Ian, son of Lord Byrian, owner of the seven bells and protector of our lands! And hasn’t he protected them well, just when they needed it. For all the disappointments that he may provide, the sheer ease with which he plays when he’s on song is a good enough reason to keep him in the team. Plus, he’s on quite a roll, isn’t he? Surely the alarm “bells” must be going off in the Australian camp. Yes, that was a bit forced, but I had to include it.
You can’t really leave out KP, can you? He’s a superstar! He’s always been a menace against Australia, and even though the hair has grown shorter, the impact he can make still remains very much the same! If you were to doubt any of his credentials, it would have to be his choice in music. Justin Bieber fan, it seems. Don’t blame him though, it’s probably the in-thing back in South Africa.
Meanwhile, cute little Johnny Bairstow has retained his place, largely due to Root’s promotion up the order. His technique is still as questionable as it was before, missing full and straight deliveries as if it were a casual hobby. To be getting bowled consistently at the Test Match level must surely be demoralising for any batsman, especially for one from Yorkshire, who seems as sweet as a dove. Why not have him get some more experience at the County level, giving a chance to Ravi Bopara, who for all his failures, is still a better batsman than Bairstow. And I am saying this strictly based on Test Match cricket, because trusting Bopara in a chase in an ODI is like, forget it, it’s plain old stupid. You might be able to convince me about a better option than Bopara, but you’ve got to be kidding me if you seriously believe that Bairstow is the best batsman in the country for that position.
The simple defence is to point towards the bowling, the supposedly daunting bowling line up. Only, it isn’t daunting.
In Anderson, they have the best bowler in world cricket at the moment. He swings it both ways, can crank it up when required, and almost always delivers the right results for the captain. Sure his celebratory dance was queer to say the least, prompting speculation as to him being the last living Ricky Martin fan, but he is a thorough professional and one that would walk, or dance, into any team.
Swann, master of spin, wasn’t he? Sure didn’t look all that menacing in the first match. But it’s understandable and one-offs are excusable. He still continues to be one of the finest in the world, and England are lucky to have him in their ranks. More so for his sense of humour. I heard he can even make Trott laugh! The problem is with the other bunch.
Stuart Broad, the next Ian Botham? Not even the next Freddie Flintoff! He’s unplayable on his day, but so are most bowlers. What makes you a great is consistency, and if six years of international cricket can’t help you get that, then I don’t know what can. But yeah, he is better than the guys behind him, considering the fact that Tremlett is part of the squad only to bash up Warner the next time the teams meet at a bar.
Finn has something different about him, but again, he fails far too often for the opposition to really have any real fear going into the match. I will miss his bowling run-up, the prospect of seeing him take a massive fall after his delivery or break the stumps at his end every time he bowls never fails to amuse me. Instead, the spiky guy from Yorkshire takes his place. Big boots to fill. Finn’s a size 13, I think.
Bresnan, nice guy, isn’t he? At least he appears to be rather nice. You can pretty much imagine having a nice little laugh with him over a couple of pints of beer. And I’m sure he is exactly that kind of guy. It’s a delight to see him laugh at precarious times in the field, almost as if he has suddenly remembered a joke that Swann told him the previous night. Apart from that, not quite sure what he gives to the team. He can bat a bit is the general consensus. Well yes, he can bat. In a way, he’s a jack of all trades, but a master of none.
In a Test squad, you want your core bowlers to get you those 20 wickets, and Bresnan doesn’t really provide much of a challenge on that ground. He almost seems like a poor man’s Watson. Well, a very very very poor man’s Watson, to be honest.
So if I were Australian, and I can assure you that I’m not, I’d not be all that nervous in front of this English side. Hell, I’d be rather confident. The Ashes is up for grabs, and I’ve never known any Aussie to give up without a fight. Expect this series to go down to the wire!