England news March 10, 2012

Flower remains cautious over Patel

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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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • POSTED BY YorkshirePudding on | March 13, 2012, 8:31 GMT

    @JG2704, if you want a 5 man attack then Bresnan should be in the running, to play at 7. I think they'll go with Bresnan, Broad and Anderson with Swann and Samit as the spin options. In regards to Finn, unfortunately theres no room for him unless one of the other quicks gets injured.

  • POSTED BY RodStark on | March 13, 2012, 2:20 GMT

    How disappointing that this is only a 2-test tour, and not even any ODIs or T20s! I wonder why.

    I'm worried that although the English batsmen did much better against Pak spin in the ODIs, it must be a lot easier when you don't have fielders crowding the bat. Anyway, time will tell.

    The most logical team for England is to simply slip in Bopara for Morgan, but I'd really like to see what Finn could do, and England has an incredible record whenever they play Bresnan.

    Anyway, really looking forward to a couple of exciting games. Good luck to both teams!

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | March 13, 2012, 0:38 GMT

    @JG2704: I'm a bit puzzled about why you think that the logical way to address England's test match challenge on the slow, low wickets of Sri Lanka (which you correctly identified as the batting) is to drop a batsman. England kept Pakistan's batting well under control with 4 bowlers, got two first innings leads and shot them out for under100. Not much of an issue there. However, to suggest that Broad and Swann are good enough at 7 and 8 to play 5 batsmen, a W/K batsman and 3 out and out tailenders seems crazy to me. I'd go with 2 + 2 in bowling and play Patel as #7 and 3rd spinner. He's good enough at both (his first class batting average is the same as Bopara's and 5 runs better than Morgan's) to say he's more than a bits and pieces player like, say, Christian of Australia.

  • POSTED BY on | March 12, 2012, 13:47 GMT

    Looking forward to this Test series with great interest!

  • POSTED BY CricketingStargazer on | March 12, 2012, 13:23 GMT

    Poor Randy. The effort of trying to spin Australian failures is disconnecting him from all reality. I think that he is hoping that we'll go in with a 4th or 5th string attack to make the next Ashes more of an even contest. I'd be worried about playing Patel as the specialist bits and pieces player: the last time we did that with a slow left armer, Ian Blackwell in India, he was found so wanting in both departments that he has never been near a touring party, let alone the Test side since. Blackwell was, essentially, a big-hitting middle-order batsman who they hoped could act as second spinner and it didn't quite work out that way. Looking good in ODIs is one thing. Looking good in Tests is another. A case in point is Xavier Doherty: he doesn't look out of place in the Australian ODI side but boy was he out of his depth in the Ashes Tests.

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | March 12, 2012, 10:43 GMT

    @TheHoneymonster on (March 10 2012, 16:49 PM GMT)/ jmcilhinney on (March 11 2012, 02:44 AM GMT) I'm not sure on SP's fitness. If he has a stamina issue then he should not be included but if it's just because he is slow then surely that would affect the shorter forms of cricket more than the 5 day game. Personally I'm still not sure about Bell and everyone knows I prefer the 5 man bowling attack. Therefore my 11 for the 1st test would be Strauss,Cook,Trott,KP, Patel or Bell , Prior,Broad,Swann,Jimmy,Finn,Monty. I'd possibly give Bell the warm up games to show his form and confidence and if he performs keep him in and if he doesn't bring Patel or Bopara in - Patel would be my choice. Bell has been out of nick for the whole Pak tour and my hunch is it's a confidence thing and picking him when his confidence is shot will do him or Eng no favours.

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | March 12, 2012, 10:43 GMT

    @ Arshadmahi on (March 12 2012, 07:22 AM GMT) Tramlet as you call him is not even out there and where's your evidence that he can't bowl in SC? Our bowlers did a good job in UAE , It was our batsmen that were and still are a major concern Time will tell but I think I'd rather we lost than got away with it because of weather. I seem to remember the 1-0 scoreline in Eng flattered SL as there was much rain in the series in which Eng were totally on top

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | March 12, 2012, 10:28 GMT

    @randyoz - and how many tests have the 3 bowlers you mentioned played for England at this time and how many times have Rankin and Dockerell played for England in any form of cricket ?

  • POSTED BY VillageBlacksmith on | March 12, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    @jmcilhinney... you are correct of course, but perhaps randyoz, stuck out in 'shtraya' has not yet realised that it is against most global laws to discriminate against a person or persons because of his/her/their ethnicity or heritage. It sounds like he is suggesting that a person who has correctly and arduously qualified (and been locally coached) to play for their adopted country (wherever that may be) should not be picked because of his/her/their race or heritage.

  • POSTED BY Arshadmahi on | March 12, 2012, 7:22 GMT

    I don't think even England have a chance to draw the serious.. if rain not effect the tour, 2-0 z the result.. but i think it will rain in late march and April, so ENGLAND should hope for a rain.. nothing else, Anderson and Tramlet are useless in Srilankan conditions.. and swan 2..

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | March 12, 2012, 3:36 GMT

    Ha! RandyOZ just needs to keep his excuses handy so that he can justify it to himself when Australia get beaten by England. He has no issue with a player born in Pakistan to Pakistani parents playing for Australia because that player can to Australia as a child, yet he has an issue with players born in SA playing for England when most of those players either emigrated as children with their parents, have English parentage or heritage or both. We wouldn't be hearing about this al the time if Australia were up to the challenge these days. After all, I haven't heard a word about NZ having an Australian-born and a SA-born player because NZ aren't perceived as a threat. Of course, if the Hobart Test match is anything to go by, that may change soon. As for Hussey winning 3 MoM awards, I guess that could be considered an indication that the rest of the team just aren't that good.

  • POSTED BY VillageBlacksmith on | March 11, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    @randyoz... I seem to remember the 'no good outside of england' english bowlers doing rather well v the aussies last year in 'shtraya', so much so your press called yr aussie team the 'worst team ever' and ''an embarrassment of historic proportions''. And the eng spinners seem to be rated slightly higher than the 11 slow bowlers the aussies have tried recently..... I'm very glad to see it still rankles tho!! And all eng supporters hope to see hussey next yr, and ponting! Cheers!

  • POSTED BY jackiethepen on | March 11, 2012, 8:56 GMT

    Flower cautious over Patel? Of course he is. He sees him as a threat to Bopara's return to the Test side. Do we have any public equivocations from Flower about Bopara? The latter has hardly convinced he is ready to take the No 6 spot. Flower wanted his Essex team mate back in the side last year - but Morgan pipped him with a brilliant near double century in a warm up game in which Bopara struggled. We are never reminded of Bopara's shortcomings. But Flower has a dig at Patel every time he mentions him. As for Bell he is always ignored by Flower. You wouldn't think Bell has averaged nearer 70 since his recall to the side. The day that Flower 'looks after' Bell will be a red letter one indeed.

  • POSTED BY RandyOZ on | March 11, 2012, 6:25 GMT

    "Andy Flower has plenty of bowling options ahead of the first Test in Sri Lanka" - it's just a shame that none of them are any good outside of England. That's the fast bowlers of course, lets not even begin the mention how bad the spinners are. When Monty makes Swann look poor you know you're in trouble. I suppose though this is why they have now starting importing on the bowling side of things. Dernbach, Rankin and Dockerill look set for the next Ashes. Goodluck in SL United XI, you'll definitely need it, there's no MEK Hussey in your side to score 3 consecutive man of the matches!

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | March 11, 2012, 2:44 GMT

    I think that a bit too much is made of Patel's fitness or lack thereof sometimes. Obviously Flower is closer to the action and knows more of the details so if he has concerns then I imagine that they are warranted but I don;t think that Patel is ever going to be svelte. He's a naturally stocky guy so I think he's always going to be solid, even at peak fitness. That said, I do understand that fitness may be more of an issue over five days than one. There's not as much hard running and diving but you need to sustain intensity for longer. I guess I haven't actually seen Samit Patel in action for his county but, while I don't really think of him as a viable long-term option as a Test cricketer, he does have a significantly better average in first class cricket than Eoin Morgan and he can bowl some too.

  • POSTED BY SDHM on | March 10, 2012, 16:49 GMT

    I'd take a punt on Patel if I was Flower - a more naturally aggressive player, decent against spin and more than useful bowling. Still, I'm not convinced that two three day warm-up games will be sufficient enough time to acclimatise to both climactic and pitch conditions. It most certainly wasn't in the UAE, but then again England aren't coming off so long a lay-off this time round - all the mistakes we criticised India for making when coming over to England last summer we seem to have made on these two tours, and it's not like there wasn't time to fit in more warm-up games! That said, I can't see England performing as badly again - Sri Lanka's attack isn't of the same quality as Pakistan's, and although their batting is much stronger, the bowlers showed that they could take 20 wickets anywhere. It has the makings of a great little series though - Sri Lanka resurgent under Jayawardene's captaincy and a superb run in Australia, England wounded and with a point to prove!

  • POSTED BY Narkovian on | March 10, 2012, 16:49 GMT

    Glad Flower wasn't around when the late great Colin Milburn played cricket. He would have deprived us of a true star.. who shone only too briefly, unfortunately. Having said that, IMHO I dont think Patel is a Test cricketer. Nothing to do with his physique though..

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  • POSTED BY Narkovian on | March 10, 2012, 16:49 GMT

    Glad Flower wasn't around when the late great Colin Milburn played cricket. He would have deprived us of a true star.. who shone only too briefly, unfortunately. Having said that, IMHO I dont think Patel is a Test cricketer. Nothing to do with his physique though..

  • POSTED BY SDHM on | March 10, 2012, 16:49 GMT

    I'd take a punt on Patel if I was Flower - a more naturally aggressive player, decent against spin and more than useful bowling. Still, I'm not convinced that two three day warm-up games will be sufficient enough time to acclimatise to both climactic and pitch conditions. It most certainly wasn't in the UAE, but then again England aren't coming off so long a lay-off this time round - all the mistakes we criticised India for making when coming over to England last summer we seem to have made on these two tours, and it's not like there wasn't time to fit in more warm-up games! That said, I can't see England performing as badly again - Sri Lanka's attack isn't of the same quality as Pakistan's, and although their batting is much stronger, the bowlers showed that they could take 20 wickets anywhere. It has the makings of a great little series though - Sri Lanka resurgent under Jayawardene's captaincy and a superb run in Australia, England wounded and with a point to prove!

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | March 11, 2012, 2:44 GMT

    I think that a bit too much is made of Patel's fitness or lack thereof sometimes. Obviously Flower is closer to the action and knows more of the details so if he has concerns then I imagine that they are warranted but I don;t think that Patel is ever going to be svelte. He's a naturally stocky guy so I think he's always going to be solid, even at peak fitness. That said, I do understand that fitness may be more of an issue over five days than one. There's not as much hard running and diving but you need to sustain intensity for longer. I guess I haven't actually seen Samit Patel in action for his county but, while I don't really think of him as a viable long-term option as a Test cricketer, he does have a significantly better average in first class cricket than Eoin Morgan and he can bowl some too.

  • POSTED BY RandyOZ on | March 11, 2012, 6:25 GMT

    "Andy Flower has plenty of bowling options ahead of the first Test in Sri Lanka" - it's just a shame that none of them are any good outside of England. That's the fast bowlers of course, lets not even begin the mention how bad the spinners are. When Monty makes Swann look poor you know you're in trouble. I suppose though this is why they have now starting importing on the bowling side of things. Dernbach, Rankin and Dockerill look set for the next Ashes. Goodluck in SL United XI, you'll definitely need it, there's no MEK Hussey in your side to score 3 consecutive man of the matches!

  • POSTED BY jackiethepen on | March 11, 2012, 8:56 GMT

    Flower cautious over Patel? Of course he is. He sees him as a threat to Bopara's return to the Test side. Do we have any public equivocations from Flower about Bopara? The latter has hardly convinced he is ready to take the No 6 spot. Flower wanted his Essex team mate back in the side last year - but Morgan pipped him with a brilliant near double century in a warm up game in which Bopara struggled. We are never reminded of Bopara's shortcomings. But Flower has a dig at Patel every time he mentions him. As for Bell he is always ignored by Flower. You wouldn't think Bell has averaged nearer 70 since his recall to the side. The day that Flower 'looks after' Bell will be a red letter one indeed.

  • POSTED BY VillageBlacksmith on | March 11, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    @randyoz... I seem to remember the 'no good outside of england' english bowlers doing rather well v the aussies last year in 'shtraya', so much so your press called yr aussie team the 'worst team ever' and ''an embarrassment of historic proportions''. And the eng spinners seem to be rated slightly higher than the 11 slow bowlers the aussies have tried recently..... I'm very glad to see it still rankles tho!! And all eng supporters hope to see hussey next yr, and ponting! Cheers!

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | March 12, 2012, 3:36 GMT

    Ha! RandyOZ just needs to keep his excuses handy so that he can justify it to himself when Australia get beaten by England. He has no issue with a player born in Pakistan to Pakistani parents playing for Australia because that player can to Australia as a child, yet he has an issue with players born in SA playing for England when most of those players either emigrated as children with their parents, have English parentage or heritage or both. We wouldn't be hearing about this al the time if Australia were up to the challenge these days. After all, I haven't heard a word about NZ having an Australian-born and a SA-born player because NZ aren't perceived as a threat. Of course, if the Hobart Test match is anything to go by, that may change soon. As for Hussey winning 3 MoM awards, I guess that could be considered an indication that the rest of the team just aren't that good.

  • POSTED BY Arshadmahi on | March 12, 2012, 7:22 GMT

    I don't think even England have a chance to draw the serious.. if rain not effect the tour, 2-0 z the result.. but i think it will rain in late march and April, so ENGLAND should hope for a rain.. nothing else, Anderson and Tramlet are useless in Srilankan conditions.. and swan 2..

  • POSTED BY VillageBlacksmith on | March 12, 2012, 9:15 GMT

    @jmcilhinney... you are correct of course, but perhaps randyoz, stuck out in 'shtraya' has not yet realised that it is against most global laws to discriminate against a person or persons because of his/her/their ethnicity or heritage. It sounds like he is suggesting that a person who has correctly and arduously qualified (and been locally coached) to play for their adopted country (wherever that may be) should not be picked because of his/her/their race or heritage.

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | March 12, 2012, 10:28 GMT

    @randyoz - and how many tests have the 3 bowlers you mentioned played for England at this time and how many times have Rankin and Dockerell played for England in any form of cricket ?