There has been a lot of chat about the Windies’ supporting bowlers after Lord’s. The theory goes that Darren Sammy’s boys might have won if it wasn’t for, err, Darren Sammy.
They’ve got a point – sort of. Had the West Indies had four Kemar Roaches, or Kemar Roach backed up by a Colin Croft, Sylvester Clarke or Winston Benjamin, then the result may well have been different. The trouble is, the Windies don’t have anyone anywhere near as good as this fearsome trio. Jerome Taylor is probably the closest, but he’s currently stuffed in a black bin liner outside WICB headquarters alongside Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan.
Instead, the Windies had to make do with Sammy – who is marginally quicker than Jonathan Trott’s trundlers, and probably a yard slower than Mark Ealham at his pomp (if indeed the Kent medium pacer ever actually had a peak).
The problem is, however, that Darren Sammy is a good leader. He’s a popular figure who has galvanised this Windies side. It could be argued, equally, that the Windies would have been beaten within three days if it wasn’t for Sammy’s presence. Team spirit counts for a hell of a lot in professional sport. Just ask Andre Villas Boas.
However, the point I want to (belatedly) get to is as follows: England fans criticising Sammy’s inclusion are being a bit hypocritical. Could the same thing not be said of Tim Bresnan? Yes he’s a lucky charm – having won all 12 of his test appearances – but is he really the third best seam bowler in England?
It could even be argued that the case for dropping Bresnan is greater: the Windies don’t have any quality replacements for Sammy, whereas England have enough quality cabs on the rank to fill up the members’ car park at Trent Bridge.
When the England attack was toiling to remove Chanderpaul and Sammy in the second innings at Lord’s, our attack looked relatively benign for the first time in several seasons. We desperately needed someone with a bit of pace – somebody like Steve Finn, or even Stuart Meaker (who has been tearing up trees for Surrey recently).
Michael Holding goes on about Steve Finn all the time for a reason: he knows a thing or two about fast bowling and he reckons that Finn is mustard. The problem with tearaway quicks, however, is that they often haemorrhage runs. The last time Finn played for England he leaked four runs an over. Strauss and Flower cared little that he was England’s leading wicket taken at the time – they dropped him in favour of Bresnan, who provides the control that England’s management crave so badly.
Meanwhile, another perspective is that England have been carrying six batsmen, one of whom has rarely contributed, for nigh on eighteen months now. Paul Collingwood hardly scored a run in our Ashes triumph down under. Thereafter Eoin Morgan had ample opportunity to prove his worth, but generally failed to live up to expectations. And recently at Lord’s, Jonny Bairstow didn’t make an impact with the bat (although he did execute a brilliant run out). Finn’s fans might argue that the Middlesex beanpole would have made a much bigger contribution than a sixth specialist batter.
The fact that the next game is at Trent Bridge, where the ball traditionally swings, will probably save Bresnan. Meanwhile, let’s not forget that Bresnan’s career figures are still very good. One average game doesn’t make him an average cricketer. Meanwhile, having picked Baistow, the selectors will want to give him a good run in the side – which is fair enough.
However, remember this is club England we’re talking about. It’s an elite team which is incredibly difficult to break into, but also incredibly difficult to get dropped from; unless, of course, you’re a bowler. Perhaps Bresnan shouldn’t count his chickens just yet.