England in India 2011-12 October 13, 2011

Series a test for Cook-Flower combination

Alastair Cook's goal is to revive England's one-day record, something that no captain has really been able to do over an extended period for close to 20 years. A hat-trick of series wins would be a decent way to start
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When Alastair Cook spoke to the media before flying out to India last week he talked about "my side" and the players "he wants" to take England's one-day side forward. His first summer in charge of the 50-over side - or, rather, about six weeks as Cook pointed out himself - couldn't really have gone much better. Series wins against Sri Lanka and India, the two World Cup finalists, are impressive additions to his CV while his success, and adaptability, with the bat surprised many.

It is always dangerous to look too far ahead when it comes to England's one-day cricket - many a poor World Cup has been followed by a brief false dawn under a new captain - but alongside Andy Flower there is a feeling something can be different this time as Cook shapes a team to challenge at the 2015 tournament in Australia and New Zealand. His tone at the Heathrow press conference was of a man with a strong vision, clear thoughts and a confidence that they can work.

Time will tell, and there will be more than a few stumbling blocks along the way, but the next three weeks in India will give a better indication of where the Cook-Flower development currently stands. The 3-0 series win at home was a commendable result, but as much as it showed many impressive qualities - the rejuvenation of Ravi Bopara, debut of Jonny Bairstow and pace of Steven Finn among them - there were also reminders of how far England's one-day game needs to come. More reliability is required during the death overs, they still haven't quite cracked Powerplay batting (particularly when setting a score) and Cook needs to hone his judgement of when it's worth maintaining pressure in the field. However, nobody said there would be easy fixes.

Again England will be pitted against a weakened India side but, this time, conditions won't be in their favour. India's scars from their dreadful tour, though, will remain and that is an opportunity England can seize. Throughout India's defeat-filled three months the common theme - more from the supporters, it must be said, than the players - was 'wait until we get you in our back yard.' That could well prove true, but an early defeat for India, in their first home internationals since the World Cup final, and the pressure (and anger) will quickly grow.

Like India, England are not at full strength with injuries to Stuart Broad and Eoin Morgan, two key ODI players, while James Anderson has been rested. It means a chance to further test out the much-vaunted depth in the English game that was often on show during the recent home season. Kevin Pietersen is back (perhaps for a final chance to revive his ODI career) and brings some experience to the middle order, but the likes of Bopara, Bairstow, Finn, Jade Dernbach and Scott Borthwick are key parts of England's future.

The series will test England in all departments and they will need to quickly adapt to the surfaces they encounter. It will only be a matter of time before debate resumes about the top three which will include Cook and Jonathan Trott. The latter, despite an average of 51.48 and strike-rate of 78.35, is often the focus of attention and how he adjusts his game-plan to a situation will show how he's evolving as a one-day batsman. Cook has also hinted at a degree of flexibility in the order.

Pietersen presents his own fascination, but there's also the case of Ian Bell. He can lay claim to being England's best Test batsman after a prolific 12 months, yet he hasn't cemented a one-day berth. Being shunted around the order hasn't helped and he found himself at No. 6 against Sri Lanka which, he admitted, wasn't ideal but when given a run at No. 4 against India continued the tendency to waste good starts. It's difficult to see where he fits in the batting line-up especially with Bairstow's form demanding selection.

England require more reliability during the death overs, they still haven't quite cracked Powerplay batting (particularly when setting a score) and Cook needs to hone his judgement of when it's worth maintaining pressure in the field.

With the ball Cook will rely on the experience of Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann. The captain will have to be aware of when to use his key bowlers now that the new regulations have altered when Powerplays can be taken and also the impact of a ball at either end. Dernbach's box of allsorts will prove valuable on flat pitches, but he needs to ensure the slower ball doesn't become the norm as batsmen can set themselves.

Finn, meanwhile, will likely complete the pace attack to leave Chris Woakes and Stuart Meaker waiting for their opportunities although both, along with Borthwick, impressed in the warm-ups. England view Finn as being a key bowler for 2015 where he can exploit the bouncier Australian surfaces and these one-dayers will show how much subtlety is being added to his raw skills.

The inclusion, on both sides, of some fresh faces (and absence of household names) has helped give this series an interest that it may otherwise have lacked. England-India is never without bite, but five more ODIs and another T20 on the back of the recent contests test the limits of endurance. International cricket needs the best playing each other, yet that needs to be balanced with retaining the uniqueness of the contest. It's a danger faced with the overload of England-Australia contests in the next three years and you don't want marquee series to lose their edge because they are too commonplace.

That, though, won't be an issue occupying Cook's mind at the moment. His goal is to revive England's one-day record, something that no captain has really been able to do over an extended period for close to 20 years. A hat-trick of series wins would be a decent way to start.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • V.L on October 16, 2011, 2:01 GMT

    @wiseshaw Shaw and Coll hav been dropped not rested. England has lost only two players to injuries. India on the other hand is vastly depleted in both batting and bowling. 6 players from the WC winning XI Sehwag, Sachin, Munaf, Yuvraj, Zaheer, Ishant and Harbhajan (the latter being dropped) are missing. Nonetheless it will not matter. There are 3 spinning allrounders in the current side(Raina, Jadeja and Ashwin) and legspinner Rahul Sharma. They are more than sufficient to rip through the English batting order.

  • Sai on October 15, 2011, 17:19 GMT

    Alastair Cook has really become a transformed man within the last few years. Not only is he batting well in Tests, but he is also batting well in ODIs at a strike rate of nearly 95! Amazing Alastair! His captaincy is pretty good too, if he could bat really fast, then I'd back him to take over as T20 captain as well. I hope we have good matches for the whole series instead of one-sided matches like in England.

  • Aditya on October 15, 2011, 15:15 GMT

    That's why, as a journalist, you shouldn't be on twitter, Andrew. You start thinking (and claiming) you know what the 'supporters' think (re. "wait until we get you in our back yard"). A couple of dozen tweets that you attract by baiting a few Indian fans on twitter don't reflect what Indian supporters think, in general. That's just disparaging to judge all the supporters by what you hear on twitter. Many more fans didn't say 'wait until..', but you choose to base your opinion (and write about it in an article as well) on a few angry tweets. Get off twitter, or stop judging 'Indian supporters' by what replies you get on twitter, because apparently you'd never take into account what the supporters who are 'not' sending you angry tweets think.

  • Girik on October 15, 2011, 1:51 GMT

    I agree with Vilander. India can only take revenge against England in Tests as that is the premier form of the game. But not only that but England humiliated India in Tests, not as much in ODI's. Even smashing the Poms at home in Tests would be nice. But ultimately winning the away Test series is the only true revenge. When Australia won the 2005 Border Gavaskar not only was it the "final frontier" but it was revenge for the amazing comeback they encountered from Laxman, Dravid and Harbhajan 4 years earlier. So India, wait 4 years for your revenge or at least until next year for the home Test series.

  • Dummy4 on October 14, 2011, 22:54 GMT

    Would be a good test for Cook Flower indeed, if the Indians keep preparing this kind of crap pitches that crumble into the second innings. Had the Indians batted second, the result may have been the reverse.

  • Muthuvel on October 14, 2011, 13:20 GMT

    Eng beat us 4-0 in tests, it does not matter what happens in odi's bragging rights firmly with Eng am afraid.

  • Dummy4 on October 14, 2011, 8:42 GMT

    Weren't they happy with thrashing the living daylights out of us and driving us out of their country.... they've followed us here to beat us into submission now!

  • kumar on October 14, 2011, 8:33 GMT

    jackiethepen EXCATLY knows what happend in england! lets go brits show me what you gotta now in INDIA calling yourself so called new champs and comparing yourself to West Indies and Australia's golden times! All you mad England fans READ this, I am hardcore Indian cricket fan! i love my country and follow cricket with very passion. I could gaurteens no Indian fan ever talked trashed nor act all khakhi when India was on top of table. And listen you gotta on top of table that with bagging BHIK for wicket of IAN BELL wicket. So before you compare yourself w/ India, remind yourself to win 2 ODDI's World cups, have captain like Dhoni who play in spirit of game , at last have so called god Cricket LIL master Sachin. Maybe you might have rulled us for almost 300 years but when it comes to Cricket! you might have taught us how to play but you still gotta another a century to compete to compare yourself to India. I hope that clear up your so called over CONFIDENCE! let the show BEGIN! REVENGE!

  • Arnab on October 14, 2011, 7:05 GMT

    Let this be a good series, and let the raw talents of Aaron, Yadav and Sharma be tested. I am not bothered by batting. Niether am I by a loss. i am more interested in prospects. This is a low ikey series and gives good opportunity for India to rebuild. Good luck to English and international players :P. But seriously stay safe and avoid delhi belly!

  • Jackie on October 13, 2011, 23:42 GMT

    I thought Bell had a decent Series against India given the D/L shortened games he played in. You can't comment on good starts being wasted when they contributed runs at a SR to propel the innings. You will get out when you are taking risks like that. Do you ever watch T20? Cook and Trott were often behind the rate and Bell asked to make sure we were in front with D/L on the board. The only time he played a different kind of innings was when he came in early and got 53 to rebuild the innings with Bopara. I'm fed up of cliches about cricketers throwing their wickets away and wasting good starts. When the rate goes above 8 as it did in the last game, Bell's first job was to bring it back to par - which he did.

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