Sunday, July 21, 2013

Root and Swann lead England to comprehensive win

It's hard to write any in-depth analysis around a sports contest when one team comprehensively outplays the other. Here, I try to drum up some reflections after England's 347 run win over Australia at Lord's.

  1. Any doubts over Joe Root's suitability for the opening rule should now be dispelled. Root was selected ahead of the dour Nick Compton. There is merit in the argument about Compton's dropping being unjust. However, Root showed in his mammoth 180 that not only is he more enterprising than Compton, but when the situation demands he has a rock solid defence that enables him to play with responsibility. It's too early to make big claims, but it certainly seems like England how found a player who is going to remain a fixture for the foreseeable future.
  2. What personally earmarks Root's potential for me, is the assured manner in which he plays from the back foot. In most conditions except the subcontinent, negating movement and bounce are going to be crucial for most openers. Root looks comfortable blocking from the crease, while his back foot cover drives were a joy to watch at Lord's. When invited to play on the front foot, Root proved that he is nimble with his footwork unfurling some classy straight drives and confident shots through the leg side.
  3. I have already commented on Ian Bell's two tremendous centuries this series. Nonetheless, in the second innings Bell proved that when he has the luxury to play briskly, he is the most attractive batsman in the team after Kevin Pietersen. His 74 featured fantastic shots all over the ground against all the Australian bowlers, and a third successive century was on the cards, until he confounded all by getting out to Steven Smith for the second time in the match.
  4. That being said, Bell should have been out for 3, when the third umpire ruled that Steven Smith hadn't taken a catch cleanly at gully. It was an atrocious decision, and just reinforces the fact that the umpiring issues in this series have less to do with DRS and technology, and more do to with human error.
  5. Australia's batting failures have been well documented all over the cricketing press. Their bowlers seem to be escaping the wrath of many because of their tail-end heroics, and whole-hearted effort with the ball in their hands. Closer introspection reveals that Australia are carrying passengers in the bowling department as well. Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris have been the only two to bowl well. James Pattinson suffers from the same problems as Mitchell Starc albeit with the right arm, and Ashton Agar is clearly not yet a test match spinner by a fair margin.
  6. I advocated James Faulkner's inclusion in the playing eleven after Trent Bridge, and I think the southpaw's case has become stronger after the Pattinson's display at Lord's. Faulkner bowls a good length, and is an even better batsmen than the current tail-enders who are doing a steady job. Certainly Australia could do worse with their selections than giving Faulkner a go.
  7. Nathan Lyon should certainly be given the spinners spot ahead of Ashton Agar. The idea of playing the young spinner was brave and laudable, but Lyon recently took seven wickets against an Indian batting line up that feasts on spin in Inda. With Old Trafford one of England's most spin friendly grounds, Australia can't afford to play a spinner who won't challenge the home batsmen.
    Swann bowling against Sri Lanka at Lord's in t...
    Swann bowling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  8. Graeme Swann finished with match figures of 9 for 122, taking on the responsibility of reducing James Anderson's burden of carrying the English bowling attack. Swann's drift was more prominent at Lord's, and the pace generated through his revolutions made his spin extremely difficult to read for Australia's batsmen on a true pitch. The fear for Australia is that Swann can still get better, and will be an even bigger threat at Old Trafford.
  9. Four wickets at 15.5 runs each, and a solid 38 in the second innings as night watchman vindicated Tim Bresnan's selection ahead in the team ahead of Steven Finn. Finn might be the more natural fast bowler, but until he exorcises his mental demons, Bresnan will always be the go to option for his sheer consistency and solidity in any role.
  10. Warm-up matches rarely have any significance, and most don't turn out to be more than glorified practice matches. For Australia however, the three-day match against Sussex at the Hove is extremely important. Usman Khawaja and Michael Clarke showed some kind of form by scoring half-centuries in the second innings, but the rest of the batsmen really need to score big runs against Sussex to confirm their place in the team for the third test. Resting Siddle and Harris, and letting the other fasters basically compete in a shootout might be a good idea as well. While the problems won't disappear after the warm-up, Australia can at least start looking at potential solutions at the Hove.
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