England v India, 3rd ODI, Trent Bridge August 29, 2014

England face dilemma in fine tuning attack

With Chris Jordan blowing more cold than hot, England could turn to Steven Finn or Harry Gurney at Trent Bridge but both present their own issues

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Hope Cook and I feed off each other - Hales

The ability to play tunes on your teeth, which occasionally found its way onto the bottom of the bill in the old Music Halls, is now most commonly seen from bored teenagers on YouTube. England's bowling coach, David Saker, has so far only been seen scratching his, but he might well be playing a tune or two by the end of the Royal London one-day series if England's pace bowlers give him any more cause for angst.

If Saker does rap out a tune on his molars then Elvis Presley's Trouble might be a good place to start. "If you are looking for trouble, you came to the right place" is a suitable warning as England consider the attributes of the three pace bowlers thought to be contesting the final place in the third Royal London ODI against India at Trent Bridge.

Saker's teeth scratching on the England balcony was caught by the TV cameras during India's trouncing of England at Cardiff as Chris Jordan purveyed an over including five leg-side wides. He bowled 12 in all, treating his loss of line firstly with smiles and then with baffled shakes of the head.

That Jordan blows hot and cold is something England might have to get used to. The question is how hot and how cold. His technical oddity in which he often places an additional finger behind the ball has always been with him and has been blamed for occasional forays down the leg side. One or two can be forgiven as long as his hot spells continue, but 12 wides is more than England would want their entire attack to bowl in a series.

The defence for Jordan is that to some extent MS Dhoni was old-manning him by moving across to the off side as he prepared to release, but if that sometimes made his line look more exaggerated, it did not make the calls of wide any less justifiable. Jordan lost his line at a critical time and was wayward enough, in normal circumstances, for his place to be jeopardised as a result.

The issue for England is that the potential replacements, Harry Gurney and Steven Finn, have had issues of their own. Finn's have been well chronicled - the collapse of his action in Australia last winter which meant that he did not play a single Test and left the tour early for remedial work on his action back at Middlesex.

Finn's progress throughout the county summer has been solid, if unspectacular. By mid-July, he was able to discuss it for the first time, telling ESPNcricinfo that he began to over-analyse every aspect of his action and that Saker, who is generally regarded as a tactical rather than a technical coach, was unable to find a solution.

At some point in this series, England surely must play Finn. There has been so much emphasis upon stable planning, particularly when the subject turns to the one-day captaincy of Alastair Cook, that it has been overlooked that the build-up to the World Cup offers England not just the chance to plan, but the chance to discover.

If there is a limited appetite for discovery when it comes to England's batsmen, such a policy is essential for Finn. England's next one-day series is against Sri Lanka in November and December and that is hardly the easiest place for an out-and-out fast bowler to make an impression. To take Finn to Australia - the scene of his technical torment - in January for the tri-series against Australia and India still not road-tested would be a failure of planning and, if his problems recurred, would throw England's plans into disarray a few weeks before the World Cup. Only by thrusting Finn into the pressure of international cricket can England measure the extent of his recovery.

That leaves Harry Gurney, who would add variety to England's attack by virtue of being a left-armer and who would also be a natural call-up on his home ground at Trent Bridge. Gurney played in England's Spring ODIs, making his debut against Scotland in Aberdeen, playing five ODIs against Sri Lanka and returning nine wickets at 22.55. He hit his yorkers more reliably, but there is a lot that could go wrong in such an idiosyncratic action.

But Gurney's form has not been short of concerns. He was unimpressive during Nottinghamshire's Royal London domestic campaign and in his last outing disappeared at eight an over against Warwickshire, a match Nottinghamshire won thanks to one of four recent one-day hundreds for Alex Hales. His net sessions have not made an irresistible case for his recall.

It is a tough choice for England. That Jordan has displayed star quality is incontestable. Finn must be given a chance to prove himself. Gurney has logical hopes of a recall in front of his home crowd. Outside the squad, Northants' allrounder David Willey has not entirely given up hope of making a late push. Which one to recommend? Even now. Saker's teeth must be beginning to grind.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jeff on August 30, 2014, 11:24 GMT

    Pick the best bowlers. Anderson is the 2nd best seamer in the country and Onions the 1st so they must play. Tredwell deserves his place as spinner, and the third seamer should be between Finn and Broad. Stop messing around with the likes of Stokes and Woakes who look terrible with bat and ball. 5th bowler should be between Rashid and Bopara. Dont go back to Ali who just looks out of his depth.

  • John on August 29, 2014, 21:24 GMT

    @Ian Ashton: Will Gidman is a very solid player. His problems are that he's only playing division 2 county cricket, he's not very quick as a bowler and he's not good enough as a batsman to earn a place in the top 7. Chris Woakes does everything he does, but does it better.

    There's a big gap between the county level (especially division 2) and international cricket. Just being solid at county level isn't good enough, though WRS would by no means be the worst player ever to wear an England shirt.

  • John on August 29, 2014, 21:14 GMT

    I think the bowling line-up in the WC is likely to be Anderson, Broad, Woakes and Stokes. Finn is expensive even in lower-level List A games. Gurney, frankly, isn't good enough. Jordan is too unpredictable, though I'd pick him ahead of Finn and Gurney in Australian conditions.

    I am concerned that Tredwell, though a very good bowler in the murkier light and softer pitches of England, doesn't get enough bounce or turn to be effective in Australia. I wish the selectors would look again at Adil Rashid, who is bowling well and as a leg-spinner is likely to get more out of Australian tracks. He's now 26 and has become a much better bowler than when he was tried a few years ago. He bats and fields well, too.

  • Dummy4 on August 29, 2014, 20:11 GMT

    Answer to Ian Ashton - Will Gidman's first class record is remarkable. However, he plays in the lower division, and there are questions about his ability to up a level. Moreover his LA record (averages 19.9 and 34.8, the wrong way round), are not nearly so impressive.

  • Nicholas on August 29, 2014, 18:28 GMT

    I agree David - we really need to get a look at Finn-knee sooner rather than later. Gurney was a nice find for ODI's, but England seem too obsessed with trying to build a longer tail that, on paper, offers something with the bat, but in reality rarely delivers any significant runs and zero wickets at unacceptable expense. For every game, I would choose our four best and in-form bowlers, regardless of batting potential, and let the so-called batsmen take care of the runs. The remaining 10 overs of bowling needs some serious thought/planning. I still say England need Bopara; Root can turn his arm over for a few; if they play Ali, he's another option... The likes of India are great in the short formats because they're blessed with all-rounders (I don't necessarily mean genuine ones, but guys that can deliver/fill-in). England are starved of such creatures and the ECB don't seem to be doing anything about it, or as exemplified by the Bopara snub, taking backward steps/approaches.

  • Simon on August 29, 2014, 18:12 GMT

    England should probably play Anderson, Woakes, Finn and Gurney for me. Possibly, Jordan for one of Finn/Gurney if England are desperate for extra batting. Broad can come in for whomever performs the weakest. For me, Stokes isn't a good enough ODI player to be in the main XI. He can't barely buy a run and isn't a reliable enough bowler.

  • Dummy4 on August 29, 2014, 18:08 GMT

    Will Gidman takes his county wickets for Gloucester at around 22 and scores his runs at just under 39 and one never hears his name mentioned. I wonder why.

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