Thursday, 19 January 2012

One bad game does not a bad team make…

… but that was a really really bad game. England simply didn’t turn up or show any form of application with the bat in either innings, and unfortunately, if the only batsman to score over 17 in both innings is the number nine, you ain’t going to win many test matches.

The New England of Flower and Strauss don’t lose many test matches, but oddly the ones that they do lose are absolute canings. Think Jamaica and Headingley in ’09, Johannesburg and Perth in 2010, and now Dubai in 2012. England, as good as they can be when they apply themselves, are prone to the odd brainfade of a test where nobody turns up and they get hammered. Until these random inconsistent tests are cut out, England’s claims to be the all-conquering best team in the world aren’t quite as strong.

However, as bad as that was, it is just one test. One loss in 13 months for a team who have near-enough consistently swept everyone aside shouldn’t automatically mean that alarm bells should ring and knives be sharpened. Cricinfo have already run an opinion piece calling for Strauss to go, which is downright ludicrous and the definition of “knee-jerk”. Dropping an opener with no obvious replacement is one thing, but to push aside the captain of the number one ranked side after just one loss? Hardly.

The key defeats in Strauss & Flower’s reign are obvious, and have all served a purpose in the ascent of the team. The 51 all out in Jamaica right at the start of the pair’s partnership led to the batsmen sitting down and taking responsibility for their own games, and the numerous double centuries in the past couple of years is a result. The humiliation at Headingley at the hands of Australia, where England went in with five bowlers has seen the side take a formulaic shape which has served them so well. It’s obvious that this defeat has been equally as humbling, but it could lead to an improvement in the way batsmen approach and play spin in the subcontinent – something England have traditionally been very poor at doing.

There’s been a lot of negativity from all concerned about England’s performance, but I’m saying that there shouldn’t be. Yes, it was a poor performance, but these things happen. And England have shown a remarkable tendency for bouncebackability over recent years – the last four defeats have all been immediately followed by innings victories. England will have to show an incredibly dramatic upturn in form to beat Pakistan by an innings in the second test, but it isn’t impossible. England’s bowlers plugged away well, and their tenacity and control over the Pakistan batsmen was commendable. Had they had more runs on the board to contend with, the pressure would have been increased, and greater rewards could have come their ways. And with the bat, well, the only way is up. This is by no means a good day for English cricket, but on the whole, the English team is doing far more things right than wrong, and it isn’t as bad as it all seems.

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