So at last England have won a game of Test match cricket, but this doesn’t mean all is well in the garden for Test captain Joe Root, as there are still numerous issues to be addressed in his Test match team.
England showed a lot of spirit and determination in beating Pakistan by an innings and 55 runs at Leeds on Sunday, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of where this England team is currently at.
The Struggling Opening Partnership
So Keaton Jennings made an okay return to Test match cricket, but that was all it was, an okay return. The fact he was returning tells its own story, and in all honesty, replacing Mark Stoneman with Keaton Jennings is a bit like the proverbial rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic.
England are just replacing one opener with deficiencies, with another one with deficiencies. Stoneman looks more technically organised than Jennings, with the latter seemingly looking a tougher more robust character, maybe a valuable attribute to an opener.
It remains to be seen if Jennings will be a decent long term opener, but he looks the sort of player that the Aussie and South Africa pace bowlers will like the look of.
Fellow opening partner Alastair Cook, also hasn’t been pulling up any trees over the past 2 to 3 years, and with no opening batsmen banging the door down in county cricket, it remains a problem position for England.
England’s Fragile Middle Order
Along with the struggling openers, the English middle order isn’t too clever either. Add the two together and it’s not hard to see why England have been dismissed for totals of just 184, 58, 180, 195, and 133 over the past 12 months.
James Vince has been tried and discarded again, Dawid Malan got a century in Australia, but has struggled since, although Malan looks a well organised player. Jonny Bairstow looks good getting a quick 40, but then keeps getting out. It’s a similar story for Joe Root, who tends to get to 70 or 80, before he does the same thing.
No one seems capable of building a proper innings in this English Test team, it’s always a case of a player looking good, and then doing something silly and getting himself out. We keep hearing about what good cricketers these guys are, so why don’t they win more Test matches? Maybe they simply aren’t as good as we are told!!
England’s Toothless Attack Overseas
Yes, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, and Chris Woakes are exceptional in English conditions, but lets be honest about it, when they go overseas they are fairly toothless.
I know there is a queue of people waiting to say that’s rubbish and that Anderson and Broad have over 900 Test wickets between them, but look at their performances in Australia and New Zealand over the winter, with the exception of an innings here or there, they weren’t too clever.
Chris Woakes has struggled abroad as well. In his 24 Test matches to date, he averages a wicket every 34.45 runs, with a strike rate of a wicket every 66.43 balls. Break that down though, and it might highlight England’s problems overseas.
In England he taken 46 wickets in 12 Test matches, that’s a wicket for 23.76 runs he concedes off his bowling, which is exceptional, and that’s a wicket every 45.30 balls he has bowled. While away from England, he has played 12 Test matches with an average of 61.77 runs per wicket, and an equally poor strike rate of a wicket every 120.44 balls bowled. That is some difference.
Until England find some good quality pace bowlers, they are always going to struggle abroad, and they seem incapable of addressing this issue.
Positives For England
It’s not all doom and gloom for England though. A couple of Ed Smith players have come off in this series. Starting with Jos Buttler, and despite all the criticism that he hasn’t played enough red ball cricket, he looked England’s best batsman in this series. It just goes to show that a class player in form, is a class player in form, no matter what the format or ball colour.
Dom Bess also did himself no harm either. Okay, so he didn’t rip Pakistan apart with his off breaks, but he showed there is something there to work with. Add to that he looked the part in the field, and most importantly these days if you want to bowl spin and hold down a place in this England team, he showed he could bat. His 3 appearances with the bat yielded 121 runs, quite enough to see him nail down the number 8 or 9 spot in an England team that likes it’s bowlers to be able to bat well.