England in South Africa 2015-16 January 17, 2016

England can be 'something special' - Bayliss

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Five things we learned in Johannesburg

As England trouped off the field at lunch on the third day in Johannesburg, with the game in the balance and the bowlers struggling to find the correct length to exploit the bounce and cracks in the surface, Trevor Bayliss produced what may come to be the defining moment in his career as coach.

It wasn't that Bayliss said anything particularly revelatory or inspirational to the team. And it wasn't that he shouted and ranted in a way that shocked or rebuked.

It was that he had waited to make a contribution and then chose his moment and message perfectly.

Compare that to the methods of his predecessors. By the end of Andy Flower's period as coach, he so intimidated some players that his attention seemed to stifle rather than assist. And Peter Moores, for all the good intentions, was said by some players to be prone to talking a little too much and, as a consequence, diluting his message.

There's something of the constitutional monarch about Bayliss: you can sort of understand why you need someone in the position, but you're not always sure exactly what he does. His old-school cricketing philosophy means that the captain is always the man in charge and, in training, it is his genial assistant, Paul Farbrace who appears to inject the energy and organisation. And Bayliss is far too much of a fair dinkum Aussie to bother to cultivate a media image.

But he does know about cricket. Indeed, those that know him best suggest that, when he is looking for variety, he stops thinking about international cricket and starts to think about county or state cricket instead. And when he tires of that, he thinks about club cricket.

So when he spotted some warning signs in Englands's performance early in South Africa's second innings - the bowlers were pitching too short and the fielders looked ready to sit in for the long haul rather than keen to divert the natural direction of the game - he knew it was time to act. He rejected Alastair Cook's suggestion that he gave the team "a kick up the arse" but accepts he was not fully satisfied with what he saw.

"It was more of a reminder, I suppose, of what we needed to do help the bowlers win the game," he said. "I wouldn't class it as a kick up the backside. But I thought before lunch and even in the first innings their attitude was not quite right in the field.

"Out in the field it was a little bit quiet. There was no movement.

"It's always a decent attitude, but to field well and pick up those half chances - we missed a few in Cape Town - the energy and the attitude has to be more full on.

"So it was just a bit of reminder that if we want to win this Test, now is the time to hunt in a pack or get in the batters' face. Try to make them feel 'where's our next run coming from?' and help the bowlers put the pressure on.

"We had spoken about it in the past. But they are only young players, most of them, and like any young person you have to remind them now and then. A player has actually got to make mistakes to learn from them. If someone is telling them all the time what to do then they don't necessarily recognise it themselves. Hopefully it is a lesson learned and hopefully as time goes by they won't need a gentle reminder."

While Bayliss cannot have predicted how dramatic the results of his "reminder" would be - and 10 wickets in 25.2 overs is pretty dramatic - he clearly has a huge amount of confidence in the potential of his young squad.

"This team could turn into something special," he said. "You look at some of those players with 50 or 60 Tests experience under their belt and the potential is there. If we win a few Test matches there'll be a chance of going up the rankings and becoming the best team in the world.

"But potential never won anything. You have got to go out and do the hard work and not take everything for granted. I still think we're two or three years away from possibly our best period."

Central to progressing, in Bayliss' view, is an improvement in England's fielding. Not just in the Test side, either, but throughout the game in England and Wales. It is, he believes, one area in which England lag behind Australia.

"I'd like to see - in general - our fielding improve," he said. "That's not just at this level but at county level as well.

"If you think of the game of cricket from a batter's point of view, they probably spend 85-90% of the time they are actively in the game fielding. So we have to do a bit more work on fielding.

"There always seems to be a lot of batting and bowling technique work, but there probably needs to be a little more technique work done with fielding as well.

"It's probably one area of the game that is different between Australia and England. Australian sides do more fielding technique work at a younger age."

That fielding work will have to wait a day or two. Having earned a couple of days off, England will not train again until Wednesday. By then, they will have decided whether to send the injured Steven Finn home - it looks likely that his tour is over - and whether to recall Chris Woakes for the final Test or give a chance to the uncapped left-arm seamer Mark Footitt. Woakes is the more likely choice; England are not in the mood for experimenting.

"We want to win 3-0," Bayliss said. "If you want to get to the best team in the world, you win series three, four and 5-0. That's the challenge for these young blokes."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 5wombats on January 20, 2016, 8:39 GMT

    @cricketsubh. YAWN.... We've heard it all before. In 2011 the worlds number one team india were going to thrash England in England. India were whitewashed 4-0. Then india arrived in Australia and their fans were saying the result in England was a fluke and that india would beat Australia. India were whitewashed 4-0. Then England fans were told England would be thrashed in india because "England were weak against spin" and "had no quality spin bowlers". England beat india 2-1 in india. India fans said Mooen Ali was "mediocre". Mediocre maybe - but he still took 19 wkts @ 23 against india on English non-turning pitches. Mediocre - but still too good for india. So @cricketsubh - slagging off other teams and players doesn't go un-noticed. It gets remembered and paid back. Thank you for reading.

  • JG2704 on January 20, 2016, 6:52 GMT

    @CRICKETSUBH - It seems you just cut and paste the same stuff just to have a dig at England all the time so I just want to ask something so you can give some construction behind your comms

    1 - Who would you pick as a regular spinner? It's something you you regularly post so it's obviously something you've given tremendous thought to and you must have some suggestions?

    As it happens while I disagree with you saying the team balance being wrong I do agree that we will struggle in India as things stand , but please let us know who you'd pick. You say we must pick a regular spinner so who would that be?

  • Nutcutlet on January 20, 2016, 5:46 GMT

    A lot of posts here -rightly - pick out England's strengths - both currently and waiting in the wings. There are reasons for optimism and the English cricket supporter is generally cautious in over-stating the abilities of our cricketers . We can't compete with the majority of Indian supporters when it comes to chest-thumping - something they do very well. All the same, England has done most creditably against a SA side that was ripe for picking. When sides go into decline, it is hardly ever gradual. Let's hope their eclipse passes quickly. England though is more than the sum of their parts. I put this down to the cohesive nature of the side. Cook is not the world's greatest tactician or strategist, but he is unreservedly liked and respected by every member of his team. This happy combination of decent, generous-minded individuals all pulling in the same direction with no out-size egos (some have grown up!) is a massive plus for England these days. It's good enough to beat the rest.

  • Lmaotsetung on January 19, 2016, 9:34 GMT

    Here is how I see this England team. Cook is the sort of bloke who might well play well into his 40s. What else is there for him to do besides playing test cricket and farming? Doesn't look like the sort of bloke to go into management or commentary. Root will be the captain sooner or later. That's 2 spots nailed on for the next 5 years. I see Stokes and Bairstow as legit test class. And do I have to remind everyone again that I did predict these 2 will have breakout tours before the series started. Yes I do have an eye for talent and with that said, Sam Hain will get his shot if not this year, at the latest in 2017. Cook, Root, Stokes, and Bairstow makes up 4 of top 7. Add in Sam Hain which I think is the next big thing, that's 5 out of 7. England just need to find a dependable opener and a #3 and they are set for the next 5-10 years barring injuries and massive loss of form. As far as the bowling is concerned, Aus, SA, and Eng will always find replacement seam bowling.

  • simplythebest... on January 19, 2016, 8:47 GMT

    @st6374 - the matter of Englands seam bowling stocks has been debated many time on these pages, but the statement 'there is not a world class test bowler after Broad' is wrong! Remember there is Mark Wood who will walk straight back into the Test squad when over his operation and will compete with Finn for the 3rd seamer role. After that that the following are all waiting in the wings for when the time comes - Tom Curran, Sam Curran, Jamie Overton, Craig Overton, Jake Ball, Toby Roland-Jones, David Willey & Reece Topley. Of these, the Currans are especially a very serious world class prospect - just look at their 1st class stats on this website and then take into account also that Tom is only 20 & Sam only 17! Overton twins also capable of making the Test grade and are only 21. At the moment Willey & Topley are more suited to white-ball cricket, but given they are young that could change.

  • Valavan on January 19, 2016, 7:38 GMT

    @THERISINGTEAM, Bangladesh will get a whitewash in the hands of England. Mustafizur is a pacer and if he can take wickets why not Finn or broad. And your spin is not as great as India or Pakistan. with couple of ODI series at home, you cannot become a world beater given the fact that Zimbabwe had couple of tests and ODI titles within 5 years of their admission to test.

  • Valavan on January 19, 2016, 7:35 GMT

    @CRICKETSUBH, We will handle it mate.Please save some advices for your team who were whitewashed in 2010 and 2013 in India. You seem to give more lame excuses like if yasir shah played?? It was Wahab who turned the second game and we played all the games until Day 5. we didnt get bowled out under 200 and so on. and our team is relatively young with just 4 experienced ppl around. We just missed crucial moments but overall we put up a better show than 2012.

  • perth67 on January 19, 2016, 5:25 GMT

    Well done on the series win to Cook et al, always a tough ask to beat SA at home, TBH though no better time to play SA than now, worst team since they returned to international cricket I reckon. Will be an interesting next 18 months, no one stand out side, gonna be lots of toing and froing with that number 1 test spot. If England can beat India and Australia at home then they will be deserved number 1 holders.....

  • st6374 on January 19, 2016, 4:36 GMT

    Kudos to the English for winning a series in SA. It is quite an achievement and they deserve to bask in the glory of their victory. However I do hope that the ECB and its fans don't get disillusioned for seeing this as a start of the golden era. Sure there is a lot of potential in this team but there is a lot of areas that need to be addressed for the future. Anderson is 33 and there is not a world class test bowler after Broad. Root and Cook are the only genuinely batsmen who have proved themselves in Test Arena. Hales and Compton look like a stopgap at two and 3, while Taylor still might need some time to adapt. The bright side might be the ability of Stokes, Bairstow and Ali to contribute as all rounders.

  • landl47 on January 18, 2016, 20:31 GMT

    LMAOTSETUNG ON JANUARY 18, 2016, 10:25 GMT @landl47 - if this side reaches maturity in 2017 we are talking Champion's Trophy, SA home series and Ashes 2017...that'll be quite a resume for this squad :P

    I think that's entirely possible- in fact, I expect England to beat SA and retain the Ashes. The Champions Trophy is more of a lottery, but at least England is now picking the kind of short-format sides that can win tournaments, instead of steady performers who will always be beaten by a side having a good day. I think the battle in 2017 will be between England, NZ and Australia.

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