An up and down series

It was a great finish to the ODI series against Sri Lanka, but over the course of the 5 matches I wouldn’t be getting too carried away with the win as there seemed to be more questions than answers that emerged from it all.

Starting on a positive note and one major plus to take from the series was Alastair Cook’s batting. Cook never took a backwards step, he led from the front and went some way to proving his critics wrong and showing everyone that he is a capable 50 over batsman.

Five games obviously doesn’t make him the finished article, but the early signs are good for Cook and England.

He also didn’t shrink under the weight of the captaincy, he didn’t look out of place or out of his depth at any time. All-in-all, it was a decent start for him.

I’ve made it clear on here before that I’m no fan of the three captain policy, but that’s not Cook’s fault and any criticism on here isn’t a reflection on him, more the policy.

On too other issues, and the reason why I started by saying I won’t be getting too carried away with the win was because of he 2nd and 3rd games. England were woeful, Sri Lanka cruised to victory in those two games without breaking sweat.

In the 1st and 4th games England were victorious more for being able to better exploit the conditions. Why this fails to help England prepare for future tours and World cups is that there is no other countries apart from New Zealand and occasionally South Africa where England will come across these conditions.

These sort of games are no preparation for England, they are just England playing in English condition, where we are expected to perform.

England were taught good lessons on the flat bed tracks of Leeds and Lord’s, the batting on flat pitches is a major problem and is an area of our game where we really need to sharpen up our act.

I’m still not convinced we have the right balance in the batting line up, a lot is made of Cook and Trott at the top of the order, but if Cook continues at his current strike rate then it won’t be a problem.

The real imbalance for me is Ian Bell coming in at No.6, he just doesn’t look suited to batting there. Batting Bell there is going to cost him his place in the side in my opinion.

Another area in which England could improve is with the bowling options. Since Collingwood has been dropped, we haven’t got a reliable 6th bowler.

I would have liked too see Samit Patel get a run in the side as a batsman. He averages 40 in 1st class cricket, so why can’t England take a look at him at No.6? Batting there he gives England a 6th bowler, and also a slow left arm option.

Another positive to come from this series is Jade Dernbach, it was good to see him get England over the line. He looks to have that bit of something about him, the sooner he is made to feel like he belongs in this side the better, his variation and guile could be priceless in limited overs format.

I was also pleased to see England weren’t afraid to drop Stuart Broad. That’s not meant as a kicking for Broad, as I still see him as a long term part of the England set up.

Where I am pleased is in the fact that it shows that England aren’t afraid to make difficult decisions, it is also a further reminder to the rest of the players that none of them are assured of their place in the team.

And finally a special mention for Graeme Swann, congratulations to him on becoming the world No.1 bowler in 50 over cricket. It’s further recognition and just reward for his outstanding form over the last 24-30 months.

More like it from England

It was good to see England bounce back with a win in the first ODI today after last weekend’s T20 thrashing.

In typical fashion, after I suggested in my last blog post that England should consider leaving Jimmy Anderson out of the 50 over team, he goes and produces a Man of the Match performance with figures of 4/18 from just the 5 overs.

It just sums Jimmy up though, he is unplayable when the conditions suit him at home, but on tour and on flat pitches with no help, he tends to struggle – which was my reasons for saving him for the test team.

It was also more like it with today’s team selection. Mainly with a return for Ian Bell, after the disgraceful decision to leave him out of the T20 team. For the life of me, I still can’t work out the logic behind that decision.

As a Warwickshire fan, I may be a touch biased with it comes to Bell. But I think the view of just about every fan or correspondent I’ve heard or read since has backed up this opinion.

With just the 8 players capable of bowling playing in the game, I think it’s fair to say that Stuart Broad had a base too many covered. He also didn’t need to pack the team with big hitters at the expense of stroke players. Lumb, Kieswetter, Pietersen and Morgan are all capable of clearing the ropes, so why the need for Luke Wright as well, with Ravi and Patel also in the team?

In the aftermatch interviews, when Mahela Jayawardene was describing himself, he said he wasn’t a rope clearing batsman. I couldn’t help at the time thinking ‘if you were English we wouldn’t pick you, as you’re not a big enough hitter.’

That’s why we picked Luke Wright ahead of Ian Bell, Wright rarely bowls these days either, which makes the decision look all the more baffling. There was simply no justifying the decision.

Back onto today and I’m still not convinced by Cook’s place in the side as captain or batsman just yet, but I was impressed with the selection of the team which had a balanced look to it with orthodox players picked to simply bat or bowl, as opposed to bits and pieces cricketers.

It was right to leave Chris Woakes out, Jade Dernbach looks the better prospect at the moment and Tim Bresnan is a first choice pick for the 50 over side when fit.

I thought Sri Lanka should have been overwhelming favourites at the start of this series – the bookies disagreed and made England favourites. Tonight was a good start, not just because of the win, but as I stated earlier, the make up of the team. It was a more solid looking compact England.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of this series goes now. I expect Sri Lanka to come back strong on Friday, they made England struggle with the bat at the end of our innings, and they were probably undone mainly because of the conditions when they batted.

They shouldn’t be underestimated.

Thoughts at end of 2nd Test

I think it would be fair to say that the 2nd test wasn’t the England teams greatest performance lately.

They did do well to fight back from 22/3 on first morning, but the bowling was poor, there was some sloppy moments in the field and did they really push that hard for the win on Day 5?

I don’t want to sound like I’m criticising them, as I’m not. But if I am comparing England to the Australia team of 5 years ago, then I’d have to say that Australia would have put the runs on the board needed by lunch and would have really pressurised Sri Lanka in the afternoon.

England didn’t do that, if they are to be the No.1 side in the world, then they will need to improve on what they produced. We are a good side, but still have a lot of work to do to come up to the standards the management are talking about.

What a run of form Alastair Cook is now in. I find it hard to believe that this is the same player I thought should have been dropped about 9 months ago. With regard to pushing for the victory, could he have hurried up a bit on the fifth morning? Probably yes.

Also is he trying to become the new KP with that shot he attempted to bring up his hundred in the 1st innings?

The bowling wasn’t great either, Steven Finn will probably be the one too make way for the return of Jimmy Amderson, and I believe that’s fair enough. Finn was no worse than Tremlett and Broad, but he is the fill in man and while his performance was ok, it didn’t demand he be picked for the next test.

I’m not one for Umpire bashing, but I have to comment on Billy Doctrove and Rod Tucker. The cricketing authorites can issue all the guidelines surrounding the implementation of the bad light rule that they want. But if they employ idiots to implement the guidelines, you have no chance.

What were Doctrove and Tucker doing on Monday afternoon? It was a joke. Doctrove’s performance didn’t improve much either when he failed to call for a TV replay for Ian Bell’s runout. How can Aleem Dar be sat in the 3rd Umpire’s chair, with those two out in the middle? It doesn’t seem right too me.