Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Uncomfortable choices

There's a fascinating article on Cricinfo at the moment about the problem England faces with its batting. Put simply it is that, although the top six of Cook, Vaughan, Strauss, Pieterson, Bell and Collingwood look good on paper - all averaging 40 and over - they lack muscle. Only Pieterson is a truly quick scorer, and he's been out of form and out of sorts for a while. As I mentioned a while ago, Cook and Strauss are very similar in style - square of the wicket nurdlers - and the same is really true of Bell and Collingwood. England look one-paced.
A couple of years ago, with Trescothick opening and Flintoff in the middle order, England were if anything a little too buccaneering. They now look rather under-powered. But it seems a little hard to drop a batsman in particular, especially if he's got a good average and has been batting reasonably well. England have invested in Ian Bell, who is beginning to come good, they had thought that Andrew Strauss was the captain in waiting, and Paul Collingwood is the one-day captain, not to mention a brilliant fielder and a useful change bowler. So who to drop?
If the attitude to the bowlers is anything to go by, the selectors aren't averse to wholesale changes, but the potential replacements (Shah, Ramprakash, Ed Smith and so on) aren't really big hitters either. The best teams feature a combination of enforcers, grafters and stroke-makers. Think Gooch, Atherton and Gower. England have their fair share of the latter two categories but, without Pieterson in form, look decidedly light on the first.

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