England v South Africa, 3rd npower Test, Edgbaston July 31, 2008

England's comfortable stagnation

Vaughan and his team-mates in the top six have no rivals, and no incentive to improve their performances
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Paul Collingwood: another agonised exit for the most vulnerable England batsman since 2005 © Getty Images
 

After the horrors of Headingley, the first day at Edgbaston was meant to mark the start of England's grand revival. Instead, it might one day be recalled as the moment the rot within the dressing-room walls spilled out into full public view. On a blameless wicket at their favourite Test venue, and from a steady platform of 68 for 0, England produced a display of unmitigated ineptitude that must surely, this time, bring about the changes to the batting order that are so debilitatingly overdue.

Come to think of it, when was the last time there was a change to England's batting order? By that I don't mean cosmetic alterations such as a new combination of openers, or the introduction of a new face to cover for injury or illness. With the exception of Andrew Strauss' short-lived omission in Sri Lanka, and Paul Collingwood's one-match eviction at Headingley, the same familiar names have been trotted out in every single game since the start of the 2005 Ashes.

In fact, the last regular to be told "thanks but no thanks" was Graham Thorpe, after his 100th Test against Bangladesh in June 2005. He was put out to pasture to make way for Kevin Pietersen, while five Tests earlier in Cape Town, Mark Butcher - whose sated indifference was, in those days, viewed as the exception not the norm - suffered a convenient wrist injury that ushered in Ian Bell, via the short-lived option of Rob Key. Were it not for his personal problems, Marcus Trescothick would doubtless still be in situ at the top of England's order, but as it is, Alastair Cook has proved more than adequate as his understudy.

Their solidity of selection far outweighs their solidity at the crease. In 41 Tests since the start of the 2005 Ashes, England have used only ten different players in the top six (one of whom, Andrew Flintoff, is now slotting in at No. 7). Cook, the newest regular recruit, already has 32 appearances to his name, but Nos. 9 and 10 barely register on the radar. Owais Shah has managed two caps, 14 months apart, while Ravi Bopara kept Strauss' seat warm for three frantic Tests in December last year.

As if to intensify the feeling of them and us, England have handed debuts to nine bowlers and two wicketkeepers in the same period of time, of whom precisely two - Monty Panesar and Tim Ambrose - are playing in this game*. Test victories cannot be achieved without an attack that can take 20 wickets, but by common consent the Headingley debacle was entirely the fault of the batsmen, who allowed themselves to be bundled out in two sessions on the first day. It was a similar story during England's last Test defeat before that one, at Hamilton back in March, when the batsmen were routed for 110 in the fourth innings. And yet, perversely, the men who paid the price then were two bowlers, Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison.

One might have assumed that England, three summers on, would finally have moved on from 2005, but the stagnation in their top order implies otherwise. Instead of using that summer to build towards greater glories, the batsmen are hurtling headlong towards their fifth series defeat in subsequent 11 outings (having won eight out of 11 in 2003-05). Their only victories in that period have come against Pakistan, New Zealand (twice) and West Indies, who - coincidentally or otherwise - occupy the three slots above Bangladesh in the current ICC World Rankings.

Of course, the fault may not entirely lie with the men in possession. It could be that there is a genuine dearth of challengers working their way through county cricket, although the weight of runs that Bopara has amassed for Essex this season, and the form and confidence that Key and Shah both showed during the Twenty20 Cup final (a match comparable to Test cricket in terms of pressure if not the format) suggests that the distance at which they are kept from the Test side is more about protectionism than any lack of ability.

That suspicion was reinforced ten-fold at Edgbaston on Wednesday, when Collingwood's recall backfired spectacularly. His tortured 4 from 22 balls took his first-class season tally to 96 runs from ten innings (which is 260 fewer than the bowling allrounder he replaced, Stuart Broad) and dropped his Test average below the magical 40-mark that is constantly pointed to as spurious proof of the top six's worth. Moreover, it ruthlessly undermined not only his position in the side but that of his captain, Michael Vaughan. By declaring that Colly was "a good man to have in the dressing room", Vaughan unwittingly shed new light on the self-serving clique that is currently representing the national side.

 
 
In 41 Tests since the start of the 2005 Ashes, England have used only ten different players in the top six (one of whom, Andrew Flintoff, is now slotting in at No. 7)
 

What Vaughan seems to have forgotten is that Collingwood has always been a good man to have in the dressing room. That is precisely why he has been such an asset to the squad for the past seven years. In Vaughan's previous incarnation as captain, he didn't let such sentimental issues get in the way of the tough business of team selection. There was a period, from Collingwood's Test debut in Sri Lanka in 2003-04 to his Ashes recall 18 months later, when he was consistently and dispiritingly overlooked for every job opportunity going, yet remained in the squad precisely because he could be relied upon not to complain about his lot.

What exactly has changed between then and now, or more pertinently between Collingwood's omission at Headingley and his hasty and ill-starred recall for this Test? The answer probably lies in Vaughan's own insecurities. His initial scapegoat was Darren Pattinson, who has about as much chance of resuming his international career as Scott Muller after the "can't bowl, can't field" controversy. Now Collingwood is inching ever closer to his endgame, damned by Vaughan's insistence on retaining kindred spirits in the dressing room.

But how much longer can Vaughan himself survive on reputation alone, especially when he is in the sort of dreadful form that is currently undermining his status? Five years ago on this very ground, the England captaincy came his way when Nasser Hussain jacked in the job at the end of the final day. Hussain's rationale was that he had lost the dressing room to his younger team-mate, whose captaincy of the one-day side had produced precisely the spark that is lacking from England's current performances. Seeing as Collingwood is the current one-day captain, there's little prospect of history producing an exact replica, but Strauss and Flintoff are both former Test captains, while Pietersen and Cook are clear candidates for the future.

Even the best captains have a shelf life. As far as Vaughan is concerned, he believes he will remain fresh until after the 2009 Ashes, even though his knees are creaking so much he won't ever again risk his offspin, and his batting average this year - even allowing for his century at Lord's - is an unworthy 24.71. The chances of England ditching their captain with Australia looming seem non-existent, yet the treatment meted out to Butcher and Thorpe in 2005 shows how tough decisions can pay rich dividends.

For the time being, both Vaughan and Collingwood are being backed to the hilt - publicly at least - by the third most vulnerable man in the set-up, Peter Moores. But a third series defeat in six would ramp up the pressure on all three. "I think international cricketers are always under pressure to deliver," said Moores at the close of the first day. "That goes with the territory and it's part of the fun of the game."

But are England's batsmen really under pressure? With more money floating around the game than ever before, and no more than a smattering of pretenders lining up behind them, the feeling of cosiness grows with every passing debacle. Comfortable stagnation threatens to be the story of Vaughan's second coming as England captain. It would be an unworthy legacy for the country's most successful captain of all time.

* Non-batting debutants since 2005 - Shaun Udal, Liam Plunkett, Ian Blackwell, Monty Panesar, Sajid Mahmood, Jon Lewis, Matt Prior, Chris Tremlett, Stuart Broad, Tim Ambrose, Darren Pattinson

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • lazo on August 2, 2008, 22:13 GMT

    Andrew you seem to be another English commentator blaming England's batsmen for cureent woes.I have made my comments that the real problem is the bowlers prior to the 3rd Test (see my comments on CM Jenkins piece about England lacking depth). What can Vaughan do with a pop gun attack?. He tried everything but at the end of the day they failed. Why? It is a no brainer. Anderson and Sidebootom have built their reputation knocking out mug batting lineupslike NZ (2 series) & a weak WI outfit. They faced their first real test in this series and failed miserably.

    The selectors are to blame for not selecting the best team. The coach is to blame for leaving Harmison on the sidelines. Vaughan is a class batsmen and he will return to form just like Collingwood has.

    Fortunately there is hope if England can field their best team in the future. Keep the first 6 plus Flintoff ( he is not a strike bowler and needs support. Retain Monty. Bring in Harmison, Jones & Bailey as keeper.

  • timedout on August 2, 2008, 18:14 GMT

    Carping is the curse of England. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (selling cartloads of tabloid papers) because it creates a climate that makes players nervous. Collingwood only managed to reassert himself over the sniping chorus exemplified by this singularly ill-timed article by a quite extraordinary effort of will, but many others have been undone by it over the years.

    What's needed is, unfortunately, impossible: a cultural shift, a sea-change in the way the English think. We need, in fact, more of Collingwood's no-nonsense hard work, making the most of what there is. Instead, the same stupid disease afflicts English cricket as the football. We hark back to the Ashes of 2005 (or the World Cup of 1966), we assume at the back of our minds that we're entitled to be top nation. We're not. Not even Australia is 'entitled'. It is the cricketing top nation because it works hard, faces things as they are and deals with them. A nation of Collingwoods, against a nation of whingers.

  • FreeZimbabwe on August 2, 2008, 17:36 GMT

    I am posting this well after collys ton and still i think he should go sooner rather than later, his bowling is ineffective in Test cricket and Stuart Broad has the class to have been able to score that century from no 8, which is the position Collingwood deserves the way he has batted this year, and although Broad hasnt taken many wickets, he looks a lot more likely to consistently take Test wickets over the next 3-4 years than Paul Collingwood.

    Therefore I think the best balance for the current England side would be to drop Collingwood, get Flintoff back at 6 (and stop flogging the hell out of him on the field), Broad at 7 (Broad is good enough at 7, also shouldering some of Freds bowling workload), Ambrose at 8 (I think his batting will come good and hes a decent enough gloveman but 8 for now), with room for 3 specialist bowlers, Anderson, Sidebottom and Panesar. Same batting order in the top 5 minus Vaughan for Rob Key or Shah with Pietersen the captain

  • NeilCameron on August 2, 2008, 6:40 GMT

    Why are England's top six so entrenched? How about we look at their Test batting averages:

    Strauss 41.26 Cook 42.53 Vaughan 41.44 Pietersen 50.36 Bell 43.20 Collingwood 41.43

    Maybe it's because England's top six have actually been performing well over the years? I mean, when was the last era of English cricket when the top six had Test batting averages exceeding 40?

  • 0NBH on August 2, 2008, 0:56 GMT

    Mark Ramprakash? The same Mark Ramprakash who has barely scored a run for two months and is choking yet again now he is in the media spotlight, just like the rest of his career? Maybe not All these comments about Collingwood have been made to look a bit silly too... criticising players and/or selection in the middle of a match is never sensible.

    "With the exception of Andrew Strauss' short-lived omission in Sri Lanka, and Paul Collingwood's one-match eviction at Headingley, the same familiar names have been trotted out in every single game since the start of the 2005 Ashes." Of course Andrew. Except, Cook hadn't made his debut by the end of that series, Collingwood played one game in it as a specialist fielder, and as you kindly point out Strauss HAS been dropped - when recalled, he scored runs. Of the remaining three, Pietersen is the best batsman in the country, Bell the best young batsman and scored 199 two games ago, and Vaughan the (mostly injured) captain. But never mind.

  • KiwiPom on August 1, 2008, 23:17 GMT

    I think if England were to select the best 11 players and then select a captain from them the batting problems just might be on their way to a solution.

  • SridharSampath on August 1, 2008, 21:12 GMT

    The article couldn't have come at a worse time. Colly has played the innings of his life and Andrew Miller is made to look like a fool...which he isn't. Cricket,the game of glorious uncertainties! Gaadi's observation about the BCCI is spot on.

  • owen116 on August 1, 2008, 18:47 GMT

    No one has mentioned that perhaps South Africa are a much better team than England. Sorry folks (a lifelong England fan)

  • rajmore on August 1, 2008, 15:53 GMT

    I have two words for the English selectors. Mark Ramprakash.

    Mark is very gifted, has the doggedness of a good tailender, he has an un-Brit grit to him. Just in case anyone missed it, Mark was the Wisden's player of the year last year - 2007.

  • Gaadi on August 1, 2008, 15:27 GMT

    A similar situation applies to the Indian Test cricket team.

    It seems the super 6 (Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman and Dhoni) all have guaranteed places in the team only taken up by the irregulars Yuvraj, Dinesh Karthik when any of the super 6 are down with injuries. It is no wonder that Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman (92 tests) are all at or beyond the 100 test match mark. Further, the super 6 are comfortable with the knowledge that their bad performance is not a threat for their place in the test team since there has been no succession planning by BCCI for them, so engrossed are they in milking the T20.

    All in all, it signals the slow bleeding and unavoidable death of Test Cricket in the near future.

  • lazo on August 2, 2008, 22:13 GMT

    Andrew you seem to be another English commentator blaming England's batsmen for cureent woes.I have made my comments that the real problem is the bowlers prior to the 3rd Test (see my comments on CM Jenkins piece about England lacking depth). What can Vaughan do with a pop gun attack?. He tried everything but at the end of the day they failed. Why? It is a no brainer. Anderson and Sidebootom have built their reputation knocking out mug batting lineupslike NZ (2 series) & a weak WI outfit. They faced their first real test in this series and failed miserably.

    The selectors are to blame for not selecting the best team. The coach is to blame for leaving Harmison on the sidelines. Vaughan is a class batsmen and he will return to form just like Collingwood has.

    Fortunately there is hope if England can field their best team in the future. Keep the first 6 plus Flintoff ( he is not a strike bowler and needs support. Retain Monty. Bring in Harmison, Jones & Bailey as keeper.

  • timedout on August 2, 2008, 18:14 GMT

    Carping is the curse of England. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy (selling cartloads of tabloid papers) because it creates a climate that makes players nervous. Collingwood only managed to reassert himself over the sniping chorus exemplified by this singularly ill-timed article by a quite extraordinary effort of will, but many others have been undone by it over the years.

    What's needed is, unfortunately, impossible: a cultural shift, a sea-change in the way the English think. We need, in fact, more of Collingwood's no-nonsense hard work, making the most of what there is. Instead, the same stupid disease afflicts English cricket as the football. We hark back to the Ashes of 2005 (or the World Cup of 1966), we assume at the back of our minds that we're entitled to be top nation. We're not. Not even Australia is 'entitled'. It is the cricketing top nation because it works hard, faces things as they are and deals with them. A nation of Collingwoods, against a nation of whingers.

  • FreeZimbabwe on August 2, 2008, 17:36 GMT

    I am posting this well after collys ton and still i think he should go sooner rather than later, his bowling is ineffective in Test cricket and Stuart Broad has the class to have been able to score that century from no 8, which is the position Collingwood deserves the way he has batted this year, and although Broad hasnt taken many wickets, he looks a lot more likely to consistently take Test wickets over the next 3-4 years than Paul Collingwood.

    Therefore I think the best balance for the current England side would be to drop Collingwood, get Flintoff back at 6 (and stop flogging the hell out of him on the field), Broad at 7 (Broad is good enough at 7, also shouldering some of Freds bowling workload), Ambrose at 8 (I think his batting will come good and hes a decent enough gloveman but 8 for now), with room for 3 specialist bowlers, Anderson, Sidebottom and Panesar. Same batting order in the top 5 minus Vaughan for Rob Key or Shah with Pietersen the captain

  • NeilCameron on August 2, 2008, 6:40 GMT

    Why are England's top six so entrenched? How about we look at their Test batting averages:

    Strauss 41.26 Cook 42.53 Vaughan 41.44 Pietersen 50.36 Bell 43.20 Collingwood 41.43

    Maybe it's because England's top six have actually been performing well over the years? I mean, when was the last era of English cricket when the top six had Test batting averages exceeding 40?

  • 0NBH on August 2, 2008, 0:56 GMT

    Mark Ramprakash? The same Mark Ramprakash who has barely scored a run for two months and is choking yet again now he is in the media spotlight, just like the rest of his career? Maybe not All these comments about Collingwood have been made to look a bit silly too... criticising players and/or selection in the middle of a match is never sensible.

    "With the exception of Andrew Strauss' short-lived omission in Sri Lanka, and Paul Collingwood's one-match eviction at Headingley, the same familiar names have been trotted out in every single game since the start of the 2005 Ashes." Of course Andrew. Except, Cook hadn't made his debut by the end of that series, Collingwood played one game in it as a specialist fielder, and as you kindly point out Strauss HAS been dropped - when recalled, he scored runs. Of the remaining three, Pietersen is the best batsman in the country, Bell the best young batsman and scored 199 two games ago, and Vaughan the (mostly injured) captain. But never mind.

  • KiwiPom on August 1, 2008, 23:17 GMT

    I think if England were to select the best 11 players and then select a captain from them the batting problems just might be on their way to a solution.

  • SridharSampath on August 1, 2008, 21:12 GMT

    The article couldn't have come at a worse time. Colly has played the innings of his life and Andrew Miller is made to look like a fool...which he isn't. Cricket,the game of glorious uncertainties! Gaadi's observation about the BCCI is spot on.

  • owen116 on August 1, 2008, 18:47 GMT

    No one has mentioned that perhaps South Africa are a much better team than England. Sorry folks (a lifelong England fan)

  • rajmore on August 1, 2008, 15:53 GMT

    I have two words for the English selectors. Mark Ramprakash.

    Mark is very gifted, has the doggedness of a good tailender, he has an un-Brit grit to him. Just in case anyone missed it, Mark was the Wisden's player of the year last year - 2007.

  • Gaadi on August 1, 2008, 15:27 GMT

    A similar situation applies to the Indian Test cricket team.

    It seems the super 6 (Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman and Dhoni) all have guaranteed places in the team only taken up by the irregulars Yuvraj, Dinesh Karthik when any of the super 6 are down with injuries. It is no wonder that Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman (92 tests) are all at or beyond the 100 test match mark. Further, the super 6 are comfortable with the knowledge that their bad performance is not a threat for their place in the test team since there has been no succession planning by BCCI for them, so engrossed are they in milking the T20.

    All in all, it signals the slow bleeding and unavoidable death of Test Cricket in the near future.

  • pom_basher on August 1, 2008, 14:17 GMT

    Bell needs to bat at 3, Skipper at no 4 or 6, Colly out and rotate Owais and Ravi at 4 or 6. Within a year Vaughan goes out and Colly remains out if Ravi and Owais prove their worth. But this needs logical thinking which I am sure England selectors don't possess

  • gny1 on July 31, 2008, 18:58 GMT

    England have muddled thinking and should be bold even if the captain has to go.

    A team to play over the next year and also to play the Aussies

    Strauss C Cook Bell Pieterson Bopara Flintoff Prior Broad Sidebottom/ Jones Anderson/Jones Panesar

    With Simon Jones as an alternative to one of the bowlers dependent on conditions. The team bats to No 8 with Broad as a fifth bowler/ stock bowler. Here we have 5 bowlers with Bopara to fill in whn necessary. Vaughan is no longer up to the job and Prior is a good no 7 or no 6 with Flintoff/ Broad floating. Collingwood is no longer test class and Broad can bowl uo to 90 MPH and will get better.

    Strauss or KP as captain

  • jalps on July 31, 2008, 18:02 GMT

    I had a look at England players' win/loss ratios on Statsguru yesterday. Collingwood has 0.91 wins/loss, Cook 0.9 and Pietersen 0.92 while Key has 1.6, Broad 4 and Shah hasn't been in a losing team. Team results matter more than individual ones and if these aren't significant it's only because the players haven't had the opportunity. Both Bopara and Harmison have reacted to being dropped by doing all that they can do in county cricket. What did Strauss or Collingwood do to get back in? Someone mentioned the Pakistan win earlier. Flintoff and Vaughan were injured so Strauss captained. As soon as Flintoff returned it was decided that he was 'the man in possession', despite having a woeful series as captain against Sri Lanka. The selection for the Ashes series after that showed that the overriding aim of the England selectors was to field the Ashes winning side of 2005.

  • StJohn on July 31, 2008, 17:30 GMT

    Selection's a tricky business, easily criticised with hindsight. And form is fickle: it's not that long ago that the selectors were criticised for changing the team too often & not giving players a decent run. So there has to be a trade-off between consistency and innovation of selection. But it's hard to disagree that a shake-up of the top 6 is needed now, despite all being great batsmen. How about play Broad as a batsman who can bowl a bit and give Shah a proper run? I would've picked Ramprakash 18 months ago, but his county form has slumped. My XI for the 1st Test v India should England lose to SA: Strauss(c), Cook, Shah, Pietersen, Bell, Broad, Flintoff, Read, Hoggard, Panesar, Simon Jones. Sidebottom and Anderson should be in the squad as cover for Hoggard & Jones. You could perhaps play Pothas instead of Read. And pick Saqlain Mushtaq as the other spinner. Strauss did well as captain, and batted well as captain too; Flintoff should be allowed to focus on his batting & bowling.

  • SimfaS on July 31, 2008, 15:34 GMT

    The obsession that the English public and the media have on the runs their incumbent wicketkeeper is able to score is getting ridiculous. If they have a good top 5 and a "talismanic" all-rounder they are all convinced that they have, runs scored by the wicketkeeper shouldn't matter as much. Fletcher has many good as well as bad legacies, but stumper's run takes the cake. I Remember Fletcher deflecting attention from Giles' selection during the last Ashes claiming he wasn't the only selector and implying he didn't make the decision. Also remember Vaughn shadowing the English team the whole tour, only later to be emerged as, to the detriment of the team's cause. Wonder if Vaughn had anything to do with his denial. After all, he is the king of denials (e.g. Guardian 2007)!

    As for England, they would do better to remember that they have only one test to blood-in/bring-back new batters before test series in India and should look for players who can play long innings.

  • r1m2 on July 31, 2008, 14:41 GMT

    There was a period before the 2005 Ashes when Eng after getting repeated thrashing from the Aussies, decided to concentrate on the on-going series, rather than dwell on the up-coming one. That was what that gave rise to the gloriously successful period, culminating in the Ashes victory. Eng has finally fallen back into that vicious trap. Right now Eng is playing South Africa, but they are planning for the Ashes. What kind of mindset is this? Essentially what will happen is Eng will get a 5-0 thrashing to the Aussies, because they won't have the momentum going into the Ashes. One of the main reason for the Aus success is the importance they place on each and every series. Even when they are playing Bangladesh, they are not thinking of the Ashes. And it is this sort of thinking that has caused Eng to fall back into the comfort zone of Ashes 2005 victory. I.e. Vaughan longs to have the same team back together (minus the retirees). Is Vaughan planning to just play the Ashes, or win it too?

  • Duende on July 31, 2008, 14:28 GMT

    Has Vaughan actually 'lost the dressing room', as it were? Former players now working as pundits and columnists are usually, and understandably, coy about telling it like it is. Which is why 'real journalists' are a better bet for digging out truths. If there really are warring factions within the England dressing room, what are they, what 'ringleaders' are they grouped around, and why has such a situation arisen and been allowed to fester? Or is it all just sulks, silences, recalcitrance, and so on. Come on, someone, let's hear what is really happening in the dressing room. If it is nothing, then let's hear that too!

  • sam957 on July 31, 2008, 13:27 GMT

    I would just like to point out that when England beat Pakistan, Pakistan was ranked number 2 in test rankings. But off course Pakistan lacked services of both their fast bowlers asif and shoaib in that particular series until the very last test in Oval when asif came back. That game was probably Pakistan's if not for Darrel Hair. And English batsmen would ve struggled to make big scores against a full pakistani attack in that series as well like they had struggled on the away series to pakistan.

  • Scopey123 on July 31, 2008, 12:58 GMT

    A very good article - and yes this ongoing selection beggars belief. AV79 (below), what planet are you on? One in a million? Treading on your stumps is not "unlucky" it's plain stupid, that's why it doesn't happen often. And you ask what's the difference between KP's 10 and Prince's 100+? "Prince was lucky enough not to edge early on"? That is the most ridiculous thing i have ever seen on a cricket blog, and you've got some competition. No, Prince and AB played with skill, guile and control. They knew where their off-stump was and where the edge on their bat was.

    Unfortunately the scoreboard is the be all and the end all. Especially if you get beaten by 10 wickets, or are all out for 231 on a batting wicket.

    The time is for change, not ridiculous excuses.

  • keithoz on July 31, 2008, 12:35 GMT

    As an Aussie sitting here in Brisbane I have finally found someone who is bold enough to state clearly where the root of England's problems are - their batsmen. Consistency against the best opponents is what makes a batsman great. Look at the figures of every one of the top 6 of Englands and few of them have consistency and even fewer have it against quality opposition.

    Too often the bowlers are blamed for the loss or poor team performance. Very seldom do we see England's batsmen putting their hand up and saying it was our fault. The article mentions the difference between the number of batsmen and bowlers/keepers England have used over the past 3 years since before the 2005 Ashes. Wow, see where the selectors and captain [who is a batsman] lay the blame.

    What is also missing is being a team. England are a bunch of individuals, some so full of themselves, who aren't there for their mates backing them up. The batsmen especially fall into this category. Too full of themselves.

  • dsperl on July 31, 2008, 12:23 GMT

    couldn't agree more about pietersen's lack of application. it will be interesting to see the correlation (or lack of) as his career continues between when he does well individually and the team does well. as likely as not he will become a brian lara type -- not to say he has the same talent -- but I mean someone whose moments of blazing glory bear little resemblance to his team's overall consistent fortunes. West indies over the years has kniuckled down and produced team results precisely when lara has been a no-show, lara showing up as often as not when the cause was either won or lost. dave perl

  • Sprewell on July 31, 2008, 12:20 GMT

    I cant believe Giles is a selector, just like I couldnt believe he use to play test cricket. The selections have been a joke so far this series so its not just the players that should be looked at here.

    England have the players to compete against the best test sides in world cricket. Depth in bowling, Jones & Harmison etc. on sidelines with Sidebottom, Anderson and Flintoff all top class. Panesar is as good a spinner outside the subcontinent sides, just look at SA, AUS, WI spinning stocks.

    Batting is definately where England need to strengthen - Prior, Bopara & Shah are all worth a go. Collingwood and Vaughan should go if the ashes are any chance of returning to England. Oh and get rid of Giles, what a joke.

    Good article by the way.

  • Dave_the_Pie_Thrower on July 31, 2008, 12:20 GMT

    Agree with everything Andrew Miller says. Additionally, our "wicketkeeper" is suddenly not a test class no. 6, and didn't look much like a Test class no. 7 anyway, so we are moving that job down to no. 8 to re-accommodate one of the Old Boys Club at no. 6. If the keeper is to play at no. 8 I'd rather see a proper keeper back in there like Chris Read or James Foster. Forget the stuff about them not contributing enough with the bat. Surely both of these are good enough to play as a no. 8 in the batting order.

  • Av79 on July 31, 2008, 12:13 GMT

    "Unmitigated ineptitude"? I don't expect much from Andrew Miller, so I shouldn't be surprised by such asinine comments. How was it "inept", exactly? Strauss was out to a 1-in-a-million dismissal, Vaughan was extremely unlucky, Pietersen likewise, Cook and Bell got good balls after making starts, and Collingwood was the only man to really look out of sorts. The problem with pundits and fans alike is that the scoreboard is the be all and end all. I question whether certain pundits even watch the game, let alone understand it. I ask rhetorically what's the difference between de Villiers' or Prince's 100s at Headingly and Pietersen's 2nd-dig 10(ish). The answer is that the two former batsmen were lucky enough not to edge one early. Some days things go your way. They didn't for England yesterday. It has nothing to do with ineptitude, and if the columnist believes England lack incentive for success, then he's even more out of touch than I thought. The only ineptitude here is the "journalism"

  • ian_gray on July 31, 2008, 12:00 GMT

    This summer, England has played 8 innings and the top 6 batsmen have between them played a total of 36 innings. Of those, 29 were a score of less than 35! Even Ian Bell, who had a one great innings has had 6 scores out of 8 below 35. Vaughn is also on 6 and of course Collingwood is 6 out of 6. It is time for Collingwood and Vaughn to go and Strauss to become captain. The others must be on notice! There is a complete lack of application in the batting - this is very obvious with KP.

  • hw007 on July 31, 2008, 11:59 GMT

    The only consistent aspect of England's international cricket is the wayward and craven thinking of the selectors. Broad has just proved his credentials at test level at a time when Collingwood, Strauss and Vaughan have proved otherwise. Form used in a pragmatic way must be the deciding factor so the trio of Ambrose Broad and Flintoff actually provide a reasonable choice (assuming your 5 batsmen are scoring, and if they are not you should pick ones that are). By picking Collingwood form says that you have reduced both the bowling and batting potential - an illogical move except if Collingwood was freely scoring. By the same token you have 2 out of 5 batsmen out of form which means surely that one should be replaced. Perhaps it was always thus. England's best ever batsman in the post war era was even dropped, not on form but for slow scoring. Oh that we had the determination of Ken Barrington in the team now.

  • tongy on July 31, 2008, 11:43 GMT

    England's problem is two fold: cheap wickets and not enough big scores. First of all the cheap wickets. Strauss and Cook are in fairly decent form, but one of them always gets out once England reach 50, whilst the other normally passes 50 before also getting out soon after. With Vaughan a virtual walking wicket, England are therefore something in the region of 150-3. Pietersen will make big scores, but SA will chance their arm on him failing. Bell, regardless of his 199 on the batting paradise at Lords, still looks fragile, and i'm sure SA can sense that. Collingwood and Ambrose are also walking wickets, Flintoff is still acclimatising to test cricket. So England's top 8 are all easy targets. On the subject of big scores, England have always been test cricket's poor relations when it comes to ramming home the advantage. Both Cook and Bell got in yesterday, and then got themselves out. Even when players reach a century, they are more often than not out soon after.

  • kev747 on July 31, 2008, 10:42 GMT

    England cant win. They have always been accused of changing the players far too often and not giving them a fair run and when they show consistency of selection they are then accused of running a closed shop.We don't have any outstanding young players in county cricket. It usually takes youngsters 2 years to bed in and than they are often no better than the players they have replaced in the first place.

  • slogger_rob on July 31, 2008, 10:14 GMT

    I was shocked to see Broad out of the side. As a SA fan... that's good news for us. At least he looks like he can bat a bit. Broad, Vaughn or Collingwood? I'd pick Broad, he's been more consistent with the bat and at least he is recognised as a bowler.

  • Katri on July 31, 2008, 9:50 GMT

    England should have taken a punt by retaining Broad at No.7 or No.8 and making Flntoff bat at No.6. Despite all the talk about Pattinson and the batting failure at Headingley, England did not satisfy the first golden rule of winning in test cricket; bowling the opposition twice. If the team management venture to justify Collingwood's selection ahead of Broad based on his ability to bowl gentle trundlers, then it represents a bankruptcy of cricketing acumen. Now Flintoff is opening the bowling and batting at No.7, while his role was supposed to be that of a fifth bowler to be used in short-sharp bursts. England are playing too much on their 2005 ashes glory, and the sooner they stop hankering about the need to get back "that magical 11", the faster will they get out of their current rut. It seems to me that all that matters to England is the 2005 Ashes and the 2009 Ashes with every series in between being treated a mere fulfilling their commitments to the ICC's FTP.

  • afridi102 on July 31, 2008, 9:43 GMT

    I think you are quit right. Engand need to change their batsmen. Alaistair cook, kevin pieterssen and ian bell aur consistantly performing well. I don't think england have better than them at the moment. But strauss, vaughan and collingwood should be changed, andengland should try new players before newt ashes. Andrew flintoof should captain the side. I think strauss ahs nothing to do in the side. Owais shah should be given a long run in place of collingwood. And vaughan shold be fired from captaincy, becuase he has no batting form, and england were in a most win situation in this match, and what did he? he played collingwood instead of broad. that really was a defensive change. you need 20 wickets so you need to play bowlers, and england walays have played 4 bowlers + flintooff in the past but here vaughan wass too negative to me.

  • Flasharry on July 31, 2008, 9:41 GMT

    I think Andrew Miller is right on the money! with this but just feel in my bones that whatever is put in place by England will be too late for this series and the Africans won't let this one slip (choke)

  • sean_kelly on July 31, 2008, 9:38 GMT

    Yeah, the English batsmen are not contributing, but the real problem is your bowling attack. I don't think the batsmen have faith in them.

    Anderson vs. Hoggard - who would Smith and Prince rather face? Bring on Anderson every time. Hoggard made Smith his bunny in SA (where it doesn't really swing), imagine what he'd do in Eng. And so much of SA's batting psyche is based around Smith's state of mind Broad vs. Jones - Jones destroyed SA in SA! Why is he not playing? Crazy

    SA all the way in this series.

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  • sean_kelly on July 31, 2008, 9:38 GMT

    Yeah, the English batsmen are not contributing, but the real problem is your bowling attack. I don't think the batsmen have faith in them.

    Anderson vs. Hoggard - who would Smith and Prince rather face? Bring on Anderson every time. Hoggard made Smith his bunny in SA (where it doesn't really swing), imagine what he'd do in Eng. And so much of SA's batting psyche is based around Smith's state of mind Broad vs. Jones - Jones destroyed SA in SA! Why is he not playing? Crazy

    SA all the way in this series.

  • Flasharry on July 31, 2008, 9:41 GMT

    I think Andrew Miller is right on the money! with this but just feel in my bones that whatever is put in place by England will be too late for this series and the Africans won't let this one slip (choke)

  • afridi102 on July 31, 2008, 9:43 GMT

    I think you are quit right. Engand need to change their batsmen. Alaistair cook, kevin pieterssen and ian bell aur consistantly performing well. I don't think england have better than them at the moment. But strauss, vaughan and collingwood should be changed, andengland should try new players before newt ashes. Andrew flintoof should captain the side. I think strauss ahs nothing to do in the side. Owais shah should be given a long run in place of collingwood. And vaughan shold be fired from captaincy, becuase he has no batting form, and england were in a most win situation in this match, and what did he? he played collingwood instead of broad. that really was a defensive change. you need 20 wickets so you need to play bowlers, and england walays have played 4 bowlers + flintooff in the past but here vaughan wass too negative to me.

  • Katri on July 31, 2008, 9:50 GMT

    England should have taken a punt by retaining Broad at No.7 or No.8 and making Flntoff bat at No.6. Despite all the talk about Pattinson and the batting failure at Headingley, England did not satisfy the first golden rule of winning in test cricket; bowling the opposition twice. If the team management venture to justify Collingwood's selection ahead of Broad based on his ability to bowl gentle trundlers, then it represents a bankruptcy of cricketing acumen. Now Flintoff is opening the bowling and batting at No.7, while his role was supposed to be that of a fifth bowler to be used in short-sharp bursts. England are playing too much on their 2005 ashes glory, and the sooner they stop hankering about the need to get back "that magical 11", the faster will they get out of their current rut. It seems to me that all that matters to England is the 2005 Ashes and the 2009 Ashes with every series in between being treated a mere fulfilling their commitments to the ICC's FTP.

  • slogger_rob on July 31, 2008, 10:14 GMT

    I was shocked to see Broad out of the side. As a SA fan... that's good news for us. At least he looks like he can bat a bit. Broad, Vaughn or Collingwood? I'd pick Broad, he's been more consistent with the bat and at least he is recognised as a bowler.

  • kev747 on July 31, 2008, 10:42 GMT

    England cant win. They have always been accused of changing the players far too often and not giving them a fair run and when they show consistency of selection they are then accused of running a closed shop.We don't have any outstanding young players in county cricket. It usually takes youngsters 2 years to bed in and than they are often no better than the players they have replaced in the first place.

  • tongy on July 31, 2008, 11:43 GMT

    England's problem is two fold: cheap wickets and not enough big scores. First of all the cheap wickets. Strauss and Cook are in fairly decent form, but one of them always gets out once England reach 50, whilst the other normally passes 50 before also getting out soon after. With Vaughan a virtual walking wicket, England are therefore something in the region of 150-3. Pietersen will make big scores, but SA will chance their arm on him failing. Bell, regardless of his 199 on the batting paradise at Lords, still looks fragile, and i'm sure SA can sense that. Collingwood and Ambrose are also walking wickets, Flintoff is still acclimatising to test cricket. So England's top 8 are all easy targets. On the subject of big scores, England have always been test cricket's poor relations when it comes to ramming home the advantage. Both Cook and Bell got in yesterday, and then got themselves out. Even when players reach a century, they are more often than not out soon after.

  • hw007 on July 31, 2008, 11:59 GMT

    The only consistent aspect of England's international cricket is the wayward and craven thinking of the selectors. Broad has just proved his credentials at test level at a time when Collingwood, Strauss and Vaughan have proved otherwise. Form used in a pragmatic way must be the deciding factor so the trio of Ambrose Broad and Flintoff actually provide a reasonable choice (assuming your 5 batsmen are scoring, and if they are not you should pick ones that are). By picking Collingwood form says that you have reduced both the bowling and batting potential - an illogical move except if Collingwood was freely scoring. By the same token you have 2 out of 5 batsmen out of form which means surely that one should be replaced. Perhaps it was always thus. England's best ever batsman in the post war era was even dropped, not on form but for slow scoring. Oh that we had the determination of Ken Barrington in the team now.

  • ian_gray on July 31, 2008, 12:00 GMT

    This summer, England has played 8 innings and the top 6 batsmen have between them played a total of 36 innings. Of those, 29 were a score of less than 35! Even Ian Bell, who had a one great innings has had 6 scores out of 8 below 35. Vaughn is also on 6 and of course Collingwood is 6 out of 6. It is time for Collingwood and Vaughn to go and Strauss to become captain. The others must be on notice! There is a complete lack of application in the batting - this is very obvious with KP.

  • Av79 on July 31, 2008, 12:13 GMT

    "Unmitigated ineptitude"? I don't expect much from Andrew Miller, so I shouldn't be surprised by such asinine comments. How was it "inept", exactly? Strauss was out to a 1-in-a-million dismissal, Vaughan was extremely unlucky, Pietersen likewise, Cook and Bell got good balls after making starts, and Collingwood was the only man to really look out of sorts. The problem with pundits and fans alike is that the scoreboard is the be all and end all. I question whether certain pundits even watch the game, let alone understand it. I ask rhetorically what's the difference between de Villiers' or Prince's 100s at Headingly and Pietersen's 2nd-dig 10(ish). The answer is that the two former batsmen were lucky enough not to edge one early. Some days things go your way. They didn't for England yesterday. It has nothing to do with ineptitude, and if the columnist believes England lack incentive for success, then he's even more out of touch than I thought. The only ineptitude here is the "journalism"