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England may need to address the shortcomings of their bowling attack but can otherwise rejoice in a fine win
January 11, 2013
It was not perfect, it was not always pretty and it was not quite as decisive as the final margin might suggest, but England can take great satisfaction from their first ODI victory over India in India in 14 attempts, stretching back to 2006.
This series was never going to be all about results. This is an India side in transition and an England side without several first choice players. Both teams are using it to build to more significant challenges in the future.
But England can take encouragement from this result. It was not just that they ended their grim run in India and have given themselves a decent platform in the series, but they also learned lessons about some fringe players who could have a role in their Champions Trophy and World Cup campaigns. Most pleasing of all, when the pressure was on, England held their nerve.
Certainly James Tredwell, deservedly recognised as man of the match, and the top-order batsmen could congratulate themselves on a job expertly done. Tredwell underlined his position as Graeme Swann's most appropriate understudy with a calm, disciplined and skilful performance that stood above every other spinner in the game. In another era, he might well have been England's first choice offspinner in Test and limited-overs cricket.
But in many ways, this was a game full of paradoxical impressions for England. While Samit Patel's batting could justifiably be credited as making the difference between the sides as he helped England plunder 64 from the final five overs and 38 from the last two, his bowling again looked below the standard required in international cricket. While Jade Dernbach's slower ball claimed the key wicket of MS Dhoni, his lack of control did not always convince. And while Tim Bresnan claimed an important wicket - that of Virat Kohli - he conceded more than eight an over and delivered too many poor deliveries for a senior bowler. England's seamers delivered a performance almost completely without yorkers - Hawkeye suggests there were, at most, two in the entire innings - with the attack often looking at least one bowler short.
There will be those that suggest that England might have scored more runs, too. It is hard to fault a performance that took England to the 12th highest total in their 588 game ODI history, but perhaps England's could have eked out a few more had their openers taken the Powerplay earlier. As it was Eoin Morgan and Kevin Pietersen, relatively new to the crease, were obliged to take it and still scored a respectable 44 runs. But had Bell and Cook, together for nearly 28 overs, taken it when both were fully accustomed to the pitch and the bowling, maybe they could have scored a few more. Their use of the Powerplay remains imperfect.
|England still look a bowler light. While Joe Root papered over some cracks, he cannot be expected to regularly fulfil such a role|
And while the partnership between Craig Kieswetter and Patel added 70 in only 37 balls - the defining passage of the match - Patel was, by far, the more impressive of the two. Indeed, while both men faced 20 deliveries, Patel failed to score off just four of them and Kieswetter failed to score off 11. Might Jos Buttler have proven a more explosive option? Perhaps both Kieswetter and Buttler are, at this relatively early stage of their career, a little hit and miss, with Kieswetter typically tending to either block or hit a boundary. In this innings, 16 of his runs came from only three deliveries, meaning the other 17 yielded just eight. Against a green India side that may go unnoticed but against a strong South Africa such factors could prove costly.
Patel's performance is particularly intriguing. He batted as well as he ever has in an England shirt and, if the next Champions Trophy or World Cup were to be played in Asia, would surely prove a valuable player. But with those events in the UK and Australia and New Zealand respectively, it may be that England still conclude they require a seam rather than spin bowling allrounder to bat at six or seven. In that case, the likes of Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes and Ravi Bopara may yet have a role to play.
The problem is that England still look a bowler light in such conditions. While Joe Root papered over some cracks with a typically mature performance with the ball, he cannot be expected to regularly fulfil such a role in England at this stage of his career. By playing only four specialist bowlers, England had little margin for error with few options but to persist with each of those four even if they are enduring a bad day. It would be a little harsh to suggest that England only got away with the performances of Dernbach and Bresnan but nor could it be said that either were fully convincing. That England came close to being beaten for only the fifth time having posted a total of more than 300 in an ODI does not reflect well on the bowling.
Some might also conclude that, such is the solidity of the top order, England need another aggressive batsman in their top six. Certainly the form of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell in the last year has been exceptional and there may be times when the acceleration of Pietersen and Morgan requires promotion up the order. They will conclude, as inevitable as it is erroneous, that England require someone other than Jonathan Trott to slip back into the side at the start of next summer.
But this was an unusually good pitch. In England, in particular, where the two new balls will provide greater assistance to the bowlers, the sight of Trott at No. 3 will remain reassuring. He can always drop down the order to accommodate the elevation of Pietersen or Morgan if England's openers have batted beyond 30 overs. The current ODI playing regulations - two new balls and a maximum of four men outside the fielding circle - may well contribute to an increase in the par ODI total, but an ability to see off good bowling and accumulate calmly will always be valuable. No-one in England does those things better than Trott. Perhaps no-one in the world is better at marshalling a chase of around 250.
England's strength, in Test and ODI cricket, is to play the percentages: to put consistency above inspiration; to apply pressure on the opposition and see if they crack rather than attempting to snatch games away. It is an approach that will continue to win more games than it loses. Whether it is enough to win a global event we will discover soon enough.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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