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A special era for England and their supporters

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Tom Fordyce | 12:55 UK time, Tuesday, 29 May 2012

These are curious times for English cricket.

Not so long ago a series win was a cause for national celebration. Slightly longer ago it was such a rarity that there would also be genuine surprise.

That we have become so accustomed to victory that a nine-wicket win - making it seven series wins at home in succession - prompts admissions from skipper and sages of a lack of ruthlessness speaks volumes for how significantly ability and expectations have shifted since then.

England have never before won seven home series on the bounce. Only twice have they won six, between 1882 and 1896 and from 1955 to 1960.

Andrew Strauss

The pressure is now off captain Andrew Strauss after England take a 2-0 series lead against West Indies. Photo: Getty  

Those who had made the trip to Trent Bridge on Monday were certainly celebrating as England went 2-0 up in the three-Test series. Choruses of "if you're happy and you know it clap your hands," echoed round the ground as Jonathan Trott struck the winning runs.

Elsewhere there were logical caveats: it's only the West Indies; it's only at home; don't forget the winter. But in the detail of England's win were reasons aplenty to revel in a special era for England and their supporters.

As Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook set about calmly knocking off the 108 needed for victory, they eased past another landmark - 5,000 runs in partnership at Test level, by a distance the highest aggregate of any England pair.

As an opening combination they are unsurpassed in English history. Only two other pairs - Haynes and Greenidge, and Langer and Hayden - stand above them as more prolific Test openers.

If those statistics give pause for thought, Strauss's successes in the summer so far should keep the numbers ticking over for a while to come.

After a troubled winter and 2011 prior to that, this short series has proved the ideal balm for the captain. With 309 runs from four innings at an average of 77, he has been the premier batsman on display. With 21 Test centuries he is just one off the record jointly held by Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott. At some stage over the next 12 months he is likely to pass them.

So too is Kevin Pietersen, currently on 20. Alastair Cook, 19 to his name so far, will follow suit; Ian Bell, with 16 at the moment and arguably with at least another five years in Test cricket ahead of him, could yet do the same.

However strong your attachment to the heroes of old, that is a remarkable demonstration of the depth and class of England's current batsmen - and the same can be said of the bowling attack.

A little lost in the arguments about player rotation for the third Test was perhaps the key reason why England are even thinking about resting James Anderson and Stuart Broad - because they can afford to.

England currently have four players in the world's top 15 ranked bowlers. Not since 1958, when the likes of Trueman, Statham, Tyson, Laker and Lock ruled the roost, have they had so many so high.

Just as during the last Ashes, when they could lose Broad to injury and drop their leading wicket-taker in the series (Steve Finn) yet still win the next two Tests, they have a strength in depth that allows rotation without significantly weakening the attack.

Finn and Graham Onions both await their chance having played key roles in winning the last two Ashes series. Chris Tremlett, when back to full fitness, would stride into any Test side in the world.

It's easy to forget that Trent Bridge man of the match Tim Bresnan is a second choice himself. Yet here is a man who has won every one of the 13 Tests in which he has played, and who has a significantly better Test bowling and batting average than Andrew Flintoff.

Freddie averaged 32 with the ball and 31 with the bat. Bresnan is currently on 25 with ball and 40 with bat. There was of course more to Flintoff's career than mere numbers. But England's current strength in depth is enough to make national skippers of the 1980s and 1990s bilious with envy.

The same cannot be said of the West Indies who appear to be a two-speed team. At times in both Tests they have shown great application and perseverance, only to then capitulate at a dramatic rate.

In Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kemar Roach and Darren Sammy they have a nucleus of a combative side. In the top order they do not.

In comparison to the successes of Strauss and those immediately after him, the West Indies' top four batsmen have scored 203 runs between them from an aggregate of 16 innings. Not one of them averages more than 19. Poor Kirk Edwards, so at sea that you expect him to walk to the wicket trailing distress flares, is averaging two.

Only so many times can you be rescued by those below you. If the Windies boat is no longer sinking with all hands, it is still listing badly.

"There are some natural flaws in terms of techniques," says Sir Viv Richards, perhaps the greatest West Indian batsmen of them all and in England this summer as a Test Match Special analyst.

"The top four failed to come to grips with the requirements for the conditions they were facing from pitch and bowlers.

"You only need to look at how Samuels and Sammy played in the first innings to see how different it could have been. Even at the point they came in, with six wickets down, they played the pitch rather than the situation.

"It was easy for batting - they should have gone on. There were runs out there to be made. These guys are filled with lots of ability. When you look at young Kieran Powell in the first innings, he got to 33 looking good. If you can't play, you won't get to 33.

"But the ball he got out to was the sort he had been leaving up to that point - and should have been leaving again. Test batting is all about what you have mentally, and if you can't equip yourself with what you need in the middle then you need to find another job."
Dominant in the decades when England languished, the West Indies have now not won a series in this country since 1988.

They have won just one of their last 25 Tests against the nation they used to blackwash with such frightening ease in the 1980s, and since February 2009 they have won only two of their last 32 Tests against all opposition. Defeat at Edgbaston could see them drop to eighth in the ICC Test rankings.

If it is a ghastly time for them, it does not take the gloss from England's accomplishments. In the bad times there was no escaping the misery. Perhaps the good times should be relished in similarly unfettered fashion.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I do not want to see the squad rotated.

    There are loads of ODIs coming up to give youth a chance, and the 1st test v SA after the 3rd v WI is nearly 6 weeks away.

    Please keep the team intact and let them finish the job.

  • Comment number 2.

    Indeed. I don't recall the great Australian or West Indian sides relaxing and rotating their team when 3-0 or 4-0 up. Let the best XI play, if fit, and try and win it 3-0. As one who grew up watching test cricket in the 80s and 90s I'm only too happy to see England so dominant.

    24 years ago England had four captains and lost 5-0 at home to the West Indies. Marshall and Ambrose had no interest in putting their feet up!

    Bresnan is hugely underestimated.

  • Comment number 3.

    It would be no bad thing to give Finn or Onions a go in the last test to get them ready if needed against South Africa.

  • Comment number 4.

    Geoff Boycott said it more than once, if it isn't broke, don't fix it. There is time for rest and that is during the 1 dayers. If you want to give people a chance then let them have it in the limited overs formatt and if they shine it gives the selectors a headache then. Don't risk it now.

  • Comment number 5.

    I do feel sorry for the Windies. With one exception, Chanderpaul naturally, not one player in this team would compete for a slot in the England Second XI. As to team rotation, unless there are injury or form worries for the SA series, there doesn't seem to be much point. Bairstow is perhaps the most at risk of losing his place, but surely he deserves a run in both series. Remember how poorly Bell batted in the Ashes 2005 series? too often in the bad old days, players were brought in and then dropped quickly. The result? We lost. Too often.

  • Comment number 6.

    In years gone by the talk has always been of the ultimate test in Test cricket being to beat India in India. Do we think that it can now be said that beating England in England is as hard if not even harder for everyone else in the world?

  • Comment number 7.

    @6 I think you have a point there. I'm hoping that the lessons learned in the winter will see us able to put that one (India in India) to rest as well.

    First we need to see off the Saffers....

  • Comment number 8.

    Name one country who would ever feel sorry for England losing? Exactly. I'll save my sympathy and enjoy England winning.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think the main point here is one that Tom makes, and it is one that Mike Atherton completely missed in the post match interview in Nottingham, when he asked Strauss (paraphrasing of course here) whether he would "opt for rotation OR go fully ahead for the 3-0 and the whitewash".

    This was a stupid question to ask.

    As Tom said, the only reason they are considering resting a bowler is because they can do so without damaging the strength of the team AT ALL. In other words, they can make a change in the bowling department and still fully expect to be at 100%, it is not an "either or" situation.

    Personally, I would rest Anderson AND Broad and give Finn and Onions a game. I would also play J Taylor and drop Bairstow.

    I would expect this team to win comfortably as well!

  • Comment number 10.

    "the aussies never did that"... "if it ain't broke don't fix it"....

    Just the standard cliched line then. Perhaps England won't change things around, but one thing that is for certain, these will NOT be the reasons.

    England are not trying to emulate everything the Australians did, otherwise we would be trying to find a leg spinner to emulate Warne. We are not trying to fix it, what they are considering is if the cost of swapping out a front line bowler in the next test outweighs the gain of giving that bowler a rest and giving another player more test experience. Part of that equation also has to be a consideration of what happens if the new guy comes in and take 10 wickets in the match? Can you drop that player? Can you drop the guy you rested (a guy you probably promised would be straight back in the side)?

    There are risks but there are also rewards. Burnout can cause stress injuries causing you to need to draft in players as an emergency - preventing this is a great asset to have. Front line bowlers will get injured (Broad in Australia) and your replacements need to be ready to step in.

    England have rested players in the past, but they normally do this by not playing them in ODIs and T20. Anderson is a prime example - last year he was in the T20 squad and never played a game. Keeping him in the squad meant that he could not play anywhere else, not plating him ensured he had a rest - having him around. i'm sure was an inspiration to Dernbach too.

    I personally think that they will play the same team and leave Broad/Anderson out of some of the ODIs against Australia.

  • Comment number 11.

    2. At 15:00 29th May 2012, Stuart wrote:
    Indeed. I don't recall the great Australian or West Indian sides relaxing and rotating their team when 3-0 or 4-0 up.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I do. It was the only way we ever got a test win in the 90s. I think they quite often brought in a fringe player towards the end of a series when they'd already secured the victory. I don't see anything wrong with England doing it, either. It isn't going to destroy the momentum of the team if we rotate one or two players - that's as many as it will be, after all.

  • Comment number 12.

    Would like to see Bairstow keep his place - it could only harm his development if we left him out now, I think. Similarly, I think Bresnan should be allowed to benefit from another test match.

    But I would like to see Finn come in. Maybe give Bell a rest, stick Prior at 6 and play with four seamers?

  • Comment number 13.

    I think those advocating sticking to the winning XI just because it was the done thing in the old days are missing the point, slightly (and it's in addition to the point Tom makes well, as do others here):

    Firstly, by rotating, at least in the bowling department, the team is not going to be weakened. The only counter-argument to this I can think of would be dropping Swann for Panesar. The enormous discrepancy in what these two offer to the team aside from their bowling is too big to bridge, especially as this England team is only ever likely to play one spinner at home. This is not the time to be dropping Bairstow either. If he can't get a bit of leeway when the team around him is playing so well and is so full of confidence, he never will.

    Secondly, I must take slight issue with those saying we should drop players for the ODIs. While, like so many, I continue to hold Test Cricket as the ultimate form of the game, one of the reasons we've failed to achieve anything consistently in ODIs is surely all the chopping and changing. I actually see an enormous amount of sense in resting Broad and Anderson for this last Test. It gives Finn and Onions a chance to shine which, if taken, might serve as a warning to all the bowlers that there's plenty of competition if their performances tail off.

    Thirdly, the Test Cricket played today is not the same game as it was in the days the likes to which Boycott et al. hark back. The fitness levels of today's players are phenomenal. You only have to recall the likes of Bairstow sprinting after the ball to prevent a four in this last Test. In days gone by chances are the player would either have given half-hearted chase or not bothered at all. Now, these guys are, by and large, very very fit athletes (even Bresnan, who's come in for criticism about his appearance, has slimmed down while Rampaul looked shambolically large and cumbersome). But being fitter athletes they need their rest. You could politely suggest that, in days gone by, bowlers would have been resting in the field when they weren't bowling...

  • Comment number 14.

    We weren't actually singing 'If you're happy and you know it...'. Ravi Rampaul had been fielding in front of the Fox Road stand all day and had been a good sport, so when Rampaul moved round from Fine Leg the songs were 'We've got our Ravi back...' and 'If you're Ravi and you know it, clap your hands'

  • Comment number 15.

    Lots of good points made by Tom Fordyce.
    We certainly have great strength in depth in the bowling department. In fact, I'd say we could field TWO world-class attacks. Obviously the combination of Anderson, Broad, Bresnan and Swann cuts the mustard, but how about Tremlett, Finn, Onions and Panesar? They'd also be a match for any team.
    We're not blessed with quite such riches in the batting department, at least not yet, but I hope Jonny Bairstow goes on to make the grade.
    Well done to all the players for all their hard work. They deserve all the success they are enjoying, and long may it last.

  • Comment number 16.

    Question?

    Having grown up watching the dire 90s is England's second string bowling attack of Finn, Tremlett, Onions and Panesar a better bowlign attack than anything we had during the 90s??

    Such strenght in depth is unparallelled in nearly all teams i have grown up with. Maybe even the Ozzies who relied on Warne and McGrath.

  • Comment number 17.

    Would Ireland be able to hold their own against the current Windies XI? My 11 would be:

    Stirling
    Joyce
    Porterfield
    Cusack
    Morgan (or Marshall if possible, or Wilson for those who argue about current availability)
    N O'Brien
    K O'Brien
    Mooney (I'd have Johnston but he wouldn't last 5 days in a row any more)
    Dockrell
    Rankin
    Murtagh

    The top order batsmen would be stronger on current form, much better spin options, not much in the seam options so it'd just be the glue in the middle where the Windies would currently be stronger.

    Test cricket for Ireland!

  • Comment number 18.

    I definitely think that bowlers should be rotated. Firstly there is the benefit of keeping key players rested. Secondly it would great to give some of the so-called second string bowlers a game, just in the name of fairness. They after all are putting in just as much hard graft is training as anyone else. Finn should get a game. So should Tremlett if he's fully fit. Lastly of course there is the opportunity to bring in an untried player or two. If they do well, then the selectors have got a problem but it is, after all, a nice problem to have and it keeps those who think that they might be shoe-ins, on their toes!

    On of the problems that faced Australia and India in recent series has been that they have had a cadre of elderly players who pick themselves, plus a handful of youngsters. Nobody in between. The problem is that the elderly players start to decline (e.g. Ponting, Laxman, even, whisper it, Tendulker) and there is nobody ready to step up.

    What a luxurious situation for England if they can start making sure that the same "experience gap" doesn't emerge!

    The stats are amusing. People always harken back to golden ages. Put crudely...stop moaning! The Golden Age is actually going on right now! That I'd live to see it!

  • Comment number 19.

    We'll see whether England are the best team in the world after their series against South Africa later this summer

  • Comment number 20.

    Heady times indeed, but to go back about 15 years to slightly darker days, I just did an interview with eccentric wicketkeeping legend Jack Russell. Very interesting to see his opinions on T20, standing up to fast bowlers and, of course, moustaches...

    http://trivialpursuits.org/2012/05/29/childhood-heroes-2-jack-russell/

  • Comment number 21.

    If England's prime focus is to remain the No.1 ranked test match team and become the best England team of all time (and why shouldn't they want that), then they need to play their best XI, every single time they take to the field.

    While winning the series 2-1 or 2-0 would keep them at No.1 in the rankings for now, a 3-0 victory will make the task against South Africa that much simpler later this year, as surely they will be even further ahead in the ratings. Strauss said it perfectly, we want to keep winning...

    I don't for one second imagine that the inclusion of Finn, Onions or James Talylor, would result in anything other than an England victory. But your best XI is your best XI!!

  • Comment number 22.

    Three comments:

    1) rotation:

    As all of the top football (and rugby) teams show, in tough arduous campaigns, you need a functioning squad of players, who are all both physically fit and match fit.

    So, England should do some rotation on a regular basis.

    That doesn't mean wholesale changes each time, but just one or two every other match would do.

    The ODIs give some further chance for testing out, but it is not the same as being fit for Test cricket - so you have to do it with the Test team.

    2) Jonny Bairstow ("JB")

    JB looks to be a promising keeper/ batsman - but he is not (at least, not yet) a specialist batsman, as Roche and Rampaul showed very clearly.

    England needed a specialist batsman to fill the slot left by Bopara's injury.

    So, why did they pick JB above James Taylor?

    Now, they really should drop JB, but that will not be good for his confidence.

    I didn't understand the selection when it was made, and am even more puzzled by it now.

    3) going for the jugular

    Given the dominance of Broad and Anderson, coupled with the inexperience and weakness of the WI top order (excepting Chanderpaul), why do you never see anything more than 3 slips and a gully - even at the start of any batsman's innings?

    Any batsman when first at the crease takes time to settle, and having one or two fielders crowding your space when you face the first few balls is not something anybody enjoys.

    Clearly, if a batter starts creaming it around, then you can pull them back to run-saving positions.

    But why not try it, at least for a while?

    Other than those points, it has been great to see the recent strength in England, and long may it last.

    The weakness during the winter shows that more work is needed to achieve more consistent world-beating standards overseas, but the base looks good.

  • Comment number 23.

    To AndrewShipley

    I've already had him on twitter for it, his reply was "Brilliant" The banter towards Rampaul and Powell was immense.

  • Comment number 24.

    I can see no harm in rotating the players. Not only do the bowlers get a rest but those fringe players (Finn and Onions) get a chance to shine and make a shout for the test side.

    I can remember reading Gooch's autobiography where he mentioned that however great the 81 Ashes win was it created a small group of players that were like an exclusive members club (Botham, Willis, Boycott to name but three) and it meant that for players getting their chance they felt like outsiders in their own team - that is not right in anyones book.

    Give them a chance and let them build up their confidence in the side and squad.

    I have more concern over the depth of batting ability outside of this side. Who else is there to come in if we lose one or two from Strauss, Cook, Trott, Pietersen & Bell. Where will the holes be filled then.

    Bairstow has shown a weakness that he needs to sort out quickly, I am not 100% convinced that Bopara has what it takes and this then leaves who? Morgan seems to have been cast aside ............ Where are the batsmen?

  • Comment number 25.

    Bottom line is that England got thrashed 3-0 by pakistan in the winter. I don't recall the windies team of the 70s or aussie team of the 90s ever getting whitewashed.

    This England team is good. The bowlers are metronomic and effective (without the raw pace and control of a waqar but the batsmen are nowhere near as good as they think. they were found out by amir and asif in england a couple of years ago and were found out by ajmal in the winter. against top class bowling they can't cut it.

    England are a very good side. but they are not top class level. the general standard of modern world cricket has improved from the past, but the level of the best team in the world had dropped. currently there are 4 or 5 good sides about on a par. But there is no truly outstanding side.

  • Comment number 26.

    It's a bit of an unfair comparison when people mention the Windies not resting players when they were blackwashing teams throughout the world. You have to remember that there was less cricket played in general and especially in the Caribbean in those days. Also, the level of fitness these days is so finely controlled that players are physically playing on their limits in order to get the performances. In those days players would go out for a few beers after a days play, even in hte middle of a test. That is unheard of now. I think resting Anderson and Broad is essential. As a country we should have more than enough back up to win in Birmingham. The batsmen don't need resting and Bairstow should definitely play.

  • Comment number 27.

    A few days ago, I watched a programme called "legends of cricket" a series between England and South Africa including Hanse Cronje, Jonty Rhodes/Gus Fraser, Dominic Cork. I couldn't believe how abysmal the standard of fielding was compared to today.
    That is where Enfgland score over most teams. Hats off to the coaching staff and fitness coaches.

  • Comment number 28.

    One thing that has helped England is to have a string of bowlers who fit into the side when someone is injured. In the case of Steve Finn we are not talking about a charity cap, we are talking about someone who is genuinely worth his place in the side and was very close to playing at Trent Bridge. A Finn for Anderson swap might rebound horribly but, there again, if it means having Finn ready to step in against South Africa (or India) if needed thanks to a recent outing, it is well worth doing. If the team feel that they can make it 3-0 either way, so be it.

    South Africa are a different kettle of fish. Stuart Broad still looks a little underdone and we need him ready to face them, so I would definitely not rest him. I don't think that England gain anything (and may lose a lot) by dropping Jonny Bairstow. He'll get an unfriendly reception from the West Indians at Edgbaston: let's see if he can hack it. If he can't, it may be James Taylor or Nick Compton who benefits. However, better a Jonny Bairstow with some runs under his belt than a debutant in the 1st Test v South Africa.

  • Comment number 29.

    On the subject of rotation- it does seem an attractive policy to give some of the other bowlers more experience but as has been pointed out by most people, if something ain't broke don't fix it. Broad and Anderson will still be raring to go and they will get rest after the Tests. If one of them had to be replaced during the SA series, the Finn and Onions will be ready; they have played in this team enough to know what is required of them and they will want to prove they deserve a place in the team so they don't really need to be 'warmed up', as it could be said, against the West Indies

  • Comment number 30.

    #16, yes i think in the 90s we had only 3 or 4 very good bowlers in a whole decade (Gough, Caddick, Cork), but Tremlett, Finn, Dernbach are all as good as those. And when you look at some of the players from the 90s (Salisbury, McCague) it really was a terrible decade for English cricket.

  • Comment number 31.

    30

    I agree. The role-call of 90's bowlers (with a few notable exceptions) reads like a who's who of village trundlers.

    McCague
    Martin
    Mullally
    Sutch
    Salisbury

    etc etc etc

  • Comment number 32.

    the difference with the West Indians or Australians to this English side now is that so much more cricket is being played now at a much higher intensity that in previous eras both on and off the field aswell, so the need to rotate is that much greater that it used to be, i would like to see Finn be given a go against this west indies side.

  • Comment number 33.

    Resting players - what rubbish there is another 9 days to go before the third test and Broad and Anderson will get the rest they require by the time the third test starts. If you asked them personally if they wanted to play in the next test the answer would be yes. As the old saying goes "If it aint broke don't fix it"

  • Comment number 34.

    never had it so good...weren't saying that 4 months ago.

  • Comment number 35.

    If Prior batted 6 or above we would not have to rest bowlers. When Prior was brought into the team it was said much better wicket keepers were kept out because we needed Priors batting. Prior has to bat 6 or above. All this England side needs is a wicket keeper batsman that bats 6 or above. For me Prior is taking the place of a 5th bowler. Prior needs to be told improve your batting and bat 6 or above. Then England can have a 5th bowler. Otherwise I see our bowlers breaking down more often.

  • Comment number 36.

    35

    Do you think Prior needs to bat 6 or above?

  • Comment number 37.

    36

    I think what he is really saying is that 6 is the lowest place he should bat. 6 shall be the number or higher, but not lower... definitely not lower but possibly higher.... than 6

  • Comment number 38.

    Yes I do think Prior should bat 6 or above, the same for any wicket keeper. with Broad Swan Bresnan good with the bat why have a a good tail. If this test had gone to a 5th day England would have struggled with only 4 bowlers. Prior has to bat at 6. We the have 5 bowlers. 4 seam 1 spin or 3 seam 2 spin. I do not feel Prior is carrying his weight, or doing the job he was brought into the side to do which is bat. I dont understand why Prior has been there so long when he bats below six. He does not make enough runs.

  • Comment number 39.

    Personally, I am keenly waiting for the day when Strauss overhauls Vaughan's dubious record as England's most successful Test captain.

    Not even in 1 of the 26 wins under Vaughan was he the man of the match or top scoring batsman. He has ZERO Test wins against India, Sri Lanka or Pakistan - either home or away.

    Strauss had already deputised in the home series vs Pakistan in 2006 as I recall; so ideally he should've been persisted with for the Ashes. Instead Flintoff was made skipper and the disaster was self inflicted by the ECB selectors.

    Worse, Vaughan returned as skipper against the Windies at home after an absence of nearly 2 years, again after Strauss successfully captained the first Test.

    And then there was the Pietersen Tamasha which delayed Strauss' skipper role even further.

    It will be Justice Done when Vaughan's record is broken by Strauss in the near future.

  • Comment number 40.

    i would play finn instdad of tim, I know it sounds stupid, but do england have any legend, i mean all time legend, no. Alaister cook is the only player I think will be an all time great, i mean all time great, not all time englsih great, he will achieve 10,000 test runs, plus 35 hundreds, and maybe even ODi statistics to go by his side. By playing finn who aevrages 28.8 with the ball, that is decent for a 23 year old and if packaged right could be great. james anderson average is 30.1 same as broad only swann is averaging 28.1 which very good.

    so playing finn giving him the test games and nurturing him could make him an all time great,

  • Comment number 41.

    @ Rulechangecrazy
    Every wicket keeper should bat 6 or above??
    How many wicket keepers in the history of cricket would that apply to ? Andy Flower, yes. Gilchrist only batted 6 maybe a dozen times in his career. Sangakkara, yes. However Prior has a better batting average than Sangakkara as a wicket keeper.
    Prior's record is pretty remarkable. He's probably in the top half dozen or so wicket keeper / batsman in the history of cricket. Average of 42 with 6 hundreds.
    Rulechange - do you know how many wk have ever done that ?

  • Comment number 42.

    I would Drop Bairstow. Prior to bat at 6. Finn into the side. The wicket keeper batting at 7 is a waste of time. Prior was brought into the side (rather than better wicket keepers) because of his batting skills. So why is he batting at seven keeping a bowler out of the side. Tim is a good all rounder. Together with Swan Broad and the fact that Finn and Anderson can hold an end with a bat, what on earth are we doing with Prior as wicket keeper at 7.

  • Comment number 43.

    All successful teams play 6 batsmen, 1 wk, 4 bowlers. In an ideal world one of your batsmen can bowl (eg. Kallis / Sobers etc) and a couple of your bowlers can bat a bit. But don't get away from basic balance. I cannot recall a consistently successful test side ever, who have not followed this balance of a side.

  • Comment number 44.

    Happy for England and what a depth in bowling we have!

    The real Test will be against the South Africans.

    The bowling action, especially the fast bowlers action is such an unnatural action for the human body as it puts a lot of stress on the back, ankles and knees. We've won the series so I WOULD rest some of the key players for the SA Series.

  • Comment number 45.

    "I dont understand why Prior has been there so long when he bats below six. He does not make enough runs."

    Overall he has an average of over 42 and a strike rate of over 65. Since the beginning of 2011 he's averaged almost 45 with a strike rate of almost 73. Name me another English keeper who could even come close to those figures. And the reason he bats at 7 is because in most countries 4 bowlers/6 batsmen is the best setup for us...as proven by our results.

    As for rotation, I'd only do it if any of our bowlers were showing signs of burnout. There is plenty of time until the next test and I'd don't see a lot of benefit in bringing in players just for one match. Might as well give Bairstow another chance as well. I'd have gone for Taylor myself, but Bairstow has only had 2 innings of note so they should stick with him for now.

    badfella, Finn's unlucky to miss out but you can't compare his figures to the whole of Anderson and Broad's careers. Over the last couple of years they've averaged 24 and 27.

  • Comment number 46.

    Prior is being carried as a wicket keeper/batsman. England have a strong batting tail what it needs is a 5th bowler. In SA England will need 5 bowlers. If the west indies had made another 150 runs England would have struggled. Look at the winter. I do not see the point of having a wicket keeper that is not the best we have batting at 7, when we have better wicket keepers that can also bat below 6.
    All the heroics about how Prior is such a good batsman when he came into the side,yet he bats at 7. Despite England having a strong tail and some very decent batsmen 1-5. No sorry its time for Prior to be told. You bat 6 or above and allow the selectors the option to change the bowling using 5 bowlers. If conditons allow you can always bring in another batsman at 7. Oh no you cant prior is there.

  • Comment number 47.

    39.
    At 18:11 29th May 2012, SwamyCricketAnanda wrote:


    Personally, I am keenly waiting for the day when Strauss overhauls Vaughan's dubious record as England's most successful Test captain.

    Not even in 1 of the 26 wins under Vaughan was he the man of the match or top scoring batsman. He has ZERO Test wins against India, Sri Lanka or Pakistan - either home or away.

    Strauss had already deputised in the home series vs Pakistan in 2006 as I recall; so ideally he should've been persisted with for the Ashes. Instead Flintoff was made skipper and the disaster was self inflicted by the ECB selectors.

    Worse, Vaughan returned as skipper against the Windies at home after an absence of nearly 2 years, again after Strauss successfully captained the first Test.

    And then there was the Pietersen Tamasha which delayed Strauss' skipper role even further.

    It will be Justice Done when Vaughan's record is broken by Strauss in the near future.
    -------------------------

    Did Michael Vaughan run over your dog or something? Did you ever stop to consider that perhaps part of the reason for all those wins was the tactical skills of the captain? Mike Brearley is considered to be a great captain, yet his own batting average was distinctly...average. The captain adds much more to the team than his own performance.

    While I would agree that Strauss should have been permanent captain a lot sooner, thats not a bad reflection on Vaughan.

    As to the bowlers and other rotation, there is no real reason to rest a player when the next test match is 6 weeks away. The better reason to swap bowlers is because it lets the likes of Finn and Onions get back up to speed in test conditions. Bairstow must stay in the side. As someone above pointed out he has 5 exceptional batsmen performing above him in the order, there really is no better opportunity to let him get settled into the side.

    What I'd also like to see, although its incredibly unlikely, is the Windies getting Chris Gayle back to open the batting, so there is a little bit of steel at the top of the order and they might actually get off to a decent start. Its very clear that the Windies are only a few players short of having a pretty competitive team, but I fear the internal politics are going to continue to do them down.

  • Comment number 48.

    Prior needs to be told?? You think it's him demanding to bat at 7, and the selectors and Strauss are bowing to his demands?! Please. He batted at 6 in the winter because we need 5 bowlers in those conditions and now he's back at 7 because here we only need 4. A 5th bowler would be a waste many more times than it's a waste to have 6 batsmen + Prior.

  • Comment number 49.

    I think Rulechangecrazy should coach the England test side, he seems to know exactly what he's talking about.

    Prior is batting very well, just look at his statistics, he's very solid and can save an innings when the top batsmen have collapsed. We also have a nice balance to the team, I wouldn't want to shove Prior further up the order in fear of disrupting that. The only area that I believe we are weak is at No.6, I wouldn't drop Bairstow as the experience will do him good and we need to show faith in him, however Nick Compton has started the season very well at Somerset and could probably come in and do a good job.

  • Comment number 50.

    "Mike Brearley is considered to be a great captain, yet his own batting average was distinctly...average. The captain adds much more to the team than his own performance."

    Brearley was in a totally different era. Most of England's wins under Vaughan have come against the lowly Windies, Bangladeshis and the Kiwis. His so called tactical skills were totally absent against India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

    Vaughan was long past his sell-by date even at his County Level, let alone the England side, after 2007. Had he been pensioned off, England would've risen to no. 1 long back under Strauss.

  • Comment number 51.

    The topic is why are we resting our bowlers. I am saying bat Prior at 6 and have 5 bowlers and we wont have to. It would be better to have a bowler like Finn or another spinner in this team than another batsman. It our bowlers that are being rested because they are tired or getting injured not our batsmen. We have a strong batting line up we do not need someone like Bairstow at 6 we need our wicket keeper to bat at six and 5 bowlers. with Prior at 6 we also have Broad Bresnan Swan. its another batsman thats the waste. I would love an answer to the question as to why Prior does not bat 6 or above. Because batting at 7 he is just putting extra strain on our bowlers.

  • Comment number 52.

    I feel that the "need to rest bowlers" issue should be put to bed as soon as possible. The three quicks will have nine days off before the next test starts which should be plenty. Ideally they should play for counties the keep in the groove - especially Jimmy who is a rhythm bowler. Batsmen would benefit from having knocks as well. It's going to be all change for the ODI's anyway - Anderson has been in and out over the last couple of years.

    Keep them all in to work together as a team for this one - then think about changes for the SA series.

    It has been mentioned several times already about Prior at 6 backed up by Broad, Bresnan and Swann which sounds like good sense, but I wouldn't want to risk it against Steyn, Morkel et al.

  • Comment number 53.

    'He is putting strain...' How is he doing that exactly? He is batting where he has been told to bat, which is what you don't seem to acknowledge. Your attitude seems to be that he's being selfish somehow. Weird.

    And we need someone like Bairstow at 6. What happens if one of the top 5 are injured? Should we just throw someone in at the deep end, or should we give Bairstow a chance to gan experience in a series that we were always strongly favoured to win? Our bowling's very good, but we need to have more depth in our batting stocks.

  • Comment number 54.

    "Perhaps the good times should be relished in similarly unfettered fashion."

    Celebrating beating the West Indies is like Manchester City organising an open bus parade for a 21-0 thrashing of the Hartlepool Over 60s 5-a-side team. But hey, hyperbole seems to be the stock answer for any reporting on an English victory. Suddenly the winter and an abject level of performance against Pakistan by our batsmen has left the minds of those people who put word processors into action and write about the 22 yard battle...


    "Chris Tremlett, when back to full fitness, would stride into any Test side in the world."

    In five years since making his debut, Tremlett has played 11 Tests. In four years from his debut, even with his injury record Simon Jones had played in 18 Tests. Ryan Harris has to be carefully managed by Australia but still has got in 12 Tests in just over two years from debut. I very much doubt England would simply bring him straight back into the side if he were fully fit. I simply can't see someone with such a poor fitness record suddenly bouncing over the like of Bresnan, Finn, and Onions as support to the main pair. There's also the issue of whether you'd risk Tremlett as part of a four-man attack. For example, if England go with a four man attack in India, would you put your faith in Tremlett to last an entire Test match? India is not the sort of place you want to lose a seam bowler. IF England are to keep the four man attack, then I don't believe Tremlett would be part of it. A five man attack, quite possibly, but not a four man.


    "It's easy to forget that Trent Bridge man of the match Tim Bresnan is a second choice himself. Yet here is a man who has won every one of the 13 Tests in which he has played, and who has a significantly better Test bowling and batting average than Andrew Flintoff...But England's current strength in depth is enough to make national skippers of the 1980s and 1990s bilious with envy."

    I imagine many skippers are envious. Mike Gatting must have been choking down the pork pies and rubbing his Malcolm Marshall-altered nose when he saw the like of Rampaul and Sammy bowling after lunch at Trent Bridge. All those days of Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh, Patterson for a time felt like a long way away. Likewise those skippers who played against tough Australian sides instead of claiming away victories against the worst Australian side in over 20 years.

    Let's get things in perspective. We haven't played a good side in form for a long time. India were over the hill last year and their seam attack, once Zaheer was down, was led by a mid 70s mph swing bowler (now I love Praveen Kumar, I think he's very skillful, but he's not exactly opening cherry demon now), a injury-plagued Singh, and a rubbish leggie.

    We went to Pakistan, got taken out of our comfort zone, and got hammered. Our bowlers were fabulous but not even they could dig England out of the batting hole they were in.

    We then went to Sri Lanka and drew 1-1 against a team with one bowler (Herath) who's any good and some seamers who are barely county level.

    We then beat a West Indies side with a couple of experienced heads, one decent quick bowler, and a ton of rookies.

    So that's one series win out of the last three. It's no wonder some Aussie fans laugh at our journalists for hyping up our national XI. Go and check out that Aussie run of Test wins to see a really top side. If England beat South Africa and beat India in India, then by all means get the praise going. Based on their adventures this winter, a series win in India is looking a long way away.

    Our bowling attack is fine. Very good options there. Our batting in the middle is not looking fine. Ian Bell did not play Shillingford well, Ramdin should have taken that catch behind. There are still huge questions about Bell against spin and he will need to conquer those prior to India. I imagine Imran Tahir will make an appearance for SA against England so his tussle against Bell will be very interesting. Bairstow went through the mill and I do feel it's a bit early for him. He didn't look happy in India against the spinners in the ODI series (Jadeja got him four times which says a lot) and he strikes me as someone who goes hard at the ball with the bat, not ideal for playing spin. Bell at 5 and Bairstow at 6 against India is not a combination I'm staking a month's salary on making a mass of runs in India. Really that's the only area England have to address. I'd give Compton a go against South Africa instead of Bairstow. He strikes me as a player who knows his own gameplan far better than Bairstow.

  • Comment number 55.

    Plus - why the Vaughan bashing all of a sudden? Like all captains he made some good calls, some poor calls and had to work with the players available, against the opposition that there was in the conditions that existed at the time.

    So much changes in such a short time (DRS) that direct comparisons even with folks from only a couple of years ago lose their value.

  • Comment number 56.

    We dont need another batsman. Bairstow looks like a rabbit in Headlights I am not impressed at all. He needs another two years of county cricket. This is England an international side. Not a training ground for county batsmen. I think Prior is Lazy. He was brought into the side for his batting leaving out some of our best wicket keepers. Yet he bats now at 7 now that is odd. What happens if one of our 4 bowlers is injured. That is more of a loss than a batsmen.

  • Comment number 57.

    @2. Stuart:

    "Indeed. I don't recall the great Australian or West Indian sides relaxing and rotating their team when 3-0 or 4-0 up."

    Australia arguably did relax when they had achieved the series win. England regularly won Ashes Tests when the series was dead. Try 1993 (England win at the Oval), 1995 (Australia had retained the Ashes when England achieved their sole victory), 1998-9 (England win the 4th Test, Ashes already held by Australia), 2001 (England win 4th Test, Ashes achieved), and the 2002-3 series.


    Let the best XI play, if fit, and try and win it 3-0. As one who grew up watching test cricket in the 80s and 90s I'm only too happy to see England so dominant.

    24 years ago England had four captains and lost 5-0 at home to the West Indies. Marshall and Ambrose had no interest in putting their feet up!

    Bresnan is hugely underestimated.

  • Comment number 58.

    No need to rotate. However, if a bowler has a niggle then he must be replaced. We played both Tremlett and Broad with niggles over the winter (first Test of the Pakistan series and first Test of the SL series respectively) and both were below par. We have the bowling options to avoid this.

    After the 3rd Test, we have two ODI series (West Indies followed by Australia). Plenty of rotation can be done then. Especially as we have the T20 World Cup later this year so we'll be wanting to give the likes of Bairstow, Stokes, Buttler and Dernbach plenty of international experience before then.

  • Comment number 59.

    Just re-read a comment earlier about top football/rugby teams rotating.

    Club teams maybe but I don't recall national sides rotating when it come to full competitive internationals (not counting midweek games on rugby tours, matches against associate members in the RWC or football friendlies.)

    I can't see Hodgson changing the team for Euro 2012 other than for suspensions (Rooney) or if someone is rubbish. Similarly I doubt Lancaster will change the team for the 3 tests vs SA unless someone is injured or rubbish.

    You can't say that the England attack will be
    a) under suspension
    b) injured
    c) deserving to be dropped

    so why not keep the same side?

  • Comment number 60.

    @58.matt-h88. Absolutely. There is no sense in playing people with niggles when we have enough players to come in.

    @59.political_debate. I doubt there is any national sporting team that plays as much as the England cricket team across the three disciplines in a calender year. Comparing cricket rotation to football and rugby isn't applicable as neither national sides ever play as much as the national cricketing side. In rugby there is a greater element of rotation in national sides. Ask a few Kiwi fans what they think of Graham Henry's rotation policy! Oh, ask the French fans too about Marc Lièvremont too... . Try these figures about number of changes specific sides have made in World Cup tournaments over the years:

    Total team changes:
    1987 All Blacks - 17
    1991 Wallabies - 17
    1995 Springboks - 28
    1999 Wallabies - 30
    2003 England - 35
    2007 Springboks - 34

  • Comment number 61.

    Well I have to go now. I am just saying with the amount of batting in the England side, if our wicket keeper bats at 6 and a 5th bowler is brought in it will be better. If a bowler breaks down then we can cope. If a batsman breaks down we have a long enough tail to cope better with that than losing a bowler. I do not think in todays game 4 bowlers is enough at international test level. For the next game and SA, I would have wicket keeper at 6. Bring in Finn drop Bairstow. If you take Bairstow to SA against the short ball there, I think, it would not do him any good. He may even get hurt on what I have seen so far. Just my view.

  • Comment number 62.

    Prior batting at 6 *or* stay with four bowlers and six batsmen?

    You don't have to do either. Stuart Broad is capable of coming in at 6, with Prior at 7 and then the tail.

    I'd rotate Anderson but not Broad. Alternatively, you could keep in both but give Anderson fewer overs. But the case for resting is pretty simple: it's the South Africa series that will be the true test of how good this England side is in English conditions. We know they've taken ruthless advantage of Indian chaos in last year's tour, we know how dominant they can be against lesser opposition, but if anyone can beat England in England now, it's South Africa. Win that, and even being competitive in India will be enough to make them look like viable top dogs in the world. It's certainly between England, SA, and India right now, with Australia clearly rebuilding.

  • Comment number 63.

    #56 "Prior is lazy"? You've said some ridiculous things, but that takes the biscuit. Do us all a favour and drop 'rulechange' from your username.

  • Comment number 64.

    The silly season continues as David Saker compares England to Australia...

    "We should be saying our group is as good as them," Saker said. "You can compare them. The Australians were stand-out bowlers, a great group for a long time and they also had a world-class spinner. Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in tandem were amazing, but I have seen some spells from Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann that have been just as good or better at times. It's important we don't forget the ability of Swanny when he comes in around the three quicks. That's really important."

    Laughable. Swanny is a good bowler but trying to make the case that he is as good as Warne is suggesting that someone spiked the drinking water at Trent Bridge with potato vodka.

  • Comment number 65.

    50.
    At 19:11 29th May 2012, SwamyCricketAnanda wrote:

    Brearley was in a totally different era. Most of England's wins under Vaughan have come against the lowly Windies, Bangladeshis and the Kiwis. His so called tactical skills were totally absent against India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

    Vaughan was long past his sell-by date even at his County Level, let alone the England side, after 2007. Had he been pensioned off, England would've risen to no. 1 long back under Strauss.
    ---------------------------------------

    I must have imagined the time when Vaughan captained England to their first ashes win in nearly 20 years.

  • Comment number 66.

    #4.

    I agree. Don't change a winning format unless necessary (I.e. Injury).

    #39.

    I don't quite get what I sensed as a dig at Vaughan. Vaughan knew full well that his batting heyday which culminated in Australia 2002/3 would not last. Under the burden of captaincy - and he was a fine Test skipper - his form suffered a bit. But that team was among the finest England has ever produced. This largely down to Vaughan's aggressive captaincy (ruthless given a sniff - remember the umbrella fields against South Africa IN South Africa).

    Our current status as one of the two best Test teams on the planet is partly a legacy from Vaughan. As for the 2002/3 Ashes, I've never seen such wonderful batting as Vaughan's. He was, in a phrase reserved for bowlers, unplayable.

    The South Africa series will be potentially as good as Ashes 2005. I think we need another dimension to the bowling attack: pace and bounce = Finn. I don't know how he's going to get in the side unless there's injury.

    I would not havé played Bresnan. But that now reveals itself as poor judgment. It's not as if I underrate Bres. But at times (specifically, at Samuels o'clock) I thought we lacked variety.

    But Bresnan proved me wrong. We're now spoilt for choice it seems.

    But we (fans) have every right to fear this South African side. If we beat them then England really will have been really tested - possibly for the first time since Ashes 2005.

    Can't wait.

  • Comment number 67.

    @62, pushing Prior and Broad up the order is very dangerous. It was tried in the 09 Ashes and we got blown away for 100 all out for a heavy defeat. They are best coming in down the order when 250 is on the board , to get up to 400.

  • Comment number 68.

    Just a note on Michael Vaughan's record.

    He was captain in 51 Tests. However, injury and the short duration of his captaincy meant that he never even captained a Test in India or Australia and only captained two in Pakistan before returning home injured along with (literally) half the side. He captained two tours to Sri Lanka and one to Bangladesh.

    His overall record was:

    In Sri Lanka P6, W0, D4, L2
    In South Africa P5, W2, D2, L1
    In Bangladesh, P2, W2, D0, L0
    In Pakistan, P2, W0, D1, L1
    In New Zealand, P3, W2, D0, L1
    In West Indies, P4, W3, D1, L0

    Overall that is (away only):

    P22, W9, D8, L5

    Head-to-head (home and away):

    v Australia, W2, D2, L1
    v South Africa, W4, D3, L5
    v India, W0, D2, L1
    v Pakistan, W0, D1, L1
    v West Indies, W10, D1, L0
    v New Zealland, W6, D1, L1
    v Bangladesh, W4, D0, L0

    Make up your own minds how his record compares to the current England side (and captain), bearing in mind that his record includes the following:

    - A first series win in the Caribbean since 1968
    - To share a series v South Africa in which England had been apallingly savaged in the first two Tests.
    - To win 7 Tests out of 7 in 2004 (New Zealand were, before the series, ranked #2, I believe)
    - A first series win against Australia since 1987
    - A first series win in South Africa since their return to Test cricket.

    However, I am in total agreement that he should have left the captaincy after returning from Pakistan in 2005. The majority of his defeats came after that injury, he was never the same player again and his constant coming and going did, undoubtedly, de-stabilise the side.

  • Comment number 69.

    The only change I would make is to to drop Bairstow for another bowler. Not because of Bairstow's lack of run's as I'm happy for him to replace any injured batsman but because I would always prefer to have 5 front line bowlers or 4 and one all rounder. Given that Bresnan (who averages 40), Broad (who averages 28 and rising) and Swan (who avergages 21) are clearly better than playing at 8,9,10 which they have in their last couple of tests and this would also give longer rest periods between spells and also give more bowling options such as bowling two spinners. In English conditions when our top 5 batsman are in such top form why not go for the jugular and add more fire power to an already potent attack. As to who the bowler should be I think Finn should be given the nod but I'd be just as happy with Onions (or Tremlett if fit).

  • Comment number 70.

    Disagree about a fifth bowler. Most of the time this bowler only bowls half a dozen overs to give the main strike bowlers a rest and this job can be done by the likes of Trott and Pieterson.

    Also, Bairstow can't be played for one game and then dropped. Remember the bad days of the 80s and 90s when players got one game and were never seen again. Bairstow is young and needs to be given time to bed in before we begin to see the best of him.

  • Comment number 71.

    I agree with some of the posts here... in this day and age what test sides need is a SQUAD not just the top XI players who play every time... I realise that teams are different in ODI's and T20 but a Test side has much great challenges.
    In the past England has never had the luxury of so many players trying to get into the test side... they have basically had XI players with maybe 1 or 2 who could slot in due to injury... Now for the first time England has probably 15-16 players who could immediately slot into the test side... these players need to play to keep them in the mix...
    This is the same lesson that has been learned in football... years ago you picked your best 11 and anybody outside that was usually 2nd string... now you need a squad of 20+ players who are all 1st string!!!...
    Test cricket is at that point now with the schedules they are playing...
    All the thinking about NOT rotating players is from the past... that's gone and so should the thinking!!!

  • Comment number 72.

    The sad thing for Bairstow in my opinion is he should never have been picked at his age. I'm happy for him to be considered for Test side in 2-3 years time but now just isn't right. There are plenty of older batsmen in the country that have knocked at the door but not been selected or just frankly in supreme form (Compton) that should of been given a run before him.

    Now of course he's not done well, he'll play in the next game and if he doesn't score runs who are we going to select against the Saffer's? Yes I know the answer is Bopara but why couldn't someone with a few more years behind them get the chance?

  • Comment number 73.

    @Stargazer(68).

    Just as you and I agreed on Cricinfo, all stats need context. Vaughan's record was good considering the quality of opponents England had at that time. I'd analysis it this way by comparing opponent strength to the opponents England would face today:

    Australia: we all know the quality of the Aussies in 2005. Unquestionably stronger in 2005 than they are now and the side that lost the Ashes in Australia were to my mind the worst Aussie side for two decades. 1-0 to Vaughan.

    India: stronger in Vaughan's time than they are now. The big batting guns were right firing, Kumble was a fine spinner, and the seam attack in 2007 were light years away from the mess we saw last summer. 2-0 to Vaughan.

    New Zealand: much stronger in 2003 than now. Richardson at the top, Fleming as captain, Styris and Oram, Chris Cairns, Martin and Vettori... no competition when compared to today's side that shows promise but is inconsistent. 3-0 to Vaughan.

    Pakistan: hard to judge given everything that has happened to Pakistan since Vaughan played them. Board issues, the toerrorist attack, the need to play away from Pakistan, the jail terms for some good players... best call this one a score draw. 4-1 to Vaughan.

    South Africa: hmmm. Evens. Steyn and Philander now are potent but so were Ntini and Pollock. The batting in 2003-04 is pretty much as strong as it is now. Let's call this one a score draw. The summer series will tell us a great deal about the merits of both England and South Africa. 5-2 to Vaughan.

    Sri Lanka as opponents: undoubtedly stronger in Vaughan's time than now. The loss of Murali has been huge and Vaas has been greatly missed too. Useless seam attack now for the most part, as we saw in the winter. 6-2 to Vaughan.

    West Indies: in 2003 their bowling was on the slide (Edwards and Best opening) but the batting still had the like of Gayle, Chanderpaul, Sarwan, and Lara. Ridley Jacobs was a far better keeper than Ramdin too. Undoubtedly Windies were stronger with the bat then than now. 7-2 to Vaughan.


    Some might think it's churlish to look this way but you have to. I can't believe some of the reporting I've read today about our defeat of the West Indies. Take Chanderpaul and Roach out and you have a side who would be taxed against some local league teams (and some arguably wouldn't get into those teams). It was good competitive Test cricket at times but certainly nothing that will go down as being classic. When I think of tough Tests with these two sides, I think of Ian Bishop and Walsh smashing bits out of Robin Smith, Gooch batting against the odds and making that fantastic ton in 1991, Lara dominating English attacks, and the twin pair of Walsh and Ambrose showing the world how intelligent pace bowlers can perform right to the very end.

  • Comment number 74.

    As well as England have done and I appreciate that you can only beat the team in front of you. I feel that it is matches like this that will bring a slow death to Test Cricket.
    W. I. were woeful and the competition dull as a result. If England bring on the second string it cheapens the event further.

  • Comment number 75.

    I would have picked Compton ahead of Bairstow but agree that now Bairstow has been chosen he must be given a decent run, god knows we destroyed enough players by chopping and changing in the past (as previous comentators have rightly noted). I am unsure about how good this England team is though. They have met a number of teams who are in decline (not their fault, just the way it panned out) which makes the judgment hard. They are clearly a very good team, especially in bowling depth, but one of the reasons I am looking forward to the SA tests is that this will be a genuine test of their quality. We should know a lot more after that, and I am hoping they can make the step from good to great.

  • Comment number 76.

    @70.RememberScarborough.

    "Also, Bairstow can't be played for one game and then dropped. Remember the bad days of the 80s and 90s when players got one game and were never seen again. Bairstow is young and needs to be given time to bed in before we begin to see the best of him."

    Yes and no. If you play him against South Africa and it's found that he can't cope against short pitching bowling, then Morne Morkel, currently bowling as well as he had done in his career to my mind, will have him for toast and could scupper his confidence for a long time.

    I agree that players shouldn't be discarded and forgotten about but this isn't the 1980s. If they are dropped, they aren't forgotten. We've seen that with Michael Carberry. He did get dropped as he was a temporary measure whilst Strauss rested (ha, there's one for the rotation haters! Remember the uproar when Strauss said he wasn't going to Bangladesh so he could prepare for the upcoming Ashes? Turned out OK!). Despite the unfortunate health problems, England stuck with him and you would have seen him turn out for the Lions this summer. The Lions had been an unqualified success. It's given county players a visible route to progress upwards and also given those who go up and then come down from the top side a chance to rebuild and restate their case.

    In terms of players coming in and disappearing just as quick, how many have we had really disappear since Flower came in? Offhand I can only think of Amjad Khan. Ajmal Shahzad did at least play a Test and go to Australia.

  • Comment number 77.

    Part of me is quite sad to see the great Windies so poor. But I'm in dreamland to see England so damn good. Those of us who stood and watched England struggle through the 90s deserve it. All for giving Finn & Onions a start. Want the guys 100% fired for SA, and resting Broad will fire him up.

  • Comment number 78.

    There's no doubt that this is a seriously good England side - certainly the best I've seen in over 30 years of joy and despair at watching the national side. But -and there is a but - as the winter showed this team still has to compete and win Test series in Asia.

    The series against Pakistan was a disaster and lessons must be learned come the encounter with India in the winter.

    But enough of the doom and gloom, England's second XI would probably beat all but South Africa in a home series.

    For those that are interested here are our marks out of ten for Trent Bridge:
    England http://bit.ly/JLsZCV
    West Indies http://bit.ly/LCGOhU

  • Comment number 79.

    Of course this is a good England side, but this blog is ignoring England's weakness in sub continent conditions and the mad fixation of the selectors with relying on four bowlers. All great sides have had either a great all rounder (Sobers, Kallis) or at least a batsman who can bowl to a higher standard than Trott or Pietersen (such as Steve Waugh). This selectorial fixation is made even more idiotic when England have a keeper who would be excellent batting at 6, and the best England all rounder to emerge since Botham in Chris Woakes (and yes, he is better than either Flintoff or Bresnan). Even if you disagree with me about Woakes can someone tell me the downside of promoting Prior to 6 and bringing in an all rounder at 7? After all, everyone claims the England tail is so strong that runs are no problem - so why bat Prior at 7 and try to fit one day baseballers like Morgan or Bairstow in at 6? An all rounder at 7 inevitably strengthens the team and improves its balance.

  • Comment number 80.

    With all due respect 'Rulechangecrazy', the claim that Matt Prior is not 'carrying his weight, or doing the job he was brought into the side to do which is bat' or that 'He does not make enough runs.' is absolutely and unequivocally not valid, in fact it is boderline absurd.

    Prior has the fourth highest all-time average of any wicketkeeper-batsman having made 10 Test match appearances or more with only Andy Flower, Adam Gilchrist and Les Ames above him. There are some serious players below him in that list also : the likes of Sangakarra, Dhoni and Alec Stewart to name a choice few. He has also proven to be able to score runs in difficult situations when the top order has failed (his 102* against Pakistan in 2010 when the next highest scorer was Swann with 28 for example) and has been effective in shepherding the tail and building partnerships with the likes of Broad and Swann (his partnership of 162 with Broad from a total of 269 enabled England to declare and win go on to win the game after the top six had managed only 75 runs between them in the second innings against India at Lords last summer)

    A Test team almost always needs to take 20 wickets to win a test match. Now if you look at the Test matches England have lost in the past 12 months (three in Pakistan and one in Sri Lanka) they only failed to take 20 wickets on one occasion in those lost matches and that was when Pakistan only needed 15 to win in their second innings and did it for no loss, in fact this was the only complete and un-rain-affected Test match in the last 12 months where England have not taken the full 20.

    Getting enough runs was at the root of these recent losses and getting 20 wickets consistently has not been a problem. That is quite obviously the reason why England consider it more important to have a sixth batsman than to have a fifth bowler. In addition to this, such statistics and examples as the ones I gave clearly show that Prior is performing exceptionally well at number seven and therefore does not need to be moved in the batting order.

    Finding a solid number six who can also get runs in difficult situations is quite obviously a major priority at the moment and has been I guess since the retirement of Collingwood, no matter what you thought of him. There seem to be a few candidates but as yet no one has stamped their claim. It will certainly be intirguing to see who can make that position in the line up their own....

  • Comment number 81.

    ....and if he can bowl a bit and field as exceptionally well in any position as Collingwood did then all the better!

  • Comment number 82.

    #80.

    Well said. I used to subscribe to the 5th bowler theory (due to Vaughan's success). But I think this side is well balanced (also it must be said, with no disrespect intended to Ashley Giles, that Swann is a far better attacking option).

    As for the 6th batsman, I'd be very surprised if Bairstow does not come good. Good luck to him in any event.

  • Comment number 83.

    the windies are weak, so if you beat a weak team what does that make you. I think the best moments in cricket i remember was viv richards and clive loyd and their bowlers, they were awesome.

  • Comment number 84.

    I find the argument that Bresnan, Broad and Swann will do the work of a specialist batsman pretty unconvincing. Bresnan looks technically very sound and his average is excellent but it is slightly artificial being from nine completed innings with his runs compiled against some pretty vanilla attacks. Broad is a fine attacking player and could develop into a genuine all rounder, at the minute his defensive technique is flawed and he looks uncertain against good spin bowling. Swanny is a tail-end biffer; great fun to watch but he hasn’t scored a fifty in three years and if you take 2009 out of consideration when he made most of his Test runs he averages about 15. I wouldn’t fancy being 74-6 with Bres and Broad at the crease and Swann padded up to follow. Recently four bowlers have consistently taken 20 wickets for England, Prior is a monster at number seven and the lower order have shown an ability to twist the knife hurtfully batting in their current positions. Unless circumstances change I can’t see Flower and Strauss wanting to tinker with something that patently works well.

  • Comment number 85.

    I also stuck by England in the 90s. Am I alone in finding that supporting the current successful team is more stressful than the previous unsuccessful one? It was easier to expect to lose and be happily surprised by a win, then to be down in the dumps when we lose a session, never mind a match!

    We are going to struggle to maintain the #1 status until we have more batsmen in the top 10. South Africa have batsmen rated at 2,3, 9 and 11 in the test rankings. Our highest rankings are 6, 16,17, and 18. We need more in the top 10 to become dominant.

  • Comment number 86.

    Beating the Saffers is a must to show that England can beat the best opposition available.

    BUT unless they cure their travel sickness on the subcontinent the team will go down in history as only being one dimensional (Australia now being a second home).

    Comparing Bresa with Freddie statistically is one thing but Freddie faced tougher opposition at his brief peak and changed games with bat and ball. Bresa is part of a stronger team and contributes rather than changes the course of games.

  • Comment number 87.

    Interestingly Bresnen has a better bowling and batting average than Botham...of course he has nowhere near the same amount of tons, 5fers and 10fers but it's interesting.

    As for the Lions while I believe they have shown us good ODI players and T20 when was the last time we selected someone who had consistently been performing in the longer format of the game for them? Bairstow hardly set the world the world on fire this Winter in his games and last season no-way should Morgan have gotten the call instead of Hildreth based on Lion's and First-Class form.

  • Comment number 88.

    25 Friendlesssod

    "Bottom line is that England got thrashed 3-0 by pakistan in the winter. I don't recall the windies team of the 70s or aussie team of the 90s ever getting whitewashed."

    I know what you mean but I'm not getting too worried about the events in the weirdly sterile non-tests played in Abu-Dhabi. England's bowlers were still fantastic but the batsmen fell victim to a combination of complacency and the difficulty of facing a spin attack that would be no-balled off the park anywhere else. Sadly, given the instantaneous accusation of racism that goes with the suggestion that something a little fishy is going on, nobody but nobody in the cricket establishment will address this. It's a 3rd Rail issue...touch it and you're dead. As a result we are forced to watch bowlers who throw the ball and, good heavens, get extraordinary levels of turn! The IRB periodically carry out checks for forms sake...the suspect bowler chucks down a few for the diagnostic cameras and, lo and behold, the bowler does not flex his arm illegally during the experiment. Watching the slo-mo from the "amazing" wickets in match situations however tells me a very different story.

    I expect to get viciously attacked for such a point of view but I suspect that it is quietly shared by many.

    The West Indies are not as bad as everyone makes out. They are an opening batsman and a slightly sparkier pace bowler from being a good team. They showed considerable fight at times and were really only let down by some poor sessions of play. Around such glitches test matches are decided but the Windies aren't that different from England before 2004. The real test of England's standing in world cricket will stem from how well the cope with South Africa later this summer and how they progress to manage in India in the winter.

  • Comment number 89.

    Anglophone, simple fact is you are wrong, get over it.

  • Comment number 90.

    Personally I think Ajmal pings his doosra but for the majority of the time he chucks within the ICC's limit. The match officials in the UAE were all neutrals appointed by the ICC so there's no greater chance of Ajmal being called anywhere else in the world. In an ideal world I'd like the ICC to look specifically at the question of the doosra as I just can't work out how it can be bowled without flexing your arm but until that's done it's a fact of life and if England dismiss the results against Pakistan as an aberration they're playing a very dangerous game. From the UAE we went on to Sri Lanka and in the first Test made the utterly unremarkable Herath look like Bedi and Underwood's love child before learning our lesson and squaring the series, I'd hope that's what the England coaching team are concentrating on with this winter in mind rather than forlornly hoping spinners start getting no balled.

  • Comment number 91.

    I find the comments promoting Broad (especially) and Bresnan as all rounders astonishing. Broad has one first class century in 8 seasons and the batting technique of a tail ender. Whilst Bresnan has better batting technique he has a modest first class record. I repeat my comment at 79 and challenge anyone to put a counter argument; Woakes is the best England all rounder and the best since Botham. At (just) 23 he has a first class batting average of 34 (47 in 2011) compared with Broads 25 and 28 for Bresnan. He also has 230 first class wickets at 24, compared with348 at 28 for Broad and 319 at 30 for Bresnan - both of whom are older and have been playing much longer at this level. Whilst selecting him for the first 2 tests was not an option as he was returning from injury, putting him in the 3rd test would be an ideal opportunity. No doubt some will talk about his Lions tour in early 2012, but this only shows the mistake of the selectors. His performances were acceptable if not outstanding, but in ODIs - and Woakes has the technique of a long form player. He needs tests to show his real ability, even though he did get a six for in an ODI against Oz. I am begining to fear that you need to be a daddy's boy to get a chance for England as a youngster.

  • Comment number 92.

    Well I have come back today and read the comments. Nothing here to change my mind. England need a wicket keeper that bats 6 or above. Any wicket keeper batting 7,8,9,10,11 is taking out the option of a 5th bowler. If one of our 4 bowlers breaks down we will not cope against teams like SA. Broad and Bresnan are very good all rounders. Having Prior at 7 is a waste he has to bat at six or find a wicket keeper that can. With the wicket keeper at 6, we then have the option of 3 seamers and 2 spinners, or 4 seamers and a spinner. If conditions allow we can always have 4 bowlers and an extra batsman as an option. Without major disruption to the team. The team will be more settled. Sorry, I stick with my view Prior has to bat at six. He was brought into the side on the merit of his batting and wicket keeping so I cannot see why Prior batting at 6 is a problem. Proir is a wicket keeper, you cannot leave him out of the side because you need a 5th bowler. So make sure he bats in the top 6 not in a bowler place at 7,8,9,10,11.

  • Comment number 93.

    If in the last test we were playing 5 bowlers (finn for bairstow), then this game would have been wrapped up in 3 days. I agree with most commentators out their that we need to be more ruthless. Sammy and samuels were able to relax once they had seen off broad and anderson, and although i rate bresnan i think he should be the 4th seamer.

    When we are playing amla, kallis, devillers and smith we cant let off the pressure, and finn 1st change bowling accurate 90mph bowling will be a huge asset. For him to be not in the team for someone who might average 30 with the bat, when we have such a strong tail is a mistake.

    If the number 6 batsman would score huge runs then it would be worth thinking about, however bairstow, bopara and morgan wouldnt score many runs against south africa's attack. Bairstow and bopara just arent good enough against real pace.

    Which leads on to my grumble, of why the selectors are still picking players from their favourite counties (yorkshire. essex)who happen to be in division 2 facing club standard bowlers week in week out. Bairstow got found out, because in div 2 there's not alot of quality fast bowlers. And it's the same with bopara, flat track bully against mediocre bowlers.

    The top of div 1 there is alot of quality, and someone scoring runs in that league against the like's of durham's, warks and surreys atttack will be much better prepared to get in the test team. Hence why compton or james taylor should have been selected ahead of bairstow. If bopara, bairstow want to become better players then they need to get their counties promoted or move to a div 1 side like james taylor did!!

    Also woakes is a very good player and definetly needs a chance sooner or later, he could be the genuine world class allrounder we are looking for.

  • Comment number 94.

    89 ncurd

    "simple fact is you are wrong, get over it."

    errr...wrong in what respect? Like I said...a 3rd rail issue

  • Comment number 95.

    England do not need another batsman they need another bowler. With prior at 6 we bat down to no 8 with Broad and Bresnan in the side. If England want to stay no one we need to be able to take 20 wickets against anyone. There has been too much focus on the batting line up. We have great bowlers lets not wear them out because they are over bowled. If the west indies had made another 150 runs in the last test and taken it into the 5th day our 4 man bowling attack would have been exposed.

  • Comment number 96.

    @94 How about you provide some evidence of any kind?

    Straightening of the arm is allowed up to 15 degrees once the arm is above the shoulder (any straightening beforehand is perfectly fine). This stipulation was made because virtually every bowlers was discovered to be a chucker even if they looked like they were perfect (McGrath for instance).

    I refuse to believe with the amount of camera's pointing at Ajmal (or anyone else) everytime he bowls nobody has calculated if his arm straightens more than is allowed. Surely oppositions would be ready to pounce on that information if it existed?

    Which is why your wrong because your argument boils down to 'it looks like he chucks' rather than having any evidence saying he does.

    @P_RichardStroker huge amounts of investigation were done which is why the 15 degree stipulation had come in.

  • Comment number 97.

    I'm well aware why the 15 degree limit was introduced but the guidelines were established to cover the actions of bowlers of all types, one particular delivery bowled by some orthodox spinners wasn't examined on its individual characteristics. The Australian academy refuse to teach it as a panel including McGill, Warne, Terry Jenner and Ashley Mallet concluded it was impossible to bowl legally. A number of bowlers have been reported for their actions while bowling the doosra and some have been told to desist. As for Ajmal he does indeed have a lot of cameras on him when he bowls but I do wonder why he bowls in long sleeves fastened at the wrist while batting in short sleeves. This is all somewhat moot though, as I said earlier unless and until the ICC look at the doosra it has to be accepted as a fact of cricketing life and dealt with.

  • Comment number 98.

    They concluded that despite the fact Murali was able to bowl it while his arm was in a brace not allowing any straightening of the arm.

    Now I do see the argument that if it requires straightening of the arm to actually bowl the ball then perhaps the delivery should be deemed illegal. However personally I feel argument is void because your saying 'he's allowed to straighten his arm because he could technically do that without straightening his arm' completely ignoring they've gained an advantage (probably speed) by doing so as well.

  • Comment number 99.

    OK Mr Fordyce. Having challenged the assembled bloggers to counter my argument for an all rounder at 7, specifically Woakes, and been met by resounding silence and a failure to answer whilst they promote their favourite county youngsters - can you shed any light on the determination of the England selectors to ignore the best all round talent to emerge in 40 years?

  • Comment number 100.

    Again to reiterate : in the last twelve months England have only failed to take 20 wickets on one occasion in a complete test match and that was when the opposing team needed only 15 to win and did it without loss. In the last two years they have only missed out on taking 20 wickets an additional three times, that's only four occasions in two years where they haven't bowled the opposition out twice!

    In addition to this the England cricket team have conceded 600 runs or more in total in a Test match on only 2 occasions in the last 2 years!

    That is an astonishing statistic by any stretch of the imagination and one that further stresses the point that the four English bowlers playing in any one Test match (England have used 8 different bowlers in that time frame not including Samit Patel who I suppose counts as an allrounder/fifth bowler) have been incredibly effective not only at taking the 20 wickets needed to win a Test match but also in restricting teams in terms of match totals. In short the four bowler set up with bowler rotation has now proven time and to time again over extended periods to work incredibly well.

    Interestingly the England top 5 and Matt Prior Average about 280 between them, if England could fill that number 6 spot with someone who can score runs consistently, let's say averaging around 40, whilst continuing to bowl teams out AND restrict their opposition to less than 600 runs in the match as they have with almost machine-like consistently in the last two years, logic and statistics would suggest they would become extremely difficult to defeat.

    There seems to be very little argument against 4 bowlers based on those kinds of figures and more importantly the results that have come along with those figures and the extremely astute England set-up clearly seem to know that, they only tried out a fifth bowler (Samit Patel) once in the last two years, a game which interestingly they lost, by 75 runs.

    So the search for that elusive England number 6 batsman goes on....An important attribute of a world class number 6 however seems to be the ability to score runs in difficult situations and that is something statistics can't relay quite so easily. Michael Hussey has done it for Australia and some might say Collingwood did it for England also, there seem to be some really interesting contenders at the moment but as yet no-one has stood up and proven they can do it at Test level when the chips are down. Bairstow's composure under pressure in the ODI against India perhaps hinted at this kind of ability but his hanging out to dry last week at the hands of Keemar Roach seems to suggest he isn't quite ready....especially not for what Steyn, Morkel and Philander will have to throw at him.

    The South Africa series will most certainly be the sternest test England have faced in quite some time and it promises to be a fascinating contest. Whether going into this series with the number 6 spot still undecided will prove to be a telling weakness remains to be seen. Roll on July 19th!

 

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