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England's lethal cocktail

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Sam Sheringham | 06:00 UK time, Friday, 13 January 2012

Having grimaced through the era of Tim Munton and Martin McCague, Ian Salisbury and Peter Such, I have to pinch myself from time to time.

How did England's bowling attack, for so long the preserve of journeyman seamers and spinners unworthy of applying Shane Warne's hair lacquer, become the envy of world cricket?

In the past an injury to a key bowler would have severely dented England's chances, but when Tim Bresnan's troublesome elbow forced him into depart Dubai before the Test series against Pakistan began, selectors were able to call on Graham Onions, a more than handy fast bowler who was sharing new-ball duties with James Anderson before he suffered a career-threatening back injury two years ago.

With Anderson and Stuart Broad nailed on to start the first Test on Tuesday, Onions will compete for the third seamer's berth with Chris Tremlett (49 Test wickets at 25.7) and Steve Finn, who was firing the cherry down at 94mph in the recent one-day series in India.

Throw Graeme Swann’s world-class off spin into the mix - with Monty Panesar as a more than capable stand-in - and you have a pretty lethal cocktail, and one that most of England’s recent opponents have found decidedly difficult to stomach

Stuart Broad
Former England seam bowler Angus Fraser believes the current crop are worthy of comparison with any England attack in recent memory.
 “I think it could be the best England bowling attack in my lifetime,” says Fraser, who took 177 Test wickets at 27.32 between 1989 and 1998.  

“You could argue that they haven't had to bowl against any of the great Australian batting line-ups but then again, they destroyed a very good Indian order last summer.

“They are ruthless. When they get a scent of blood they go for it. It can’t have been much fun for the likes of [India batsmen] Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh last summer when England really did go after them.

“It was pretty brutal stuff but that is what international sport it all about. You are not out there to make friends on the field, you are there to turn them over."

Turning teams over is something England have become rather good at of late. In their last 13 Tests, they have won seven by an innings, testimony in part to the batsmen’s ability to rack up huge totals, but also to the skill, discipline and relentless determination of their bowlers.

In Anderson, Swann and Broad, England have three of the top four bowlers in the ICC Test rankings, while Bresnan and Tremlett are ranked 13th and 14th in the table. No other Test side has more than two players in the top 15.

England have had great bowling units in the past of course, the Fred Trueman, Brian Statham, Trevor Bailey, Jim Laker and Tony Lock breed of the late 1950s springs to mind, or the Ashes-winning sides of 1971-72 or 2005.

But too often in recent decades, their attack has been less a coherent arsenal and more a diverse collection of weapons all firing in different directions and very rarely hitting the target at the same time.

These days the targets are not just being hit, they are being shattered; the sight of an iconic Indian batman trudging back to the pavilion with his stumps rearranged proving one of the recurring images of last summer.

Thanks to some long-term thinking by the England & Wales Cricket Board, players such as Broad and Finn have been brought in to the national team set-up at an early age and developed as bowlers and athletes by England's unrivalled team of specialist coaches.

In an interview in August, Broad put the success of the current generation down to a sense of collective responsibility, arguing that the bowlers, unlike some of their predecessors, take as much pleasure in each other’s success as their own.

“When I was a kid and a fan, I got the impression at times that Darren Gough and Andy Caddick were almost competing against each other to take wickets,” he said. “We put pressure on together and squeeze the opposition as a pack.”

It is an argument with which the dependable Fraser - who spent much of his career surrounded by the more mercurial talents of Devon Malcolm, Chris Lewis and Phil Tufnell - is inclined to agree with.

“I think there is a greater togetherness in this team than there was in previous generations, but a lot of that has to do with central contracts and the fact that players can feel secure because they know that they will be involved,” he said.

“In the old days you always felt you were potentially two games away from getting axed.

“That led to a lot of competitiveness. I didn’t mind how many wickets any other England bowler got as long as I got one more than them.

“There were a couple of spikey occurrences in my career, when someone wanted to be the main man, but in this England side everyone is very comfortable with where they sit. There is loyalty and consistency, but also an understanding of where everyone is.”

As England prepare to embark on a testing 2012 programme that features away series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, home contests with West Indies and South Africa, and a tour of India, the supremacy of their pace unit may well be something to enjoy while it lasts.

With Australia, South Africa and India all unearthing exciting young seamers in recent months, Fraser believes we could be in for another golden age of Test match fast bowlers.

“We had an era of wonderful fast bowlers with Glenn McGrath and [Jason] Gillespie, the Windies, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram, Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock. And then there was a little lull, where no one seemed to be producing world-class quicks.

“But now it seems to be changing. Pakistan are always finding high quality fast bowlers from somewhere, Australia have got two or three exciting young bowlers, South Africa have Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander to back up Dale Steyn and even India have Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav.

“There are potentially a lot of good fast bowlers around but England are further on in the cycle at the moment.

“They are experienced, have better records and are more consistent, which is one of the principal reasons why they are top of the rankings.”

Can they stay there? We're about to find out.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Yes it's all very encouraging - speed, physique, technique and applicable guile according to conditions is a hard combo to put together but some of our guys now have it for sure and can put it together consistency. Let's not forget though that we caught the Aussies in a deep trough from which they seem to be emerging and played a typically overhyped and overrated Indian team who just can't travel and have been caught out big time both here and now in Oz. Now if our batsmen can show the same technique, concentration and application long term, home and away, we might be able to establish an era to match that of Oz and WI sides of the last 30 years... Still lots to do.....

  • Comment number 2.

    The only piece missing now is a genuine top quality all-rounder, and by that I mean bat & ball not batsman/keeper, someone who can score tons and take 5-fers.
    Not absolutely necessary if both bowlers & batsmen are doing their jobs but it would complete the side. Having said that there aren't many around in international cricket, Kallis being the last great one. (any others around?) It's possible that with lower order batsmen, tailenders even, improving their batting skills, they may become extinct??

  • Comment number 3.

    One of the things I like about us Brits is our ability to get teams to the top of the world and then sit here and find reasons why it was easy, or maybe not deserved or excuses for other people not performing against us.

  • Comment number 4.

    Very encouraging signs I have to say for our bowlers in these times. I can now watch matches, confident that our bowlers will do the job, rather then the older times where you would never know what kind of attack would turn up. The only question marks for me would be whether bowlers like Anderson and Onions, who don't quite hit the speed that Finn, Tremlett and Broad can, will struggle when the ball isn't swinging around. It'll all be about bowling a consisent line and length, rather than trying to take the "pearler" wicket. Apart from that, I have every confidence in their ability to do the job. Particularly confident in Swann and Panesar's (to a lesser extent) ability to take wickets and turn the screw on sub-continent pitches - feel that it's a no-brainer to play 2 spinners. I think we have a long enough tail, with Broad, Swann and (to a lesser extent) Anderson all able to add runs. If we take the bull by the horns and play 3 seamers and 2 spinners, I think we'll have enough to win. Will be interesting to see how it all pans out though. My team would be:

    Strauss
    Cook
    Trott
    Pietersen
    Bell
    Prior
    Broad
    Swann
    Tremlett
    Anderson
    Panesar

  • Comment number 5.

    "The only piece missing now is a genuine top quality all-rounder"

    I am happy to have Bresnan, Broad and Swann at 7,8,9 or 8,9,10 especially with Prior doing so well.

    If we had to play a combination of Anderson, Finn, Tremlett, Panesar - then an all rounder at 7 would be handy.

    Now the challenge - who is the best/most promising English all rounder at present?

  • Comment number 6.

    I still recall going to Lords in 1993 to watch Slater and Marsh hit over 300 on the first day against an insipid attach including Pringle, Fraser and Foster. As a Hampshire supporter I am amazed by the transformation in Chris tremlett and fully believe the bowling division is the best in the world at the moment.

    Whether this is down to central contracts or competition for bowling places, we have 9 bowlers (Bresnan,Broad, Swann, Anderson, Finn, Tremlett, Shazad, Panesar, Onions) who would get in any other test side in the world.

  • Comment number 7.

    I used to feel that we picked test bowlers on the basis of whether they could score a fews runs. Now we have the likes of Cook and Trott who can be relied on to score the runs consistantly the selectors are picking bowlers on their bowling merits rather than their ability as an all rounder. Look at the one day squad and it's different because we can't trust the top order to get the runs required so the bowlers need to be batsmen as well.

  • Comment number 8.

    “Grimaced through the era of Peter Such”? You might want to take a look at Such’s record and reconsider your calumny, in an era where England were truly awful he never actually let the side down. Unless he had help from the pitch he was largely a defensive bowler but that was the job England picked spinners to do at the time and he did it rather better than Illingworth, Batty, Dawson or Patel to name a few of his peers. He was in Chris Martin’s class as a batsman and about as unfashionable a cricketer as it was possible to be without actually donning tweed plus fours but he does not deserve to be grouped with the likes of Munton and Salisbury.

  • Comment number 9.

    In recent years the England coach has taken seriously the need for developing a bowling unit and rotating resources including breaks for conditioning etc.

    Fletcher, Moores & now Flowers have also brought in top notch coaches:

    Cooley, Gibson, Saker with help from Mushy for the spinner to maintain standards.

    In the past you got the feeling that the bowlers felt they knew their own game and didn't accept help or get assistance in terms of fitness etc.

    The current professional approach is a credit to the sport and shows other English team sports the way forward.

  • Comment number 10.

    @2 Blamegame Shakib al-Hasan, Vettori are still superb all-rounders.

    Not to sound naggy Sam Sheringham, but the English team and Bresnan didn't go to Pakistan by any chance, did they?

    This current crop of bowlers will tear down any side in my opinion. My favourite of the bunch, Onions, who'll fit in any world squad is a back-up nowadays! Although the jury is still out to whether they can kick ass in Asia

  • Comment number 11.

    #2; quite right about an all rounder being the ingredient which would strengthen the side. The answer is obvious. Woakes is the best to emerge in England since Botham (and I do remember Flintoff). He ticks both your boxes. He has shown he can take fivers in Lions and ODI matches (to say nothing of huge hauls at county level) and has a 2011 batting average of nearly 50. I have nothing against the current line up but cannot understand why Woakes is not tried at no 7 with Prior at 6. When you compare his achievements with those of Dernbach it is even more puzzling why he is overlooked.

  • Comment number 12.

    All these calls for an all-rounder are simply sentimental. Why do we need an all-rounder? What is the issue with the current team that means you would eject a player and replace him with an all-rounder?

    Botham created these thoughts in your head - you think back to headingly and wonder if only you could see the like again. You might see it, and I would join you in celebrating it, but we don't actually need it. Our bowlers get much more batting coaching and practice than they ever used to, resulting in runs all the way to number 9.

    What we need is to continue to innovate and continue to find ways of improving. You can see that the rest of the world is not standing still. As they improve, so must we or we will surely find ourselves at the bottom of the heap again.

  • Comment number 13.

    "Now the challenge - who is the best/most promising English all rounder at present?"

    Isn't that Timothy Bresnan? He currently has a pretty respectable test average of 45. You'd think Broad has the potential too.

    Remember that Flintoff started off as a bowler who could throw a bat, before developing into more of a genuine all-rounder.

  • Comment number 14.

    #12

    Great comment - absolutely agree. There is absolutely no need in unbalancing what has proved to be a golden formula, just because we believe we are missing an all-rounder. If the bowlers take plenty of wickets, and the batsmen score plenty of runs, then keep it as it is! if it ain't broke don't fix it!

  • Comment number 15.

    If Australia can dominate the world for a decade without a decent all-rounder but just a group of brilliant bowlers who can bat a bit, I think we can "make do" just as well. Of course, they did have Gilchrist. And we have Prior.

  • Comment number 16.

    6 Andy
    "we have 9 bowlers (Bresnan,Broad, Swann, Anderson, Finn, Tremlett, Shazad, Panesar, Onions) who would get in any other test side in the world."

    That's questionable.
    The Aussies and SA have some good options coming through... With the likes of Siddle stepping up and Pattinson and Cummins making an impact the next Ashes should be interesting. Thankfully their openers are brittle.

    With regards an all-rounder, we've managed to succeed with a 4 man attack policy up to now; they've been relatively lucky with injuries during matches. It would be useful if there was someone who was more than just a part-timer to back them up.
    Presume Pieterson, Trott etc. are working hard in the nets on their bowling.
    #11 Hopefully Woakes is one for the (near) future.
    #10 Good call but in terms of consistency and match-winning performances against the top sides they, and Shane Watson for e.g., aren't quite at the level that Kallis and the greats before him were. They are a rare breed.

  • Comment number 17.

    "All these calls for an all-rounder are simply sentimental. Why do we need an all-rounder? What is the issue with the current team that means you would eject a player and replace him with an all-rounder?"

    I don't think we do, at the moment.

    With Bresnan, Broad and Swann at 8, 9 and 10, you don't need to alter the team to reinforce the batting. We average over 100 runs from 8-11, and Anderson must be one of the best number 11s in the world!

    And then, as this article points out, with 3 of the top 4 bowlers in the world in the side, we also don't need to alter the team to reinforce the bowling, by dropping a batsman and playing an all-rounder at 7. We have consistently been able to field 4 bowlers capable of taking 20 wickets, so where's the need?

  • Comment number 18.

    Sorry, but isn't being a great bowler a little bit easier when the batsmen have put 500 on the board?

    Of coursse these bowlers are good, I just think they might not be steaming in with such confidence if they were defending a 230 first innings.

  • Comment number 19.

    #17

    Fielding 4 bowlers works at home, but I think on the sub-continent we may struggle for control without 2 spinners. I would also suggest we'd still need 3 seamers, so think the bet way to go would be to play 5 bowlers. Who would others like t see make up the team for the first test?

  • Comment number 20.

    My vote, subject to recovery from injury and a continuation of the improvements he was making, for an allrounder would be Ben Stokes. Drop Morgan and play him at 6/7 (swapping with Prior).

  • Comment number 21.

    @plugmonkey....Totally agree, we must have the best 8,9,10 in the world for batting and lets not forget that in Matty P, we have the best Wicki/Batsman in the world, so we bat deep to No 7 without the need for an all rounder.

    @Frimpong...yes, you are right, we need to play horses for courses and will be interesting to see if Monty gets a run out with Swannage in the tests against Pakistan or whether they will stick with the seam attack and use KP as they seem to be doing against the PCBXI

  • Comment number 22.

    @spur

    I agree - I think KP and or trott can do a job against poorer opposition, but if i'm honest on sub-continent pitches, i'd expect the Pakistani batsmen to not be too troubled by them. But if we do decide that KP can do the job, then i'd drop Panesar and play Morgan

  • Comment number 23.

    It has to be said, strength in depth is important and England have it, but aren't we blowing our own trumpet a little here? "Envy of world cricket"? I'm not entirely in agreement with that. SA pose a huge challenge with the best fast bowler in the world at the moment.
    At this moment also, Australia is tearing through India without Cummins, Pattinson or Lyon and they still have Harris, Hilfernhaus, Siddle and Starc! All three debutants took 5 wickets in their first match, and then backed it up with MOM performances in the second and 25 wickets to boot already after 4 tests!

    It is an exciting time in Cricket at the moment though and I'm all for it. Having players like these around the game will increase its popularity ten-fold.

    Let's see how England withstand their 'travel sickness' against Pakistan, Sri Lanka etc in their own backyard. It remains to be seen.

  • Comment number 24.

    #12, 14, 15 - all-rounder schmounder.

    Australia had the best top order in world and the best bowling attack, and the best batsman / keeper thrown in. Agreed, you don't need an all-rounder then. Getting ahead of ourselves if we think England are there yet. And the Aussies had Andrew Symonds and latterly Shane Watson, just in case.
    What a top all-rounder does is give you more options both as selectors and on the field. What if one of the 4 man attack breaks down during a match and one is below par?
    Would a fit and firing Flintoff or Botham get into the current side? If the all-rounder is good enough then one of Pieterson, Morgan or Bell could go, depending on form, that's if Bresnan is one of the 4 main bowlers.
    It's all hypothetical at the moment because there isn't a genuine all-rounder good enough to walk into the team.

  • Comment number 25.

    @18
    "Of coursse these bowlers are good, I just think they might not be steaming in with such confidence if they were defending a 230 first innings."

    You are either the biggest pessimist on the planet or simply didn't watch England this last year or 2. Numerous occasions against Australia and India we were skittled for under 300 but would then destroy the opposition batting giving us a first innings lead. We would then amass a huge second innings lead and roll them over.

    Crazy to suggest the bowlers only perform becuase the batsmen are quality.

  • Comment number 26.

    #24

    I agree I think we are still behind that great aussie team. However, I think we're the closest to it we've been for a very long time (better than 2005) and I genuinely don't think we need an allrounder. I guess the bottom line is whether they are good enough to play. As we don't have an allrounder that would get in the team, it's irrelevant really. If Woakes etc starts to improve and push for a place, then it's worth considering, but we shouldn't upset the balance of the team just to make sure we have allrounder in the team.

  • Comment number 27.

    What gets me is when people say well we can't be as good as the great Aussie and Windies teams because we haven't played anyone good.

    When the Windies were at their greatest the Aussies were awful and we weren;t much better. During the Aussie dominated 90s, the Windies were in sever decline and we were appalling.

    I agree we can't be classed as a 'great' team until we win on the subcontinent and beat SA at home and at least a draw away from home.

  • Comment number 28.

    We have to wait at least 18 months until we've toured Pak/Emirates, India and SL before we can crow about No. 1 ranking or this bowling attack. No doubt they are a decent unit, but I'm not convinced of their ability to thrive on those pitches. They may all be ranked highly in the ICC rankings but just look at Jimmy's record on the sub-continent compared to Steyn's to see there is a massive gulf in class there.

  • Comment number 29.

    the_man_Frimpong



    I'm sorry but I have Panesar down as a bit of a 'space cadet'.

    Still terribly one dimensional with the ball and although improved, a very weak fielder.

    Granted, he will occasionaly get a 5-for but is easily 'found out' by batsmen......a point illustrated by Shane Warne recently.


    To further emphasise his all round dopeyness Panesar was caught bowling/practicing at none other that Sachin Tendulkar in the Lords nets on the first day of the Test series............................

  • Comment number 30.

    Really unfair comments about players such as Tim Munton Such etc.

    i) Clearly the introduction of central contracts has done wonders for focusing upon the fitness & technique of players.
    ii) Selection is no longer based upon the media's current whims, but on what players can do. Something inspired by the Hussain reign.
    iii) We have an excellent set of coaches - look at what happened when Cooley left - we also have an excellent captain, rather than an egotist (as we had post-Vaughan).

    If this had been done 25 years before the 'journeyman' players would have done better. Frankly, a lot of the current squad looked journeymen for their clubs (Cook a noticeable exception). Was there such a difference between Tim Munton in the early 1990s and Tim Bresnen a few years back????

  • Comment number 31.

    A bizarre set of posts about all rounders. It is not a question of whether we need an all rounder but a question of whether having one at 7 would improve the team and whether a suitable one is available. It seems beyond question that having a fifth bowling option is preferable if it does not significantly weaken the batting. With 4 bowlers there is always the risk of injury (or a bad game) for one which means real problems in test cricket. The existing batting ability at 8/9/10 also makes it easier to go for an all rounder at 7 (although I take issue with those who call Bresnan or Broad all rounders - judge by their technique; they are bowlers who can bat a bit and have a good eye). Frimpong makes much sense but I must question his post at 26. What more does Woakes need to do. He has been probably the best seam bowler in Div 1 for the past 2 seasons, has shown his temperament in ODI and 20/20 internationals, has multiple first class 100s (more than an older Broad can say) and averaged nearly 50 in first class in 2011. He would have walked the MVP top place in 2011 if he had played the same number of games as others (look at his average score). You can argue against Woakes but please, please tell me what else he can do to show his credentials (apart from move to Essex or Surrey).

  • Comment number 32.

    England will dominate Test cricket at least for the next two years.

    They have the best pace attack at the moment and good bowlers in reserve. Just missing that allrounder.

    Great to see them No. 1 and long may it continue.

  • Comment number 33.

    Hi Sam,

    Care to elaborate on your second paragraph? Which England player's don't you class as journeymen? and which spinners were worthy of applying SW hair lacquer?

    Why the need to put down pro players from a previous era in order to overhype the players we have now. The bowlers we have now are good and collectively getting results but I don't rate them as a lethal cocktail. More that the opposition is poor.

    The teams around the world are poorer than the dominant sides of 80's WI and 90's AUS, do other countries even care for test cricket? The envy of the world in a game they don't really care for any longer.

    To be fair though Sam, if England steam roller PAK, SAF and AUS in next fixtures I will eat some humble pie

  • Comment number 34.

    im a fan of Morgan but i would replace him in the team with a genuine all rounder if we had one ready to play at the highest level..A fully fit Flintoff would have been great to put in at number 7 at the expense of Morgan moving Prior up to 6. Its a shame injuries stopped this special England team being even more special. Still, given England's results, can hardly complain..Roll on England!

  • Comment number 35.

    @Albion

    I'll tell you what Woakes needs to do. Wait his time.

    It would be daft to drop any of the current seamers who are rolling through teams for a guy who's ability to take wickets at test level is unproven. Being an allrounder is fine but England aren't struggling for runs and have the best lower order in the world as it is, therefore right now its just imperitive that England pick the 4 or possibly 5 bowlers that will give them the best chance of taking 20 wickets. At the moment that doesnt include Woakes.

    He is a fine young cricketer though, his chance will come i've no doubt

  • Comment number 36.

    25,

    Go on then Wirral show me the evidence of these numerous 1st innings destructions after bowled out for less than 300

  • Comment number 37.

    There have been a number of post commenting about the composition of the England side but nobody (except for - obliquely - Frimpong) has questioned Morgan's place. We learned from last winter's Ashes tour that it is possible to win a series with a specialist fielder in the side, although to be fair nobody expected Collie to do quite so badly with the bat. But why are we again going into a series with more debate about Pietersen than about Morgan?

    Morgan is clearly an innovative one-day player but a glance at his first-class (average well below 40) and Test (similar and with most of his runs made against the weaker bowling attacks) records makes me wonder what he has done to make him such an automatic choice for the side. Can anybody enlighten me?

  • Comment number 38.

    Two points:

    One; I find the claim that England are winning because the opposition is poor rather meaningless. It always seems to me that when you are winning consistenly, you're good. The opposite applies when you keep losing. Back in the 80's England had loads of "Great players" (Gatting, Gooch, Gower and even Botham), but we nearly always lost so we were a bad team.

    Point two; In my opinion it's getting harder to be a great all rounder as Cricket marches into a fully professional era, but what does it mean anyway. I seem to remember Shane Warne scoring big totals against us with the bat a few times but no one calls him an all rounder, in recent tests some of our bowlers have acheived the same.

  • Comment number 39.

    The England attack has definitely proved it's worth in recent seasons, but not one of them is individually close to the level of Dale Steyn who has produced the goods in all conditions against all comers, at a phenomenal strike rate for a sustained period. And with the emergence of Vernon Philander, and Morne Morkel (still ranked in the top 10) refinding his confidence, the Saffa attack is easily comparable with the England attack. The only reason for philander not being a top 10 ranked bowler is that he hasn't played enough games, but he has arguably been the form fast bowler in world cricket in recent months, and will be perfectly suited to english conditions. Personally i think the likes of trott and kp will be having a lot more sleepless nights in months to come than ab, hashim or jacques kallis...

  • Comment number 40.

    Re the all rounder debate.

    I think you'll find that the powers that be are already looking seriously at this aspect of the game with a view to bringing one in. The ideal is someone who gets into the team on merit as either a batsman or as a bowler. There is a vacancy right now, no 6, as Morgan has yet to prove that he's worthy of a place in test cricket. Both Woakes and Stokes are being looked at very seriously, as both look to be oustanding talents. However, the England management have said several times that they are keen to ensure that whoever they bring in is right mentally for the challenge and they are going to take no chances.

    Ultimately, they won't play an all-rounder for the sake of playing an all-rounder, if you remember David Capel, Phil DeFreitas, Chris Lewis or Derek Pringle, all of whom were brought into the England side 'to fill the all-rounder role', you will understand the folly of that thinking. More recently, Collingwood was, technically, an all-rounder - he certainly bowled well for Durham, but he was played by England as a specialist batsman because his bowling wasn't really good enough for the top level.

    Finally, its worth noting that some of the finest all-rounders the game has ever seen (eg Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee) started out as specialist bowlers and only became known as all-rounders because they worked very hard to improve their batting. At the moment, England has three bowlers who are capable batsmen and might, with some more work, progress. These are Bresnan, Swann and Broad. Broad started his county career as a batsman anyway, so he really should be nearer to the finished article than maybe he is.

    Of course, if he's played, we can always rely on Monty to do a job as well!

  • Comment number 41.

    How times have changed for England. When Andrew Strauss took over the captaincy and was involved in the match where England were skittled out for 51 by the West Indies. Now he has a Test side for that is at No 1 in the World and has batsman and bowlers in the top 10. It is exciting cricket to watch. And there is still improvement to be made.

    @mcfwinn your point about Panesar bowling to Sachin Tendulkar is pointless. India asked Panesar to bowl at their batsman but at the end of the day when it was all said and done, India were caught out by PACE and not spin.

    The thing that has worked for England is that not one place, (except the captain's!!) is secure and that there are a lot of people looking to break into the England Team, unheard of in the 70's, 80's and the early 90's.

  • Comment number 42.

    I want to know the thoughts of whoever it was who wrote in 2008, when the team to play South Africa was being discussed, that 'If the answer is Anderson it must have been a very stupid question'.

  • Comment number 43.

    #31
    "A bizarre set of posts about all rounders. It is not a question of whether we need an all rounder but a question of whether having one at 7 would improve the team and whether a suitable one is available."

    Exactly. My initial comment was along the lines that having a world-class all-rounder would be the icing on the cake, i.e. it would round off the squad, give it more flexibilty. And obviously you pick a team on merit. Nothing more, not advocating wholesale changes, just wishful thinking.

    #14 Frimpong
    Not sure how a top all-rounder would unbalance any team.

  • Comment number 44.

    Chris duran,

    During the 80's England won 3 ashes series out of 5 against better standard Aus than which we have beaten back to back recently. The WI during that period were untouchable.

    Now we can beat the WI with a 3rd XI it doesn't mean this England team is unbeatable or that the 80's side was that bad.

    Are we "that" good or is the opposition "that" bad or is it all meaningless?

  • Comment number 45.

    To put Jacques Kallis's value as an allrounder into perspective - he has a better batting average than Sachin Tendulkar and the bowling record of Zaheer Khan. The equivalent of India's best batsman and fast bowler rolled into one player! There is not a test side past or present that would not do anything for a player of his abilities.

  • Comment number 46.

    it seems judging by the flavour of a number of posts the Ozzies are right (can't believe I'm saying that!) we are only happy when we are moaning!

    I think the only place up for grabs is that of Eion Morgan, he has done reasonably well but his performances don't match up to the other batsmen who have done exceptionally. There may be a case for bringing in someone like Stokes (assuming his finger is recovered) or Woakes. You could swap Prior to bat at six.

    Again though it would be rough as he's not had anywhere near as much time as say Bell has had to find his feet.

    I think the big picture is we have a very good side, we are talking minor improvements here. Its not like the old debate about number three we used to have.

    Incidently anyone thinking SA are going to roll us over didn't watch any of there last two series.

  • Comment number 47.

    @45

    Kallis may have the bowling record of Zaheer but surely you wouldnt suggest he is actually as good a bowler?

    Zaheer plays half of his matches on the worlds most unhelpful wickets for seam bowlers, with absolutly no quality backup which means he has to toil away which must be physically wearing.

    Kallis on the other hand gets to bowl as 4th seamer behing 2 quality bowler (Not sold on the 3rd bowler just yet) whilst he stands at slip staying nice and fresh for when he does get a chuck.

    Statistics are useful but only tell half a story sometimes i feel.

    I'm not trying to diminish the value of Kallis by the way, walks into any side in the world on batting alone, and his bowling is an additional bonus

  • Comment number 48.

    Re #31 - I have to say I think Broad and especially Bresnan's techniques are pretty sound actually - unproven on the sub-continent, but then the same applies to Woakes. Woakes can wait his turn - if the top six bat well then you don't need much from the tail, and if they don't - well Broad, Bresnan and Swann have all proven in recent test matches that they can dig them out of a hole. And I do think a lot of people under-estimate the value of Matt Prior in the test side - when your keeper averages 45 it does reduce the need for an all-rounder.

    Having said that, the tricky thing for England to manage now is the succession planning - they will want to avoid a situation where a large number of this team all drop out at a similar time, as has happened with the Aussies and looks like being mirrored by the Indian batting line-up at the moment. Leave Woakes and Taylor out in the cold for too long and it could be damaging long-term. Hopefully the England set-up will find a way of accommodating them, but there's probably no rush.

  • Comment number 49.

    @47 - don't disagree that Zaheer is the better bowler, but the stats do make interesting reading. You could argue that if Kallis played on the sub continent more often that his bowling average would be 4/5 runs higher. But whilst he has had the advantage of bowling on seamer friendly tracks in SA he has had to bat on those wickets too, and if he had spent as much time batting on flat tracks as the likes of sachin, dravid and sanga that his batting average might also be 4/5 runs higher than the 57 it is at the moment??? All speculation at the end of the day...

  • Comment number 50.

    #37
    Both Morgan & KP deserve to be under scrutiny.
    What is good about the current management set-up is their ability to maintain continuity and avoid any knee-jerking. Helped by consistent performances of course.

    Morgan has technical issues at Test level which given time will hopefully be sorted out. But it wouldn't hurt to have a look at another option. I'd be wary of moving Prior up to six and bringing in a Stokes or Woakes. Hadden, Dhoni, Boucher etc. all bat at 7.

    #47. Jimmy
    "Kallis may have the bowling record of Zaheer but surely you wouldnt suggest he is actually as good a bowler?
    Kallis on the other hand gets to bowl as 4th seamer..."

    In his prime, as good a bowler as Zaheer I'd say. Wind the clock back, his quick ball was faster than Donald and he hit the bat harder. Also hit the seam at will. What he's lost in pace he has gained in hair though!

  • Comment number 51.

    Are we getting a little carried away here?
    We have some reasonable players but no way are we worth our World's number one spot.
    We beat Australia and India but both teams were in very poor shape when we beat them. The test will be against South Africa.
    Why do English batsmen still struggle against any leg spinner? It isn't something new in cricket, they have been around for ages but still our batsmen struggle every time the opposition bring on a leg spinner.
    Our bowlers are doing very well at present but you have to wonder if they have the fire to skittle out the tail of any reasonable team, after all a 50 and 31 from tail enders held them up for quite a while in the most recent game.
    Take the South African attack for instance, Steyn, Ntini, Philander and the Morkels, they have pace, fire and variation to get those all important final wickets.
    The Aussies have the brilliant new find that is James Pattinson, he looks very quick and has the same fire that we used to see from our strike bowlers. They need to get that back in time for the really important games. Too often when things are not going our way do we find our bowlers banging it in short and forsaking accuracy for pace, allowing the tail ender to just watch it sail harmlessly by his off stump.
    We need someone to help Broad, Anderson and Swann so far in my opinion we lack a fourth and fifth bowler.
    Those who say well we have won matches with only four bowlers before are right but I doubt we will win anything with only four bowlers against the South Africans.

  • Comment number 52.

    So much pessimism.

    dean: Are you really suggesting that because we didn't skittle out the tail in a warm up game our bowlers are lacking fire. Surely the only thing they lack is match sharpness, something that bowling plenty of overs in local conditions will help redress.

    If SA are so great, why have they been loosing tests to Aus and SL?

    When WI were top, who was challenging them, who was the strong side that pushed them? I'll tell you, no-one. Same with the Aussies. The reason they dominated was because they had no competition.

  • Comment number 53.

    @49

    Based on stats and the argument you put forward you could argue that Kallis is a better batsman than Tendulkar. As you say its all speculation, its one of the joys of cricket that we have all these facts and figures and yet you can argue endlessly about who's better.

    @50

    I think we'll have to agree to differ on that one, personally i rate Zaheer really highly. One thing to note is that I think you have brought up what for me is the most absurd cricket cliche. "He hits the bat hard". Its such a nonsense saying, its only ever used to describe people of a larger build (Bresnan, Flintoff, Kallis, etc..) read between the lines and it basically means "He's a bit fat for a bowler".

    Anyway i digress from the topic at hand which is the current England team. I'm stunned at the negativity shown towards the team given recent results, i just hope, and believe they will continue to perform and prove the doubters wrong.

  • Comment number 54.

    "We have some reasonable players but no way are we worth our World's number one spot.
    We beat Australia and India but both teams were in very poor shape when we beat them. "

    Utter tripe.

    Which team was top of the rankings when India came to England last summer?

    When was the last time Australia lost a home series?

  • Comment number 55.

    #51
    dean, a little out of touch there, Ntini retired some while back and only one Morkel in the Test side. And most attacks, SA included, have recently struggled against tailenders.
    Makes you wonder if the coaches and bowlers put in the same effort with research & analysis as they do with the top orders.

    #53.
    Jimmy, this is a sports blog. I'm allowed at one absurd cliche per post.
    There are better ways to describe it though.
    As an old school number 11 every ball hit my bat hard. When I managed to make contact.

  • Comment number 56.

    I will gladly eat my words IF we beat South Africa.
    I maintain that the Indian team was in poor shape when they played us as were the Aussies. More or less the same Indian side is getting beaten soundly in Australia right now.
    I agree with the point that it might be that our bowlers lack match fitness, that could well be true but I am of the opinion that it is fire they lack, maybe it is fire AND match fitness, time will tell.
    As for when did Australia last lose a series at home? Apart from against England I believe that was 2008/9 to South Africa but my memory isn't what it was.
    I cannot honestly remember South Africa losing a series against Australia or SL they may have lost a test here and there but not the series but as I say my memory, as it stands I don't recall the last time SA lost a series home or away except against England, maybe someone can fill me in with those details?

  • Comment number 57.

    "The reason they dominated was because they had no competition."

    or

    The reason they dominated was because the respective teams were choc full of some of the greatest cricketing talents the world has ever seen.


    How lucky for Waugh S, Waugh M, Gilchrist, Haynes, Greenidge, Sobers....that their careers didn't intertwine with the unstoppable Finn, Bresnan et al

  • Comment number 58.

    Why the media obsession with Stuart Broad? Absolutely overrated with a mediocre at best test bowling average!
    How he walks into the side on the back of other players injuries and then retains his place when they are fit again is a joke!
    Tremlett,Onions and Bresnan should be picked ahead of this guy.

  • Comment number 59.

    All I can say is I'm excited!! Test cricket is producing more fantastic matches than ever, it seems almost every session in every test match has something to get the neutral excited. Let's see how England do against SA and India away; I'm sure the players/management are aware that these are now the tests they have to pass. Great sides that prosper for a decade are only seen or known as such after they've achieved it.
    With Bres gone home we need Morgan in the team. But this is it for him, he needs to produce. If we had Bres, Broad and Swann then bringing Monty, or even another seamer if the pitch warranted it, would be ok, at the expense of Morgan. Remember the last 1st test vs Pakistan, when Khan was injured? That killed them. Five bowlers is surely preferable, when you have a capable wicky like Prior.

  • Comment number 60.

    Oh i forgot. Finn should be in front of this muppet aswell..

  • Comment number 61.

    "I maintain that the Indian team was in poor shape when they played us as were the Aussies"

    Yeah, poor chaps. World Champions and number #1 Test ranked side. You could see they were bound to struggle.

    Your logic is flawed, because you claim Aus were poor when we beat them, and then that India are poor because Aus beat them! By any logic this means that England > Aus > India.

    Who else deserves to be number 1? No one. Which is why we are number 1.

    "I cannot honestly remember South Africa losing a series against Australia "

    They lost at home immediately after beating Aus in Aus. 08/09 cricinfo tells me. England, of course, then beat Aus to regain the Ashes.

    SA haven't beaten England in a Test series in SA since, er, 1999, though they did, of course, beat England last time they toured.

    England are rightly number 1. I'd suggest that if they win against Pakistan, and in Sri Lanka (both tough asks) they'll have eastblished themselves as one of the greatest ever England sides.

  • Comment number 62.

    South Africa lost a series against Australia immediatly following their series win in Australia, the Awful Phillip Hughes making a big name for himself in that series by smashing the mighty Morkel and Steyn to all parts.

    @55. Everyone loves a good cliche, Its just that i've never heard anyone point out the absirdity of that one before so i thought i'd bring it up.


    With regards to how well Aus and SA compare to England their best performances do look every bit as impressive and Englands, however England have been relentless recently, not for them the surprise home defeats against poor sides like NZ or SL, not even a sniff. Someone will have to beat England to knock them off top spot, it may happen soon, it may, hopefully be a good few years away, until then England are deservedly the best team in the world. Enjot it

  • Comment number 63.

    Silk, number 55. Utter tripe? Noone is contending that the Current England team are the greatest team ever, just No.1 at the moment. And they are according to results. India were the top side when they came and we trampled on them. Then saying that they are useless is not the point. Yes, we may not maintain our top spot but we may. I think that the sides are much closer and almost any of the top sides are capable of beating each other. Look at the present South Africa/Sri Lanka series. The Ashes will be fascinating... a resurgent Australia (even though they are playing useless India) against a confident settled England. Let's hope that the Aussies talk themselves up as they did in 2009. Remember Mitchell?

  • Comment number 64.

    steggsy - I suggest you are misreading me. My point was the England steamrollered two strong sides. Something we should be proud of rather than try to explain away.

  • Comment number 65.

    So what do we think the series scores will be for our series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka??
    I will go with 2-0 win against Pakistan and 1-1 draw against Sri Lanka.
    Your predictions??

  • Comment number 66.

    Jimmy and Blamegame; it would be difficult to claim Kallis is not past his best as a bowler at the age of 36, but its not by a lot. I have been watching the SA tests against Sri Lanka and in the last one he came on with a ball 75 overs old and exceeded 90mph. It seems he remains the fastest of the current SA bowlers, even if only in short bursts.
    Jimmy; at #35 you say what Woakes needs to do is wait his time. So we are back to the old England approach of Buggins turn. He is the best current option for no 7 so should be picked on merit. My original question of what more can he do was in reply to Frimpongs comment about him needing to improve - a difficult task to evidence given his already best in England 1st class record unless he is given the chance at test level. I do find the clamour for Stokes amusing. He is a bat with real (although unproven) potential but no more than an average county bowler. He may be a future test player but not as a true all rounder.
    ChrisPigeon @#48; I am not sure how much you have seen of Bresnan, Broad and Woakes batting but the difference between them is like night and day. Bresnan and Broad are impact bats best suited to limited overs, especially Broad. They will get runs in tests but will be inconsistent. Woakes seems to have benefitted from seeing the likes of Trott and Bell at Warwicks as he shows a much more classical approach, building an innings more like a test bat. And this is despite often being batted down the order to manage his workload at Warwicks where he is the main bowler. I do despair of the confusion between the needs of one day batsmen and test bats - any all rounder in the England test set up needs to either be so good with the bat (such as Botham) that he can treat all bowling alike or to have the mindset of a test bat - and that is where Woakes scores over all his possible rivals.

  • Comment number 67.

    Hard to tell. Depends which Pakistan side turn up, and how well Swann bowls in Sri Lanka.

    I'll stick my neck out and got 2-1 England and 2-0 England.

  • Comment number 68.

    I don't want to come across as an England hater, quite the opposite. I am thrilled that we are number one and long may it continue I just worry that we need to be more aggressive finishing off teams.
    I would LOVE us to trounce SA, and every other team for that matter.
    I would LOVE us to be number one for the next decade I just think we must not get complacent.
    I am really looking forward to the next ashes it may well be the best one in my lifetime as I think both teams could well be playing at their best by then.

  • Comment number 69.

    Sri Lanka do look a different side without Murali don't they?
    Maybe a 2-0 win in SL could be possible.
    I wonder how the likes of Boycott and Close would have handled T20 cricket.....

  • Comment number 70.

    @Alb1on

    Its got nothing to do with Buggins turn. The reasons for not picking Woakes are simple. At present he doesnt merit a place in the team purely in terms of his Batting, he doesnt merit a place purely in terms of his bowling, and he hasnt got a proven ability at test level. Therefore he cannot be picked in the place of people who pass either of those criteria, IE Anderson, Broad, Finn, Tremlett, Bresnan.

    Your idea that his combined batting and bowling ability should get him into the side is the kind of theory that ended up giving the likes of Mark Ealham, Mike Smith and Mike Watkinson test caps (Albeit Woakes is of course a better player than the 3 mentioned above)

  • Comment number 71.

    #69; I imagine Sir Geoffrey would have stayed out of T20 but Close could have been great at it. I remember him coming back into the England side in his 40s and giving a West Indies pace attack the charge (and taking hits on an unpadded chest as a result without complaint). A real hard man.

  • Comment number 72.

    I remember wincing with every ball that bounced of BC's body.
    That was a really memorable test series, I wonder how many other teams have done that (brought back an older player just for one series) didn't we do the same with Steele (can't recall his first name) silver hair and glasses?
    Cricket doesn't seem to have as many characters any more, sadly.

  • Comment number 73.

    Jimmy; not sure what your #70 does mean except buggins turn. You seem to admire Woakes abilities and the no 6/7 slot is the only one in question. If that was nailed down with Morgan at 6 and Prior at 7 I could see your point but its not. I have never argued I would pick Woakes as a pure bowler (although it would be close) or bat. It is the combination that makes his case and that case is overwhelming for his selection as an all rounder with Prior at 6. I do think there is an unspoken concern about Woakes speed as a bowler but cannot see why that should be. The greatest seam bowlers of the last 40 years (McGrath and Hadlee) have both bowled in the low to mid 80s. It is control which matters and Woakes has more of that than any current England bowler

  • Comment number 74.

    #57. tommy
    "How lucky for Waugh S, Waugh M, Gilchrist, Haynes, Greenidge, Sobers....that their careers didn't intertwine with the unstoppable Finn, Bresnan et al"

    True :) Only time will tell how good this lot are but I suspect they'll struggle to make an all time top 10 bowling attack list. But who cares, so long as we're winning.

    #62
    You're right, on the face of it, it doesn't make sense. But as I mentioned earlier, in his heyday Kallis' quickest ball was a shade faster than that of Donald, although his average speed wasn't; more to do with the barrel-chested types ('fat' is a bit harsh) making the extra effort, digging the ball in and getting more pace off the wicket. Probably find Bresnan is quicker than Broad when he makes the effort.

  • Comment number 75.

    Hi Alb1on, I must confess I've seen little of Woakes with the bat, though I do maintain that Bresnan over the past 12 months looks a proper batsman. There are a lot of opinions on here that seem to be really dated - such as Broad always banging it in short (he's cut that down a lot in the last year) or England struggling to dismiss tail-enders - and I think Bresnan's batting is another example - it has actually improved significantly. As I said further down though, from what I've seen and read, Woakes and Taylor are the future (have you seen Taylor bat? Sublime) and I'd hate for them to still be waiting on a debut in 18 months' time. As we know not a single England player made a test debut in 2011 and although that's clearly a sign of a settled and successful side, they do need to be careful that those waiting in the wings don't have to wait too long.

    Overall - if the biggest problem you've got is when to blood your rising stars because you keep winning all the time, then you can't really complain - although some of the above seem to be trying to prove me wrong on that!

  • Comment number 76.

    Alb1on.

    Its a very very simple argument, and it doesnt mean Buggins turn.

    When Selecting a test team you should pick the best batsmen to score the runs and the best bowlers to taken the wickets. Its why the Great Aussie team had no all rounder, its why the great West Indies team didn't have an all rounder. To pick an all rounder who doesnt merit a place in the side on the basis of either of the games key disciplines is a fudge, a compromise and weakens the team.

    I dont have a problem with the pace Woakes bowls at though the guys you mention (Mcgrath, Hadlee, to whom you could add Pollock and Ambrose towards the end of his career) had height allowing them to extract bounce as a weapon which i dont believe is the case with Woakes

  • Comment number 77.

    An interesting point about an all rounder, but I'd say England genuinely bat down to #10 in test matches. This has a huge impact on the game, there can surely be nothing more demoralising than numbers 8,9 and 10 batting with Bell/Prior and adding a further 150-200 runs.

  • Comment number 78.

    #75
    Which Taylor do you mean?

  • Comment number 79.

    27.
    I agree we can't be classed as a 'great' team until we win on the subcontinent and beat SA at home and at least a draw away from home.

    All those things and be on top of ODI's and winning a World Cup 3 times in a row. Aren't we forgetting that Australia were on top in all forms of the game for those 90's/early 00's years.

    I'm not going to shout out my window how great our English team are until I see them dominate in all forms. It will be interesting to see where Cook's team is in the next ODI' matches.

  • Comment number 80.

    48.At 13:58 13th Jan 2012, ChrisPigeon
    I personally don't think there is a problem with the chances for younger players. With the amazingly silly schedule of matches of all kinds, there will undoubtedly be injuries where you can draft in a Taylor or a Woakes. I would pick the best batsmen for tests and one-dayers, regardless, provided of course that the number of one-dayers is reduced drastically. I would then pick 11 different players for 20-20, which is a bit of fun and much of a lottery anyway. What is important is to make sure the test side is fit, settled and as good as possible, with options for different types of pitches and needs (6 bat/4 bowl, 5/5, two spinners, etc.), with back up players also on central contracts.
    One more point: speed is fine, if used wisely on the right pitches. Broad is fast, but when he pitches it up on most pitches he becomes a lot better.

  • Comment number 81.

    This England side drew the last tour to SA, only due to a double collapse in the last test as well. Fancy their chances of winning next time they tour, although I've tried looking for the next tour to SA, and am I right, is it really 8 years away?? That can't be right

  • Comment number 82.

    #78 - Jim Taylor, 22yo, middle-order batsman, was at Leics, just moved to Notts. Has just been captaining England Lions (admittedly with little success, but he does seem to be made for the first-class game as opposed to one-dayers). Compact, stylish, scores big runs from tough situations. Saw him play a couple of times last year - its amazing just how much better he looked than anyone else. Is there another Taylor I don't know about? :)

  • Comment number 83.

    52.
    "If SA are so great, why have they been losing tests to Aus and SL?

    When WI were top, who was challenging them, who was the strong side that pushed them? I'll tell you, no-one. Same with the Aussies. The reason they dominated was because they had no competition."

    Completely disagree.

    Are you going to take away from two teams who had players that truly shaped the game? (mentioned already) Haynes, Greenidge, Sobers, Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist, Ponting, Waugh brothers, M Taylor etc etc Those two teams in the 80's and 90's were winning not because they had no competition but because they were just so much further above the rest of us! 20 years of brilliant cricket and you wash it all away with a arrogant comment "they had no competition"

  • Comment number 84.

    #80 - yes I agree actually, they are dealing with it well at the moment, and the Lions setup seems so much more professional these days. I can't imagine bowlers will be a problem as there will always be little niggles and injuries that create opportunities, but for batsmen the top six is so well-established I hope they don't stick with, say, Morgan for too long if he isn't cutting it. And the beauty of it is that if they do decide to drop Morgan, they could bring in a batsman or a bowler and still have a fairly balanced side! So many options!

    #81 - Yes we drew the last tour in South Africa, but were outplayed for most of it and would've lost comfortably if the Proteas could've got Onions out. South Africa are underachieving at the moment, but in terms of the talent and ability in their first eleven, I'd say they are on a par with us. Its such a shame we don't get to play them more often - I don't understand the politics behind it but for England and South Africa to play each other so infrequently is really frustrating for the supporters.

  • Comment number 85.

    Jimmy
    I always thought you picked the best test team - and if that includes an all rounder so be it. On the question of height I have usually seen Woakes given as 6'2, although he is 6'1 in wikipedia. Hadlee was 6'1 and Pollock 6'2.

  • Comment number 86.

    With two spinners:

    Strauss
    Cook
    Trott
    Bell
    Pietersen
    Morgan
    Prior
    Broad
    Swann
    Anderson
    Panesar

    With one spinner:

    Strauss
    Cook
    Trott
    Bell
    Pietersen
    Morgan
    Prior
    Bresnan
    Broad
    Swann
    Anderson

  • Comment number 87.

    #43, Blame Game

    "Not sure how a top all-rounder would unbalance any team"

    Theoretically, I agree with you, IF that all-rounder mentioned does not lower the quality in the team. In reality, for the England team we don't currently have an all-rounder that in my view is good enough to just come straight into the team. I think you'd be ejecting a player that had established themselves in the side, and for me that would unbalance the team slightly.

    As for Woakes, undoubtably he has talent. But it wouldn't be wise to immediatly select him for a test tour on the subcontinent, when he hasn't yet played regular cricket. Not only could it lower the quality and experience of the team, but if he did play and had a shocker, it could harm his confidence and set him back a couple of years on his development. The better way to integrate Woakes in the team would be that he has to earn his place - an by that I mean consistently play for the ODI team, warm up matches etc, and start getting test experience in a less demanding environment. If he proves his worth there, then by all means start to integrate into the squad. But i think it would be premature to play him against Pakistan.

  • Comment number 88.

    84.At 16:56 13th Jan 2012, ChrisPigeon

    Hello again
    With the bowlers it will be injuries, undoubtedly, as we are seeing
    With the batsmen, a prolonged run of poor form. For example, if one or more of Morgan, Pietersen, Bell, etc. has a poor series, I can't see the problem in changing one or perhaps two of them for a while, while still retaining a balanced and settled team. The thing that has been overlooked, also, is that we seem to have a number of fine WKs who can also bat a bit. Training and coaching in England seems to be light years away from when I was a lad, trying to imitate Richard Hadlee. My school had a Chemistry teacher for a first team coach. Now they have Phil de Freitas.

  • Comment number 89.

    #50 "Both Morgan & KP deserve to be under scrutiny"

    Why KP? In the last 3 series he's averaged over 70 and scored two double centuries. Sure he went through a rough patch, but if those figures don't guarantee his place for a while, I don't know what will.

    Do we deserve to be number 1? Of course we do. Even ignoring our record over the last two years, who else deserves it? Obviously not India right now. South Africa's home record has been poor - the win against Sri Lanka was their first home series win in years, and they even made that harder than it should have been. There's something not mentally right with them. Australia? Some promising bowlers mixed in with a couple we dealt with pretty easily in the past, and a lot of injuries generally in the bowling ranks. Question marks against many of their top 6 because of age and/or form; doubts about their wicketkeeper and spinner.

    Can we maintain the form and even dominate for a period? We'll know more after the Winter series.

  • Comment number 90.

    88. I take your point about coaches but you can over coach. In the early 70s I was coached by Billy Ibadulla and Alan Oakman at Edgbaston in the Warwick age group squad. They changed my action so that I was quicker (and better) before the change as a 15 year old quickie than I was as a 20 year old after the change! Still, it did make me develop my batting as an alternative.

  • Comment number 91.

    #3 Spot on - we are number one in the world because we have beaten all comers. That's how it works. We hoist the Footy team to lofty heights which they never ever deserved or acheived yet we find reasons to knock the cricket team that thoroughly deserve to be number one.

  • Comment number 92.

    Reading today's scorecard detailing England's efficient win, I too became conscious of an embarrassment of riches in the bowling department. Clearly Broad and Panesar have been outstanding in Dubai and should be selected for the first Test. Anderson is still England's spearhead. Based on recent performances, any of Tremlett, Onions, Finn and Swann should consider themselves unlucky not to be selected also.

    Heartening also that England's '766 man' Alistair Cook has continued where he left off last winter, although of course these are only warm-up matches and he did score a big double-century against India in the summer.

    Pakistan are unbeaten in their last six Tests, although series victories against Sri Lanka and in Bangladesh should be judged strictly on their merits. Pakistan's team has a well-balanced look, with little sign that they're missing their banned trio. There's been no shortage of runs, with Umar and Younis Khan having recently scored double-centuries, and Gul, Ajmaal, Cheema and Rehman have all enjoyed success with the ball.

    Four out of the five Tests staged in the UAE have ended in draws, the sole exception being a nine-wicket defeat for Sri Lanka in Dubai last October. Accordingly, barring unexpected heroics with the ball or disasters with the bat (you never know with England!), I feel that the most likely outcome of the series is a stalemate...

  • Comment number 93.

    86. If you want to play 2 spinners you are forced to play five bowlers and drop Morgan. If not, and one of the two seamers breaks down, you end up giving the new ball to Bell from your line up as the next seamer available.

  • Comment number 94.

    Panesar's not going to be selected ahead of Swann, particularly just on the basis of one warm-up game. He has however done himself a lot of good if England decide to go with two spinners.

  • Comment number 95.

    Just a quick thought. Why oh why can't we play legspin? I could always play spin, it was the quicks that got to me, because (Boycott Bingo anyone) I got to the pitch of the ball. Is that so difficult for good professionals? If you do that, you can play with or against the spin, and as long as it stays on the ground, it doesn't really matter. Impatience, quick runs, arrogance??

  • Comment number 96.

    agree with joburgchief, Kallis is a phenomenal player. He seems to be strangely underrated. One of the best batsmen in the world and a top class bowler. People all have their favourite players, usually for reasons of personal bias, but a dispassionate reading of the stats would have him known as the best cricketer of the last 20 years.

    I think the England test side will have to accept that the goalposts are forever moving in professional sport. Before india came to england they were being touted as the ultimate test, but when they received such a beating that their confidence was shattered (to the extent that they now find ben hilfenhaus to be unplayable), the 'test' was moved to 'can they win in the sub-continent'. Should england do that, the 'test' will be moved to SA, or 'can they deal with hilfenhaus'.

    I don't think that's a bad thing though, it creates drama and keeps everyone interested.

  • Comment number 97.

    Truly great bowling attacks hunt as a pack. Although often one man ends up with most wickets, this is often because the other end is tied down and very hard to score off.

    The only exception to this rule is any side with Shane warne in it.

  • Comment number 98.

    An interesting article - I think it is all relative TBH. England are No 1 at the moment and deserved - the other sides (with the exception of SA or India at home) aren't as good as us at the moment (makes a change!)

    England bowlers aren't bad but I wouldn't class them as great IMO. The lineup in 05 was better (I'd have Swann for Giles) and it looked menacing as well as being accurate. Jones and Flintoff and even Harmy (in spells) bowled better in that Series than any other England bowling attack I have seen recently (bar Devon's spell vs SA) and that includes the late 80's and 90's

    Flintoff certainly far more aggressive and accurate that Broad (the latter is definately improving and should end up a world class bowler)

    This lineup doesn't look particularly menacing, but it is very accuracte (for once) with the likes of Jimmy definately having improved over time (he used to be far to errtic at Test level). lets be honest, Bresnan is a good County bustler but they have all shown that accuracy and eliminating bad balls is good enough to get the wickets desired. Its not all about aggression and pace but we have the ability to build pressure with this pack and it is working.

    I think the SA bowling lineup maybe better though and the Aussies may have unearthed some new talent.

    As for World Class bowlers, the Windies in the 80's and the Aussies/Pakistan in the mid 90's hit the mark..Wasim, Warne, Marshall etc..

    Its nice to have a bit of strenght in depth for once but we'll know more in the Tours Down Under and to SA to really find out whre we stand.

  • Comment number 99.

    #72
    David...and he wasn't so old cheeky bugger - he was born that way!
    Maybe you are thinking of Messers Cowdrey and Graveney.....they must have been were well in their dotage when they came back in the 70s, as was Bob Simpson for the Aussies....

  • Comment number 100.

    The best ever bowling attack was the W.I team, but considering conditions nowadays are more favorable for batting, it puts this England team right up there. Most recent comparison would be Australia 1998- 2007,and I think if you mixed and matched players with this current Eng team, maybe Anderson & Broad would get in along w

 

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