Friday, 5 August 2011

Flower's Selection Headache

England's selectors name their squad for the third test against India tomorrow, and they're faced with a dilemma, and his name is Tim Bresnan. After sticking with a tried and tested formula of seven batsmen and four bowlers over the past couple of years, the selectors will have to decide on whether to drastically change policy and shuffle things around, or to stick with traditional and keep the status quo.

Ever since being gubbed at Headingley by the rampant Australians in 2009, Andy Flower has had an obvious reticence to only playing six specialist batsmen. With a long tail starting at seven, England were rolled within 34 overs, and ultimately lost within three days by an innings. Despite containing 'handy' players down the order (with Swann and Broad both sharing slightly face-saving half-centuries), England lacked the safety-net of an extra batsman, and paid the price handsomely. Since then, Flower and Strauss have steadfastly refused to change their preferred shape, which as rigidly defensive as it may be, has clearly wielded great results.

Jonathan Trott is injured, and unlikely to play at Edgbaston. And normally we would just see the "next cab off the rank" in operation, with (probably) James Taylor coming in to the side to maintain the natural order of things. However. Tim Bresnan has just had an excellent game at Trent Bridge, with a five-wicket haul and a 90 certainly adding weight to the argument that he is a true test all-rounder. It would almost appear illogical to drop him after the game he's just had, if not downright cruel. So with Trott out should England move Bresnan up to seven and go with only the six out-and-out batsmen?

Things certainly seem to be in Bresnan's favour. Even though he may arguably be a touch too high at number seven, with Swann and Broad below him, there's certainly a tail that can wag viciously. Having Matt Prior at number six isn't an issue, as he's proven in the past that he's plenty good enough to bat there, and England have enough batsmen in top form to afford to add an extra bowler. The shape could still work if Chris Tremlett doesn't pass fit, with Steven Finn ready and waiting to step into the breach, and either way England would have a very strong batting and bowling line-up.

Headingley 2009 still haunts Andy Flower, and the scars of that performance have been evident in the team selections ever since. However, it's surely impossible to omit Bresnan, and the return of Tremlett would give them a very big headache. However, the injury to Trott gives England the opportunity to have their cake and eat it, and to rearrange the shape of the side. With India on the ropes, England must go out and finish them off, and the best way to do so is with an aggressive line-up. It just remains to be seen whether Andy Flower makes the brave call in changing the policy, or the safe one in sticking with the usual.

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