Essex v England, LV= Challenge Match, Chelmsford, 1st day June 30, 2013

Gooch refuses to excuse poor batting


Graham Gooch, the England batting coach, made no excuses for an underwhelming performance by England's top-order in the Ashes warm-up match against Essex at Chelmsford.

None of the England top seven were able to register a half-century as three Essex bowlers with only eight wickets between them this season reduced England to 212 for 7. An eighth-wicket stand of 116 between Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann rescued them but Gooch bluntly asserted that England "had to do better" if they were to win the Ashes.

However, he refuted any suggestion that England might be struggling to adapt to long-form, red-ball cricket after several weeks of limited-overs games or that the low-key nature of this match - albeit played in front of a full-house crowd of 6,500 at Chelmsford - might have contributed to any lack of intensity in the performance.

"Modern-day players have to switch between three formats now," Gooch said. "I wouldn't make excuses for that: it is something you have to handle. Players have to make the adjustments. I don't make any excuses for them and I don't think any of our players would want to use that as an excuse. Our guys got in and they got out. They won't be happy with that and next time they get a chance they have got to do a better job.

"It is an important game. The pre-Test games in Australia last time round served us well. They got us into the right frame of mind and the right attitude to win the Ashes. It's not just another game; it's not just a warm-up game: it's the only game that matters. And tomorrow morning, it will be the only game that matters, too.

"We would have liked the top-order to spend more time at the crease and to capitalise on their starts. You want your main batsmen to get into a bit of rhythm and to get their games in order. We're building to peak next week and we would have liked a bit more from some of those guys.

"You have to bat long. There's no secret to it. Once you get in you have to capitalise on that and, come the Test series, we have to put big totals on the board if we get starts. The job of the batters is to build a platform and create an opportunity for the bowlers to win the match. That's their job and they know that it is their job.

"Today wasn't a disaster, but some of the guys would have wanted to spend more time out there."

Gooch did reserve warm praise for Joe Root, however. Root looks set to open in the first Investec Test of the Ashes series after England omitted Nick Compton and, in the eyes of Gooch, there is no reason why Root should not prove a success.

"Joe is a natural opener," Gooch said. "The selectors want to look at Joe and give themselves an option. Personally I don't see any reason why Joe won't make a success if he bats at the top of the order or in the middle-order. He is a consummate player as a young man already. He has things to work on and he has to improve - like every player - but he started out his career opening the batting and he has had a lot of success there this season with Yorkshire.

"I can't see any reason he won't make a success if he is given the opportunity of opening in the first Test at Trent Bridge. It's not a case of making an adjustment; he's an opener anyway."

If few of the England players will look back at the day with fond memories, it was a much better day for Tom Craddock. The 23-year-old legspinner went into the game without a first-class* wicket this season and, in his first spell was confronted by Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen on a surface his captain, Ravi Bopara, described as "the best for a few years" at Chelmsford.

But Craddock, who broke into first-class cricket through the MCCU scheme and the Unicorns programme, responded by dismissing both of them and then adding the wicket of Matt Prior.

"When Ravi threw me the ball, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell were standing there," he said. "I just wanted to land a few and maybe join a few dots together, but taking three is surreal.

"I've watched Kevin for a long time and I know full well he will happily take down spinners. I thought I'd bowl my areas and, if he took me down a couple of times, I'd put the men back accordingly, but happily enough he gave me a caught-and-bowled chance. It's the best day of my career; no doubts."

*This match had first-class status removed on the third day

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rod on July 2, 2013, 0:40 GMT

    I've said it before. If they keep Compton and leave Root at 6, then there's just one position (Compton's) that's a little uncertain, and if he continues to fail they could always bring in someone like Carberry. If they have Root opening, then there are two positions we can't be quite sure about (Root and Bairstow at 6). What do we do if Root goes cheaply in the first two tests? How quickly do we switch back, or do we?

  • H on July 1, 2013, 21:12 GMT

    @Mitty2 oh I agree, I was definitely not in favour of the move. I also worry it may end up damaging a very talented batsman. A struggle against a very good bowling attack (saying he opens for Yorkshire doesn't mean anything as there isn't a county attack as good as this Australian one) could harm him mentally and ruin a promising career. I think he will end up opening one day but there's no reason that has to be now.

    Your point about Hussey is well made and actually that's who Root reminds me of. The calm assuredness he brings is so useful at 6. He's got such a good head on his shoulders and last thing we want to do is damage that. Anyone can have a good technique, but at Test level it's no good unless it's matched by a strong psyche (Ian Bell in 2005 comes to mind). Leave him be, let Bairstow wait for his turn.

  • Hamish on July 1, 2013, 16:42 GMT

    @john-price, if you think having bairstow in the line up is better than having Compton in as opener with root at 6 that's fine, but just remember that it would make a lot of Aussies happy. Bairstow v roach sticks in my mind.

    @H_Z_O, bit stupid on my behalf to miss that. But anyway being a 'natural opener' and converting to the middle order is much easier than the other way around. It depends on what the team needs - just ask mike hussey, and he turned out all right didn't he? Before miller's outlandish and restrictive assertion about root, root was needed in the middle order and he seamingly fitted in fine, with a century at headingly and a good test against India. Duing this time Compton was also doing well and in a relatively settled opening partnership with cook. And if there's one thing you need before a big series, it's a settled opening partnership. Ridiculous to dump Compton and move root, in my humble opinion.

  • david on July 1, 2013, 15:15 GMT

    Yorkshire see root as an opener and have played him in that position so its not like England are playing him in a position hes not accustomed to. of the 2 i would take root. just because Compton scored close to 100 runs against Australia in the last game does not push him further up the ladder than root.

  • david on July 1, 2013, 15:06 GMT

    rampant_Aussie. that is never a problem with England re " as good as they think they are". other than KP i doubt they are in the least bit big headed as its not an English or British trait for that matter. as to the press that can also be taken with a pinch of salt, they are just as able to land a blow to our solar plexus if we fall from our so called giddy heights. neither do they think we are near the quality of the last Aussie side, just as much as the greatest of WI were better that that Aussie team. we are a fair to middling team who on our day can be as good or bad as most. will we beat the Aussies, yes we should do but wont bet on it. i was one of the few who thought the Aussies would draw with India 2 - 2. but there you go, look how that turned out.

  • John on July 1, 2013, 11:54 GMT

    @ Mitty2 - you can't expect the selectors to pick sides based on selective use of statistics - they are obliged to look at all the facts - like six consecutive failures for Compton, including the embarrassing fiasco in the last NZ test. They also look at the how batsmen approach their task,the circumstances in which runs are made and the potential for players to take the initiative and determine the course of a match - and they conclude, quite rightly I think, that the Yorkies are the way to go.

  • H on July 1, 2013, 11:51 GMT

    @Mitty2 I actually read Goochy's comments a bit differently. He's backing him as a "natural opener" in case the selectors decide not to pick Nick in the squad, but also said he backs him to be a success whether he opens or bats in the middle order, in case the selectors do pick Nick.

    Or maybe I just want Bairstow dropped so badly I'm reading too much into things! While I disagree that Bairstow is inferior to Compton (Bairstow got runs against a very good South Africa side), with Bell out of form, I'd rather have Root at 6.

  • Hamish on July 1, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    Compton gets an 80 against the likely Australian first bowling line up and root gets a 40 against a mediocre division 2 bowling line up without Napier and topley, but NO, root is the better opener. Makes sense. Also, for the sake of it, every tome the sexond new ball has come on when root's batting, root gets out. And gooch you even noted that root can play eiter position...

    Compton has dominated the county for two years, got two back to back centuries not four months agoc and root has got a century in the middle order not two months ago... Where does bairstow fit into this...? Inferior to both and without a test century. Nice one England. But why am I complaining?

    @jmcilhinney, excuses of complacen have been used redundantly against NZ, Pakistan, SL and SA. And now in a warm up game. It reeks of arrogance, and to be frank - undeserved arrogance.

  • John on July 1, 2013, 3:32 GMT

    Unlike Australia, England don't need to get used to the local conditions so clearly this game was scheduled purely to get the players into a long-form frame of mind after having played a considerable amount of limited-overs cricket. If they are in that frame of mind by the end of the game then it has served its purpose but, if this first innings is anything to go by, scheduling this game was a jolly good idea. I don't think many of the players are taking this game too seriously, i.e. not seriously enough. It's getting a bit monotonous, talking about complacency and wake-up calls for England. They need to learn to maintain their intensity from series to series. They are a good team but they are not Australia or WI of recent decades or even SA of today. They are not good enough to be complacent against anyone and keep winning consistently so they really need to snap out of it. England should beat Australia fairly well but they won't if they let up much at all.