Come on England !!

July 9, 2009

The first Ashes series of the post- McGrath and Warne era is finally underway. After all the pre-match hype and hoopla the first day turned out to be ordinary and large slices of the days’ play resembled a war of attrition. Thankfully, England did not crumble as is their wont when it comes to pressure situations and the counter attack by Flintoff and Prior lit up an otherwise drab offering. What made it especially exciting was it came from unexpected quarters.

As always, Pietersen did not fail to excite. The way he approaches his batting reminds me so much of Sehwag. The outrageous shot selections, absolute disdain for bowlers in general, a strong preference for the bottom hand and most importantly an ability to self-distruct when he has the bowling attack by the scruff of its neck. He was also helped by lack of real class in the Aussie bowling attack. It was a pity that he could not go on to a bigger score.

Collingwood was his usual dependable self. He is quite clearly the most underrated batsman in world cricket today. Surprising considering that he averages nearly 45 in test match cricket. Just goes to show how much more emphasis is laid on style as opposed to substance.

Bopara flattered to deceive. There was a brief tantalizing insight into his potential and all that has been written about his talent when he played a delectable pull shot. Unfortunately it ended all too briefly. However, there is no denying that he is the lone English batsman who compels viewing with the beauty of his batting. To that limited extent, it can be argued that he fills the void left by Vaughan’s retirement. Unless he and Strauss can come up with the goods, it will be impossible for England to dominate the series and dominate they will have to, if they are to put it across the Australians.

The return to form of Flintoff (or should it be the return of Flintoff per se) and the panache exhibited by Prior are welcome signs for a closely fought series. If they can come up with such performances consistently the lack of depth in the Aussie attack will be exposed. In the past, far too often, the English lower middle order and the tail have been systematically decimated by Warne and McGrath and this has been one of their major failings. Also, the fact that all the English batsmen got decent starts reflects not so favorably on this Aussie bowling lineup. Prior to the big-hearted Siddle getting through the defences of Flintoff and Prior, there was no evidence of any bowler ripping through the English batting line-up. Forget the Aussie posturing, the absence of Brett Lee and his speed will be genuinely felt.

If the first day of the series is anything to go by, it would be safe to predict that the matches will be close and therefore there will be even less room for error. More often than not, Ponting has relied on the individual genius of his team members to dominate and win matches and till the retirement of Warne and McGrath had no reason to display any tactical nous. M/s Fletcher and Strauss will be, or rather should be, keen to grab every single opportunity to expose chinks in the Aussie armour and a less than brilliant opposition skipper doing his best to manage a team in transition is a significant enough weakness.

A final word on the venue itself. Not withstanding the prettiness of Cardiff and the ground, the buzz which surrounds the first match of a marquee series was obviously missing. Would it not have made more sense to have the first test in a venue like Lords and allot any of the subsequent matches to Cardiff. As Peter Roebuck has insightfully pointed out this particular Ashes series suffers in terms of the stature of the players who represent both countries and in that context, would it not have been wiser to flag off the contest from a ground with a lot more tradition and history.


2 Responses to “Come on England !!”

  1. shankar Says:

    I think deciding on the basis of one test would be unfair, but the English selectors really need to do a couple of things good. One use either local intelligence or influence smartly. Barring continental teams and the odd Ozzie team (for the moment lets leave the twins (alf and sonny)out, nobody everybody selects two spinners in the team especially at the begining of the season. It is really disappointing to note that they had no clue about the formation of the pitch. All the stuff about independence is humbug, What does home advantage really mean when you cannot influence the pitch. Secondly trying to think Ozzies will struggle to bowl English out on a spinning track is as wild as trying to fish salmon in our backwaters in Kerala!

    While it is always good to have all rounders in your team, the primary objective is to have bowlers who can take 20 wickets. Stuart Broad is a great find but with Freddie already in the team, you need a bowling all rounder. I hope that in Lords, England pick Ryan Sidebottom. He is an unknown quality as far as the Ozzies are concerned and is really a class act as a bowler, injury notwithstanding. Somehow he does not seem to inspire confidence in Flower. Maybe its a conspiracy theory given that Peter Moore pulled him out of obsecurity in 2007. Also, I hope they pick Onions ahead of Jimmy Anderson. He is fast and far more consistent. That leaves Harmy. If Lords is anywhere half as bouncy as it was during T20, Harmy should be a shoo in.

    On the batting front, I would not tinker too much. While a lot has been said about Bopara, I think investing in him is the correct decision. Where he needs to bat is another debate, but with KP only wanting to bat at 4, there is not much choice given that Prior bats at 6!

  2. shankar Says:

    Gani, one more change. Fletch is history its Flower (from one F Zim to another!!!) How about that

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