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.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mark on February 4, 2014, 18:04 GMT

    I'd like to see matt Prior in the team; can't understand why he isn't as a natural scorer. Has nothing to do with keeping wicket, just let him bat.

  • Jon on February 4, 2014, 16:58 GMT

    It is time for a huge clearout. There has been a lot of guys on the fringes of playing/coaching staff and i don't think I am out of line by saying we have seen them, they are not good enough lets move on. Firstly and most importantly if you ask me is the spin department. We have got to gamble with a young spinner that actually spins the ball. Tredwell, Briggs, Patel etc do not move the ball off the straight and will get found out again and again at the top level. The time for big changes must be now and not 3 years down the line.

  • shahid on February 4, 2014, 13:35 GMT

    One bowler's predicament in any given period in one match is never a verdict on his skills. First of all if a set batsman from a team who is on a winning streak has made up his mind to hit every ball in the last over there is nothing even a best bowler can do. Remember Yuraj Singh smashing Stuart Broad for six sixes and don't forget English media's darling James Anderson collecting the award of most runs scored in an over by the same Batsman George Bailey in an Ashes Test, does this make them bad bowlers for life?? These things happen in games and especially in Cricket. Sometimes bowlers dominate and on some days batsmen and this is the beauty of cricket and all should enjoy this with all its ups and downs.

  • Graham on February 4, 2014, 13:27 GMT

    There is no point in having tricks if you don't know how to use them; Jade has to go. It's glaringly obvious, meanwhile, that Moeen Ali should be in the team - his bowling is as good as Briggs and Tredwell, while being arguably the best no.3 in championship cricket right now. He's a no-brainer for the side. To me, so is Kieswetter. Time and again, when all has fallen apart around him, both for Somerset and in the T20 WC that England won, he has kept his head, played the percentages and guided his team home or to a defendable score. He has the right temperament to go alongside the slightly headless chicken, hit and miss, Hales and Wright.

    My side would be: Kieswetter, Hales, Pietersen, Morgan, Buttler, Bopara, Moeen, Stokes, Broad, Jordan, Tredwell. Rest of the squad: Bresnan, Wright, Samit Patel, Willey, Carberry

  • Adam on February 4, 2014, 10:16 GMT

    England's issue is not necessarily the domestic competition, which in terms of quality is actually extremely underrated. England's issue is that they are being left behind by the rest of the world in their lack of development and selection of specialist T20 players. Its embarrassing when we send out a bunch of knackered test cricketers who have barely played 10 T20s between them in the past 12 months to face a team of specialist T20 players all in great nick from playing T20 game after T20 game in their domestic competition. Of course we're going to get hammered!

    The only thing you might want to change about the domestic competition at this point is to introduce 2 divisions into the ODI and T20 formats as well. If that leads to some clubs focussing on some formats and some on others, then all the better.

  • rob on February 4, 2014, 7:21 GMT

    @ py0alb: Having no actual idea how English cricket is actually organised these days I'm qualified to say diddly squat, but I'd like to say this. If you want your players to play T20 effectively, you have to let them play as much as you can. Practice makes perfect and all that. Here in Aust. we haven't quite got the mix right yet. The BBL is a bit too long and cuts into the FC season a bit too much for my liking but I guess the point is we're a bit serious about incorporating T20 into the fold now. .. After 3 years we're finding new T20 players from grade cricket as well as the normal FC route. eg Aaron Finch can't hold down a FC spot for the Vics but is one of the first blokes picked in T20 and ODI's. .. it's opened some doors for people who normally wouldn't get much of a look in. .. That's been our experience so I'm wondering if there's any chance of an English based franchise style T20 comp. on the cards at all ?

  • riwaj on February 4, 2014, 5:38 GMT

    seriously i could have bowled that last over and i would've been hit for less runs than Dernbach. he needs to be focusing on yorkers full and fast. with maybe one slower ball an over. a wide full one that hits the crease or maybe a slower ball bouncer. England need to stop picking wright,lumb,root,Bopara,dernbach. pick carberry to open with Hales, its not rocket science. englands order should be hales,carberry,pietersen,charlotte edwards,morgan,butler,stokes,broad,shahid ajmal,jordan,briggs. so i see two spots that need fixing there.

  • o on February 4, 2014, 0:45 GMT

    Carberry deserves his shot he has been the consistent stand out in the FPT20 last 2 yrs . This season 502 runs from 11 innings top score 100 with S/R of 142 absurd he hasn't been given a shot

  • Simon on February 4, 2014, 0:29 GMT

    Luke Wright needs to open. He does it for Sussex and Melbourne and it's where he is most comfortable. I'd also trust his bowling a bit more as it's often partnership breaking (although obviously i wouldn't suggest a full four overs).

    I'm not convinced by Broad as a captain although he's definitely one of the better players. I'd lose Dernbach and Bresnan from the seam attack. I'd drop Ravi if the world cup was anywhere other then the subcontinent. His canny cutters are probably worth more on a dry, dusty turner.

    For me:

    1. Hales, 2. Wright, 3. KP, 4. Morgan, 5. Bopara, 6. Buttler, 7. Stokes, 8. Broad, 9. Jordan, 10. Tredwell, 11. Briggs with backups Root (middle order batsman, easily swappable for Ravi), Ali (backup spinner/all-rounder), Lumb (Top order bat) and probably someone like Harris or Rankin as the reserve seamer.

  • Prahaan on February 4, 2014, 0:06 GMT

    Hey, Jade Dernbach, Ravi Bhopara, Luke Wright, Tim Bresnan, Sambit Patel, all just C grade cricketers, will shine about every 10 games, with no real capacity to be among the best whatsoever. Never have and Never will. Yet our world class genius selectors will continue to pick them, and guess what, England will continue to lose matches. Interesting aspect to await, they will now start losing at all levels, Tests, ODI and T20. After this tour, the rest of the countries have learned one thing for sure: England is Very Beatable! As an ardent English Cricket fan, this is so very sad. But we have gotten away with mediocre performances, and now we have to pay the price and face its consequences.

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