A victory for elegance and intelligence

Eng 288-6. Windies 172 all out

Cricket watchers are only talking about one thing after Saturday’s ODI: the performance of Ian Bell. It was simply magnificent. If there’s a classier batsman playing international cricket in the world today, I haven’t heard of him. And if someone told me there was such a batsman, I wouldn’t believe them.

Bell oozes class from every pore – it’s a cliché because it’s true – and he proved once again that you don’t need brute strength to score quickly at the top of the order in ODIs. Timing, placement and great technique work just as well, if not better.

The best comparison I can think of is Mahela Jayawardene. He’s been one of the best opening batsmen in ODIs for some time. Is he better than someone like Sanath Jayasuriya? Undoubtedly. And finally England have realised that Ian Bell is a better player at the top of the order than Craig ‘pretend your bat is a hockey stick, whack it and hope’ Kieswetter

It’s incredible that it’s taken the England selectors so long to realise this simple truth. In fact, it’s more than a little worrying that they haven’t figured it out before. The bloke who keeps wicket doesn’t have to open you know.

Most of the journalists in today’s papers are discussing, rather predictably I’m afraid, that Bell is the heir to Kevin Pietersen in ODIs. Sigh.The reality is that England should have been picking Bell at the top of the order when KP was still part of this team. Indeed, he’s a far better option than Pietersen to open the innings anyway. There was always a case for opening up with KP in Asia (where pitches are generally low and gun barrel straight) but English conditions require a batsman with more technical prowess to combat the moving ball.

KP plays forward exclusively. He’s a great batsman, but he doesn’t play back-foot shots. He lunges forward every delivery and looks to get on top of the bounce. A player this one dimensional, no matter how talented, will eventually be exposed against a swinging new white ball. KP is an enforcer – and his natural place in this current England side, if he was still available for ODIs, would be at number four instead of Bopara.

The other interesting talking point about yesterday was the balance of the England side. Not all observers have highlighted this, but England picked five batsmen, a batsman-wicket keeper, and five bowlers. Halle-bloody-lujah. Did you notice how awesome our bowling attack looked as a result – with Finn operating as a wicket taking strike bowler rather than a carthorse?

The obvious point is this: why do England’s management think that a player with such a mediocre record (Kieswetter) is capable of batting six in ODIs when they won’t trust a far superior batsman (Prior) to bat six in test matches?

And why do they think we need five frontline bowlers in ODIs, which last a paltry 50 overs, when they’d rather play four in a game that lasts for five days? No wonder they feel they’ve got to rest Anderson and Broad now and again.

Now before you jump down my throat, and point out that it’s a legal requirement to have at least five bowlers in ODIs, just hear me out. Teams often fiddle around in the field, and use a combination of part-timers or all-rounders to make up the fifth bowler in one-day cricket. England could well have used a combination of Bopara and Trott on Saturday, just as they’ve used the likes of Samit Patel in the past.

So once again I ask you this: why pick four bowlers in test matches and five in ODIs when the former requires teams to take twenty wickets to win, whilst the latter simply necessitates keeping the runs down? Answers on a postcard please to Intransigence House, Lower IQ Lane, Numptyville, Pants.

James Morgan

1 comment

  • I was lucky enough to be at the Rose Bowl to see Bell’s innings. I was one who thought he couldn’t score quickly enough, especially in the Powerplay overs, but was delighted to be proved wrong. His dismantling of Andre Russell was breathtaking and he looked so dominant the only surprise was he didn’t go on and get 150-plus.

    As for 5 bowlers in Tests, I think they’d be happy to play Prior at 6. The problem is that the selectors don’t think any of Bresnan, Broad or Swann are good enough to bat 7 (except on dead sub-continent wickets). In the one day game almost everyone plays 5 regular bowlers – part timers like Trott are only sixth or seventh option.


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