Yesterday England fell to a hugely disappointing defeat to India at Lord's. In a match which promised a lot for the home side, especially when they were presented with a green pitch on the first morning, it quickly unfolded into a minefield of one disaster after another.
The final day collapse was catastrophic, but this match was lost on the first day, when India were allowed to score runs that they simply shouldn’t have been allowed to make.
But what should England do next?
1 – Captain Cook
All the talk revolving around this series has had something to do with Alastair Cook. His run scoring has most definitely left him for the moment, and his captaincy can sometimes seem inadequate or even absurd in the situations he faces. If domestic cricket was running in County Championship mode now, then I would slot him back in at Essex and let him make runs. But with one-day fixtures littering the schedule, the last thing he needs is a meaningless slash about at tiny Chelmsford.
England need to back him, and their faith will be repaid.
2 – Ben Stokes
Stokes looks potent with the ball, but woefully out of form with the bat. At the start of the year the ECB wanted him to get some overs under his belt before they selected him...now he needs some runs to repair his confidence. Chris Jordan is the first choice replacement, and I reckon he would fit straight back in and improve the side while he’s at it.
3 – Matt Prior
Prior looks like a man who has lost every match in his recent memory, and this description wouldn’t be far from the truth. He looks like he lacks confidence with the gloves (especially moving to the right) and with bat in hand, with every short ball looking like a wicket taking opportunity when it is presented to him.
His confidence needs building up, and in reverse to Cook, I think domestic one-day cricket would benefit Prior. It would give him a chance to score runs at his natural rate, and return to the norm of making runs in quick time, with which he is so used.
To replace him is difficult. The selectors didn’t want to select Jos Buttler earlier in the year as they decided he wasn’t ready. So surely in the proceeding couple of months, he hasn’t really done enough to change their minds. This means that the selectors need to look to a bit more experience to hold the position until Prior returns to form or Buttler is ready.
This man would either be Chris Read, James Foster or Steven Davies. Read and Foster are both excellent calibre keepers, and have international experience, while Davies is slightly younger, he is still a well known name across the county circuit, and he also has played for his country before. For me, Davies is likely to be the number 2 to Buttler in the coming years, and so deserves his chance now, even if it is just to hold open the spot in preparation for Buttler to come in.
4 – Spin
England seem comfortable against the spin of Jadeja, but after the poor performance of Stuart Binny, Ravi Ashwin is almost a certainty to come into the side. This would make England’s challenge against the turning ball much greater, and would increase the size of the gulf between the touring spin department and our own.
Moeen Ali has proved a good all-round Test cricketer, but his spin suits the role of second fiddle, and thus it seems that he should be more in the role of JP Duminy, than Daniel Vettori. However, playing Simon Kerrigan in the next match would be one hell of a risk...
Unfortunately, the dwindling number of spinners in England makes the choice for front line tweaker tough – I’d be inclined to opt for Danny Briggs due to his experience of the Ageas Bowl pitch, but your guess is as good as mine...
5 – The Short Ball
Mitchell Johnson gave England a lot to think about during the winter, but how to face short bowling was definitely one of the more pressing matters. To be fair, England would not have expected a barrage on a green Lord’s pitch, let alone one from an Indian attack, but then, we did deliver our own on the first morning, when the ball was hooping about.
This final day has proved that England struggle against aggressive bowling, and the inclination to hook may have been brought about by the fear of repercussions from “boring” play. More time should be invested in the playing of the short ball, and a tactic like the ‘paddle pull’, used so successfully by Angelo Matthews earlier in the year, needs to be initiated. England saw the success of that shot from Matthews, yet failed to implement it themselves. Does that seem a bit naive and/or arrogant to you?
6 – Ian Bell
Bell has been a stand out player for England, but his current run of form leaves a lot to be desired. Since his heroics last summer against Australia (doesn’t that seem a long time ago?), Bell has struggled to rekindle that form. Often looking at his best, Bell has returned to the early part of his career, where his innings were ‘classy’ but his dismissal was ‘infuriating’. Although unlucky with both dismissals in this Test, he needs to step up to his role as a senior batsman, and lead from the front.
No. Cook should not be stripped of the captaincy, unless he has been dropped from the side. Having another captain on the field, while Cook feels sorry for himself at
slip, and tries to score some runs, would be highly detrimental to not just the team dynamic, but to Cook himself.