Category: England cricket news (page 1 of 123)

The ins, outs and merits of England’s one-day plan

Liam Plunkett

It’s not an elaborate plan. It’s not particularly intricate. It is however consistent and that is perhaps of greater importance than anything else.

Previously, England seemed to pick 11 players before deciding how to play based on what they ended up with. This led to an ever-changing formula from which no-one really benefited (other than the opposition).

England’s current plan basically boils down to having a diverse bowling attack and plenty of batsmen. Whether that’s right or wrong, they’re sticking with it – which at least means the players know their places in the world.

Take Adil Rashid for example. England want a leg-spinner and he is the best available, so he can relax, knowing an imperfect match won’t see him dropped for Stuart Broad.

Pace bowlers like Broad and James Anderson are, in fact, accorded little value. They aren’t seen as two of England’s most successful bowlers so much as they’re seen as just two more right-arm fast-medium bowlers – one of the least valuable commodities in one-day cricket. The two of them aren’t being preserved for Test cricket. They’re being omitted from the one-day side because the one-day side doesn’t want them.

The point here is that while taken in isolation some of England’s decisions might seem odd, they make sense when you consider the overarching philosophy.

Pakistan are different. Pakistan change their team frequently, but there doesn’t seem to be a framework underpinning these decisions. In the first one-day international they included two slow left-arm all-rounders and omitted their leg-spinner. No-one was quite sure how this decision was arrived at. Nor does anyone have any confidence that they will both remain – including the players themselves.

If nothing else, the inclusion of both Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz (or as Cricinfo would have him “Mohammad Nawaz (3)”) smacked of a play-off. Whether that was true or not, that was surely how two near-new players would have taken it. This seems a cruel and ineffective way of gauging their worth.

For as long as the Pakistan plan revolves around selection of two slow left-arm all-rounders, Wasim and Nawaz (3) can be confident of their places in the side. Should one or the other of them have a poor game however, they can fully expect that grand strategy to change.


Seven things we learned from England v Pakistan

 

Via Sky Sports

Via Sky Sports

We’ve been trying to provide some sort of pithy and insightful summary of the Test series for 24 hours now, but it’s not really happening. We’ll instead content ourself with a vague collage of observations. If these are our workings-out, maybe you can provide the conclusion yourself.

Specialists and all-rounders

If you need someone to bat at seven or bowl right-arm fast-medium, England are spoilt for choice. However, if you want a specialist batsman, a fast bowler or a spinner, you’d be better off looking to the tourists.

England had more batsmen, but fewer effective specialist run-scorers. Despite greater numbers, they also had less diversity in their bowling attack.

If Moeen Ali could avoid being clattered for six…

Moeen emerged from the series with a better strike-rate than almost all the specialist bowlers. Blind yourself to the rate at which he concedes runs and he’s a very effective spinner. His stellar batting is an excellent distraction, but not quite blinding.

James Anderson has lost a quarter of a yard of pace

We don’t normally take claims that bowlers have ‘lost their nip’ too seriously because pace often varies from one match to the next. The difference with Anderson is that he said himself that he was down on pace in the second Test and then didn’t really seem to recover it. If he can retain a viable bouncer, he’ll probably be okay. Pace isn’t everything – but it is something.

Beware the out-of-form old pro

Younus Khan’s had it. Look at him. Look at the state of him.

Oh.

Beware the conquered leg-spinner

Yasir Shah hasn’t posed a threat since Lord’s. He doesn’t spin it. England have worked him out.

Oh.

Looking good and being effective are different things

Shivnarine Chanderpaul could have told you that, but James Vince has been trying to prove it from the opposite direction. We feared for Vince’s chances before he played and we haven’t seen a huge amount to reassure us since then. Nor has anyone else. County cricket’s who-saw-a-future-England-player-first-and-championed-his-cause-the-most competition will have to forget about this and move on. Do yourselves a favour though – don’t claim that a player ‘looks good’.

Misbah-ul-Haq

The last time Pakistan toured, cricket fans were left feeling sick and unenthusiastic about the game. Pakistan themselves were left a fractured mess. This time they leave with fans more enthused about the game and with a level of solidity to their cricket that it is hard to remember their ever having had before.

Misbah-ul-Haq is an alchemist who can turn middle-age into youth and chaos into order.


Yasir Shah the best bowler in the world again – shortly after being worthless

Yasir Shah dismisses Jonny Bairstow at Lord's (via ecb.co.uk YouTube)

Yasir Shah dismisses Jonny Bairstow at Lord’s (via ecb.co.uk YouTube)

It’s hard to say whether memories are fading faster these days – because who can honestly remember how things were previously? This was nevertheless a thought that has crossed our mind a few times of late – generally when some commentator or other has claimed that England have ‘worked Yasir out’ or something along those lines.

We’re pretty sure England themselves never felt like that about Pakistan’s leg-spinner (or why would they have elected to bat first in this match?) Commentators though, they’re a different breed. They don’t need to accurately gauge the dangers knowing they’ll have to confront the player in question again some time soon. They can content themselves with saying whatever they’re thinking at that exact moment and if the statement seems to hold up when measured against what’s happened in the last 10 days, then it can be presented as The Truth.

The thinking was that Yasir took England by surprise at Lord’s. Apparently you can deliver 10 surprises before a team will react. After that, England realised that he didn’t spin it all that much and DOMINATED HIM WITH EASE.

But now that particular piece of fiction needs a rewrite.

There is never one solitary solution that turns failure to success when it comes to countering a good bowler. Different batsmen will have different issues and no spin bowler will be successful in internationals without being able to pose at least a decent handful of questions.

Yasir had less success at Old Trafford and Edgbaston, but a guy who takes 10 wickets in a Test match ususally has something about him that won’t fade away inside a fortnight. Sure enough, bowling at the Oval with runs in the bank, he dismissed half of England’s batting line-up.

Maybe with another match and another five-for, everyone would be calling him flawless.


Younus Khan knows what he’s doing – even if it doesn’t look like it

Younus Khan (via YouTube)

We really wanted Younus Khan to get runs in this Test. A lot of commentators who have at no point in their lives been able to bat even half as well as him have not just been criticising his batting during this series, but actually making fun of it. We’ve found that a bit unsavoury.

Younus has his own way of doing things and if it looks fairly stupid then so much the better as far as we’re concerned. The fact that he can quite literally make runs batting on one leg – or occasionally while airborne – is a large part of his appeal. It adds to his brilliance that he should be able to shepherd so many moving parts and compel them to deliver perfect timing. A number of England players couldn’t even coordinate two hands to wrap around a ball when it came in their direction.

When a Pakistan player drops to his hands and knees in the wake of some sort of achievement, you can never be quite sure which way it’s going to go nowadays. Younus spurned the press-ups in favour of a turf kiss. So did Asad Shafiq a little earlier in the day. Their demeanours were different, but three figures seemed to mean a lot to both of them.


The beard that smeared – Moeen Ali enjoys the evening session

Cricket - England v India - Fourth Investec Test - Day Two - Old Trafford, Manchester

Smeared with exquisite timing and grace, we should say. It was poetic smearage. Smearage without breaking sweat. Smearage that involved all moving parts working in perfect harmony to pan the ball to the fence.

Morning session

It’ll be interesting to read the reports about this morning’s play. Was Alex Hales unlucky after hitting the ball in the air towards a fielder? Was Alastair Cook unlucky to completely mishit the ball, propelling it into his own stumps?

What happened after that was easier to interpret. Joe Root did a James Vince impression and James Vince was sufficiently unimpressed by it that he immediately felt compelled to demonstrate how edging behind should be done.

Perhaps England felt threatened by the looming presence of the mace. No-one seems to want the damned thing.

Afternoon session

Gary Ballance’s dismissal clearly belonged in the morning session, both thematically and because it came in only the 28th over.

Pakistan were now so dominant that mace-spurning duties switched to them, allowing England to counter. Jonny Bairstow did his usual hunched biffing and Moeen Ali did nothing of the sort, nonchalantly flicking the ball to and over the ropes as if long hours in the gym were the most pointless activity in which any wannabe big-hitting batsman could ever indulge. He loves to feel bat on ball.

Evening session

Jonny Bairstow got a bit ahead of himself and thought it was Pakistan’s turn to be on top. This meant England’s two finest batsmen were now at the crease. Chris Woakes joined Moeen in their favoured pastime of batting sumptuously until it was time for the famously feckless momentum to yet again shift.

Woakes was out, just when it seemed he was entirely without failings and then Broad departed two balls later. Moeen Ali didn’t care. He just carried on whopping the ball wherever he chose. He just loves these evening sessions for which Pakistan’s bowlers seemingly don their heaviest shoes.

Moeen was last man out, which meant England got to bowl in what we’re now going to name the night session on the grounds that it only began after the scheduled close of play.

Night session

With England having scored a somewhat ambiguous 328, no-one was quite sure which team was most at risk of being a mace recipient. Probably India, so Stuart Broad took a wicket.


Where is the ICC’s Test mace?

Not much more than a week ago, Australia captain Steve Smith was presented with the ICC Test Championship mace in a closed ceremony. The media and public would of course have been clamouring to attend such a spectacular and meaningful event.

The nature of the presentation gave rise to an obvious question. If an ICC Test Championship mace is handed over and no-one is there to see it, is that team really the top-ranked Test nation?

The answer, it seems, is no – or at the very least ‘probably not but let’s see how this final match goes’.

Australia could stay top if they (stop laughing) beat Sri Lanka in the next Test; India could go top if they win their next two Tests; and either England or Pakistan could theoretically go top if they win the fourth Test at the Oval. There are of course many permutations and it’s hard not to conclude that life’s too short before turning your attention to far more important questions.

Far more important questions like where they hell is the Test mace right now? Where does it live?

The mace should really be something of a nomad, tucked into the kit bag of whichever Test captain currently has the right to wield it, but this seems unlikely.

Many people would doubtless feel it appropriate for the mace to bed down each night at The Home of Corks, but we don’t believe this is the case, otherwise that ground would be entitled to call itself The Home of The Test Mace. This would clearly supersede its preferred Home of Cricket nickname on the grounds that such a name would at least be accurate.

More likely the mace lives in Dubai at ICC headquarters, but does it just sit there, idle? Surely in uncertain situations such as the one in which we currently find ourselves, it should be loaded onto a private jet ready to be deployed.

Imagine becoming the top-ranked Test nation and not instantly being handed a giant mace. Just imagine it. Just imagine how that would make you feel.


England’s age of all-rounders

England fielded eight batsmen to Pakistan’s seven in this match and five bowlers to their four. That is quite an advantage to carry.

It was most notable when England batted in the second innings, when the duration of a Test match was really starting to bite. Pakistan’s quartet held it together for the first two session of day four, but they then reached some sort of tipping point when they started to tire and England still had batsmen to come. England’s six and seven made merry and there wasn’t even the motivation that a wicket would be enough with Chris Woakes padded up.

England appear to have entered the age of the all-rounder. Ben Stokes would ordinarily be in the team as well and the winter offers the prospect of Adil Rashid, Zafar Ansari – or even both – being added to the side on top of that.

If there’s a tragedy here, it’s that a surfeit of bowling options makes it so much less likely that Alastair Cook will give Gary Ballance an over.


Will Alastair Cook deploy the carrot?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

History tells us that when it comes to declarations, Alastair Cook is not a carrot-dangler. History tells us that when the moment comes, the carrot will be unsighted for Pakistan and they will in fact be only dimly aware of its existence.

The match and series situation also hint at a cautious declaration. It is 1-1, there is much on the line and it has taken quite an effort for England to haul their way back into this match. The effort they’ve invested makes even the faintest risk so much less likely. Sunk costs and all that.

Then again, history also tells us that Alastair Cook the batsman is a plodder, yet in this series he’s been positively piratical, slashing the ball to the boundary with a joyous “Ha-haaa!” as if he’s been possessed by the still-very-much-alive Sanath Jayasuriya.

The only thing of which we can be certain is that by the time you read this article, the decision will already have been taken and these few short paragraphs will seem entirely redundant. Might be worth checking the comments though. There’s probably something witty, insightful and still relevant down there.


Pakistan play spin better than Australia

Different matches and – to be fair to Australia – different degrees of difficulty too. All the same, it seems a fair conclusion to draw.

In England, Azhar Ali and Sami Aslam seemed uncertain whether to milk Moeen Ali or just belt him for sixes. In the end, they reached the conclusion that they’d do both. It wasn’t as if the seamers were doing much better. England ended the day looking a bit fast-medium and more than a little tetchy.

Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, Australia folded as if prepared by Miura. Bowled out for 106 in their first innings, they sustained much of the damage in three balls from that homicidal capybara, Rangana Herath, who gummed a hat-trick.

Australia’s woes wouldn’t be half as funny if they hadn’t spent much of the build-up to this series talking incredibly earnestly about their gameplans for facing spin.

“It’s about making sure you have a plan from ball one,” said Steve Smith with conviction. “You’ve got to be able to bat well into the next day,” added David Warner – as if that were in any way an option.


Steven Finn is setting them up for the full one

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

There’s a trend for talking about Steven Finn like he’s some sort of charity case at the minute; as if he’s only been selected for England as some sort of favour to his mum. All the other boys are being very polite and encouraging and everyone wants something to go right for him so that they can all overcelebrate and pretend that he’s every bit as good as they are.

There was an air of this when he bowled his first ball at Edgbaston today. The crowd, who had just been watching the most successful opening bowlers England have ever had, went up a notch. There was a roar of goodwill. A roar of encouragement flecked with desperation. People want Finn to do well.

That first ball was short. The second one was also short, but a bit wider. The third one was similar to the second one. The crowd’s enthusiasm waned. When it came to building some sort of symbiotic mutually-beneficial relationship with them, Finn appeared to have missed his window.

We’re writing during the lunch break, at which point Finn is still persevering with his plan of pushing the batsmen back, setting them up for the full one.  There have been six overs of setup so far.

You wonder to what extent Finn noticed the timbre of the crowd noise for that first delivery. Maybe if he bowled in a netted laboratory this afternoon, he’d find himself peppering the stumps. Sometimes it feels like he’s only bowling ineffectually because everyone’s so desperately hoping that he won’t.

We’re all rooting for you, Steven. And we apologise for that.


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