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Team balance and the batting Powerplay are among the issues for England to deal with after the series win
July 9, 2011
Alastair Cook will be a satisfied man tonight after he guided England to a 3-2 series victory over Sri Lanka and also claimed the Man-of-the-Series award for his 298 runs. It was a notable achievement to beat the World Cup finalists after being 2-1 down and it was a series full of debate about England's one-day game. Here we look at six key areas.
A balancing act
England were adamant throughout the series that they only needed five main bowling options with the occasional bit of Kevin Pietersen thrown in. The one change they made in the five matches was to replace Stuart Broad with Samit Patel and it felt as though, ideally, Alastair Cook needed one more reliable option to ease the pressure. It would help if Pietersen took his bowling more seriously, but having Ian Bell at No. 6 as a specialist batsman who likes to build an innings was a waste. Within this debate is the role of Jonathan Trott and whether England should be flexible with their batting order. Trott's 72 at Old Trafford suggested the current top order can evolve, but the jury is still out. It would have been nice to see Patel given that middle-order role - longer-term the selectors need to decide about him - and having that sixth bowling option could prove invaluable on the subcontinent.
Winning when it's not swinging
Tillakaratne Dilshan made a telling remark at the end of the series. "Today the conditions were more suitable for us but they played good cricket," he said. "They adjusted to conditions that they weren't used to so they are learning a bit about how they should play on flat wickets." Succeeding when the ball doesn't hoop around corners for James Anderson is a vital part of England's development and the win in Manchester was significant from that point of view. England did find swing, but of the reverse nature, while they fielded two spinners which showed good flexibility. The team will learn much more by winning with the sun on their backs.
The Powerplay issue
Batting in the Powerplays is still very much a work-in-progress for England although there were a few signs. Firstly in the way Alastair Cook and Craig Kieswetter are combining - their opening stand was vital at Old Trafford - and of some encouragingly open thinking from captain and coach. In the two matches where weather played a part - The Oval and Trent Bridge - the batting restrictions were taken early so that England could keep up their momentum. They tried the same tactic here, too, but the result was 14 for 3 so that one will have to be filed under 'could have gone better'. At Lord's they took it after 35 overs to try and utilise a harder ball and a developing partnership but without quite the desired results. At least, though, it is not being left to Anderson.
Keep those boundaries coming
This point can, partly, be connected to the Powerplay one above. There doesn't seem enough oomph in England's lower - well, really, below Eoin Morgan at No. 5 - and that needs to be rectified if England are to be a consistent force. Nothing kills momentum like a batting innings that dribbles to its conclusion rather than a late flurry of boundaries. In mitigation England have had to contend with Lasith Malinga, one of the finest death bowlers around, but he can only operate from one end. The seven players who have filled England's positions from No. 6 to No. 11 in the series hit eleven fours and a six from 282 balls. The likes of Samit Patel, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan are picked partly on the strength of their batting and that strength needs to come through more often.
In a spin
Although England won at Old Trafford to secure the series one of their long-term problems reared its head again: playing spin on a slower surface. Against the new ball they had no problem motoring along at more than six an over, but as the ball got older it became harder work and Suraj Randiv ended with 5 for 42. Trott and Morgan, however, showed the way with an excellent stand of 118 in 21 overs of sensible accumulation and that should be the blueprint for team-mates to follow. It doesn't all have to be about boundaries, but just five fours in the last 41 overs at Old Trafford shows there is still much work to do.
Anderson reaffirmed his credentials as England's leading all-round bowler in home conditions and Bresnan is an effective partner with the new ball. However, the situation over the pace bowlers is not entirely clear. Anderson may not always be the best choice in conditions which nullify his strengths such as India where England tour in October. Then there's the question of who is third seamer. Broad's dropping has shaken up the pecking order as he has been a go-to man in limited-overs for a number of years. Jade Dernbach, meanwhile, has shown impressive skills at the death. Then there's the squad bowlers who didn't get a game - Steven Finn and Chris Woakes - plus those back in county cricket such as Chris Tremlett, James Harris, Graham Onions and Ajmal Shazhad. Having plenty of options is never a bad thing, but picking the right ones can be tricky.
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