Faith in your batting tactics

Ian Bell scoring a rare England run

England ended this Ashes series much as they’d begun – bowled out for sod all. There’s been no progress. If anything, they’ve looked worse and worse as time has gone on. It actually feels like they’ve refined bad batting, settling on an approach which guarantees a low score every time.

Why would they do that?

That isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. It’s not something they’ve done deliberately, but they appear to have settled on a kind of middle ground of steadfast paralysis, occasionally spicing it up with unpredictable strokeplay. The stabs of shotmaking come from nowhere and appear to have little reasoning behind them, beyond a general sense that they need to ‘get on with things’.

Australia’s batting has generally been bad, but their approach has at least been coherent. They attacked Graeme Swann – and whichever spinner happened to be playing in his stead; David Warner continued to play shots; Brad Haddin spread the field; Chris Rogers played watchfully. There’s no guarantee that any of these ploys would work on a given day, but at least different people were trying different things. Generally at least one approach came off.

Contrast that with England

Whatever the plans at the outset, pretty much all the batsmen eventually moved towards doing the same thing, which was a ‘being seen to play responsibly’ brand of impotent watchfulness. Even Kevin Pietersen ended up dead-batting, which is just stupid. The whole point of Kevin Pietersen is high risk, high reward.

Australia’s bowlers were more than fine with this default approach and so every now and again, England’s batsmen were forced to try and take the initiative. Invariably, they lost their wickets. You’ve got to choose your moments and your targets for that kind of thing and we’re not convinced England did. It seemed like a batsman would try and attack a particular bowler and if it didn’t go right the first time, they screwed up that plan and tried something different. They didn’t have faith that what they were doing would work given a chance.

In summary

Sometimes the selfish thing to do is to play in a way that doesn’t court criticism from a nation basing its opinions on a one-hour highlights programme where they pretty much just see the dismissals. Batsmen need to attack sometimes, but they need to attack selectively and it won’t always work. If it doesn’t work, they need to retain belief in what they’re doing in order that they can attack again. Because otherwise what are you left with?

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24 Appeals

  1. Perfect. When do you take up your position as England team strategist, because we need someone with this level of sense in charge very quickly.

  2. It is not just England – if it was, say, India that was 0-2 against a relentless Aussie attack, I can guarantee you that they’d have also lost 0-5. There’s something about modern test batsmen – they just don’t seem to realize that a test match can have three outcomes, and just don’t know how to bat for a draw. If you are already losing, a win or lose mentality often would lead to a loss. Don’t get me wrong, results are nice. But there’s something magical about a few batsmen batting an entire day to save a match. This seems largely absent these days.

    • Largely but not completely absent. Only a year ago Faf Duplesis took the whole day at Adelaide and set up a series win by buggering the Aussie bowlers.
      He did have assistance from the ground staff – seems we weren’t quite so keen on preparing fast pitches when facing Steyn and Morkel rather than an attack of fast-medium bowlers.

    • King Cricket

      January 6, 2014 at 11:14 am

      And barely a week ago, he did almost exactly the same thing against India.

    • I think you’ll see a better India side this year in England. The young Indian team has shown more spine, determination and spirit than the ageing 2011 side.

  3. On the bright side, Daisy and I were able to drink a cheerful little Aussie white wine with our lunch today, now that the agony is over.

    Personally I am devastated by the manifest failure of the “abstain from drinking Aussie wine” method of winning/retaining the Ashes (Pat. Pend. since 2005).

    Daisy has suggested an alternative approach for 2015 – to drink only Australian wine for the duration of the Ashes that summer. And in copious quantities. That way, even if the new method doesn’t work, we shall probably be oblivious to the outcome of the series.

    • Have you been drinking English wine instead?

    • Even we are not THAT gluttonous for punishment, daneel.

      New Zealand, Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, USA, Portugal, France, Lebanon, Bulgaria…

      …almost any wine producing nation other than England.

  4. I haven’t seen a huge amount of the English batting this Ashes, just an hour or so in the whole series, or about 25%. But if the photo is anything to go by, I would suggest strongly that we should NOT retain faith in our batting tactics. While it is very hard to understand why they have been told to play one-handed and jab at the ball with the toe end of the bat, it does go a long way towards explaining the scores.

    • I think you’ll find the Sledgehammer is actually using his mind to make the ball levitate in the air, allowing him all the time he needs to hit it anywhere he likes.

      Two seconds after this picture was taken, he chipped the ball to mid-off.

  5. The pesky ad by the side of this thread today reads:

    “Showers For Seniors…Arrange A Home Assessment Today”.

    Putting aside my irritation at being targeted by this ad (mind you, I am not moving too well in this cold weather – one of my knees in particular is giving me gyp) it does seem fitting in the context of our England cricket team, their performance and your previous piece, KC.

  6. Where’s my badger?

    • King Cricket

      January 6, 2014 at 1:58 pm

      Took a week off because we had quite a lot of laundry to do. Take it you got all the crossword ones?

    • Some people are so impatient. I am one of them. A week off is not good enough. I need to know the quiz answers.

    • Yes, very good. I knew you’d get hooked eventually. Soon you’ll start to read perfectly ordinary sentences as cryptic clues, thus losing all ability to understand what the writer is telling you. You won’t see a whining comment about your Christmas off work, instead you’ll read “where’s my badger (3,9)”.

      And just to calm your frustration, D Charlton, I have the answer to question 3 about the 1st test. No test since then has even come close to the record, that of highest aggregate weight of moustache hair in an international match.

    • King Cricket

      January 6, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      We didn’t get the crossword answers. The other day we failed to get one by the same author and it turned out to be our own name.

    • I assumed you’d written them.

      (8)

    • King Cricket

      January 6, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Clearly numbers in parentheses (NIPs) are the new three-letter abbreviations on this site.

      Even our own website hates us.

    • KC, I think you meant to say:

      Even our own website hates us (4,7)

  7. In other news, Dhoni tells us that the World Cup is “literally” one year away.

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/india/content/story/707641.html

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