Swann Upping Tuesday

16 03 2010

England have, as expected, wrapped up the win this afternoon against a fighting Bangladesh team who can be pleased for taking the game deep into the 5th day. Earlier in the match it looked like the game might be over in only 3 days, however Siddique and Mushfiqur Rahim, for a second time, defended stubbornly and ensured the game went the distance. Sadly this does appear to be the limit of their ambitions and on the evidence provided England should have little difficulty in wrapping the series up 2-0. For England Graeme Swan proved to be the main destroyer once more, taking his second five wicket haul in the match and therefore his first 10 wicket haul in test match cricket.

Impressive as a win by 181 runs sounds, there are still one or two areas of concern going into the next game, only 3 days away. The decision to take only 4 bowlers into this match was flawed from the start and betrays a negative mindset that is typically English. Without a genuine all rounder to balance things, every team is torn between the need to score enough runs to ensure that they can’t lose (playing safe and picking 6 batsmen), or to pick 5 batsmen and an extra bowler (the attacking option).

An age old cricketing truism states that to win test matches ‘you have to take 20 wickets’. For which, of course, you need bowlers. By going into this game with 4 bowlers and 6 batsmen, England showed a lack of confidence which does not bode well for the tougher challenges to come. England have proved that they don’t need the extra batsman by scoring 599-6 in their first innings and we hope that the appropriate changes are made for the next game.

If they are to do this, however, it means dropping one batsman from the current line up, which means that one of either Carberry or Trott are in danger of losing their place. With Carberry only having had 1 test and Trott having not failed enough to get dropped, we think the most likely decision will be to leave things as they are. This is unlikely to alter the result but in our view there is more to be gained for England to find out what Tredwell offers, rather than giving Trott or Carberry one more shot, plus it is a statement of intent right from the off.

Essentially our argument is this, if we can’t make these brave decisions against Bangladesh, England certainly won’t make them against Australia. It is a curious thing this safety first attitude and one which is prevalent at all levels of the game throughout England. The best teams in the world have always attacked first in a positive manner, rather than slowly building a position of safety and then waited for opposition mistakes. We would rather England adopted this mentality henceforth, and where better to start than with team selection.

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Over the past 18 months or 2 years, there has been one man to whom England have turned every time they need a wicket. That man is Graeme Swann who, much like Monty Panesar did in his early days, has developed an almost cult following amongst England cricket fans. In the 17 test matches he has played so far he has taken 79 wickets at an average of 29, making him by far the best performing bowler statistically in the England team over this period.

Broadly speaking, it used to be the case that a test match bowler used to be considered excellent with a bowling average of under 25, good under 30 and pretty average above that. Swann therefore slips into the ‘good’ bracket. England’s other two main bowlers however do not have nearly so impressive records. Broad averages nigh on 36, Anderson 34. The other bowlers (Onions, Plunkett, Bresnan) around the squad have all played only a handful of games so it is a little early to judge, yet none of them appear to be the sort of player who can destroy test line ups with regularity.

Our question is – how good can England be with a bowling attack which quite frankly, judging by statistics alone is so poor? There are mitigating factors certainly, the flatness of pitches around the world, bat technology improving and smaller boundaries meaning that edges that once may have been caught are going for four or six, yet still the question is valid.

It can be argued that Broad and Anderson are improving, with Broad in particular being very young still. Also both have the happy knack of taking wickets in clusters when they are firing. Indeed this is essentially how the Ashes were won last year – Anderson’s spell at Lords and Broads in the final test.

The Compulsive Hooker feels that even with this considered, England need to unearth one more gem, prior to the return series in Australia later this year, t0 have a chance of winning. Having watched Finn bowl well, albeit without much reward, in this test we suspect he could be the answer. He has all the raw ingredients needed to become a class act and, we hope, less of the homesickness and temperamental issues that so afflicted Steve Harmison.

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3 responses

16 03 2010
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17 03 2010
ceejaypee

Absolutely agree with the 6 batsmen being superfluous, and I dont accept the hindsight argument either. Understandable if England had a fragile tail but Prior, Swann, Broad and Bresnan should be worth runs, given the pitch and oppo. If ever you wanted proof that it is a batsmen’s game then think about this: when the “horses for courses” argument gets trotted out its always a bowler that gets picked to do a job on a certain pitch (eg Panesar at Cardiff)

If a batsmen makes 100 he is inked in until he gets injured or dropped through loss of form. Trott should make way for a bowler, and Eng can rest easy in the knowledge that they have a test quality batsman that can be brought in as and when required. When this policy is followed with a batsman this is a blow to their confidence yet bowlers and especially spinners have to take this in their stride. I have two friends who are both the second choice spinners at their counties and have to accept this or move on.

What I simply don’t understand is what England have done with Rashid. Bangladesh is a series ideal to blood him and find out to a degree if he can be an option at test level given the Ashes in Aus and that SCG usually takes spin. Tredwell is a solid county player but why take Rashid to SA and WI and then drop him? What has he done?

England’s fast bowling is a concern. Anderson is fantastic to watch on his day, but still bowls too many four balls. His strike rate is comparable to many of his contemporaries but he is not in the top 60 economy rates in world cricket since 2000. Broad simply bowls too short too often. Sidebottom looks spent, and Onions is promising but not yet the finished article. Looking around the county scene I cant see much else…!

18 03 2010
Bradders

Agreed, it is certainly worrying where the next generation of bowlers is going to come from. Thanks for commenting

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