A fighting chance: day three at Galle

Cut me, and I bleed pessimism. That’s what twenty nine years of supporting England does to a man. But I have a funny feeling about what lies in store tomorrow. We might just win this one.

There is absolutely no reason why we can’t score – against these bowlers – another 229 runs. Granted, both Trott and KP have to establish themselves afresh on the morning – but if their partnership can survive the first ninety minutes, we’ll be favourites.

That looked a very remote possibility when Andrew Strauss lost his wicket in that ugly/desperate/brave/plain dreadful (delete as appropriate) attempt to force the pace. The skipper has taken a lot of stick for that shot this afternoon – but it was one of those that, had it come off, everyone would have applauded his initiative and brio. In cricket, success and failure, triumph and tragedy, are only half an inch of a bat’s blade apart.

Disquiet over Strauss’s form has now amplified into significant rumblings. The Daily Telegraph are now running a poll on whether he should be dropped. We’d like to hear your views on this – here at TFT we’re big admirers of the captain, but by heck, he doesn’t half need a big score soon. Maddeningly, in recent matches, he’s looked in pretty good touch but repeatedly thrown away his wicket.

Our fourth innings target would have been rather less demanding had Sri Lanka not biffed 109 runs for their last three wickets. Most commentators blamed this on our slightly sloppy fielding, and Broad’s no-ball, but I’d argue the cause stems slightly deeper.

Under the captain/pace bowler axis of Strauss-Broad-Swann, we’ve become (probably) the best bowling side in test cricket, and surely the most effective at whittling away a top order through pressure, guile and attrition.

But we continue to suffer from one persistent area of weakness – closing out an innings and removing the tail. Before today, think how often Australia’s tail added significant runs in both 2009 and 2010/11. Mitchell Johnson’s runs at Perth probably won that match as much as his wickets did.

Our problem is pretty simple: we don’t aim at the stumps. Anderson and Broad either bowl conventional deliveries which are too good for the tail-ender, or through frustration and aggression, begin to drop short – which gives their opponent licence to swing the bat and hope for the best. Even worse, and even less effective, they try and bounce him out.

Admittedly, it’s easy for me to say this, thousands of miles away in front of the TV – but surely the best strategy against stubborn or freely-hitting 9s, 10s and 11s is just to pitch it up. Even better, bowl yorkers. If the batsman then makes a mistake, he’s out – and even if he doesn’t, few tail-enders will be able to strike those deliveries for serious runs.

Speaking of number 9s who can irritate with the bat – I’m taking full credit for the rehabilitation of Graeme Swann’s test career. Two days ago, on this blog, I highlighted his declining form and predicted that Monty would replace him as England’s first choice spinner this summer.

Swann then responded with a superb display which yielded six wickets and his best ever figures overseas. Quite clearly, he’d been stung by my pithy analysis – maybe even rather hurt by my frank views – and vowed to prove me wrong. Thus galvanised, he found the inspiration to mount a spectacular return to form.

I was only too glad to help, and it struck me that I might be able to supply a wider support role within the England setup. If you’re an England player, and you’re interested in the now proven benefits of my motivational powers, please drop me a line at the usual address.

Maxie Allen


  • Maxie you know my thoughts on this. Drop Strauss now and restore KP as captain. As for a replacement I’d be blooding Alex Hales now so he’s ready for the next Ashes.

  • I’m not sure hales is an opener in first class cricket. Only opens in limited overs stuff I think. Few of our young batsmen are ready to make the step up, so Strauss has few real challengers. If either of our openers got injured I bet they’d either open with Bell / Trott or turn to someone like carberry. Just my feeling …


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