India in England 2014 August 11, 2014

Supporting cast a concern for England

England need to find better support acts for James Anderson and Stuart Broad to compete in 17 Tests over nine months next year

Over the course of England's two overwhelming victories against India which have earned them a 2-1 lead just weeks after, as Alastair Cook termed it, "being at rock bottom", James Anderson and Stuart Broad have taken 21 wickets. That is despite Broad missing one innings due to his broken nose. Moeen Ali, seemingly still a part-time spinner in the eyes of the India batsmen judging by the lack of respect they have played him with, has bagged 12 at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford.

So far, so very good. But the supporting cast of pace bowlers has not been so convincing. Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan have taken four wickets in 93 overs. India's hari-kari batting in the second innings at Old Trafford meant England got away with having not much more than half a bowling attack.

This is not to be overly critical of Woakes and Jordan, two bowlers learning their way in Test cricket and two bowlers who have many fine attributes, but just as a number of boxes are being ticked in the rebuilding of the England side there remains some question marks.

The final Test of this series, starting at The Oval on Friday, will be England's last game in whites until the middle of April when they take the field at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. It will mark the beginning of a nine-month period where England will play 17 Tests.

The notion of a single first-choice attack is no longer possible: a battalion of pace bowlers will be needed for England to sustain a challenge against West Indies, New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan and South Africa. Some support spin for Moeen Ali will likely be needed, too, but that is another debate.

With Liam Plunkett ruled out of The Oval - meaning his comeback season will finish with four Test appearances and 18 wickets at 34.44 - and Broad set to play despite his fractured nose, it could be that the pairing of Woakes and Jordan are given another chance to ride in the slipstream of James Anderson and Broad.

England's two senior bowlers have lifted their performances exceptionally after miserably failing to exploit homemade conditions at Lord's. You could also say that it is exactly what they should be doing as a pair of quicks with 637 Test wickets between them and one, in Anderson, eight wickets away from being his country's leading Test wicket-taker.

But they are the most precious commodities of this England side, especially Anderson at the age of 32 even if he has seemed to find a new lease of life post the issues with Ravindra Jadeja, and they need strong support if they are not to be burnt out. There will more than a few crossed fingers until the outcome of Broad's knee surgery is known.

With Anderson off the field for a period on the third day at Old Trafford and Broad in hospital, Cook had no choice but to alternate Woakes and Jordan while Moeen did his work at the other end. In terms of the match position - if not the poor forecast - Cook had a comfort zone to work with, but it was a concern to see how the young seamers appeared to lose the notion of line and length. Maybe it was partly the desperation to finish the game quickly, and Jordan did appear to be trying too hard, but it was a missed chance for either of them to make a strong statement about demanding a permanent place in the pace line-up.

Those better versed in judging the technical aspects of fast bowlers have picked up technical issues with Jordan, but even with a rudimentary knowledge of the mechanics of bowling it cannot escape notice the number of deliveries, especially at the start of a spell, which disappear down the leg side.

Not that it was all poor. Woakes, who deserved some reward at the Ageas Bowl where he performed a holding role perfectly, set up M Vijay nicely for the nip-backer that trapped him lbw. Woakes' action appears to be more solid and repeatable and his work over the last 12 months has pushed him topside of fast-medium.

Jordan, after being denied a wicket due to a no-ball (he consistently pushes the front line) wrapped up the match with a swift one-two against Nos. 10 and 11: the bouncer to take Varun Aaron's glove and the yorker, via the pads, to clean up the hapless Pankaj Singh.

It may be that India's resistance is now well and truly broken, but it could also be the case that The Oval will provide a surface with less pace and bounce than Old Trafford where they could have a last chance at redemption.

Ben Stokes and Steven Finn are the other two pace options in the squad. Both bring wicket-taking threat and while control is not the main skill of either the evidence of the last two weeks is that an attacking mindset bears fruit. Given the seriousness of the problems Finn has been through, there will be some trepidation whenever he returns.

But so long as The Oval surface does not resemble a sluggish dust bowl there could be no time like the present against an India side whose fight was left in the Lord's dressing room.

Andrew McGlashan is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • vic tor on August 14, 2014, 15:23 GMT

    @Lexington North....You made very valid points regarding England's recovery. It is not England performing really well, it is India performing disastrously. Make no mistake, Australia and SA will be a different kettle of fish, and even NZ will not collapse the way India did. So let us look at the situation in perspective. Anderson, before the test in Southampton, was not very effective, and so was Broad. At Lords they were abysmal, to say the least. But when India started playing badly, that is when everything started to happen, England capitalised, and we all know what happened in those two tests. Broad has got problems of his own, his knee is being operated upon, and we have to see what happens after that. The batting seems safe at the moment, but hasn't been really tested, as India doesn't have the equipment to do that. The true test will come when England take on better opponents, so until then we should not jump up and down with our achievements.

  • John on August 14, 2014, 5:45 GMT

    Woakes and Jordan are both 25 years old. Woakes has played 3 test matches and Jordan 4. Of course they're not the finished article yet. However, they never will be if they're not given the opportunity to learn at test level. Both have other attributes that are valuable; Woakes is a very decent bat, a genuine allrounder with a FC average of 38 and 8 centuries. Jordan is an excellent slip fielder, especially to the slow bowlers- not a skill commonly found even in test cricket. He's also a useful bat, though not at Woakes' level. They are both hard workers and give 100%.

    Give them a few more tests and they'll start to feel comfortable and the performances will come. This continual impatience when a young player doesn't immediately make an impact is very unproductive. Young players are an investment in the future and like any investment have to be given time to grow.

    Add in Stokes, Finn, Reece Topley of Essex and a few others and England has lots of potential going forward.

  • Francis on August 13, 2014, 0:00 GMT

    Extraordinary - we've just won two Tests after a year's drought, and we're considering at least three changes! Some sort of stability might be good for England here. We've already seen the potential of Robson, Woakes and Jordan at Test level, they're young and they should be given a fair spell in the side. When England are winning matches we shouldn't be talking about dropping people.

  • S on August 12, 2014, 22:49 GMT

    I think Stokes should replace Jordan. And if Broad is not playing, England should opt for Finn. The combination of Anderson, Finn, Stokes, Woakes and Ali will be good enough to get 20 Indian wickets in 4 days or even 3 days.

  • StJohn on August 12, 2014, 20:42 GMT

    …but I see Onions is now injured too, so maybe not at the moment...

  • StJohn on August 12, 2014, 20:39 GMT

    Two words: Graham Onions.

  • Nicholas on August 12, 2014, 15:42 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx (post on August 12, 2014, 11:08 GMT): I think everyone around the world, regardless of which team they support, would love to have tests much more equally divided. It's catch 22 as well whereby too many tests can lead to burnout, and don't get me started on rankings etc. It seems that a team/player that aces a few games, but then doesn't play for ages or as much as others STILL hovers around the top of the rankings, whereas teams/guys that play much more games are more likely to even out and get stuck in the middle or even (near) bottom. That's the trade off right there.

  • M on August 12, 2014, 15:39 GMT

    Hmmm - I think the English seam bowling cupboard is reasonably well stocked. Provided Finny gets his mojo back, and Stokes can be backed to score runs again (that was the only reason he was dropped from the team for me). You've got a good pool to choose from there.

    However, Jordan seems to have some technical issues to address - his run up in particular, and perhaps he looks a bit too musclebound - that said he's a prospect no doubt. Woakes needs to be locked in a room with Jimmy Anderson and made to suck up all the craft and guile that Jimmy has learned - he's the most similar in terms of pace and swing that we have to Anderson, and Saker and Moores need to move on it. Add in guys like Bopara with bat and ball and it's all good.

    The opening slot is a problem - Robson is far too rigid and stiff at the crease, and I think he will struggle. Compton is probably worth another go now he may be accepted a little more into the dressing room than on debut. Hales next cab off rank perhaps..

  • Dummy4 on August 12, 2014, 15:19 GMT

    India's capitulation since Lords has been dramatic to say the least. Their top order is not firing at all and with Vijay and Rahane losing form as well, there's no one left to stay and occupy the crease. Ashwin showed signs of it, which amazes me all the more why he was left out in the first place. England hasn't been overly convincing, more a case of India playing so badly at the moment has flattered England's progress. Anderson and Broad have been top-draw, Mo Ali has been the surprise package, but still not convinced with Woakes and Jordan. Woakes bowls a good, steady line with some shape away from the right-handers, but hardly threatening, more suited to the shorter formats and Jordan has been spraying it all over the place. Robson looks uncertain at the top also, so maybe Carberry or Compton gets another run before the Ashes. There's Hales, Vince or Lyth to consider, but will they be ready for test match level by next summer?...The only change on Friday is Finn for Jordan.

  • Navneeth on August 12, 2014, 15:01 GMT

    England must plan for their fast bowling future now that the series is almost sealed with Moen bowling like Murali. They should rest both Anderson and Broad. See how they would survive post the Anderson & Broad era. They should not rest on their laurels like India did when they had the FAB 4. After the FAB 4 retired India have struggled just like Australia struggled after Warnie and Mcgrath retired.

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