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After the joy of securing the first ODI, England were brought back down earth with a bump and given a harsh reminder of the challenges in India
January 15, 2013
Like fog and drizzle and queues and football hooliganism, England's performance in the second match of this series provided a startling reminder of the bad old days of English cricket.
All the familiar failings were there: a collapse against spin; 14 unused overs; a bowling display that leaked 108 runs from the final 10 overs and some timid batting that saw 19 runs scored in 10 overs in mid-innings. Had a miners' strike broken out in the Powerplay it would have been perfectly fitting. No doubt the rubbish in the England dressing room is yet to be collected.
But, on the basis that sides really do learn more in defeat than victory and England are looking to build towards future events, then they may reflect on this match as a valuable experience. While it is too early to reach conclusions over the ODI future of many of these players - we are not even halfway through this series, after all - it is becoming clearer who might, and who might not, be of use to England in the Champions Trophy and beyond.
Fitness permitting, England's attack for the Champions Trophy will contain James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann and Steven Finn in a first choice team. So this series can be used, in part at least, to decide on the identity of the fifth member of the attack.
The answers, to date, may prove a little inconvenient. In both the Champions Trophy, in the UK, and the World Cup, in Australia and New Zealand, a fourth seamer may be of more use than a second spinner. And, if England are to play two spinners, they would surely prefer the second to be a left-armer to offer variety to Swann's offspin.
However, in this series at least, England's most reliable bowler has been the offspinner James Tredwell. His 20 overs have cost only 4.60 apiece and he has demonstrated a calm temperament and level of controlled skill that should translate well to any surface or situation.
Samit Patel might prove even more attractive for England. After enjoying an excellent game with the bat in the first ODI, he enjoyed a decent game with the ball in the second. His left-arm spin would be a concern going into a big game on a flat pitch but his all-round ability may yet balance the England side better than any other options.
It is worth noting, however, that while England's three spinners - Patel, Tredwell and Joe Root - delivered 22 overs and took one wicket at a cost of just 96 runs, India' s bowled 18 overs and claimed 5 for 70. Such statistics are unlikely to be replicated in England or Wales.
England's seamers were less convincing. While each of them impressed at times, they were plundered horribly in the dying overs and delivered only one yorker in the entire India innings. Chris Woakes, given an opportunity in place of the injured Tim Bresnan, looked tight initially but lacked answers when India's batsmen went on the attack. In first-class cricket his main weapon is swing but sans that, and lacking the pace to force the batsmen on to the back foot, he is going to have to learn supreme levels of control to prosper at this level. The long full tosses he delivered when searching for the yorker were a concern.
Jade Dernbach conceded 20 from his final over and, like Woakes, was punished for bowling a good length in the dying overs. Until the death, however, he had shown glimpses of the talent that keeps the selectors persisting with him. His variations briefly made a one-day batsman as accomplished as MS Dhoni - and few are more accomplished in this format - appear foolish and he produced a beauty to dismiss Gautam Gambhir.
Like Woakes, Bresnan and Steven Finn, though, he - and England's bowling coach - would do well to work on a yorker than can be relied upon under pressure. If a bowler can consistently produce a yorker, their variations will prove all the more valuable. The game may have developed but it is worth recalling how few slower balls the likes of Joel Garner or Mike Procter delivered. If the yorker is good enough, the batsman will always be taking a huge risk in attacking it. It's an area in which England must improve.
Let us not worry about Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan and Finn. They have shown what they can do and they are in this side for the long haul. Those who suggested after the win in Rajkot that Jonathan Trott may prove superfluous need to think again, though. Trott is sure to bat at No. 3 in the Champions Trophy and might well have provided the calm head and steady accumulation to have kept England in the hunt. Sometimes a players' value is more apparent in their absence.
Concerns about Craig Kieswetter should be far more pressing. His innings in this game was unusually poor: having laboured over 19 deliveries for his first run, he managed 17 more from his next 19 before tamely pushing one to midwicket. Twenty-nine of his 42 deliveries had been scoreless.
It is this one-dimensional element to his batting that remains so damaging. While he can, like many talented young biffers, hit a poor ball a long way, his difficulty in rotating the strike is allowing the opposition to build pressure and failing to provide a release. His keeping has improved but, after 45 ODIs, he is struggling to convince in either department. It is hard to deny that stronger options exist.
It is worth keeping this result in perspective, too. Before Rajkot England had not won one of their last 13 ODIs against India in India and have now won only two of their last 20. There were bound to be days like this on this tour. Few will recall them if England go on to win the Champions Trophy in June.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala