England v Sri Lanka, T20, The Oval May 20, 2014

Carberry clanger highlights England muddle

A crucial dropped catch by Michael Carberry was just one example of England expecting things from players that they do not do a county level

It should never be a surprise when Michael Carberry drops a catch. For all his worth as a batsman and for all his fitness, he has never been a reliable catcher.

His drop of Thisara Perera when the batsman had scored 20 at The Oval defined this game and the muddled thinking that currently pervades in the selection of the England team.

It was a simple chance. It was simple like the chance Carberry missed at backward point in the second Ashes Test in Adelaide when Brad Haddin had 5 and went on to score 118; an innings that hammered a nail into England's Ashes coffin. This time Thisara helped Sri Lanka thrash 37 runs off the final 15 balls of the innings of which his share was 28 in 10. It changed the game.

It cannot be put down to 'one of those things.' It happens too often for that. While not exactly the norm - Carberry has taken some good catches in his career - it is not accurate to describe it as an aberration. He dropped chances on his ODI debut in Dublin and was untidy in the ODI series against Australia that followed. He has a reputation at county level for being far from a safe pair of hands.

Equally, England cannot be surprised that Ian Bell looked rusty as a T20 player: he had not played a T20 match of any sort since England last selected him in this format in January 2011. His class as a batsman is beyond doubt and he surely can develop in this role but to expect him to do it against the world champions is asking a great deal. And England only have three T20s in the rest of the year. If they really see Bell as part of their next World T20 squad, they will have to release him from other England duties to play some T20 cricket for Warwickshire.

Nor can they be surprised that Jos Buttler, for all the potential he oozes as a batsman, continues to make mistakes with the gloves. He was not first choice wicketkeeper at his county last season and, only a few weeks ago, was rested from the first game of the county season by the England management when offered a new opportunity to take the gloves full time with Lancashire. Here he missed a tough stumping chance offered by Kithuruwan Vithanage on 30 off Ravi Bopara.

It is the selection of Carberry that is most perplexing. While his T20 record is decent, it seems odd to select a 33-year-old at the start of the two-year cycle between World T20 tournaments

And they cannot be surprised that Chris Jordan is struggling as a death bowler. He has never successfully mastered the art at county level and Sussex, his county, signed Yasir Arafat as an overseas player for their T20 campaign so that he would not be exposed in that role. Yet here was Jordan, bowling the penultimate over of the Sri Lanka innings and conceding 22 runs.

Even Alex Hales, who became the joint quickest man to 1,000 T20 international runs and top-scored in the match, might progress faster if county and country could agree on his role. Hales, who like Kevin Pietersen reached the landmark in 32 innings, has the ability to prosper in all formats of the game but, after a poor first-class season in 2013, is currently unable to command a place in the Nottinghamshire Championship side.

While that is understandable, if the county game is largely about preparing players for England, then Hales should surely be playing in front of a 35-year-old former Australia international, Phil Jaques, with a view to him learning the skills that could, in time, help England win World Cup and Ashes series. And the fact that it is an England selector, the Notts director of cricket, Mick Newell, who leaves him out just underlines the muddled thinking that continues to hold England back. The England selectors seem intent on asking their players to perform roles which they do not perform for their counties.

But it is the selection of Carberry that is most perplexing. While his T20 record is decent - though not as good as James Taylor's, who is almost a decade younger - it seems odd to select a 33-year-old at the start of the two-year cycle between World T20 tournaments.

The main reason for bewilderment at the selection of Carberry is not his age or the concern over his fielding. It is the rampant hypocrisy it represents. For while Pietersen was dropped from the team in 2012 for exchanging private correspondence with members of the opposition, Carberry has been recalled having publically lambasted the coach (at the time) of the limited-overs squads in a national newspaper.

And while Pietersen was told he would not be selected again because the England team needed "the full support of all players" with "everyone pulling in the same direction", Carberry was recalled despite criticising Ashley Giles in an interview in which he suggested he had been omitted from the England team for non-cricket reasons and giving a highly disputed version of events on the Ashes tour; so disputed that the ECB is understood to be deliberating whether to take further action over the piece.

And while Paul Downton watched two-and-a-half days of the Ashes and concluded that he Pietersen was "disconnected" from the rest of the team - a version of events that has been disputed by the vast majority of the rest of the Ashes squad - he had apparently not watched enough of the series, or of county cricket in the previous decade, to realise that Carberry's catching was an accident waiting to happen.

Yet it seems there is one rule for Pietersen and another for every other player. And it seems for all the strong words about "support" and "pulling in the same direction" some are allowed to be more opinionated than others.

The shame of this defeat was that England actually showed some admirable characteristics in this game. Harry Gurney, on T20 debut, demonstrated good composure and skill that might see him develop into the death bowler this side so urgently require, while Chris Woakes showed the extra pace and improved skills that could still see him develop into a quality allrounder in all formats. The batting of Buttler, Ravi Bopara and Hales was also impressive.

But if you drop simple catches against the world champions, they are going to punish you.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Michael on May 22, 2014, 8:25 GMT

    Excellent piece. Lots of points of interest. I would not have Carberry in the side, not just because he can't catch a cricket ball, but his most recent innings show that he is not in particularly good form.Taylor or Vince may be better options for the future and why was Gary Ballance not in the squad ? Bell has not played T20 cricket for some time so why is he playing ? And why are Morgan, Buttler and Bopara not batting higher up the order? I would certainly move two of these players upwards with possibly Joe Root moving down a place. By the way I am a massive Root fan. People still seem to think KP will be missed but I support him being removed from the England scene and what has he done in the IPL. He is captain of a franchise that is not performing well.

  • Sanjay on May 22, 2014, 0:54 GMT

    Ironically, Carberry took a match winning, and difficult, catch on the boundary against Warwickshire in the CB40 Final at Lord's just a few seasons ago to send Bell back to the hut just as he was watlzing away with the match. I had no idea at the time that he was an unreliable fielder.

    And yes, agreed, Bell would easily make a good T20 player but we're talking about England and tradition here: England are always too slow to adopt limited overs strategies at the international level. Pietersen should have been opening for England fairly soon after he made his international debut and you can go thru many other examples since the 70s where a shocking conservative attitude has been adopted by England in direct contrast to all other intl opponents and more strikingly the domestic teams in England itself.

    The counties have always experimented, none more so than in the old John Player 40 overs Sunday League and the 60 overs Gillette Cup that was both exciting and innovative.

  • Neil on May 21, 2014, 22:21 GMT

    On this evidence, we are in for a long, hot and very disappointing summer. Moores seems clueless.

  • Donna on May 21, 2014, 18:14 GMT

    Darren Bravo went from a horrible fielder to a stunning fielder for West Indies in a very short space of time. Poor catching fielding can be fixed, especially if you are a batsman, as it take similar qualities to be a good fielder as it takes to be a good batsman and in smaller measure.

  • dinesh on May 21, 2014, 16:30 GMT

    if this english players compete in IPL i don't know what will happened. they are not up to international t20 standard. in batting they didn't know how to hit the ball and what proper wrist work could do. in bawling their variations are pretty poor specially in batting friendly conditions. truly australian youngsters are far far better in performance wise. to improve this vulnerabilities England must improve the quality of county t20 championship. as we see english fans are not familiar with the partying atmosphere at t20. they are still glued to the decency of test cricket.

  • Jem on May 21, 2014, 14:07 GMT

    I agree with CodandChips and others - Carberry's dropped catch was down to Morgan running far too close to him. Once I've called for a catch, I want everyone else to stay as far away as possible - not to crowd round me "as close as I could to him, to try to get a rebound if he happened to drop it" in Morgan's own words. Bad drop but not all Carberry's fault. Nevertheless, he is a curious selection, along with Bell. Neither have exceptional T20 stats and I'd definitely give Taylor a go. It's difficult to see what he's done wrong to justify being ignored by England since his two Tests against SA. He spoke well as captain v Lancs in the T20 last Friday so hopefully this new role will help his cause. The lad is young and has bags of talent suitable for all formats. Buttler needs to play as much cricket as possible this year, for England and Lancs; Jordan is fine but a work in progress whilst Gurney looked very promising. The top order batting again needs to improve their strike rates.

  • Roshan on May 21, 2014, 12:19 GMT

    Nobody here mentions the umpiring errors which gifted at least two English batsmen prolonged stays at the wicket. Malinga had a clear one turned down and so did Lakmal. It would have scuttled England well before they go anywhere close. Btw Lakmal bowling the final over was a big benefit to England cos he does not have variety. Malinga should have given it to Thisara Perera. It didnt matter in the end but it made the margin closer leading some to think it was close thing. It wasnt that close. Engliand just cut down the margin of defeat.

  • Roshantha on May 21, 2014, 12:08 GMT

    The selectors must be seeing real potential in Carberry's batting talent in spite of him being a weak link in the field (as the article suggest). May be he can simply do more hrs working on his fielding? A question at the English supporters... what is your opinion on Farbrace being snatched by England from Sri Lanka just few weeks prior to the tour began?

    Is it to put Sri Lanka off and gain an advantage, which will reflect Peter Moores appointment a successful one...which also will enable England to forget (to a certain level) the horrible winter?

  • Rob on May 21, 2014, 12:07 GMT

    Forget Carberry, why are you still complaining about the decision to drop Pietersen? It's happened, let's move on.

  • Dummy4 on May 21, 2014, 12:05 GMT

    whilst using this as an opportunity to once again attack England for dropping KP, you seem to conveniently forget that KP is a pretty mediocre fielder too!

    I think they're continuing with Carberry for a while to give him a bit more of a chance to show what he's capable of. Only fair really to give him a few more matches when he was initially thrown in a the deep end against a rampant aussie bowling attack.

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