If I listen to people around me, England have already lost The Ashes. I think it is still a case of “early days”. Yes, I am disappointed that our team is obsessed with playing Russian cricket … you know, they “rush out” then they “rush in” again! Please note I am at last prepared to say “our team”. When you leave one country for another you are still emotionally tied to the previous … my real difficulty comes when England competes with South Africa as loyalties “die hard” … if ever.
The England team as presently constituted cannot on a man for man basis beat the Aussies, quite simply, we do not have the depth of batting that Australia are gifted with. However, we have a few flair batsmen, and if more than one come off in the same innings we could quite easily challenge Australia.
By flair batsmen I refer to Strauss, Pietersen and Flintoff. At the moment the game is very dependent on at least two of the three coming off, it is all very well for Collingwood to score a double ton, but this is unlikely to do the same damage to the opponents Pshyche that hundreds from Strauss, Pietersen and Flintoff in the same innings will. It has long been known that winning test matches generally requires a scoring rate in excess of 300 per day. Australia target to bat at 4 runs an over, or 360 per day. This generally means that if you bat first, after a day and a half you can put the opponents in with a daunting prospect of facing 500+ in the first innings. In the previous ashes we were able to add both Vaughan and Trescothik to our list of flair batsmen … 3 out of 5 is much more likely than 3 out of 3.
The other side of the coin. The English side in the previous Ashes series were effectively as unbalanced as the current side. Five flair batsmen in the top six requires a little bit of luck to be on your side! A flair batsman is just as likely to give away his wicket as keep it. Let us hope that the three non flair batsmen … Cook, Bell and Collingwood can do their share towards adding stability to the batting performance.
I would like to see a little more balance and depth to our side. England need another batsman, in place of one of the fast bowlers,the tail is far too long, and a wicket-keeper batsman. Seems that the best choice might be to replace Jones with Matt Prior, who has both a first class double hundred and a better first class average than Jones, as a number 8 he could be as devastating as Gilchrest, the problem is to find the batsman at the top of the order … a fit Vaughan picks himself, but who is the alternative?
Here is my ideal lineup … Vaughan, Strauss, Bell, Cook, Collingwood, Pietersen, Flintoff, Prior, Andersen, Hoggard, Panesar. If Simon Jones were fit he would replace Andersen, and I believe we would have a side that, man for man, can compete with the Aussies. This, as a side, would allow lots of scope for changing the batting order based on circumstances, if the first three have posted a good score, you would promote Pietersen and Flintoff to 4 and 5 to attempt to take the game away from the opponents. It would also allow Cook to mature without the pressure of opening the innings … he is still young.
You ask at my leaving out Harmison … well read my previous blog on the subject.
Captaincy? Strauss or Vaughan. Flintoff has enough on his plate as the No1 strike bowler and prime allrounder in the side.