Monday, 1 August 2011

England's Cricket Selection Dilemma

England are 2-0 up against the top cricketing side in the world - and one more win will give England the place at the summit.  And yet so dominant have England been in the two tests in London and Nottingham thus far, they have a dilemma. But it is a dilemma of the nice persuasion.

Do England maintain this period of dominance and go for the jugular and the possibility of a 4-0 whitewash over the soon to be displaced world number one side.  The two remaining tests are at Edgbaston and the Oval, two pitches that again may provide England with the basis again to attack with their rip-roaring seam attack.

The question of course is where do they find space for that extra bowler, as it can be seen that no bowler really deserves to be dropped on the basis of the last four days at Trent Bridge.  Swann took no wickets for the first time in a test match for ages, but that was based more on the lack of potency of spin on a swinging pitch and an injury he suffered when dismissed in the first innings.  But it was the vital partnership of Swann and Broad that helped England recover from 120-8 to a respectable total of 221 to not end in total dismay.

Broad's hypnotic spell of 5-0 off 16 balls that dismissed India for 288, gave India only a slender lead of 67 instead of 150.  Broad is another example of the England selection policy which puts faith ahead of form.  Much was made of Broad being dropped before the first test, he responded with 7 wickets and an unbeaten 74 in the second innings which set the platform for the first England victory.

James Anderson, is in a veritable purple patch, and he has the mark of the acclaimed Sachin Tendulkar.  The Lancashire paceman dismissed him for the seventh time today with a similar lbw shout as he did at Lords, an inswinger that was too quick for the 38 year old legend.  Anderson's ability to take wickets with the new ball and potency with the reverse swing after Alastair Cook has done his handy work is proving vital on these English surfaces.

Tim Bresnan, like in Australia when he was called upon, has done a job with both bat and ball, 7 wickets for the match including 5-48 in the second innings and a bombastic 90 (off 118).  Bresnan is the power amongst the bowling attack, like Flintoff he pounds it in on the turf and provides something different to the grace and swing of Broad and Anderson.

So who to go? Well England need to make room, and perhaps Trott's shoulder injury may provide the perfect excuse.  Trott has had a long two years in test cricket since his debut at the Oval in 2009, he has played admirably in the World Cup on the sub-continent; so maybe his body is in need of a rest after wear and tear.  He is averaging only 24.50, less than Broad and Prior.  Trott is that pivotal figure at No.3, a rock like Dravid, who will not be moved yet he has been removed four times already.  Ian Bell's exquisite knock of 159 showed he can bat at first wicket down, he has the temperament and game for it.

This allows Kevin Pietersen to remain at No.4 and then Eoin Morgan at No.5.  The only problem being that Morgan is averaging 22.25, and has two ducks.  Many felt he was batting for his position in the second innings, and his 70 did answer many critics (me included); the problem remains that there is no-one making big noises in the county game with big scores (unless you count Marcus Trescothick), admittedly Bopara did score 178 for Essex this week, but his average is above 40 in spite of some numerous single digit scores this season. 

Other players like James Hildreth and James Taylor could be thrown in at the deep end.  The selection team have done this before with Trott most notably, who came in and delivered.  Maybe if England win the 3rd test and take an  unassailable lead, perhaps that might be the opportune time to inject a debutant but when a Test match still needs to be won England should stay with what they know. 

So who comes in as England have an embarassment of riches in the bowling department.  Chris Tremlett seems the most likely as he only missed one test owing to injury and did a valiant job when nursing a hamstring strain, or Steve Finn who has a long career of him but has not let England down when called upon.  There is even Graham Onions who is doing good work with Durham following his back operation which cost him a year of his career.

In spite of that, if I was to pick a 5 man bowling attack for the 3rd test in Warwickshire it would read like so:
Strauss (c), Cook, Bell, Pietersen, Morgan, Prior (w), Broad, Bresnan, Swann, Anderson, Tremlett.

The reason being that Matt Prior has elevated his game in the last year, and in this series he has shown himself more than adept to lead a counter attack and if it is for two games only he can bat at 6.  And then with Broad, Bresnan and Swann coming in later, the security and solidity is there to provide valuable runs if need be.

All in all, it is a pleasure though to see an England cricket team playing as a team.  With everyone making valuable contributions up and down the order, answering the call for their country.  And they are interchangeable with players come in and out when need be.  Also they have not had to suffer a long-term injury to somebody which has allowed people to cement positions, this has been helped by the faith shown by a solid and itself stable selection committee.

We are number 1, but we could be dominant which 5-7 years would have been unheard of.

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