From wheelie good to wheelie bad

India 285-6 (50 overs) England 158 (36 overs)

Don’t worry. I’ll give the wheelie headlines a rest after this. But let’s face it. England’s performance in the second ODI was really, really bad.

But let’s not get too downhearted. Nobody wheelie (sorry) expected us to win this series, so the odd bad day at the office isn’t unexpected. With Trott, Swann and Anderson missing, our unproven players struggled under fire. The bowling was always a concern, and our batsmen fell flat on their faces when Bell and Cook failed to provide the excellent starts we’ve become accustomed to.

There’s always plenty of over-analysis in the media when crushing defeats like this come along, but we’re not going to fall into the same trap. Today was just wasn’t our day. Had Bell not reached for a wide swinging delivery and edged behind, and had DRS been available to correct the shocking lbw decision against Cook, then the result might have been different. Add to that Morgan’s second ball duck …. you get the picture.

The truth is that England got themselves into a hole and couldn’t recover. It doesn’t make us a bad side. A top five of Cook, Bell, Trott, Pietersen and Morgan is world class in anyone’s book. These matches are really all about identifying which fringe players will make up the numbers in the Champions Trophy.

So in terms of the audition, which players have put their hands up, and which ones have put their foot in it?

On the positive side, Root batted calmly in the crisis and looks like the natural reserve for Trott. Craig Kieswetter, however, continues to be a negative.

Kieswetter has had so many chances now. He’s failed as an opener, and now he’s failing as a middle-order player. An ODI number six is always likely to bat against spinners when the ball is relatively soft. Kieswetter simply doesn’t have the technique to cope. He is a boundary hitter not an improviser – and even then his boundaries mostly resembled ungainly swipes over extra-cover. Sometimes he just doesn’t look that talented.

On the evidence we’ve seen, Jos Butler looks a far more skilful player – and his keeping isn’t much worse. Meanwhile, let’s not forget Jonny Bairstow, who is an accomplished player in English conditions.

And who’s that other bloke who has improved immeasurably as a limited overs batsman in the last two years? His name rhymes with Flat Tyre, but he’s really learned how to put his foot on the accelerator recently. England moved him around the order too much, rather than letting him settle into his natural role in the middle-order, and now they’re too stubborn to go back. Sounds about right.

The other issue, of course, is the bowling. But let’s not panic. Anderson, Broad and Finn will presumably lead the attack in the Champions Trophy (and Swann will come back) so we’re really only looking for a fourth seamer and a reserve spinner. Tredwell looks to have sewn up the latter spot, so there’s really only one place up for grabs.

Who are the contenders? Dernbach is still too inconsistent, although he does offer something different. Bresnan is also a reliable seamer in home conditions. The poor guy who currently doesn’t look up to it, however, is Chris Woakes.

Coaches rave about Woakes’ temperament, but is mental strength enough to overcome a lack of pace? He looked like a county medium pacer today; cynics might suggest that he owes his place to Giles’ Warwickshire connections. That’s obviously going a little too far, as Woakes’ batting is rather promising. However, at the age of 23 he’s not likely to get much quicker. At this point, Bresnan looks like the better option.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time to throw the opposition a curve ball and give Jack Shantry his international debut? No. No it isn’t. Not ever. Not even if he moves to Warwickshire.

James Morgan


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