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> The Positives: What England Can Do To Improve
post Jan 10 2007, 12:25 AM
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The England camp have filled every press release with talk about the positives they can take out of this series, so let’s look at them.

The batting wasn’t atrocious but was nowhere near good enough. Part of this problem in my view is the batting order, which puts undue pressure on the players and will not get the best out of them. KP has now moved to 4 but Bell cannot stay at no. 3. Perhaps if Vaughan comes back into the test side he will bat at 3 or maybe he’ll go back to opening and put Cook to 3, then KP at 4, then Bell, Colly, Neville and the rest. This works fine if you want to play Neville at 7 but if you want him in the top 6 then someone has to go. Cook could be dropped as the more recent addition to the side but that would bugger up the order and you wouldn’t want to drop Bell or Colly so it’s a tricky problem. But Bell cannot play at 3 if they want the best out of him, and they can’t have such a long tail. All 6 bats must be reliable. Whether Neville can be a frontline bowler – I dunno. Thoughts?

It looks like it’s already on the cards that the coach will no longer be a selector so that’s a good move in my opinion. I don’t know that it’s worth sacking Fletcher as he has been responsible for a lot of success in the past. Then again, all coaches go stale after a while and a breath of fresh air might be good. We’ll have to see how he goes over the next few months and whether he and the team can move on together without the bitterness that will possibly increase as more revelations about the dressing room disagreements are leaked to the press.

As for the bowling, it’s not that easy. I assume Monty has cemented his place for the foreseeable future, and Hoggard should still play. If fred plays as a bowler only then that leaves one place. Most people would give this to Harmison and it has to be said that none of the other seamers are demanding a place. But personally I think harmy’s done his dash. The man’s played 50 bloody tests and he still needs to be motivated. It’s a joke and a national embarrassment. You could see the exasperation on Nev’s face and it reminded me of beefy complaining about criticisms that he didn’t motivate his players well enough when he was captain. His response was that if playing for their country wasn’t motivation enough then what else could he do? I have to say I mostly agree with him. As an Australian I would be ashamed if anyone in the baggy green was as reluctant to play as Harmison was. They’ve poured a lot of effort into harmy over the years and placed a lot of trust in him to lead the attack but I say if he doesn’t earn his way back in with consistent performances then they’d be better investing in a new face. Mahmood is expensive and raw but he has good aggression and intensity and could be a better long term investment than Harmy, especially as he seems keen to play cricket rather than play soccer with his mates back home. How many good tests has harmy had in the last couple of years? HE only played one good match in the last ashes (at Lords), one good match against Pakistan last summer and maybe a couple of decent spells at the end of this series. England need consistency more than anything right now.

England have totally screwed up their keeping spot now. Jones and Read are both scarred and terrified to hold a bat. They’ve just brought in 36 year old Nixon to their ODI squad. Who knows what they’re thinking for their next test match. Maybe they’ll bring back Foster for a couple of years with a view to Steve Davies as a long term option or maybe they’ll give Read a longer run in tests. But then if he screws up in the ODIs he could be toast again. Extremely bad management and they’ve only got themselves to blame. I think the only sensible thing is to pick someone (anyone) and tell him and the world that he is the designated keeper for a specific period of time (one or two series or a year) and review things after that. They need stability in this key position.

Obviously if Vaughan comes back he’ll be captain but otherwise I don’t know if it makes a lot of difference. Neville was an average captain but not particularly garbage, especially being inexperienced. Few captains are brilliant from the outset. It would probably be better with Strauss as captain and letting Nev focus on cricket but then that would probably scar him to be relieved of the duties now so they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Bigger problems are whether Vaughan will be able to hold his place as a player (even if his knee is ok). Not a pretty picture all round, and again the selectors can blame themselves.

What do you guys think England can do to improve their test performances?
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