Friday, 29 July 2011

Morgan's Place No Pressing Issue

The nature of the English cricket press is that there always needs to be someone sweating over their place. Last summer, it was Alastair Cook, but he then went on to have the winter to end all winters. The spotlight then moved to Kevin Pietersen, who has since refound his top form. Last week it was Stuart Broad who was the next in line to be throw overboard, instead he's had a few of his best days in test cricket. So who's next on death row as the cricket press bottle spins onto it's next target? Well, after three failures in a row, it's going to be Eoin Morgan.

Eoin Morgan, for all of his ODI success, has had a quiet start to his test career. Other than the excellent ton against Pakistan last summer, he's yet to stamp his mark on test cricket and firmly assert himself as England's number six batsman. When Paul Collingwood retired, a space opened up in the England batting order, and the selectors chose Morgan; basically saying that he was their man to play in the middle order for the next few years. This wasn't that long ago.

England have been actually doing pretty well in test cricket over the past while, so there aren't many players who are under pressure for their place in the team. However, as there always needs to be someone in trouble (otherwise there is no story), Morgan is the man they've picked.

Techically, there's a lot that Eoin Morgan has to work on. But there's no denying that he is an absolute class batsman who can score a lot of runs, and has the perfect temprament for test cricket. In three innings this series, Morgan's had a couple of dubious decisions, and ended up with three low scores. This doesn't automatically make him a bad player or that he should be dropped. These things happen. It wasn't that long ago he was being backed as a permanenent member of the England team for years to come - so what's changed?

England's selectorial policy under Andy Flower has been as far removed from the knee-jerk as possible, with players going through lean spells being nursed back into form and returning to past glories. Eoin Morgan may not have the illustrious record of some of his teammates, but he certainly has the same ability. And it was only last month that Flower, Geoff Miller, and Strauss confirmed this by picking him for the Sri Lanka series.

England haven't got where they are today by making snap decisions and dropping out of form players. Eoin Morgan may be in a slight trough and James Taylor may be on the crest of a wave, but there's no need for impulsive change for changes sake on the back of one poor day of test cricket. Luckily, I think the selectors and Andy Flower know that, but the real issue is whether the press know that too.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Horse for the Course or the Young Buck?

Last week at Lord's, the only selectorial decision England had to make was whether Stuart Broad or Tim Bresnan should make the third seamer spot. And with Broad having a blinder at HQ and Chris Tremlett seemingly ruled out due to injury, Bresnan is again embroiled in a fight for that final fast-bowling position in the side.

His opposition this week is Steven Finn, the fastest Englishman to 50 test wickets, but still lacks that little bit of control so desired by Strauss and Flower. The argument for Finn is a good one - he does have a great knack of taking wickets, and with a bit of extra height and bounce he could be England's ENFORCER (not that they need one).

However, things are stacked in Tim's favour. For one, he doesn't have to partake in a long late night drive from London to Nottingham the night before the game, so can instead tuck up in bed and get an early night. He also has much more of an ability to swing the ball; so much so that he was England's "horses for courses" swing bowler at Melbourne, incidentally replacing Finn. With a green top prepared and Trent Bridge historically being a swingers haven, Bresnan should surely be favourite. Add to that the fact that Finn didn't even make the 12 man squad for this game and that Messrs Flower and Strauss favour the "next cab off the rank" selectorial policy (they don't mind a bit of jargon, do they?) it's all certainly pointing towards Bresnan getting the nod at 10.30 tomorrow morning.

So Steven Finn's going to have to make the 105 mile journey from Lord's to Trent Bridge all in vain. He's spent more time on the motorways than playing for England this summer, and while he's not quite there in terms of getting into the team, he's showing willing and his knocking on the door is certainly getting louder. Sadly it seems he's just going to have to keep knocking and remaining patient for a little bit longer yet. Bresnan, however, has the chance to show why he did so well in the final two Ashes tests, and firmly show just how good a test bowler he can be for England.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Matt Prior, and why England have nothing to fix

Before this series started, I said that Matt Prior is the best wicket-keeper batsman in the world. I'm only repeating that because at Lord's he proved me right - he put together two excellent innings filled with exciting strokes down at number seven (the second one recovering England frmo a potential collapse to a position of dominance, capped with another test century), as well as keeping expertly at the notoriously difficult Lord's.

Buoyed by this success, the calls for a Prior promotion are gathering. A test average of over 45 with six centuries certainly proves that Prior could easily bat in the top six - indeed he could even bat higher if required. Eoin Morgan, for all of his limited over success, is yet to ignite in his nascent test career, and is not yet 100% assured of his place. Promoting Prior to six would allow England to bring in Tim Bresnan at seven, and play an extra bowler.

There is logic to this idea - the injury to Zaheer on Thursday proved the fragility of a four-man attack, and adding an extra seamer would both help lighten the load on the others, and provide a supplementary option if all isn't going well for the main foursome.

However, the balance of the side would be distorted in quite an unsettling way. First off, England are losing a very good batsman in Eoin Morgan, and replacing him with a bits and pieces bat in Tim Bresnan. They'd also be adding to a bowling attack that doesn't really need adding to. They had no problems in taking 20 wickets at the bowler's graveyard that is Lord's, so why would they need any assistance at the much preferred Trent Bridge? But crucially, the biggest mistake to changing the balance of the team would be moving Matt Prior.

Prior's success over the past few series has been when he's batted at number seven. His quick scoring rate (he knocks along at a test strike rate of 66 - pretty rapid) is best implemented at the number seven position, either to counter-attack and put England back onto the front foot (as he did in the second innnings on Sunday) or to further drive home the advantage against weary bowlers (as he did in his Ashes century at Sydney). Moving him up or down the order would negate the effect of his runs; either adding undue pressure or removing his significance on proceedings.

The old saying goes "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and given England's consistency in selection over the past few years, we're almost certain to see an unchanged side at Trent Bridge when the two sides line up again on Friday. And given the remarkable rise of Matt Prior from the earringed lout of his early test days to today's world-class performer, expect him to show why he's leapt to his highest ranking in the world with yet another high-class performance.

Test Cricket's Fitting 2000th

Last week at Lord's saw the 2000th match in the history of test cricket, and luckily it was a fitting match to mark the historic deadline.

In the 134 years since the inception of test cricket, there have been some fine games. From gripping nailbiters such as Edgbaston 2005 to back-from-the-dead epics like Headingley 1981, the ebb and flow of test cricket has led to a level of drama and intrigue that no other sport can offer. While not every game is a thriller, even the most hideously rain-affected or one-sided match will have it's suspenseful moments where the balance of power will shift and both sides feel they can win. Could you say that about a twenty20 game?

With test cricket being the pinnacle of the sport, the world's best are drawn into competition, which leads to a heightened level of competition to any other standard of cricket. Test cricket is, always has been, and always will be the ultimate level of cricket. Only the very best can claim to be test cricketers.

The 2000th test bought this sharply into focus. Amongst the teams were the two top run scorers in the history of cricket, with one of them (Rahul Dravid) making an excellent century as his partners were vanquished at the other end. As well as boasting players who've taken over 400 test wicket, the match also saw the absolute cream of the crop of both batting and bowling take to the field. These would be the men to represent Earth in the hypothetical game against Mars. And the quality shown by those players lived up to their reputations, with Kevin Pietersen's unbeaten double ton winning out in the battle for man of the match against Dravid and Prior's centuries, Broad and Ishant's display of wicket to wicket bowling and a masterclass in swing bowling from James Anderson. Bat and ball were battling throughout, and the quality on show was as good as any of the previous 1999 tests that took place before this week at Lord's.

There are a growing number of naysayers who proclaim that test cricket is a finished format, and twenty20 is where the money, entertainment, and direction of cricket is heading. They point to dwindling crowds, boring draws caused by flat pitches, and players choosing to freelance for T20 sides rather than represent their country in test cricket. However, the 2000th test was the perfect reposte to any non-believers. The quality of cricket on show was outstanding, the atmosphere at Lord's (especially on the fifth day) was incredible, and the drama was gripping. Test cricket may not be perfect and does give the world the odd damp squib, but sometimes it conjures up those magical few days of cricket that leaves everyone on the edge of their seat and begging for more. So happy 2000 to test cricket, and here's to the next 2000. And plenty more of those magical tests to come.

Podcast - Billy Bowden and the Half Hearted DRS

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The 2000th test was played, and it was a fitting test. England won, and had some quality performances, whilst India lost despite some valiant stuff with both bat and ball. Will talks about the resurgence of Stuart Broad as a test bowler (whilst taking credit for this return to form) as well as KP and Prior's runs. Sachin is sung about, but Will hails Dravid, and ponders what would happen if Sachin didn't exist. There's some thoughts on the use of the DRS, and musings on the health of test cricket. All of this, and a preview of the Trent Bridge test. What a great way to spend twenty four minutes and ten seconds!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Podcast - Stuart Broad's Bizarre Circle of Bouncers

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The prodigal return of the Short Midwicket Podcast! After boycotting the Sri Lanka series (not on political grounds, but more on an apathetic level), Will's back for the clash of the titans - the number one ranked side in the world against the pretenders to the throne. In this series preview, Will takes a look at the key match-ups between the sides, as well as cunningly avoiding making any actual predictions. There's also some brand new features (for which the jingles took ages), but there's still more of the same random speculation and constant hyperbole! Enjoy!

England v India - The Key Battles

With the test series between the number one ranked test side and the pretenders to the throne getting underway tomorrow, I have a look at where the series will be won and lost.


England: Alastair Cook has been in heroic form and is scoring an unhuman amount of runs, so expect this to continue. Andrew Strauss, however, hasn't been in the full flush of runs, and especially against left-arm seam in Zaheer Khan may struggle.

India: Gautam Gambhir has the game to be successful in England, thanks to a fairly impenetrable defence. Sehwag is a big loss for the first two tests, and how new-boy Abhinav Mukund fares in his absence is crucial.


England: Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell have been in the form of their careers, and big-game player Kevin Pietersen is getting back to his world-beating form. Ace in the pack is Eoin Morgan, who has both the potential to go big, or to go home with not much.

India: Packed with an unbelievable amount of experience, the likes of Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman have been around the blocks, and made runs. Expect some big scores.


England: Matt Prior is in great form, and for my money is the best wicket-keeper batsman in the world. With the ability to rebuild a failing innings with counter-attacks or adding to an already solid foundation with quick runs, Prior's impact can be the difference between a win and a defeat.

India: MS Dhoni is a world-class batsman, and can add plenty of runs down the order at seven. Probably a better keeper than Prior, as well as being the captain. If he has a good series, India will likely win.


England: A fantastic attacking weapon, Graeme Swann has lost his biggest chance of wickets - the ability to refer lbw decisions. Added to the fact that pitches probably won't turn until late on in the game, Swann's role will be more of a retainer; someone who keeps the run-rate low and builds pressure (while nipping one or two out as he goes).

India: Harbhajan Singh has taken over 400 test wickets, and while he may fancy adding to those, he hasn't been in great form and won't get much help from the pitches. Amit Mishra, who may or may not play, could confuse and play a big part with his mystery leggies that historically English batsmen aren't great at picking.

Pace bowling

England: Stuart Broad has been in awful form, but Jimmy Anderson is probably the best swing bowler in the world, and with conducive conditions can rip sides apart. Chris Tremlett's ascent back to test cricket has been swift, and he can see his star continue to rise if he torments India with his height and bounce.

India: Zaheer Khan will lead the attack, and will hope to take wickets when he swings the new ball and reverses the old. Beyond him a lot rests on Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar, who are unfamiliar with English conditions.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Bresnan v Broad

As expected, the 12 man England squad for the first test only has one issue up for debate - whether it's Stuart Broad or Tim Bresnan who gets the chance to take on the Indians.

Broad's had a pretty woeful summer. After picking up two rather untimely injuries over the winter, Broad was rushed back for the first test against Sri Lanka and looked horribly short of match fitness and sharpness. He lacked a bit of pace, and struggled to work batsmen over. As the wickets didn't come, Broad looked increasingly more bereft in confidence, and slowly settled into a repetitive pattern of banging the ball in halfway under the misguided opinion that he was England's "enforcer". This lack of confidence spilled out into the ODI series - historically Broad's strong suit, where he was wicketless until the third game, and hardly set the world alight after that.

Tim Bresnan on the other hand has seen his star rise while Broad's has fallen. After gaining a lot of experience and respect for his One Day performances over the past 18 months, Bresnan came into the team for the fourth Ashes test and was a revelation. He certainly proved he was a test bowler, and only injury to Bresnan stopped this debate happening ahead of the Sri Lanka series. However, he's now back, and after again impressing during the ODI series (and for Yorkshire in the County Championship), Bresnan is certainly the form horse.

Something that counts massively in Stuart Broad's favour is that he is Stuart Broad - England captain. It would be easy to say that the England powers that be made a rod for their own backs by appointing Broad, and as such are unable to drop him, the issue isn't that superficial. Stuart Broad is an England test regular, and has been for the last three and a half years. It's been a long time since an England test regular has been dropped. The last "big names" to be dropped from an England test team were Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison back in New Zealand 2008 - incidentally making space for a young Stuart Broad in the team. Since then, many out of form players have been allowed time to regain their confidence and eventually their form. The names Strauss, Cook, Pietersen, Bell, and even Anderson are testament to England's policy of backing their top players through thick and thin. Having all suffered lean spells, they've all recovered their form and helped England to a lofty position in the world rankings.

At the moment, Stuart Broad is in a hideous run of form. His confidence, often so evident, appears shot to pieces - almost to the extent that he's unable to backchat to umpires for fear of retribution (although we know that's never going to happen). And if England want to pick the best three seamers in the country for the first test against India, it's plainly clear that Tim Bresnan is amongst them, whilst Stuart Broad isn't. However. England have nursed their premier players through poor form before, and it would be an about-turn in policy for a management that believes in backing their players to eventually come good. I'm not saying that I want Stuart Broad in this England team (because I don't), but more that you shouldn't be surprised if come Thursday morning it's Broad bowling to Tendulkar et al, while Tim Bresnan's just mixing him up another Maximuscle.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Mitch Gives The BBL A Wide Berth

For many, the news that Mitchell Johnson is to sit out the inaugral Big Bash League Down Under next January seems an odd one. For starters, just think of the money he'd be able to earn. While it shouldn't be a motivating factor, the life of a cricketer is a short one, and nobody can begrudge a player getting the most out of being around at this priviledged time. And the even more cyncial amongst the cricketing fraternity have pointed out that T20 should be Mitch's specialist format, as going at 7 an over there isn't that bad.

However, Mitch has been given a contract from the Perth Scorchers, and turned it down. This isn't a Cricket Australia decision - far from it. Whereas in the past CA would dissuade it's stars (if you can call Mitch that) from taking part in IPLs and other similiar overseas T20 extravaganzas, this time for their own big project, they want as many big players as possible to help shift some tickets. And say what you like about Mitch, but plenty of people would come down to watch him bowl to the left, and the right.

So why has Mitch turned down the gold, girls and glory of the BBL? Even despite pressure from his national board to sign up? Well, as well as he's hidden it over the past few years, Mitchell Johnson wants to play test cricket for Australia. He knows he lacks consistency (by which I mean keeping it on the cut strip for consecutive balls) so wants to go and work on that. He wants to lead Australia's attack. And he wants to focus on that.

For most players T20 can be a distraction, but for bowlers it must be a nightmare. Test match bowling of keeping it on a consistent line and length (which, admittedly, Mitch is far from mastering) is thrown out of the window as bowlers have to mix it up and do different things each delivery in order to outfox the batsmen. Add into this the fact that Mitch is clearly a confidence player, and it becomes clear that seeing the ball fly over his head each delivery probably wouldn't put him in a good state mentally ahead of the test matches against India and New Zealand.

On top of that is the simple issue of fatigue - Mitch will be playing tests, ODIs and T20s away against Sri Lanka and South Africa (on two particularly tough tours) before doing the same against New Zealand and India. With so much cricket to be played, the last thing his body is going to want is to drag himself over to Perth to turn out for a franchise he doesn't care about in a format he's not too bothered about. Instead, he says he'll either go and rest up between the tests, or even go and play some grade cricket in order to get into a bit of rhythm ahead of the India series.

Mitchell Johnson does come in for a lot of stick, most of it justified, but here he's looked seriously at his career and decided that missing out on the big pay day will serve him far better than grabbing some quick cash. So I say good on'ya Mitch - it's great to see a player prioritising test cricket ahead of some pointless whack-it. And just make sure you're still wearing the Baggy Green for the England tour in 2013.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Kiesy Keeping His Confidence Up

I've deliberately not written anything about Middlesex's T20 campaign on here this year, partly because we've been so awful and we've been trying to keep it on the down low, and also because I've been writing exclusively (and officially) about it here. However, this piece is going to reference it slightly, so be warned.

Today at Southgate, Middlesex took on Somerset. Turning out for Somerset was Craig Kieswetter. Having played a big part in winning the ODI series against Sri Lanka for England yesterday at Old Trafford, Craig hopped in the Kiesmobile (that picture there)

and got down to the picturesque outground for the T20.

I've seen Craig keep wicket on a few occasions, and the jury's often been out. Picked for England purely on the basis of him being a big hitting opener rather than for any fancy glovework, I'd always felt Kieswetter's keeping wasn't quite up to standard. And he probably felt it too. You can always tell immediately when a wicket-keeper is actually any good, because he exudes a confidence that radiates around the field. You just know that if the ball goes up, it's going to land safely in his gloves. If the batsman strays even momentarily from his ground, you know the keeper will have whipped off the bails before he regains his safety. At the level Kieswetter is playing, anyone given the gloves will be good enough, but every now and again you come across someone with that little something special.

My first sighting of Craig Kieswetter keeping wicket was last summer in an ODI against Australia. The highs of the World T20 were long forgotten as Craig's struggles at the top of the order in English conditions had taken hold, and the press were targetting him. He hadn't scored many all series, and the spectre of Steve Davies loomed large. And as such, while his keeping wasn't terrible, he clearly didn't command the field. A couple of spills were soon followed by a couple of drops, and suddenly he looked very miserable. His poor batting continued, and he was not long later dropped for Davies and forgotten.

Fast forward to today's T20. Kieswetter's keeping had been impressive through the ODI series against Sri Lanka - the first time he'd been in the side since being dropped 12 months ago. But at Southgate, everything went through him. Whatever was happening in the field, everyone was looking at him. While it wasn't a faultless display he exuded a confidence that suggested he wasn't going to spill any chances or muff up any run outs. And he took a couple of excellent catches which ultimately swung the momentum back towards his side. He didn't score many runs but he still seemed the main attraction.

It just goes to show what a bit of confidence can do. Doing well in one of his disciplines has given a boost to the other, and as such is in fine form. Being told by Andy Flower that he is to be the first choice ODI keeper gave Kieswetter the freedom and confidence to excel in the ODI series, and the high score has given him far more confidence in the field. Which will then rub off on his batting. Which will then give him more of an aura whilst keeping. It's a continuous cycle of self-belief that can only benefit Craig and England going forward.

The difference between Kieswetter against Australia last year and Sri Lanka this is huge. Last year he struggled immensely against the moving ball and the requirements of a 50 over opener compared to a twenty20 one. This year (albeit against a weaker Sri Lankan attack) he's looked composed, assured, and has scored a weight of runs that suggests he's going to be around for a long time. This may have started as a post about Middlesex's hard-earned point (from a tie, nonetheless) against Somerset, but it's mostly been about Craig Kieswetter. Something that England's ODI cricket might be all about for quite a while to come...

Just How Good Actually Are England At ODIs?

England have won the best-of-five series against World Cup finalists Sri Lanka 3-2. In two of the games they were awful. And in three of them they were brilliant. What does this tell us about how good England are? Haven't a clue.

England's ODI form over the past 18 months has actually been pretty decent. A great win out in South Africa. Wins against Bangladesh home and away, followed by another series victory against a strong Pakistani outfit. So had England turned a corner from the 20 odd years of ODI mediocrity? Well, not according to a 6-1 drubbing in Australia and a poor World Cup. But there are the excuses of a tired team fatigued after a heavy winter plagued by big injuries to key players. And as bad as we were in the defeats to Ireland, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, England were immense in wins against South Africa and the West Indies (and in the tie against India), which counter-balance out the dross. So we're no closer to actually working out if we're any good.

Everyone sort of knew that England weren't that good at the World Cup, and that changes needed to be made. But cosmetic changes of Cook and Kieswetter in for Strauss and Prior aside, there isn't anything that glaringly obvious wrong about this England ODI side (now that Luke Wright has been cast into the international hinterland). Were we a decent team who were doing things right but just had a poor World Cup. Or not?

And then we have just had the Sri Lanka series. In the first game, England were great. In games two and three, they were horrible. And then everything was right with the world as they won the final two to clinch the series. So are England actually good at ODIs?

Well, yes. And at the same time, no. England are just so inconsistent that it's nigh on impossible to sum up their limited over performances in one neat sentence. Nobody knows what side will turn up. Will it be the lifeless side of leaky bowlers and plodding batsmen who are barely competitve, or a side of world-beating nerve-holding six-hitting wicket-taking flying-catching renegades who blitz the opposition and have won the game in an hour? Consistency, and the persuit of it, is surely what the Flower-Cook combo will be striving for in ODI cricket over the next few years, yet it is what has remained the most elusive element of English limited over recent history.

Can England go on and win in their next ODI series against World Champions India? Absolutely. But at the same time, they could get absolutely humped. So in answer to my early question, just how good are England at ODIs? Because I haven't got a bloody clue...

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A Ship With Two Anchors

Let's make this clear. Jonathan Trott is a very good batsman. You don't get to score the sheer weight of runs he has in both test and ODI cricket without being a master of your craft. For all of his run scoring brilliance, you'd be feeling very generous to describe Trott as a 'flair' player. Not for him the switch-hits of Pietersen, reverse-flicks of Morgan or even sumptuous cover drives of Bell. Instead comes the push off the legs for a single, or the ever dependable block. This means Trott will score runs; lots of them - but he's not going to motor along at 6 an over.

To be a good ODI team, you need an accumulator. Someone who will keep his end all the way along which gives more security for the carnage at the other end. We saw in the second ODI that the wickets in hand were key as Sri Lanka were able to accelerate in the batting powerplay and end up getting 40 more runs than they would have had wickets fallen regularly. Master anchors like Trott (note I said "anchor", not something else), like Jayawardene the other day don't have to score at a run a ball, but given time, they will convert starts into big scores without throwing it away.

Trott got a lot of unfair stick during the World Cup for playing that anchor role. It's a fairly crucial position in the team, and someone has to fulfill it, especially when wickets are tumbling down the other end. Trott stood up, and was arguably England's man of the tournament (although don't tell Bob Willis). However, since the World Cup, things have changed.

Alastair Cook, so often Trott's test partner-in-crime, has been implanted into the team and named captain. The pair's stoic partnerships over the past 8 months in test cricket is a mastery of solidly accumulating without taking risks. The two are a big part of England's recent test success, as they grind teams down before the carnage of Pietersen, Bell, Morgan and Prior come later on. But the tactic of dobbing along at two an over without playing any shots in ODI cricket just won't work.

With Cook opening and Trott coming in at three, it only takes Kieswetter to fall first for the two to be united. And if the pair play their natural games, it doesn't take long for the runs to dry up and England be immediately behind the 8-ball. Which is an unsustainable plan. The other option is for one of them to be the aggressor, which as Trott proved when caught playing a rather ungainly lofted drive, they just don't have the game to do.

As I said earlier - I like Jonathan Trott. I supported his place in the team through the World Cup, but now things are different. Alastair Cook has come in as captain and moved the goalposts, and as harsh as England's selectors can be even they wouldn't ditch their new captain after only three games. And this batting line-up just can't accomodate the both of them. So sadly, as much as it pains me, I'd move Eoin Morgan to three (a player who can move effortlessly through the gears and is as good as 200/1 after 15 as he is at 0/4 after 0.4) and ship Trott out. England need to act fast before they get left ever further behind.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Dernbach's Dilemma

Jade Dernbach was picked for this limited over series against Sri Lanka after coming on leaps and bounds for Surrey over the past couple of years. A skiddy-ish swing bowler who can move it either way, much of Jade's trumpeting has been due to his slower ball. Coming from the back of the hand, it reduces Jade's regular high 80's to a deceptive low 60 mph, and has been a big part of getting him a lot of county wickets over the past couple of years, which has been instrumental in his rise to the full England squad.


But Dernbach is using it far too often. It's clear he knows just what a good slower ball he has, and is deploying it far more readily than he should. Whether it's a question of him not having the experience to know exactly when it should come or whether it's him showing the selectors that he has a good slower ball is beside the point. In his first six international balls he bowled three slower balls, and has been going at that sort of rate ever since. The Sri Lankan batsmen, knowing a slower ball is likely almost every ball, are hanging back in their creases and waiting for it - massively negating any effect that the slower ball could have.

It's been long complained that England don't have enough One Day variation, and Jade's slower ball can be exactly that. However, it will only be effective if used properly. An "X Factor" ball should not be the stock ball - it should be used as a surprise tactic. Batsmen should always have the possibility of a slower ball in the back of their minds, but it should only be used when they've been lulled into a false sense of security after being worn down by 'regular' bowling. At the moment, the Sri Lankan batsmen are readying themselves each ball expecting it to be slower, which means that when it inevitably comes every couple of balls, the main bonus of a 'surprise ball' of it being a suprise is lost. Hence Jade not being hugely effective so far in his three international outings.

Jade's slower ball can in time become lethal. But first he should look over to the other dressing room to see how an "X Factor" ball is deployed properly. Malinga's yorkers are world reknowned as the best in the business, and is pretty much a wicket taking ball every time (just like Steven Crook's). But Malinga's effectiveness is enhanced because he doesn't use the yorker every ball (only towards the end of the innings does he revert to the toe-crushers). Batsmen know the ball could come at any time, but unable to confidently predict it, they over-compensate and end up working themselves into a lot of bother. Part of the reason Malinga is so successful is because batsmen ready themselves for a yorker that doesn't come, and are unable to adjust for anything different.

Jade Dernbach is only new to international cricket, and can become an important part of England's ODI attack. However, he first needs to realise that the shock ball isn't much of a shock when he bowls it more often than his stock ball.