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

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