England lose but don't panic: Lawrence Booth

When is it not too troubling to lose a one-day international after scoring 333? Answer: when you’ve spent most of the series worrying about your batsmen, and your bowling line-up is so full of all-sorts it risks being sued by licorice.

Such has been England’s Commonwealth Bank Series, which began life as a chance to laud it after the Ashes but has turned into yet another untimely pre-World Cup kick amidships.

This is not to say Andrew Strauss’s men suddenly have no chance out in south Asia – just that it now feels counter-intuitive to back them. When I was asked yesterday by this magazine to nominate my two finalists, I went – imaginatively, you might taunt – for India and Australia. At the start of this series, England would have tempted me.

But all, weirdly, is not lost. By piling up 333 against an attack in which Australia’s big three seamers – Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson – produced the combined figures of 25-1-168-4 – England at least answered some questions about a batting line-up that had been curiously frail in three of the previous five games.

The Jonathan Trott debate – aired here last week – is now over, and so too, it seems, is the one involving Paul Collingwood. England’s new No.7 also happens to be their meanest seamer: if a back injury hadn’t prevented him from bowling a single over today, Australia might even have lost. Yes, the cricketing world has gone that crazy.

Matt Prior – one score out of five since his one-day career was saved from oblivion – remains a worry, but England knew they were taking a risk. And it may yet pay off. It’s hard to imagine Eoin Morgan’s slump continuing indefinitely. And I’ll always back Kevin Pietersen in the big games (which, as far as the World Cup goes, means from the quarter-finals onwards).

The state of the bowling attack, meanwhile, is now so tattered and frayed that it almost precludes serious analysis. Chris Woakes and Steven Finn – two of the three main seamers at the SCG – are not even part of the World Cup squad, while Mike Yardy, who bowled 10 reasonably tight overs today, will be the man to miss out if England persist with Collingwood at No 7.

If England ever return to the luxurious scenario of being able to select from a fully fit squad, their bowling line-up come February 22 against the Netherlands in Nagpur (I know, I know) should be: Jimmy Anderson, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Collingwood, plus a bit of Trott and a couple of overs from Kevin Pietersen.

Suddenly, it looks a different game. Which is why you’ll forgive me if I don’t get too worked up about yet another one-day defeat at the end of a gruelling tour which will be remembered for different reasons altogether.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Daily Mail and you can sign up here for his weekly newsletter ‘the Top Spin’, which was named Online Column of the Year at the 2010 Sports Journalists’ Association awards. He has also been named as the next editor of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack

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4 Responses to England lose but don't panic: Lawrence Booth

  1. Afrikaner says:

    You make some fair points bru, but you forget Jimmy Anderson has been given a sound thrashing in the CW bank series. India will not offer the same pace or bounce for Broad and Bresnan. That means Swann, Collingwood and trott/pietersen will be the main bowlers in england world cup bid.
    On the batting front the slow low wickets will challenge Trott and Bell as they will have to create the power/initiative, instead of letting ball come onto bat. All in all, I see QF or SF at the v best for England…eventual winners, well that’s obvious..Suid Afrika!!

  2. Plum Warner says:

    As hard as it is for me to say as a proud Englishman, I have to agree with Afrikaner.
    How about this for a radical idea? Open the bowling with Swann and Bresnan, have the middle overs bowled by Yardy and Collingwood and hope that Shazhad gets some reverse swing going towards the end of the innings.

  3. Crickeyt says:

    The problem with English cricket commentators is that they think England is the best team in the world whenever it wins a game against anyone. And if they lose against anyone, then that team is anointed the best in the world. Well, there are two teams called India and South Africa which had been playing exceptional cricket the last two months, while the low-skilled version was on display in Australia. So, they will be my choice of finalists. On Indian pitches, you need spinners or bowlers who can take the pace off. None of Australia’s bowlers can manage that, except perhaps Watson.

  4. ronan says:

    Lawrence you do realise that Australia’s “big three seamers” are in fact Bollinger, McKay and Harris…our three best performed paceman over the previous 12 months. You say England’s attack is undermanned? Australia was missing the aforementioned trio and it’s two best spinners in Hauritz and Doherty. The reality is that England have been shown up as a second rate ODI side this summer. Australia are ranked no. 1 in ODI for a reason.