England v Bangladesh, 2nd Test, Old Trafford June 3, 2010

England ponder youth over experience


Assuming England don't take everyone by surprise on Friday morning and change the balance of their side, they have just one selection poser ahead of the second Test against Bangladesh. It's a contest between Ajmal Shahzad, the uncapped Yorkshire paceman, or Ryan Sidebottom to replace the injured Tim Bresnan, and the final decision will provide an insight into the selectors' long-term planning.

Throughout this season England are trying to increase the pool of players from which they can choose for any particular Test. It's part of the reason behind the rotation system which has been implemented, with Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss keen to have a strong squad rather just a strong first XI. With a view to that it's important they learn about new players, which would suggest these next five days are an ideal chance to find out about Shahzad.

He has been part of the England squad since the Twenty20s against Pakistan in Dubai - where he marked his debut with two wickets in his first over before being dismantled by Abdul Razzaq at the end of the run chase - and he later made his ODI debut in Chittagong. However, he has since been overtaken on the Test scene by Steven Finn who leapfrogged him into the starting line-up for the first Test in Chittagong, only a matter of days after stepping off the plane from London.

While playing Sidebottom may be a safer option - and his left-arm angle will also be tempting - the selectors won't learn anything they don't already know, and this may be the last chance in the near future to test Shahzad's credentials, with Stuart Broad expected to return to face Pakistan later in the summer. Shahzad is also a like-for-like replacement for Bresnan with a first-class batting average of 32, and so would be expected to contribute usefully down the order.

"With Ryan we know what we will get, he's a very experienced campaigner, very good in English conditions, very good against left-handers and brings that different angle being a left-armer," said England's captain, Andrew Strauss. "Ajmal we don't know as much about at this stage but are very excited about what we've seen which is why he's been in the squad. He bowls with good pace, keeps running and can swing the ball both ways. It's a choice between youth and experience and we have to decide what is the best way of winning this Test."

Bresnan received encouraging news after his injury was downgraded to a "stress reaction" with "no established fracture" following further scans, but his performance at Lord's suggested he would have struggled either way to remain part of a three-man pace attack. There were occasions when England's four-pronged unit looked light on firepower, especially with Graeme Swann having little influence on the match. Strauss is expecting more from the Old Trafford pitch, both for the quicks and the spinners, but a surface that aids the bowlers won't do much to clear up the question of whether England need an extra option.

"The balance-of-the-side issue is something we look at on a case-by-case basis but this wicket should have a bit more in it for the bowlers," said Strauss. "Generally there's a bit more pace and bounce and the spinner usually comes into the game a bit more so we are probably leaning towards four bowlers.

"Two areas we wanted to improve were getting big hundreds, which to some extent we did with Jonathan Trott getting a double, and the second was finding ways of taking wickets when the ball isn't doing much. I don't think we did that as well as we could during the Test, certainly on day two and to a certain extent on day four when the sun was out and the ball wasn't swinging. We weren't able to apply as much pressure as we'd like and it's an area we want to touch up on."

The pitches will be flat in Australia and the Ashes hype was notched up a few levels in Sydney on Wednesday when a selection of Australia players, including Ricky Ponting, launched the title sponsorship for the series. Strauss again admitted that the contest was never far from his mind even at the start of the English season, but that it was important not to lose focus on the present.

"You have to look at a bit of both but primarily this game," he said. "As I said at the start of the summer it's about winning and winning consistently then things will become clear as the summer goes on as to the personnel we need. I'd like to say we've half an eye on it, but the more immediate concern is this game."

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Simon on June 4, 2010, 9:21 GMT

    I worry that people are forgetting about Graham Onions. If he can be fit and in some kind of nick for the Ashes he should be a dead cert. In the mean time try out five bowlers and give one of the batsman a week off.

    I'd like to see (for the Ashes):

    Strauss Cook Pieterson Collingwood Bell Prior Swann Broad Anderson Onions Finn

  • James on June 4, 2010, 8:59 GMT

    if England are intent on selecting just 4 bowlers, I think Sidebottom has to be selected. I understand the desire for rotation and blooding opposition with "easy" opponents, but Sidebottom hasn't been a significant part of the Test side for 18 months. Getting a look at Ajmal may be a seductive proposition, but in all seriousness, Sidebottom is the more likely out of the two to be lining up at Brisbane. So give the place to Sidebottom and be done with it.

    On a related note, I think we should actually be playing 5 bowlers, not 4. We saw in the last Test England were largely ineffectual against a relatively weak side on a wicket which wasn't hugely helpful for the bowlers. So if it were me, I'd dump Bell and get 5 bowlers in. Broad and Swann can bat well enough and Anderson is no mug. But playing 5 bowlers is essentially - it takes the pressure off the new players (i.e. Finn) to make an instant impact and allows the workload to be effectively spread around.

  • Simon on June 4, 2010, 7:17 GMT

    Sticking with Sid would be a safer option, but why on earth should England be worried about the safer option? Pick Ajmal! I reckon Bresnan will be playing in the Ashes, too. Sure, the Lord's Test was not his finest hour, but people do have short memories! One game ago he was receiving plaudit as (as I quote) "looking like a genuine test bowler", and now, after winning the T20 World Cup and going straight into a Test without any longer-form preparation, and performing averagely as a result, he's out! Crazy.

    I hope to see a five-man attack in Brisbane: imagine Bresnan at 7, followed by Swann, Broad, Anderson and Finn. If Shazad show's he can do the business (and there's every reason to be optimistic), Broad could bat as low as 10. Bring it on!

  • Dummy4 on June 4, 2010, 3:13 GMT

    Sidebottom is the man that needs to be on the plane to Australia later this year. The Aussies do not like the ball angling across and then if he can get it to come back in to the right handers- look out. However, now is probably a good time to give Shahzad a go and see how he goes- then later in the summer against Pakistan settle into the best XI if he is good enough.

  • Amahl on June 4, 2010, 1:13 GMT

    I just hope England do the right thing and go with Sidebottom. They need an injection of experience and variety in the team in terms of the left arm medium fast option that Sidebottom provides. I have no doubt that Shahzad has talent, but just because he does not earn a place in the starting XI for this match does not mean he never will. It may not be this year but perhaps next year. He is still young and has enough time ahead of him. As far as him being a like for like replacement for Bresnan, England don't need another batsman, not for this game at least. They need a pure, reliable bowler. England need to select their best XI from the pool of players they have and undoubtedly that includes Sidebottom.

  • Cricinfouser on June 3, 2010, 23:27 GMT

    Thank goodness Bresnan is injured. He is no way a regular Test-class bowler (in an England shirt, at any rate), so the sooner we have the more likely contenders playing the better. Sidebottom or Shahzad are far more likely to be playing against Pakistan later in the summer and on the flight to Australia, so I am glad one of them will get a chance now.

  • Mark on June 3, 2010, 22:02 GMT

    i don't rate shazhad much at all, and defeintly dont think hes international class, id stick with sidebottom as he could be very useful during an ashes campaign

  • joel on June 3, 2010, 20:14 GMT

    shahzad offers something different with the potential of some skiddy pace- a good compliment for aderson's swing and finn's bounce. i'm a fan of sidbottom's hard work and remember his performances against nz, but i think trying something new is the best option, afterall sidbottom's skills are noted while shahzad has unknown quantities, and i, for one, would like to see these.

  • sameer on June 3, 2010, 17:28 GMT

    nice article! Eng should win the test comfortably. Would like to see Bangladesh to put up some fight though.

  • Manasvi on June 3, 2010, 16:16 GMT

    Shahzad has a FC average of 32 but that's boosted by his pretty high Not Outs percentage (about 1 in 3). Sticking to Ryan Sidebottom would be the safer option, especially since Bangladesh have shown many times that they aren't pushovers.

  • No featured comments at the moment.