There are no quick fixes in international cricket; or so the saying goes. In England’s case, the selectors have taken this cliché quite literally. As soon as Alastair Cook was made our ODI skipper, in what can only be described as a desperate move to give him some experience before he becomes test skipper, the selectors made our strategy clear: we weren’t going to blitz the opposition with a flurry of boundaries, we were going to build innings steadily, put a respectable score on the board, and hope that the bowlers win us a few games.
The problem, of course, is that Jonathan Trott bats at three. That’s Jonathan Trott the immovable object; the man quite prepared to score a half century off eighty balls if the mood takes him – and let’s face it, when is he in the mood for anything else?
Trott is simply too good to get out for low scores regularly; but he isn’t talented enough, in ODI terms, to raise the tempo of an innings either. If Trott and Cook bat together for a reasonable amount of time in the upcoming series, the English public will see something they haven’t seen for quite some time: a happy MS Dhoni.
The main talking point of Thursday’s match against Ireland was Trott’s 69 off 105 balls. It totally polarised opinion. Simon Mann, commentating on BBC radio, wanted to disembowel Trott slowly and feed his entrails to a pack of wolves. Trott’s defenders, however, pointed out that his innings would be a match winning one if England’s 201 ultimately won the game. After all, the rest of England’s talented batsmen, and Ravi Bopara, managed the grand total of sod all.
The counter argument, of course, is that Trott was the primary reason why the other batsmen failed. His masterful display of leaving the ball, blocking the next one, then picking up a quick single, put undue pressure on the others to score quickly – a task they were unable to do. In many cases they had no time to play themselves in; the need for boundaries was urgent.
With two stodgy batsmen in the top three, England will find scoring totals over three hundred extremely difficult. Our chances of winning games in the subcontinent are therefore slimmer than the ICC ever banning Dhoni for his team’s pathetic over-rates.
On the positive side, scores of approximately 250 often win games in England, where the ball moves around appreciably in the early overs. If the pitches assist our seam bowlers, we may well give the World Champs a run for their money.
However, there is a solution to England’s batting dilemma – and it’s as obvious as the nose on Bill Lawry’s face. England must learn to be flexible. If Cook is the first batsman to be dismissed let Trott bat at three. If Kieswetter (or whoever is occupying the cursed pinch-hitter role that day) is out, promote an attacking batsman like Pietersen or, in his absence, Eoin Morgan.
Having reliable guys like Cook and Trott can be a good thing. It substantially reduces your chance of being bowled out for 120. The down side is that you’ve got to make sure they don’t bat together. Flexibility, therefore, is a must.
In an ideal world England would have a settled batting order with uber-talented batsmen capable of playing in different ways. In an ideal world, however, Cook wouldn’t be in the team, let alone captain.