English cricket August 14, 2007

Not all doom and gloom for England

The end of a series brings contemplation – but also Geoff Boycott’s (often stinging) end-of-term report. Following India’s series victory, his wrath in today’s Daily Telegraph is directed at England’s batsmen.

Some of the shot selection was poor. England lost six wickets in the second innings and only one guy, Paul Collingwood, was got out by the Indian bowlers. It's quite obvious that we haven't grasped that when you are trying to save a match it needs a different attitude and more application.

Andrew Strauss gave his wicket away twice. We know that he has a technical flaw in his footwork. He doesn't get right forward to the ball, he gets stuck on the crease.

I think he needs to go away and do some work in the nets and then play in some lesser cricket that is not as pressurised and exacting as Test cricket so that so he can think about his footwork while he is batting.

In the same paper, Derek Pringle writes that one should accept the view offered by Michael Vaughan and Peter Moores that England's performances this summer were actually pretty decent.

England can point to absentees like Andrew Flintoff, Stephen Harmison and Matthew Hoggard, who would have played but for injury. Yet with James Anderson, Ryan Sidebottom and Chris Tremlett gelling well in their absence, there will be some steely decision-making to be done in October when the squad for Sri Lanka is picked

On a similar line and in the same paper, Simon Hughes argues that Strauss and Ian Bell’s have most to lose following their poor show against India – especially with Andrew Flintoff hot on their heels.

Ian Bell, however, is frustrating. With neat footwork and silky timing he looked the part as usual yesterday before getting out to a daft shot. He is a good player who needs somehow to acquire more mental steel.

For Matt Prior, the summer turned from dream, with a century on debut at Lord's, to nightmare, where at the Oval he dropped catches and then got a first-innings duck. He redeemed himself last night with a good rearguard action but 73 runs from six innings is not enough for a modern wicketkeeper-batsman. He, Strauss and Bell are all at risk.

Meanwhile in The Times, Simon Barnes argues that Kevin Pietersen is not yet the finished article.

But the dominant impression of Pietersen at that press conference in India was of a man desperate to do better. He sounded like a man addicted to self-improvement books. Perhaps he’ll write one: “How I Learnt To Be A Better Batter And Found God”. Although I think that the one he has in mind is “How I Learnt To Be The Best Batter In The World And Became God”. He is tremendously ambitious, but he is also a realist. And he is very much aware that he had a long way to go to achieve these ambitions. There is not much self-satisfaction about him. Princess Victoria, on being told she was Queen, said: “I will be good!” Pietersen, facing the English and Indian press all those months back, said much the same.

As a result, he has dispensed with much of the flashiness, keeping only enough to remind himself that he is still KP. He has stopped trying to hit the cover off every ball. He has become selective, thoughtful, even circumspect. The technically minded note that he is far less inclined to whip everything to leg with his bottom hand.

All is not doom and gloom, says Vic Marks in the Guardian. In spite of Alastair Cook and Bell’s inconsistency, now is not the time for wholesale changes.

This is not the time for swinging changes. England are a relatively young team and while we might have reservations about Ian Bell and Alastair Cook, it would be foolish not to seek the dividends of our investments. With 30 and 21 appearances respectively, these two are in the process of completing their Test education. It would be daft not to keep them on board. The same principle could apply to more senior members, such as Andrew Strauss and Collingwood.

Yet this does not mean they have to be ever present. Recently England have been too loyal, to the extent that you need a broken bone or two to be removed from the team. They have missed a trick here by declining to blood Ravi Bopara.

Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo