I guess if I had started this on on Thursday my tone would have been more optimistic … however after England returned to their Russian cricket ways, after doing the good work in restricting the Aussies to 244, the gloom had to set in. Then, of course, what can be said after the hatchet job done by Gilcrest this morning. Maybe there is a miracle waiting to happen tomorrow … but I doubt it
So lets return to the team selection.
If we want to compete with Australia, we need to be able to compete on a man for man basis. Yes we have got a few exceptional players, but, the burden cannot be carried by just a few. Our weakest link is the batting department,which we must re-inforce … this can only be done by dropping a bowler!
We are not blessed with many true all rounders, although we could probably turn both Bell and Collingwood into useful second string bowlers. For an additional batsman I would still like to see Vaughan, if his knee injury allows … he could be a permanent slip fielder where the knee is not subjected to the strain of sudden changes of direction.
The question is which bowler to leave out. I still believe Harmison has no place in the side! Ah you say he took 4 wickets in the first innings! No he was gifted with a wicket by a very bad umpiring decision and one of the other three was a mistimed pull shot. Well in my book I discount those wickets when rating a bowler. If I go in to open an innings and I see 4 slips, a gully, a third man, cover point a backward square leg and either a short mid-on or short mid-off. I know I am going to be tested, none of the comfort zone of being able to automatically get on the back foot … the bowler is going to be bowling to get me out. When I see short midwickets and the like I know he is going to be looking for me to mistime a pull shot. Harmison needs to re-invent himself and learn to bowl in the area of uncertainty … can I go back or must I go forward?
Why I rate Andersen as a better bowler is quite simple, he tends to be able to make the ball skid … in other words it comes through lower when a bit short of a length than you would normally expect. This forces a batsman to come onto the front foot more often. The slips come into play when a batsman is brought onto the front foot, especially from a bowler who does get a little swing and movement off the seem. He is at his most dangerous on a wicket that gives a little bounce (the Waca track ) as a few of those balls just short of a length are going to get big on you when you are playing forward, I never found that very pleasant. Couple Andersen with Hoggard and you have a nice combination, both bowlers capable of some swing, and neither easy to settle against. Flintoff would then take the strike role … and should only bowl short spells four or five overs at a time.
Thankfully the debate over Giles and Panesar should, for once and all, be over now, and Panesar looks like he would not be a bad No 9 in the batting line up! The only issue left is wicket keeper and I would like to see Matt Prior in the squad, but, in his absence Reid is a better choice than GO Jones who should simply … go! Perhaps the “Barmy Army” could do us a favour and apply a little gentle persuasion (if necessary, not so gentle ) so that we can bolster the squad with Vaughan and Prior.