West Indies in England 2011

England seek opportunity in odd series

Andrew Miller at The Oval

September 21, 2011

Comments: 23 | Text size: A | A

Jade Dernbach celebrates his dismissal of Angelo Mathews, England v Sri Lanka, 5th ODI, Old Trafford, July 9 2011
Jade Dernbach will be seeking to expand his Twenty20 knowhow in two matches against West Indies © Getty Images
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The end of a long and successful season is drawing nigh for England, with India's cricketers having finally made it home, hotly pursued by Leicestershire and Somerset, county cricket's representatives at the Champions League. In barely a fortnight, the England team will also be in India, preparing for their return series of five ODIs, but right at this moment, they are down at The Oval, dodging autumnal showers and preparing for a pair of Twenty20 fixtures that serve only as a reminder of previous administrative folly.

The Allen Stanford Memorial Series (as these matches are not officially known) has come about as a result of the collapse of the Stanford Super Series after a single ill-conceived incarnation in November 2008. The ECB had sold the rights to four years' worth of such events, a quadrangular tournament at home and a "20/20 for 20" cash bonanza in Antigua, and then promptly spent all the broadcasting cash they had received from Sky. The upshot has been this fudged bid to fulfil their contractual obligations, an unsatisfactory compromise involving two skeleton international teams, one of which will be led by England's sixth captain of the calendar year, Graeme Swann.

Nevertheless there is, from England's point of view, an undoubted value to the exercise that is about to take place. In exactly 12 months' time the squad will be in Sri Lanka launching the defence of their World Twenty20 crown, with India once again lined up as their principal opponent in the group stages. Given how infrequently the format is played at international level, any opportunity to practise competitively between now and then has to be welcomed by the reigning champions.

England have a further fixture against India in Kolkata looming on October 29, and then probably no more than four bilateral matches scheduled home and away ahead of the squad selection for the 2012 tournament. Therefore, this double-header could make or break the claims of more than just a handful of contenders, both those playing and those missing out.

Although the regular Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad is missing out through injury, the balance of England's squad is still geared towards the not-so-distant future. The telling decision not to hand the captaincy to the one-day leader, Alastair Cook, confirms the impression that England intend to make the best of a bad situation, and use these fixtures to gauge their Twenty20 development.

Alex Hales and Craig Kieswetter can be expected to open in both fixtures with a licence to clear the ropes, closely followed by a middle order that is likely to include three players - Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes - who have not yet celebrated their 22nd birthdays. Even in this new-look outfit, however, the decision to bring Surrey's Stuart Meaker into the squad as a net bowler provides a reminder that pressure for places is paramount.

"Any opportunity I can get to pull an England shirt on, I'm going to grab with both hands, regardless of what time of year it is," said Jade Dernbach, one of the players who, at this stage, would appear certain of taking part in the title defence. "With the World Twenty20 coming up next year, any games we can get will be vitally important. There are only five or six games before then, so these two games form quite an integral part of the plans and processes for that tournament."

Dernbach's maiden season of international cricket has been eventful, to say the least. He was called up to the World Cup squad in Sri Lanka back in March, having impressed the selectors on the England Lions tour of the Caribbean. Though he didn't play in what turned out to be England's final match of that competition, a ten-wicket elimination in the quarter-finals, he has since featured 10 of their 11 ODIs this summer, as well as two Twenty20s against Sri Lanka at Bristol and India at Old Trafford, where he was named Man of the Match following a matchwinning spell of 4 for 22.

"I set myself some goals at the start of the year, but did I know all of this was going to happen? Probably not," said Dernbach. "You take it as it comes and I'm overjoyed to have played so much cricket for England this summer."

A similar story applies for West Indies, although in their case, the new-look nature of their squad is more through necessity than choice. Many of their key players are absent either through contractual disputes, in the case of Chris Gayle, and or through the demands of the Champions League, in which Kieron Pollard is playing for Mumbai Indians, and in which Trinidad and Tobago have first dibs on several players who might otherwise be featuring here - including Darren Bravo, Ravi Rampaul and Adrian Barath.

Either way, Ottis Gibson, West Indies' coach, was seeking to put the matches in a positive light. "We don't have a lot of games leading up to the World Cup, so these two come along at a very good time for us," he said. "We've got a newish looking squad, but it gives our guys a good chance to see where they are in terms of international cricket. England are still the world champions don't forget, so we are taking these games very seriously in our build-up."

England start the series as favourites, partly because of their familiarity with the conditions, but also because of the deep well of confidence that the chosen players have inherited in the course of the summer. As Dernbach explained, the knowledge of what the team has achieved in all formats this summer couldn't help but rub off on newcomers to the squad - not least Bairstow, who produced a matchwinning 41 not out from 21 balls on debut in Cardiff last week.

"I think in one-day cricket you want to be able to go and express yourself and what's made you successful is what you want to continue to do," said Dernbach. "People will back you 100% in the decisions you make, and that's what happened for Jonny. For him to come in and look so at home was an outstanding achievement. That's a testament to the feeling we have got in the dressing room. We made him feel very welcome, he felt at home, and he was able to produce his best cricket which is what we want."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by 5wombats on (September 23, 2011, 11:45 GMT)

To be honest - Finn was much better than Johnson in The Ashes - certainly Finn looks much improved now too - so we'll keep Tremlett and Aus can have Finn and Woakes who are a measure better than Siddle, Johnson, Copeland. Harris is decent - but he still wouldn't be considered for England because; A) He's not good enough, and B) He's too old. Australia are very weak now. I can't see them posing any threat for at least 3-5 years, and that's if they work hard at it.

Posted by 5wombats on (September 23, 2011, 8:37 GMT)

@landl47 - ooo! sweet! I think you got him... again.

Posted by landl47 on (September 23, 2011, 0:01 GMT)

Tell you what, RandyOz, we'll give Australia that side- after all, they'd all make the Australian team on present form. England's side will be Cook (captain), Hales, Bell, Taylor, Bopara, Bairstow (wk), Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Finn and Anderson. Now that would be a worthwhile test series, not the walkover it would be if England played the present Australia team. Maybe we should also offer you Briggs, Panesar and Borthwick, since Aus doesn't have any spinners, and Tremlett and Woakes would be better seam bowling options than any of Copeland, Siddle and Johnson. Then there's Samit Patel and Buttler to come in to the one-day side, you'll need them. No wonder you're envious- it must be hard for an Aussie to live with the knowledge that England has more talent in its reserves than Australia has in its first team.

Posted by   on (September 22, 2011, 13:46 GMT)

@ RObster 1 - Not much else no - but then is any professional sport?

Posted by GenghisCohen on (September 22, 2011, 9:22 GMT)

I just hope that the money raised by this series goes to a good cause, like the Allen Stanford Defence Fund, or supports development of the game throughout the world by being invested in a massive Ponzi scheme. It's what Allen would have wanted.

Posted by   on (September 22, 2011, 8:55 GMT)

I like the "True English XI" proposed by RandyOZ -- True indeed!

Posted by Tom_Bowler on (September 22, 2011, 8:19 GMT)

Unbelievable that they're charging £35 quid for games between two scratch teams. That's like charging a tenner for a bunch of sour grapes from RandyOz's fruit stall. No one will be interested.

Posted by   on (September 22, 2011, 8:02 GMT)

haha..luk at the worry of englsh fans..when india played an injury full side they were so upbeat about englands glory,now one south african & one irish missing,they have already using words like ""weaknd engls team.""

Posted by Lmaotsetung on (September 22, 2011, 7:28 GMT)

Always the disclaimer "provided India play full strength". Well here's my statement...England will crush India this October, PROVIDED ENGLAND PLAY FULL STRENGTH! How do you like that statement now? Guess what mate, I know Eng won't be at full strength since they'll be missing Morgan and Broad. However unlike you, I won't be making any excuses even if they get swept 5-0. On another note...looks like IPL team can't even beat an English county team playing on the subcontinent who is missing its captain and 2 most powerful hitters.

Posted by Patchmaster on (September 22, 2011, 4:28 GMT)

@ Chirag - India has equal injuries to England in the end - so it was even as far as that goes, the rest was total humiliation for India. They can't fail to do better, and they'll be hoping for a monsoon to get away with some draws.

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Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
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