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?
It was a young team that travelled to Aus. It would be damaging to drop them all on the back of this series but it would be interesting to pick a team in the Aussie style of blooding players in their late 20's rather than in their youth.
There are plenty of players with a future in test cricket in that team, but maybe that won't mature for a while. But this is the same kind of outfit that won in 2005.
Possibly central contracts have reduced the hunger within the team ? Maybe county cricket is to blame ?
Maybe the way forward is to reduce the 1st class circuit to 10 teams and central contracts to the Aussie/Pakistani/Indian style of 'very few'.
Heres 1 for the batters. Learn how to run quick singles like the Aussies. Tip and run, dead bat shot call it what you will the Pommie top order need to do this more, or at all. They seem to prefer to bat like Indians and want to hit 4's all the time which builds pressure on them if the bowling is tight. The other one I saw was well struck shots that went to ring fielders to quickly for their to be a single. Softer hands would have resulted in the chance of a single. Lastly I saw singles not taken from bat pads, inside edges etc where the guy who played the shot was in his own private universe replaying the shot rather than looking for a single.
As you can see with the Aussies it doesn't take many quick singles to annoy the bowler, mess up their plans, have the captain change the field or just take the batters mind of the lack of boundaries.
The most frustrating thing about the series was that we had a talented enough eleven to compete and challenge everything but they didn't do it on a regular enough basis.
For instance, at times our batsmen actually played Warne ridiculously comfortably. Yet at times they allowed themselves to get dominated and under his spell.
The tip and run thing used to be a strong point. Vaughan and Trescothick would set the scene opening at the top. I dont think any of our other batsmen quite have the understanding. Vaughan learnt and developed it from Thorpe one game when we were under the cosh against Ambrose and Walsh early in his test career. Bell and Cook are two excellent players, if they can develop something similar then yippy yiy yay. I've no idea what Strauss was doing to himself throughout the series. Even KP when the fields were back was reluctant to do so.
Looking positively, the batsmen are good enough and there isn't a need to majorly overhaul any of them. I'm not so keen on Freddy at 6 now the keeper at 7 isn't batting very well. I do think he's a good enough bowler to take up one of 4 spots, but its whether the other three are good enough to bowl with him. Hoggie and Panesar are the more consistent choices but unlike the Aussie side who've had at least 3 of 4 bowlers looking like taking wickets we're not going to have that. Barring waiting for Jones to return from injury, I'd look for a kid who's strong enough mentally for that 4th spot. Not Anderson and probably not Plunkett. Mahmood, Broad, even Lewis maybe.
Give the keeping to Read, they're all as awful as each other with the bat and at least he can stand up to the part-timers like Bell and Collingwood if they're needed (and maybe even Hoggard). Agree consistency is needed, whap it on him for two years.
So a side like:
It doesn't look scary enough with the new ball, and I'd consider dropping/swapping Strauss in favour of Vaughan. Decent batting line-up though and with KP, Vaughan, Bell and Coll all capable of bowling in a straight line there's enough to support 4 mainline bowlers.
Positives from the series:
Hoggard and KP were consistently good or at least unfazed
While most of the other players showed themselves to be decent at least once
Flintoff didnt buckle with regards to injury
The Aussie team wont be as good next time.
I'm still backing us for the next Ashes on home soil.
I can't see Lewis as an alternative. I would keep working with Mahmood and maybe educating him on how to use his aggression to his advantage, rather than being seen as a twit. He has potential, where as Lewis is a waste of energy. In regards to Vaughan, I think there is always the chance that he won't be around in the next ashes series. He is 32 now and will therefore be 34 by then. His injuries have plagued him and I believe that this one was in an area that doesn't repair very well. He is taking a huge risk in playing one day cricket and I believe one more injury in his knee or anywhere else he has been injured before could spell disarster.
Sorry about the edit...didn't make sense before
Don't forget Simon Jones Is still alive! Grossly injured but he's still around... I think England will stick with one of Anderson, Plunkett or Mahmood for the time being. Anderson was hitting really good form in the one dayers, but his batting's pretty pathetic so the number 8 spot is still a worry. There's also the possibility of using one of Collingwood (Dalrymple on a turner) as a 5th part time bowler until one of the younger players steps up to the plate.
Also the wicketkeeping spot should be Chris Read's, he failed to perform in the Ashes when the other English batsmen also failed to perform. He can bat too, if you look at the shot's Ed Joyce is playing a tthe moment, that carve over cover with him shuffling to leg has become Ready's trademark shot over the last few years.
Collingwood / Dalrymple
Pretty fair side...
Talking about Wicket Keepers. I see a certain G Jones, playing for Beeleigh-Logan in Brisbane's club comp. was dismissed for 2 runs the other day. Nothing changes for some English players.
We were thinking of seeing if he wants a roll in bush cricket, only 2 hrs from Brissy. The rule is that the lowest score cooks the BBQ, so we were looking for a regular cook.
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