England news

Flower remains cautious over Patel

Alex Winter

March 10, 2012

Comments: 27 | Text size: A | A

Andy Flower ponder his options ahead of England's tour to Sri Lanka, London, March 10, 2012
Andy Flower has plenty of bowling options ahead of the first Test in Sri Lanka © Getty Images
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Andy Flower, England team director, has kept up the pressure on Samit Patel to reach acceptable fitness levels if he is to achieve his ambition of a Test debut for England against Sri Lanka in Galle later this month.

Flower regards Patel as a genuine contender to bat at No. 6 and strengthen England's slow-bowling ranks as they seek to improve on their disastrous 3-0 whitewash against Pakistan in the UAE. But as the bulk of England's squad prepared to leave Heathrow, he issued a subtle reminder of the fitness standards required to survive the sapping conditions of Sri Lanka at one of the most humid times of the year.

"I think he's still got significant work to do on the fitness front but he's inching in the right direction," Flower said. "The heat and humidity will be a significant factor for the bowling side certainly and then on concentration levels because fatigue affects everyone. Fitness levels and how we react will be very important."

The makeup of England's bowling attack will influence whether Patel will make his Test debut in Sri Lanka. Flower and England captain Andrew Strauss will have to decide whether to continue with two specialist spinners, a policy that served them well against Pakistan in the UAE, revert back to three quick bowlers, or play five bowlers - something England have been reluctant to do but an option Flower has not ruled out.

"Everyone in this squad is a serious challenger for a Test place," Flower said as England prepared to fly out to Sri Lanka ahead of the first of two three-day warm-up matches on March 15. "Patel provides the option of flexibility for us. If we played three quicks and Graeme Swann, then he could bat at six and give you that angle to bowl into the rough if we needed to. That is a possibility.

"If the conditions determine that two spinners should play, they can take up a lot of the slack on the workload front. It doesn't necessary mean you have to play five bowlers. We saw two and two work effectively in the UAE and I still think with two specialist spinners taking up a lot of the overs you can still take 20 wickets with four bowlers."

England, who could begin the Sri Lanka series below South Africa in the Test rankings, also have James Tredwell, the 30-year-old Kent offspinner, in their squad. A surprise selection, he is only likely to feature through injury to Swann. "James is an experienced cricketer who we know we can rely on," Flower said. "Both types of spin are important and we've covered both."

He sounded unconcerned that Tredwell has not played since the end of last season. "When you've played as long as Tredwell has, it won't take long to get him up to speed."

Tredwell is one of seven England players that have flown out early to Sri Lanka to acclimatise. Ian Bell, reserve wicketkeeper Steven Davies, Monty Panesar, Patel, Matt Prior and Andrew Strauss have also travelled early for two skill sessions a day and fitness training.

Strauss is looking to find form after a lean period in Test cricket: his last century came in Brisbane in November 2010. But Flower sees the improvements Strauss made towards the end of the Pakistan series as signs of returning form. "To survive and thrive you have to be adaptable and he showed some of that adaptability in that last Test," Flower said. "He's working at those skills and methods right now and he's got two three-day games to get some time in the middle. With his experience I expect him to do well."

Flower said that Strauss was not helped by an extended break between the end of the season and start of the Pakistan series but that a similar scenario was unlikely happen again and Strauss was keen to lead from the front once more. "He's a very experienced cricketer and you know that he's very level-headed in his response to both the highs and lows associated with playing for England. I know he will be working hard and smart to get his game in order."

Strauss will return to the England top order alongside Alastair Cook, who, along with Kevin Pietersen, found form in the 4-0 ODI series win against Pakistan. Their performances and the experience gained against Pakistan's barrage of spinners is cause for optimism for Flower. "The good thing about playing people like Seed Ajmal is that as you're exposed to them you should get better, that's how we grow, by putting ourselves in tougher situations that we'd normally come across.

"Playing in subcontinental conditions against good spinners will without doubt add to our batsman's growth. So I should expect our batsman to be better able to deal with Sri Lanka's spinners."

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by JG2704 on (March 13, 2012, 21:40 GMT)

@ landl47 on (March 13 2012, 00:38 AM GMT) - Is it that crazy to have Swann and Broad at 7 and 8 when our batsmen are/were underperforming SO badly? I seem to remember Broad scoring a 50 in the last series - nearly double the best score from batsmen 4-6 and Swann often looked more likely to score runs than Bell and Morgan. Hopefully ESPN will post my other comms re this. If not , have a look at the Eng side which IMO had the greatest series win vs a top Aus side in 2005 where we had 5 batsmen a WK who doesn't bat as well as Prior , Flintoff as a bowling all rounder , 3 pacemen and a spinner. In Eng I'd play the same formation with Broad in the Flintoff role and in SC the same formation but with 2 spinners . There are 2 ways of looking at ways to win matches. 1 is to score heavier with the bat and the other is to be more lethal with the ball. I know which one I'd back.

Posted by JG2704 on (March 13, 2012, 21:39 GMT)

@ YorkshirePudding on (March 13 2012, 08:31 AM GMT) Bresnan in a 5 man bowling attack would be a step in the right direction IMO. Do you think they'll drop Monty? To be honest if they do that then part of me will be rooting for SL because dropping your form spinner on SL pitches would be daft. I'd still gamble and have a 5 man bowling attack with our 5 most in form bowlers - Broad,Anderson,Finn ,Swann and Monty. The other thing with the 6/1/4 formation - esp when you make no changes when your batsmen are so woeful - is it says to the batsmen it doesn't matter how bad you are you'll continue to play. Because Broad and Jimmy have Finn,Tremlett and Bres waiting in the wings they know they have to perform because they know if they don't and lose their place it may be for a while

Posted by JG2704 on (March 13, 2012, 21:39 GMT)

@ TheHoneymonster on (March 13 2012, 14:56 PM GMT - I would have gone for- Patel ahead of Bopara. If you read my post again I say that I'd not go for Patel if there is a stamina issue - but that would apply to any player.Re Bell I'd prob give him at least one of the warm up games ,say to him that he has to show improvement.If he does then give him a 2nd game and if he does well in that game and his game looks to be back keep him in.If he looks like he did in the Pak series in the 1st game bring Patel in.I wouldn't have Bres or Broad at 6 but surely Prior is good enough at 6. Look at NZs line up in the last game Vettori was coming in at 6.Prior is better batsmen than Vettori by far.You could ignore the 3-0 WW vs Pak and hope it all goes well in SL and vs SA but India did that with their proven batsmen and did not change it during or after the Eng series and look what happened in Oz.I'm not sure India have the bowling firepower to do a 5/1/5 - we certainly do

Posted by JG2704 on (March 13, 2012, 21:39 GMT)

@ CricketingStargazer on (March 13 2012, 09:25 AM GMT) I see Patel as a batsmen who bowls a bit of spin. It should be looked at as a bonus that he bowls a few overs of spin. You all know my thoughts on a 5 man bowling attack but if we're going for a 4 man attack as much as I loathe the idea of having just 2 pacemen (in case one breaks down not to mention the depth it gives us) Monty and Swann both have to play. Monty was immense in UAE and even Swann started to show signs of form returning and SL have bad memories of him from their time in England. There is always a chance that his presence alone could unsettle SL batsmen a la Ajmel vs Eng

Posted by JG2704 on (March 13, 2012, 20:49 GMT)

@Eng fans ctd -IMO our best W in last 10-15 yrs + was against Australia in 2005 as Australia still had Warne,Mcgrath,Haydn,Gilchrist ..Look at our team for that series and compare.5 batsmen,a bowling all rounder,a spinner and 3 pacemen.Now why can't we do the same now with the players we have?I'd say our top 5 bm now are on a par with that side.I'd say Flintoff is a slightly better batsman and Broad a slightly better bowler in the AR position. Prior is a better batsman and WK than Jones.Then you have the other 4 bowlers. I'd say our 3 pacers (say SF,JA,TB) are a little better than (SJ,MH,SH) with the ball and similar with the bat.Swann and Giles are similar with bat but Swann's the better bowler.In SL they should go with Monty (IMO in place of TB) which might weaken the batting further but our bowling would be immense.You either go 6/1/4 or 5/1/5 no right or wrong way.I'd say go with your strengths and surely our strength is with our bowling right now so why not try 5/1/5?

Posted by JG2704 on (March 13, 2012, 20:46 GMT)

@my fellow Eng fans - Many reasons for a 5 man bowling attack.1, Presuming we go with 2 spinners - with 2 paceman that puts a big strain on either and adds to risk of a strain/injury IMO and if we lose a pacer and have just 1 pacer.. 2 - There were times when I feel (although our bowlers did well) an extra bowling option would have helped. 1st test would Pak have scored so many with Monty+3 pacers?2nd test 2nd inns- an extra bowler might have broke through earlier when Pak were 4 down and may have had Pak setting such a low total that even our batsmen could not fail to chase.3rd test , 2nd inns - might have had them out cheaper and setting a less daunting target for us. In the whole series plus the 2 warm up games - 9 or 10 (a combined 25-30 inns) inns our highest score from batsmen 4-6 was something around 30. Surely a 5th bowler (Finn) would have done more damage with the ball than any of 4-6 were likely to do with bat.Why not try it just for 1 test what's the worst that can happen?

Posted by RandyOZ on (March 13, 2012, 15:12 GMT)

We actually need a new name for the United XI, because NZ will soon be challenging them for the title.

Posted by RandyOZ on (March 13, 2012, 15:07 GMT)

Haha Patel and Bopara are serious possibilities to play? Oh dear the depth is thin in the United XI. I suppose though the Irishman Morgan has done nothing in tests.

Posted by SDHM on (March 13, 2012, 14:56 GMT)

@JG - I see your point, but I'd go with Patel at 6 - he seems more naturally confident than Bopara, and his bowling is better and more suited to the conditions, especially at Galle. My theory on the balance of the side is that the bowling wasn't the problem in the UAE it was the batting, so why weaken the area that cost the Test series so badly? We haven't been struggling to bowl sides out with a 4 man attack for the last three years - in fact, the two tests we went in with a 5 man attack we looked massively uncomfortable (Headingley in the Ashes '09 and the second test in Bangladesh) - and yet some England fans and the press still seem to scream for an all-rounder, despite the fact that we've been performing better than we ever did with Flintoff in the side (2005 apart of course)! Having said that, Bresnan's batting and bowling stats are looking promising, but I can't ever see him batting at six in a Test line-up.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (March 13, 2012, 9:25 GMT)

@Yorkshirepudding, this is the wide range of options that England have. You can perm at least a dozen plausible combinations of 4 and 5 bowlers, with 1 and 2 spinners for the 1st Test. Do you pick Swann and Monty? Swann and Patel? Just one spinner and 3 seamers? If it's one spinner should it be Monty or Swann? If it's a real turner, do you pick all three? Which seamers do you pick out of a hypercompetitive pack. Like you I would want to squeeze in Tim Bresnan somewhere, but then who makes way for him? Can the selectors really ignore the claims of Steve Finn any longer? Could Jimmy Anderson be the one to make way? If you go with just two seamers, which is the best combination? I would see Tim Bresnan as a 3rd seamer more than a new ball bowler, but would Bresnan + Broad as the seamers offer a wider range of options than, say, Anderson + Broad when the ball loses its shine? It is a really tough call. Rather the selectors make it than me!

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