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England prescribe rest to jaded squad

George Dobell

June 26, 2014

Comments: 73 | Text size: A | A
Prior encouraged by England debutants

Moeen Ali provided stout resistance for England, England v Sri Lanka, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 5th day, June 24, 2014
Moeen Ali is the only England player who appeared at Headingley to be released for county duty © PA Photos

England have decided that rest will be the best cure for the team that slipped to their first series defeat on home soil against Sri Lanka. 10 of the 11 that played in the series are to miss the next round of County Championship games starting on Sunday, as well as NatWest T20 Blast games that precede them.

There is an irony in the only exception to the decision. Moeen Ali, who batted throughout the final day to take England within two balls of saving the Test and the series, will play in Worcestershire's Championship match against Glamorgan. While there will be few concerns about his batting, the England selectors will be keen to see him gain some more bowling time with the red ball after Moeen admitted in Leeds that he felt more confident delivering his doosra with the white ball.

Chris Woakes, who was also in the England squad for the Sri Lanka series but did not play, is free to play both in Warwickshire's T20 and Championship side.

All those not involved in matches will attend a two-day training camp in Loughborough, with the England squad for the first Test of the Investec series against India to be named in the middle of the week.

While the decision to rest the seam bowlers, in particular, is not a surprise, the decision to rest wicketkeeper Matt Prior is more perplexing. Prior endured a poor game with the gloves at Headingley and, having struggled with injury in the early stages of the season, had only kept in one first-class game before the Test series. As well as dropping a couple of chances, Prior also conceded 31 byes in the two-Test series.

England's inconsistent performance against Sri Lanka might have convinced the team management that the players required more time in the middle. But, perhaps with one eye to the future schedule - the entire five-Test series against India takes place in a six-week window - it has instead been concluded that rest may be of more benefit.

It was alarming to note how jaded some England players appeared towards the end of the second Test. James Anderson, despite an otherwise exemplary series, experienced one of his worst days in several years on the fourth day at Headingley, while Stuart Broad has a long-standing knee problem that limited him to two first-class games ahead of the series and appeared to be hampering him at times during it. Chris Jordan, so impressive in the limited-overs series and in early-season for Sussex, also appeared to have lost just a bit of nip.

It was also noticeable that those men - Joe Root and Prior, in particular - exposed to the pace and hostility of Mitchell Johnson in Australia seemed least able to cope with the pace of the Sri Lankan seamer Dhammika Prasad. England's problems may well stem more from feeling mentally jaded than physically.

Indeed, in years to come, the burn out of Jonathan Trott, the premature retirement of Graeme Swann, even the struggles of Alastair Cook and Steven Finn, may be seen as a reflection of a schedule that simply asks too much - physically but most of all mentally - of the best players. Nearly 300 days a year in hotels and, just as importantly, in the somewhat intense England environment, does little to retain the joy and freshness that is required to excel at the top level in sport.

Perhaps it is more surprising that the players have been withdrawn from Friday night's T20 programme. Not only might the relative freedom of a white-ball innings have freed up the likes of Cook to recover some form but, only a few weeks ago, the ECB re-launched the competition with assurances that England players would be made available more often. Even with the county game fighting for relevance and financial viability, it seems it will receive little help from the England camp.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by social_monster09 on (June 29, 2014, 2:31 GMT)

First of all end the dispute with Pieterson & bring him back in team w/o a doubt he was the best player in English side for a long time, he played many memorable Inns in past. Robson is good Australian flavour is showing in his batting, Root, Moin Ali all are ok. Most lethal weapons in England team are Bell, Anderson & Broad & may be cook if he some how regain his form back. During the Ashes in England Poms are the super favourite against mighty Aussies & now they lost to SL in home conditions & now 60% people predict Indian team as favourite how the time changes. All in all this is not a bad squad to play against Indians they only need 1 or 2 wins to bring back derailed train on track.

Posted by   on (June 29, 2014, 1:27 GMT)

Yes, unfortunate about the SL series, it ideally should have been a 0-0 draw, and test cricket won. The series was unusually emotionally charged for England, who ended up emotionally charging the SL players. All in all, both sides should say it was good cricket overall, and let what happened on the field stay on the field.

Anyways, please leave Cook alone. A captain should not be blamed when the whole team looks flat. Good Luck with India.

Posted by Cricsnake on (June 28, 2014, 7:11 GMT)

A good move. They need rest and comeback strongly. This time India will not be easy as 2011 & tough time for England. But I hope England would comeback strongly & it will be a thrilling series. England must hire Fletcher as coach as they did with Paul Farbace just before the Sri Lanka series.

Posted by wapuser on (June 28, 2014, 4:39 GMT)

I think its good for them to have a rest from on field, despite priors problem with the glov or short ball, roots problem with the fast ball. The off field training should help them better. Especially to build confidence. If england get hammered by indians, it should be largely a coaching problem.

Posted by bootlicker on (June 28, 2014, 4:07 GMT)

This is the ideal series ENG can show their capabilities and the form because they have already identified their problems and weaknesses against spin bowling and seam bowling. If they can't negotiate well and win test series and the ODI series against IND, there will be a serious threat to ENG cricket and management as a whole. The simple reason is IND is not as strong as SL in any form of cricket at this moment. Especially ENG should know how to use their home conditions well, which SL used better than ENG. SL is a tougher opponent than IND where ever you play against these two teams because of their variety and shrewdness of the top brass especially Mahela. If ENG cannot post wins in first two tests against IND it will be very difficult later on.

Posted by stumpedlloyd on (June 28, 2014, 2:04 GMT)

Firstly, don't blame the struggles of Steven Finn on playing too much cricket. His form and confidence got shot because the English coaches decided to muck about with his bowling action and then pretty much made it clear he wasn't ready for test cricket. As for the others, seriously, you play a couple of tests and a few ODIs and that's too much cricket? How exactly are these guys supposed to find form? What's Prior going to do? Play EA Sports Cricket to get back to learning how to keep wicket, not drop catches and not allow 31 byes?! Why's he even in the squad? Surely, Jos Buttler would've done no worse than Prior in this series. England are very lucky that it's India they're facing, India who have a habit of playing way below their talent and expectations overseas. It would have been something to see Steyn, Morkel and Co. bowling at this English side now.

Posted by SpaMaster on (June 27, 2014, 20:50 GMT)

What were they doing before this two-Test series?

Posted by TripleCenturian on (June 27, 2014, 12:28 GMT)

Codswallop. Tired and jaded? Prior has played about 2 county games this summer as has Broad as they have rested and recovered from knocks and niggles. Anderson has had his workload managed by England carefully. Plunkett, Ballance, Robson and Jordan would happily go back and play county cricket for the next week instead of hanging around with the tired and jaded old brigade picking up their negativity. if Anderson had survived that last over and we had drawn I bet the players would have been euphoric and celebrated as if they had won and then gone to play for their counties. Instead, they need to close ranks and come together to share their disappointment collectively in the England camp that causes all their problems. Give them a break, let them play some cricket to enjoy a few days and then prepare for the first test.

Posted by Paul_Somerset on (June 27, 2014, 12:26 GMT)

It looks the 10 good old boys have already been selected for the First Test vs India, with Moeen Ali being dropped.

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