At last, a Test win for England!!!

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.

58 All Out!!

I was quick to mock Australia for 47 all out against South Africa, and 60 all out in the first innings against England at Trent Bridge back in 2015, so it’s only right to take the proverbial out of England as well.

What a dismal showing. Joe Root talked of the importance of winning test matches overseas ahead of Day 1, and then played his part in his team getting bowled out for 58.

With New Zealand winning the toss and bowling on a green top, you expect movement and maybe to lose a couple of early wickets, but to be 27/9 – as England were at one stage – is a absolute joke.

Moving conditions early on, on a green top aren’t just second nature to English batsmen, they are first nature. I expect the likes of India and Australia to maybe struggle, but England should be used to this.

Also, Joe Root claimed he would have batted first on this pitch, and this after dropping a batsman. Not sure which is the worst here? It all looks pretty calamitous from where I’m standing.

Finally, it;s always said you can’t win a Test match on the first day, but you can lose one. England have well surpassed that achievement here. They have managed to ensure they can’t win a whole Test series inside the first hour, never mind the first day!

Same Old

So Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood all failed with the bat again. They were bailed out by a KP innings and yet again by the tailenders.

So whats new there? Maybe a KP innings compared to the last 18 months. I’m well aware of the fact that we are a team, but that dosen’t mean we have to keep on relying on the tail to get our runs.

I know it’s only the first match and things could change, but come on lads the Aussies are struggling. A solid batting display here would have sent out a real message of intent.

Do we really want to show them that our batting is still crap? And give their confidence a boost just when they need it most?

Get your acts together.

Selectors taste some Humble Pie

Pakistan’s win in the 3rd test at the Oval seems to have brought high flying England back down to earth with a bit of a hefty bump. And rightly so in my opinion, the result could be the kick up the arse some of them need – and I’m not just talking about the players!

In selecting the squad for the 4th test, Geoff Miller and his fellow selectors went back to the more traditional method of naming a 12 man squad, rather than just naming the team 3 days before the start, as they did for the 3rd test.

In hindsight, naming the starting XI in the way they did could be deemed arrogant or disrespectful to Pakistan, at best it looks like England were over confident. It gave the impression that the whole England set up believed that Pakistan were there for taking, they looked like they got a bit carried away by the nature of the two previous victories.

I wonder did doing this send out the wrong message? Did it give the players the misguided belief that all they had to do was turn up to win against useless opposition? It certainly looked like that with the way some of them batted.

The decision backfired, and now the selectors have had to eat some humble pie. So maybe from now on we can stick to doing things the normal, respectful way.

The 3rd test was another exciting one though, I would much rather watch games like these than the high scoring bore draws we see on the sub-continent and in West Indies all too often these days.

England’s bowlers ended up making a game out of it, and they pushed Pakistan all the way. As usual, Pakistan didn’t disappoint either. They lived up to reputation and did their best to chuck away a victory they had in the bag.

In the end Umar Akmal and Mohammad Amir (two players who should play a massive part in the future of Pakistani cricket) got them over the line, with Akmal – for once – showing composure and reining himself in.

Looking at the way Swann and Anderson heaped pressure onto Pakistan after lunch, it further compounded my belief that if the batsmen could get their act together we would have a very good team.

If they can make a match out of things working with that pittance or runs, what could they be capable off if England could regularly post 400 – 450 runs in their 1st innings?