Terrific game. England outplayed almost the entire match but hung on in there and in the end, battled out a draw. I know it was desperate but in times gone by, we would have crumbled and it gives us great strength to hang on and see the expressions on the Aussie players’ faces. Moral victory in the end and amazingly, we take momentum into 2nd Test at Lord’s.
BUT. This does not disguise our shortcomings and they were many. I’ll do a player by player summary cos that does it best. Oh, before that, one for the Aussie team: Excellent performance and deserved to win (snork!). Demonstrated how to bat in a test match and how to captain and declare with imagination. Bowling was OK but that’s all it had to be because… see below:
Strauss – Captain but not in the same league as Ponting. Ponting is experienced but he is also very clever. Strauss should look there for lessons. Strauss got stuck too often not knowing what to do in the field and was not smart enough to try field changes to inspire pressure, or to bowl people like Pietersen and Bopara. Took him an age to go to Collingwood and the other two might have worked for him too. He has a lot to learn. As for his batting. Bounced out in the 1st inns and that’s no shame, happens to all. 2nd inns, gave it away. Cutting the spinner very dangerous. Yes, we needed to score but we had all day. Poor shot choice. Retain.
Cook – His batting flaws exposed. Follows wide balls outside off stump and gets trapped in front because of where he plants his left leg. Needs to improve or be dropped, possibly even for Bell as opener. Keep him in for Lord’s. He likes playing at Lord’s. A lot.
Bopara – Such promise but got out-thought in the 1st Inns. Needs to remember he’s not in a one day game. Not everything needs hitting for four. Unlucky to be LBW in 2nd. Ball too high. Retain.
Pietersen – sigh. Look. I get it that he’s our best batter. He is incredibly exciting. But see above. This was a test match. Look at how the Aussies went about compiling centuries. His out shot in the 1st inns was utterly stupid and I don’t care that ‘that’s the way he plays’. He’s playing in a team. He is there to score big runs and sometimes, he needs to look further ahead than the next flash shot. Pietersen playing sensibly need never get out and would still score at four an over. 2nd inns… could have happened to anyone. Retain but remind about responsibilities to team as well as entertainment and celebrity.
Collingwood – Our best batter this test match. Should have made 100+ in 1st inns but was brilliant in 2nd inns and was the man who effectively saved us the match. Retain with a big pat on the back.
Prior – His keeping was pretty solid. Again, should have made 100+ in 1st inns. Out to a good ball but should have been defending with end of play so close. 2nd inns a stupid, stupid shot. Cutting a ball that was too close. Cutting… we’re trying to save a game. Anyone heard of the leave and the straight bat? Retain.
Flintoff – He batted pretty well but got himself out both times. And his first spell of bowling was wonderful. But no other spell matched that pace or intensity. Questions have to be asked whether his body can take test match cricket anymore. I hate to say that his best days are behind him but he just was not the threat of 2005 and the news he’s tweaked a knee was somehow no surprise. Retain (if genuinely fit) but we cannot rely on him the same way anymore.
Broad – Heart still rules head too much. A brilliant young cricketer and could be a genuine all-rounder. Batting was average for him and I think the Aussies know how to work him over. His bowling lacked penetration and his attempts to mix up length, line and pace didn’t fool them. Needs to work on disguise. Retain because his runs are valuable and he will get better and better as a bowler.
Swann – Batting just excellent. Second only to Collingwood in that department. Obdurate and aggressive by turn. Many specialist batters in our team could learn a thing or two. Bowling was right off by his standards. Too many loose deliveries meant he got no pressure on their batters and hence no wickets to speak of. He can do much better. Retain as sole spinner for Lord’s.
Anderson – As our premier bowler, he suffered from a lack of swing and, given that, a lack of variety. He was accurate enough but when the ball was straight, he had no proper variety. Nor did he go round the wicket enough. Needs to work on Yorkers, Slowers and Bouncers so he has a plan ‘B’. batting was perfect for a number 10. He with Monty were brilliant in the final overs but let’s remember, he should not have been put in that position. Stirring stuff nonetheless. Retain because he is our best fast bowler and still improving.
Panesar – He is predicatable because he is so one-paced. He needs to insert these variations we are told he has. Actually, he needed to do it in Cardiff. His only wicket was down to a mistake by Ponting who had already got to 150. He is not living up to his potential. 2nd inns batting was wonderful. Solid defence and real mental strength. But he is not in the team to bat. Sorry Monty. You need to sit the next one out. Drop for Harmison (though I fear it may be Onions even though we want pace and bounce at Lord’s and Harmison can deliver that in spades).