England in Australia 2013-14 February 3, 2014

Week of relief merely brings more anxiety

Vithushan Ehantharajah
England were fancied to end their tour on a high against an understrength Australia but after three hefty defeats, worries in important areas have been revealed

What initially looked like a week for light relief and a desperately needed series win, proved to be anything but for England. For Australia, one of the most emphatic international summers was brought to a close in an efficient and entertaining manner.

George Bailey's side were a healthy mix of old and new. The second T20 at the MCG had the feel of Brad Hodge's testimonial, after years of Victorian wishes for an international comeback to their favourite son. Giving James Muirhead time around a confident group of players will, going forward, prove just as valuable as the 10 overs he bowled to return 4 for 64.

Cameron White's renaissance gave the series a nice undertone. Those close to him say they have never seen him so balanced and at ease with his game. The stats suggest as much - 174 runs at 87.00 - as did the fluency of his straight, lofted shots, each featuring his trademark "stand up" follow through.

But the likelihood is that those three will not register in Australia's plans for their final World Twenty20 squad. Even White, who seemed fairly at ease with the idea of being dropped, despite his success - clearly proud to be part of a unit that will welcome back David Warner and Shane Watson, at his expense.

It's a far cry from the England side, despite their deficiencies, who are likely to go into the same competition largely unchanged. Now 8th in the ICC T20 rankings (Australia are 6th), there are concerns in important areas that need addressing.

In the spin department, Danny Briggs, an effective bowler in domestic cricket, has so far,been unable to replicate the control and capacity for wickets in international T20s, albeit in six excursions spread across 16 months. He was particularly unfortunate that his one appearance in this series came at a short-sided Hobart. James Tredwell did not fare much better at the MCG.

A batting line up that started out as "scary" turned to more of a worry. An explosive front three of Alex Hales, Michael Lumb and Luke Wright only managed 88 runs in eight innings between them.

But before calling for wholesale changes, it's important to look at the alternatives. And the truth is, there aren't many that would cure these ailments. But there are options that could, at least in Bangladesh, alleviate these problem areas.

Craig Kieswetter and Michael Carberry, the top two runscorers in last season's Friend Life t20 would be good options for an opening spot alongside Hales, allowing Wright to stick at No. 3 (but Kevin Pietersen will most likely take this spot should he be available). A move for Stokes to a more natural position at No. 7 would then allow Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler and Ravi Bopara to shift up a place. The more balls those three face, the better.

With the slow bowling, it will be a case of spreading the workload around. Joe Root could assist one of either Tredwell or Briggs; for variety's sake, the left arm option may be preferred. Alternatively, Moeen Ali - 43 wickets at 25.46 in domestic T20 - could also press his case as a remedy for both of the above issues.

Like a street performer rushing through his routine, desperate for your coins and attention, Jade Dernbach ignores the importance of consistency

But there does remain one issue. You know him best as Jade Dernbach.

Dropping him entirely seems like the smart thing to do, especially after returning the worst figures of any bowler, in a three-match series. But his last five outings before Australia saw him take 13 wickets at 12.46, including an impressive 3 for 34 at the Ageas Bowl when Aaron Finch hammed England's attack for 156 from 63 balls, as Australia posted 248. Dernbach was the only bowler to concede fewer than 10 an over (8.5).

The issue is, as regular as clockwork, he undermines himself by mixing things up for the sake of it.

Perhaps it's the pressure he puts on himself to succeed in international cricket that has him unloading all his tricks in an over. Like a street performer rushing through his routine, desperate for your coins and attention, he ignores the importance of consistency. By the end, you're only watching for the inevitable catastrophe; be it choking on fire or, worse still, conceding 26 in an over.

England are clearly hooked and you can sort of see why. Underneath the tats, needless chat and oafish behaviour lies something unique. In isolation, his tricks are a treat. Whether you like him or not, his armoury of deliveries - slower balls, cutters, back of the hand sliders, wobbly-dippers - is a set that very few bowlers in the world have. His manipulation of the ball, through nifty wrist work and the careful cutting across of his fingers, in a number of directions, with no discernable change in his action, is actually quite stunning.

While his role has always been to bowl in the Powerplay overs and at the death, it is evident that the England coaches have drummed into Dernbach that they want him to go through his full repertoire.

If you can, watch him bowl in the County Championship. He is a far cannier operator in whites.

He plugs away on a good length, with very good pace and appreciates the fact that, at times, he will be bowling for someone else's wicket. His stock ball - an inswinger which moves later and later as the day grows old - is up there as one of the most incisive on the circuit. Of the handful of slower-balls he dished out last season, the majority resulted in wickets.

This is by no means an impassioned defence of Dernbach. He is his own worst enemy at the best of times and, ultimately, does not warrant a place in the final 15. But England clearly fear that he has something that no one else can give them and, by tossing him aside, they may lose it forever. Given his current form and poor on-field behaviour, that may not be the worst thing.