England v Pakistan, 4th npower Test, Lord's, 1st day August 26, 2010

Gooch defends struggling batsmen


Graham Gooch, England's batting coach, has come to the defence of Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen, the two batsmen in the current line-up whose form is under the most scrutiny following a summer marked by dramatic and seemingly unpreventable batting collapses. While Pietersen's quest for his first Test century in 26 innings will get underway - weather permitting - during Friday's second day at Lord's, Strauss's current struggles were exacerbated by a peach of a delivery from Mohammad Asif, who bowled him through the gate for 13 to take his own string of century-less innings to 23 and counting.

Given the habitually overcast skies under which this series has been played, and the skill levels of Pakistan's new-ball pairing of Asif and Mohammad Amir, Gooch insisted that neither man was especially out of form, and that the squad as a whole was remaining sanguine about the challenge they have been posed by some talented opponents. However, he also suggested that many of the players in the team needed to relearn the art of building an innings in bowler-friendly conditions, with the inference that the onset of Twenty20 cricket had eroded a degree of the patience they might have shown in the past.

"Ideally you'd like a big score every time but you have to play to the conditions," said Gooch. "The players are in a good place in terms of their preparation, but the collapses have been talked about, because conditions like this require a different mentality. The ball is moving around and let's be fair, the Pakistan attack are decent - they swing it around and get something out of the pitch - so it's a challenge, that's for sure."

Gooch, who has been involved with the England Test squad on a consultancy basis since last winter's tour of South Africa, insisted that Strauss was not out of form despite a current series tally of 155 runs at 25.83, adding that opening batsmen are programmed to accept early dismissals against the new ball as part and parcel of the game. On the subject of Pietersen, however, he suggested that the player was in need of "upgrading" his game to suit the player he has now become, five years on from his England debut.

"Three weeks ago, I spent a week working with KP here at Lord's, and he works tremendously hard," said Gooch. "He respects his practice and puts in the same amount of work as if he was playing a match, which is the right way. Obviously he's desperate to make a score, like any player, but he's got to transfer the way he prepares and practices into the middle, and that involves getting the balance between attack and defence right, or what I call how you manage your batting.

"Everyone has skills, it's how you apply those skills, and what balls you attack, and what shots you play against different bowlers in different conditions," Gooch added. "Everyone's game evolves, and KP has got to find the method that works for him at this moment in time. You might retain parts of the game you had before, but you have to upgrade and evolve."

Pietersen's top score this summer was a chancy 80 at Edgbaston that nevertheless enabled England to win the match, but he himself admitted after that game that he had perhaps taken too much of his form for granted from England's successful World Twenty20 campaign in the Caribbean back in May, in which he was named as Player of the Tournament for a tally of 248 runs from 180 balls, at an average of 62.

"There's a lot of Twenty20 cricket around these days, and maybe there is a bit of a cross-over and a conflict when each individual adapts from one format to the other," said Gooch. "If you play all the formats, you have to find the balance, because the game has moved on, but the basis of Test cricket has not moved on as much. To score a Test match hundred, you still have to have patience and discipline, because you're not going to score a hundred from 100 balls every time."

Strauss does not have quite the same conflict in his game seeing as he no longer plays in England's Twenty20 team, and as a former opening batsman himself, Gooch had fewer issues about where he is currently at with his game. "Low scores are part of the game," he said. "Every batsman is vulnerable when it's moving around, the key is to show good technique and have some good luck, because if you hold your technique and the ball seams, it might miss the bat.

"In the last two Tests he's been out too early to say his game is not working," Gooch added. "You accept days like today just as you do bright sunshine and a nice flat wicket. Every batsman gets low scores, the trick is to make it count when you get in. In the conditions we've had in the last month, there've been some decent balls going around, which is not an excuse, it's part of the game. But confidence only comes from spending time at the crease."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on August 28, 2010, 10:45 GMT

    My previous comments are looking a little silly now. What a match!

  • abid on August 27, 2010, 14:16 GMT

    If this Pak attack is "decent", then what sort of attack would you call an excellent one Mr.Gooch? Surely it would be Broad and Finn bowling cross seam deliveries..lol

  • Assad on August 27, 2010, 13:47 GMT

    @popcorn..lest u forget we just defeated you in the second test match...we also very recently thrashed you in the t20 series..show some respect to the pakistan team..both the australian and english teams are so overrrated..the ashes will be a largely mediocre contest..two teams with flat track bullies and one-dimensional pace bowlers..

  • John on August 27, 2010, 12:58 GMT

    Four ducks - so far! Another collapse. Perhaps it's Gooch's job that should be on the line?

  • John on August 27, 2010, 12:08 GMT

    Gooch is starting to look a little over-optimistic, isn't he? Three middle order batsmen out without a run between them. This on their home turf. Revolting!

  • Dummy4 on August 27, 2010, 12:00 GMT

    Its funny. England not being able to play well in their home conditions ... and the coach defending it .. :-)

  • Dummy4 on August 27, 2010, 11:54 GMT

    I think GG needs to look at the bigger picture. KP's form hasn't been good from before this current home series - nbamely all the problems against left arm spiiners when he faced Bangladesh, as well as the Ashes last summer. I reckon at this rate, one if not two out of Bopara, Bell and Hildreth will be taken to Australia and both Collingwood and KP will have to prove some form leading into Brisbane because neither have performed in this series. Credit to Pakistan for bowling well (they skittled Australia in similar conditions earlier in the summer) but if England want to retain the Ashes, they need to lift their game back up to the levels of last summer at the very least....

  • P Subramani on August 27, 2010, 11:50 GMT

    While it is true that the weather conditions this summer in England have been cloudy and rainy most of the time, the inescapable fact is that this Pakistan attack is probably the best in the world even if one were to say that it is true only in English conditions. Pakistan did not do particularly well in Australia but it was their batting that undid their bowling which was decent enough, as one saw in the Sydney Test. I agree with Graham Gooch that the English batting has not been all that bad.It is just that the Pakistan bowlers have probably exploited the favourable conditions for both the teams better. I am not too sure how good this attack will be in dry weather. They could be effective there as well. But the important thing is the catching. Pakistan have to really brush this aspect up if they want to get the benefit of their superb attack. Meanwhile England should be happy that they are getting to face the best bowling attack in the world in preparing for the Ashes.

  • Abhishek on August 27, 2010, 11:28 GMT

    England's my favourite team n i cant see these batsmen suffering like these.... So Graham Gooch please tell your batsmen to leave almost all balls of offside bcoz they all get out bcoz of edging to slips or wicketkeeper.... Y dont england batsmen try n play leg side balls only.... n y do some batsmen keep such a gap betwwen their pad n bat???? Plz graham gooch, u need to warn england's batsmen if they have to prevent from collapsing all the time...........

  • Shafaqat on August 27, 2010, 11:07 GMT

    @popcorn: Poor batting by all teams in England this summer. One must not forget what Aussies got from our bowlers. Had fielding been good, they might have lost it 2-0. So to me, both England and Australia are evenly poised for a good series of cricket later in the year. Batting conditions would be much better in Australia and Batsmen will not fare like this over there. Can't wait

  • No featured comments at the moment.