Tuesday, 14 April 2015

England's way ahead

Another cricketing interlude, I'm afraid.

The great pleasure of a West Indies tour is that you can spend all evening with the cricket on in the corner of the room. The great drag, in recent years, has been that pitches there tend to be slow, low, and of a sort to encourage high-scoring draws. The one being used for the First Test at Antigua looks no different, although there was a hint of turn.

After England's early troubles, Ian Bell's hundred was as classy as you'd expect from him, while Joe Root's innings was equally full of admirable qualities, of which more in a minute. Ben Stokes, too, showed his time out of the side has been well spent, and confirmed the impression I've had of him for a while. When he's out of nick, or even for a few minutes at the start of most innings, he looks like a man who's never held a bat before. Once he's found form, though, he can look impossible to bowl to - at times yesterday he was hitting boundaries at will, without ever really seeming to let himself go. A fully functioning Stokes and Moeen Ali, plus Jos Buttler, would give England a lot of balance and the opportunity to play pretty much any combination of bowlers they wish, which has to be good.

I was disappointed, though, that Trott and Tredwell played ahead of Lyth and Rashid. Of course, they'll both probably make a nonsense of that in the rest of the series, but it smacks of a depressing conservatism and cautiousness. Tredwell's a fine player, but he's hardly the sort to rip through test line-ups, and he's not young. Rashid has done everything asked of him in recent years, and played a large part in Yorkshire's Championship win last year. And leg-spinners, as England surely remember, win test matches.

I've no problem with Trott coming back as such, but as things stand we have a top three that straight away surrenders all the initiative to the opposition bowlers. I'm not saying we need a Chris Gayle at the top of the order, but there needs to be someone there who can put a bit of pressure back on the bowling attack. Trott's sedate pace just puts pressure on Cook to play a game that doesn't come naturally to him, while Balance doesn't, despite his fine summer in 2014, look like a No.3 to me. He moves his feet too slowly and too little, and I suspect is going to be found out badly by Southee, Boult, Starc and Johnson.   I'd rather see other options explored now, otherwise we could have a miserable season in store.

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