Mike Holmans May 9, 2009

Not good enough for Australia

England deserved their win, and it is a significant step forward for them to be one-nil up rather than one-nil down after the First Test of a series, but they will have to improve their batting considerably if they are to challenge Australia later in

The BBC commentators made Graham Swann’s dismissals of Devon Smith and Shivnarine Chanderpaul in consecutive balls their champagne moment, but I would have awarded it to Fidel Edwards for that beautiful ball which did for Kevin Pietersen.

Admittedly, bowlers start with a big advantage when delivering Pietersen’s first ball. They know in advance that he will come forward and attempt to dink the ball to mid-on before setting off for a suicidal single, but even armed with that knowledge it takes a high degree of skill to bowl the right ball. Fidel landed it absolutely to perfection.

Edwards was the best bowler on show: it was just a shame that none of his team-mates bothered to turn up until Brendan Nash and Denesh Ramdin’s stand of 143 delayed the end of the match by a couple of hours. Because of Edwards, England were struggling at tea on the first day, but because of everyone else in the West Indies team, England picked themselves up and eventually romped to victory.

England’s out-cricket was impressive. James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Graham Onions and Swann made up a varied and hostile attack, the fielding was sharp and nearly all the catches were taken – the only really bad miss being when Swann failed to get hand near a fairly routine third slip catch before Nash had scored. Even Matt Prior’s wicketkeeping failed to cause the usual drawings-in of breath and tut-tut-tutting from the always-pick-the-best-keeper brigade. It is not hard to imagine this fielding team holding good batting sides in check, especially once Andrew Flintoff gets fit enough to replace the hapless Tim Bresnan.

As a county allrounder, Bresnan is in the top echelons, but his bowling lacks the bite necessary for Tests. I suspect him of bribing the guys who calibrate the speed guns, because it was when he was alleged to have bowled at 90mph that I knew for certain that they were badly wrong. He is the Ronnie Irani de nos jours; he may well have a lot to contribute to the limited-over sides, but the Test team needs someone who wouldn’t flabbergast if he got a five-fer.

Such as Swann, for instance, who already has two to his name, and whose 63 not out was classier than is expected from someone batting at nine – but, counting Bresnan and Flintoff, England have five players competing for the number seven spot to which they are ideally suited so someone has to drop down.

On the other hand, the top order’s batting was pretty dismal.

Had umpire Davis properly sent Ravi Bopara on his way when he was palpably lbw on 40, England would indeed have been in the mire. But on such things careers can turn. Being able to make a big hundred when the rest fail is exactly what England have wanted to see in their No. 3, so in one innings he ticked all the boxes that Ian Bell and Owais Shah left blank on their application forms and booked his spot for the rest of the summer. If he succeeds over the next three months, he will have the job for years.

The rest have little to be satisfied about. Apart from KP, for whose dismissal Edwards and Ramdin were responsible, the top order gave their wickets away, although Prior contributed 40 well-made runs before offering extra cover some easy catching practice.

England deserved their win, and it is a significant step forward for them to be one-nil up rather than one-nil down after the First Test of a series, but they will have to improve their batting considerably if they are to challenge Australia later in the summer.

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