Australia v England, 4th ODI, Adelaide January 26, 2011

More questions than answers for England despite win

Questions remain over England's middle and lower orders, with several players vying for places. There is no such thing as bad competition for places, but it certainly makes life tricky

England gambled in Adelaide and it paid off to keep the one-day series alive. They stacked the team with batsmen who reached 299, giving an attack including just three frontline bowlers enough runs to play with. It provided the latest example of how this team can dig deep and why there are expectations of a decent showing at the World Cup.

Jonathan Trott maintained his excellent form at No. 3 with 102 to take his one-day average to 54, then bagged two crucial wickets for good measure, Matt Prior bounced back from two ducks with a tone-setting 67 off 58 balls and Michael Yardy played his best 50-over innings for England with 39 off 27 balls. Even the horribly out-of-form Paul Collingwood managed to swing himself to a run-a-ball 27 and added a vital 56 with Yardy after the innings threatened to go off the rails.

In one way it's another tick in the selection box for Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower - they are very good at being pragmatic when it comes to selection and were fully justified on the day - but in another it doesn't really help answer many World Cup questions. Seven batsmen and three frontline bowlers won't work very often.

If England had picked their ideal World Cup starting eleven even three weeks ago Collingwood's name would have been in it and not Trott's. Now, though, he is doing his damnedest to become undroppable. His unbeaten 84 at Sydney gained mixed reviews, but this hundred was the ideal one-day anchor role. Pleasingly, too, he was aware of when the innings needed a kick and advanced down to pitch to John Hastings. There is no such thing as bad competition for places, but it certainly makes life tricky.

If Trott maintains this volume of runs at a decent pace and Collingwood's bowling is deemed too important to lose, the spotlight again turns to Ian Bell. At the start of the series he was England's premier batsman, fresh from a career-defining Ashes series, but has lurched back into his previous mode of bright starts. In Adelaide he didn't get that far, edging Steve Smith behind second ball, and could do with a substantial score before the series is done.

Strauss admitted that he won't be able to get away with Collingwood as a main bowler along with help from Yardy and Trott very often. "I don't think he could do it on all wickets if I am honest," he said. "On wickets like this one I think he's as useful as anyone. He's obviously got so much experience, he's got good variety."

For that reason, Collingwood's off-cutters will be valuable on the subcontinent which is why the management are so desperate for him to find form and gave him a chance at No. 7, where he hadn't batted for England since early 2005 against South Africa. Yet he remains the most vulnerable of the batsmen. His 27 included a six over midwicket but also plenty of edges.

So close to the start of a major tournament is ideally when roles need to be clearly defined. Part of England's problem is timing, in that the World Cup squad was named one match into this series, and another has been the injury list with Stuart Broad unavailable and both Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann flying home. At the end of last summer England had a settled unit and all those players were central to it.

But one man who must be wondering what his job entails is James Tredwell. He was first an England tourist in 2007-08 to New Zealand but, three years later, has just three ODI caps to show for his air miles, net sessions and drinks-carrying. He has played one match in this series at Hobart when he shouldn't have and missed another, Sydney, when he would have been useful. And in Adelaide with England wanting just one spinner it was again Yardy, but he was entrusted with just six overs.

Whenever Yardy has batted at No.7 he has felt a place too high in the order but in England's ideal scenario that would be his position. Swann, of course, will make a huge difference when he returns for the World Cup but Yardy can't be relied upon for 10 overs in an innings as he can for four in a Twenty20 match.

Clearly, England picked a team they felt ideal to keep them in the series. They achieved that aim so no criticism can be levelled and they could yet pull off an astonishing turnaround. Four years ago a side with considerably more issues than this one strung together four consecutive wins to take the CB Series from nowhere - although they were still a shambles at the World Cup that followed. Regardless of what happens in the next three matches that won't happen this time, but there remain a few more questions than answers right now.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 28, 2011, 18:58 GMT

    Why is it so out of the question that England play Collingwood and he bats at 7 and bowls 10 overs? That's the best side on slow wickets for sure, and the way Collingwood bowled in the last ODI perhaps he's a good option on harder wickets too.

    What worries me is Strauss' mindset that he only has 3 bowlers. He is scared to give the likes of Collingwood and to a lesser extent Yardy 10 overs, no matter how well they bowl. He needs to assess the bowlers based on that match rather than preconceptions....

  • Dummy4 on January 28, 2011, 11:40 GMT

    I think Bell and Prior should both be opening, which of course raises the question of what to do about Strauss. Well, he's struggled in all the ODIs so far, so his spot will go to Trott at 3. Yardy is a useful bat to have coming in later on, but his bowling just isn't consistently good enough in my opinion. My team is: Bell, Prior, Trott, KP, Colly, Morgan, Wright/Yardy, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson. Wright/Yardy, KP, Colly and Trott can easily find 10 overs between them

    I'd pick Yardy purely for the pitches that suit his bowling, but he's there more as a batsman who can bowl rather than the other way round.

  • John on January 28, 2011, 11:26 GMT

    @landl, just one peeve (worth commenting about) with your comment. Aus have "no accurate medium pacers"?? I'm sorry, but what's Watson then?

  • Ned on January 27, 2011, 22:56 GMT

    @land47, I dont think gilly4ever was wrong for backing the Aussies , to win the ashes.On paper and in form , they were a strong possibility.Throw in home conditions it was deemed to maybe be just enough.England great and Australia's woeful performances , produced the result they did. yes, it was a painful experience , trust me.

    That said our ODI options are somewhat more hopeful.The problem is as you have correctly defined, our need of a miserly medium /fast bowler like McGrath, who was the corner stone of our last three spinners are needed in India.The cupboard is bare but not all is lost.the talent will come through , though to be honest , it might not be in this world cup.

  • Jake on January 27, 2011, 22:34 GMT

    Let's be honest neither side is at anywhere near full strength, so why we're analysing their chances based on performances in this series is beyond me, especially as sub-continental conditions and Australian conditions are about as different as they come! As an England fan I can't say much about the Aussie side but with England I'd go for Strauss and Prior opening, only because Prior likes to go over the top and will definitely make use of the powerplay - whereas he'll probably be out caught should he bat in the latter overs. Trott at 3 as the stabiliser should we lose one early. KP at 4 because he's a match-winner. Bell at 5 due to his stroke-making and ability to rotate the strike and Morgan at 6 as the finisher. 7 and 8 are the positions that should be picked depending on conditions, with Collingwood, Wright, Bresnan and Yardy all bringing different things to the table with the ball and being more than capable with the bat. Broad, Swann and Anderson are the obvious bowling choices.

  • Jackie on January 27, 2011, 21:58 GMT

    The article doesn't comment on Bell being out of position batting at 5. Bell has already written an article about how different and difficult he is finding it. Premier batsman he might have been to the media and the public - but to Flower he was the reserve who had to cover for Colly at 5. Bell has only once batted at 5 in his entire career - against Ireland in 2006! All his experience and preparation is for batting in Powerplays, fat chance now. I think Flower hasn't got a clue. Anyone who puts Trott in to bat at 3 who can hardly hit a boundary or go over the top is just misguided. How can Trott use the Powerplays if he gets in early? The answer is he can't. He would have to change his whole game. A bit late isn't it? A bit like asking Bell to learn to bat at 5 in quick time.

  • John on January 27, 2011, 18:38 GMT

    @RJHB: Australia's problem isn't the batting, it's the bowling. Without a quality spinner and with no accurate medium pacers, Aus is going to go for too many runs. Aus has Tait, who can't bowl a game without an injury, and Lee, who has been out for almost two years. He was wild in the last ODI, which means he's getting tired and no longer bowling within himself. Bollinger hasn't got much, Johnson's all over the place. Hastings isn't the answer. BTW, if Ponting and Hussey come back back, Marsh goes. @GreatIndianFan: perhaps you were too busy supporting India to notice that England and Australia aren't in the same group. @Gilly4ever: Of course you thought Aus would win the Ashes, too. How did that work out for you?

  • Al on January 27, 2011, 16:55 GMT

    Yardy, Treadwell, Prior, Trott, Collingwood,....One can go on and on. The truth of the matter is that England omitted the one man who made a difference between the two(Oz & England) teams...Alistair Cook! The ashes win wasnt a one man effort but it came pretty close to being one. Pity about Finn too. The guy must be wondering what it takes to be selected. Collingwood especially should bow out gracefully.

  • Steve on January 27, 2011, 16:53 GMT

    Interesting stuff - if a bit naive! The reasoning behind Prior opening is obvious & sound. Prior likes to play his shots from the word go & with that goes a high element of risk & reward. The new ball & an unproven wicket can undoo even the best players - so that's why you save them for 4 or 5 . If Prior comes off (has some good luck) it's a great bonus and he can really rattle the bowlers. (just ask Brett Lee) If your openers can score at 8-10 and over during the powerplay you have a great platform. Putting Bell in first would be crazy! You're 'minesweepers' are going to clear the way for the crack troops (as they would say in military terms!). All this talk of who's the no 1 ODI side is also stupid! We know who the current world champs are and in a couple of months we'll know who the new world champs will be! I think India must be favorites and not because they are the best side? They will have home advantage with fanatical support & flat tracks helping them! COME ON ENGLAND!!!

  • Gopikrishnan on January 27, 2011, 15:02 GMT

    I'd say make Bell open and play Prior at 5.It's a much more natural position for him.Sorry but no place for Collingwood going by current form.

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