How many swing bowlers did England need to win this Test match?

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When asked about the make-up of England’s bowling attack for the second Test at Trent Bridge, Andrew Strauss said it was a ground where the ball tended to swing, so they’d selected the three best swing bowlers.

This begs the question, just what is the optimum number of eggs to have in one basket? The fact is that on the first day of the second Test, the ball didn’t swing. Picking three right-arm swing bowlers seemed akin to not picking a spinner. England weren’t covering all bases.

Fortunately, they had most of them covered and that proved to be enough, because while you sometimes need to bring a player into a side to fill a gap, in many cases one bowler will provide several different things. Broad, for example, is tall and can bowl quickly as well as being a decent swing bowler, while Bresnan bowls reverse swing as well as the more conventional kind.

However, while England won this match, that doesn’t mean everything was perfect. Does the fact that England’s third swing bowler took eight wickets in the match justify the team selection or does it draw attention away from the bowling attack’s long period of impotence on the first day?

Or is this just balls? Is it more about the 11 selected players making the best of whatever situations they find themselves in?


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  1. I’m reluctant to contradict both the King and the Captain at the same time, but is Broad primarily a swing bowler?

  2. Judging by the scoreline the answer was 3… in reality I think your last point is the correct one. Although is it possible these three were selected and coached to specifically target Shiv? He certainly seemed less comfortable than I’ve seen him recently. That may have been the justification for a samey attack.

  3. I agree with wolf here… that was the best attack for getting Chanderpaul out.

    The success that Samuels (and Sammy) had indicates to me that it went over to one extreme. But you don’t want to pick too far away from your strength.

    I imagine we’ll see two of those bowlers rested in the Third Test, with Finn and Onions to come in, and if it were up to me, I’d rest Broad and Anderson.

  4. Why rest any of them? They aren’t injured and they shouldn’t be tired. They can have 5 weeks rest after the third test. Let Onions and Finn play in the ODIs, if they want to give them some international cricket. Don’t short-change the paying public or patronise the WI by picking a second string attack for a test match series.

  5. Finn and Onions are hardly second string, Daneel.

    I don’t believe we should play South Africa in the second half of the summer with the four man bowling attack used at Trent Bridge. So we should get a test match under the belt for Onions and/or Finn at Edgbaston.

    As for the paying public, I am he (two days at Edgbaston) and I’ll find Onions and/or Finn good value for money in place of any of the pace bowlers who were on show at Trent Bridge.

    I thought Broad enforced rather well against Chanderpaul second dig on Sunday, Micko!!

  6. Hmm yes, it is a tricky one. Which world-class test match bowler should we pick in order to finely-tune the design of the team to a particular opponent? I’m reminded of similar discussions from the 1990s, when the debate revolved mostly around left-arm / right-arm, the potential of having someone a fraction quicker on bouncier surfaces, and who had brought their boots with them that morning. And if they’d brought a bat as well they could go in at #7.

    I don’t understand the modern world. I blame the internet and people who own their own shoes.

  7. It’s true, England didn’t field a tall, pacey seam bowler in this game. Provided you’re nitpicky enough not to count Broad, who’s 6’7, bowls up to 90 and relies far more on length than swing.

    Other things England did not field in this match:

    > A legspinner
    > A capable 5th bowler
    > More than one good slip fielder

    Sadly there’s only eleven places in the team, so I guess we’ll have to accept that we can’t have everything, and that a guy who averages 40 with the bat and 25 with the ball in unlikely to be the problem.

  8. Firstly, can we just say that we’ve not got strong feelings about this really. As said above, everything’s basically fine and whatever bowlers are selected tend to properly carry out plans that have been thoughtfully developed. That’s the main thing.

    However, for much of day one, England had three *fairly* samey seam bowlers failing to take a wicket. Yes, Broad’s taller, but no-one was really cranking the pace up or owt. With a better top-order, West Indies might have only been a couple of wickets down during that dry spell and they might have capitalised on it more.

    If, if, if. Maybe, maybe, maybe. We’re not making a case one way or the other here. We’re just asking.

    1. Perhaps they should try to talk Alan Mullally out of retirement to give us a left arm option.

    2. If ever a man was defined by being a left-arm option.

      This is very much our point about bowlers filling multiple gaps. Yes, Mullally was a left-armer, but that was about it. You don’t really need the ‘well wide of off-stump’ gap to be filled when you construct a cricket team.

    3. Mullally bowled slower than Darren Sammy – that’s saying something.

      And you’d never catch Mullally putting on 204 for the 8th wicket – even if he did once bat at 8/9!

    4. That was the famous Mullally – Tufnell – Giddins tail of the Oval test 1999, generally reckoned to be the worst in test history:

      1st Innings
      8 for 153
      9 for 153
      153 all out

      2nd innings
      8 for 160
      9 for 161
      162 all out

      That was the series when we used 18 players in four tests, and our LEADING BATSMAN averaged 33 for the series. Heady days.

    5. You mean the Ramprakash – Irani – Caddick – Mullally – Tufnell – Giddins tail. Chuck in Maddy opening and we were basically batting with only 5 players.

      We’ve never had a decent left-arm pace bowler long-term. Perhaps Bill Voce back in the 40s? I never rated Sidearse very highly.

    6. Yep, well put Daneel. Of course, you have to factor in that we were facing one of the great all-rounder attacks of history in that series – Cairns, Nash, Vetori. Who’s on to bowl next? Oh look, it’s another frigging all-rounder that can out-bat our openers and out-bowl our strike bowler.

      13 years, and the anger is still raw.

    7. Yup, I was there at Edgbaston and I was there at the Oval in 1999.

      In fact, Oval 1999 was Daisy’s first experience of live test cricket. It’s a miracle that she stuck with me/it!!

    8. “If, if, if. Maybe, maybe, maybe. We’re not making a case one way or the other here.”

      The entire ethos of King Cricket summed up rather elegantly.

    9. Indeed.

      Apologies Tom, your comment was identified as canned spiced ham for some reason.

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