Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Absent pair unlikely to trouble stuttering England

The news that both Steven Finn and Ian Bell are out of the second Test in Mumbai later this week is unlikely to upset England’s preparations for the match after a dismal performance in the first clash against India left a lot to be desired.

Finn picked up a thigh injury against India A, two weeks before the first Test in Ahmedabad, yet was only in slight contention for a place in the bowling attack anyway.

And, after England’s appalling seam-bowling display last week that saw just one wicket taken in 72 overs, captain Alastair Cook is unlikely to add another seamer to his arsenal and instead is expected reduce his pacemen to two in place of another spinner as he looks to defy the latestcricket odds in Mumbai next week.

Bell, meanwhile, returned home for the birth of his first child following a poor display at the crease in the first Test. The right-hander was caught first ball to spinner Pragyan Ojha before being nicked lbw for just 22 in the second innings. With both Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root on hand as competent replacements, Bell’s presence at fifth man shouldn’t be missed.

In fact, these two absentees should ease Cook’s selection decisions as the pressure builds to eradicate the mistakes of the first Test. England, who are now vast outsiders according to the latest Betfair India v England odds, need another spinner in their ranks and Finn’s absence means selecting Monty Panesar is now a straight-forward decision to make. Bell’s absence also means there is no pressure to drop Samit Patel, who’s ability to bat and bowl could be crucial to England’s fortunes this week.

Indeed, selecting either Bairstow or Root as Bell’s cover will do wonders for either youngster on the toughest tour on the planet. India’s turning wickets are like few others in the world and for one of this pair to get the chance to bat on the subcontinent will only enrich their international pedigree.   

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Returning Duo Critical to England

England fans placing a bet on sports are still waiting to discover whether or not they will have Stuart Broad and Steven Finn available for the first Test against India in Ahmedabad.

The fast bowling duo returned to the nets following their respective injuries, but England will have to leave it late before deciding to include either or both for the first Test.

Broad has been struggling with a heel injury, with Finn suffering a thigh strain soon after arriving in India.

While the back-up bowlers all did their best to strengthen their cases during the drawn warm-up clash against Haryana, there is little doubt the selectors will be desperate that both Broad and Finn are able to play the first Test if possible.

Alastair Cook admitted he would have liked Finn and Broad to have been able to get more practice time under their belts before the first Test, but the skipper made it clear it would be a huge boost to the team to have both fast bowlers in the line-up.

"In an ideal world, I'd certainly have liked them to have had more match bowling. The one part of this preparation period that has not quite gone right is those two not getting some overs under their belt.”

"But what we do know is they are quality performers, world-class bowlers. It'd be great if they were fully-fit, and had some overs under their belt, but they haven't,” admitted Cook.

It will be interesting to see just how effective either bowler would be should they play the first Test.

Neither has manage to get many overs under their belts since arriving in India, and it certainly weakens an area of England’s team that will need to be firing on all cylinders if the tourists are going to have their best chance of success. 

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Batting form should relieve England bowlers of pressure

When your team is in a slump, there is nothing like a high-scoring innings to bring confidence back into the ranks. England, who have not fared overly well in previous warm-up games on the subcontinent this autumn, sure found their stride in the first day of their final warm-up before the Test series with India starts next week.

Following uninspiring matches against India A and Mumbai A, England went into bat against Haryana on Thursday and knocked up a confidence-boosting 408-3 before close of play. Not only will the score boost their latest cricket odds ahead of the first Test, but with all six batsmen showing good form at the crease there are great reasons to be optimistic.

Captain Alastair Cook and new opener Nick Compton staged a magnificent 166 partnership that is likely to unnerve India’s bowling attack ahead of the first Test on 15 November. Cook fell three short of his century while Compton looked every bit a seasoned international with 74 before being taken lbw by spinner Amit Mishra.

Their replacements didn’t fail to impress either. Jonathan Trott tallied 46 at third man before also falling to the Mishra spin; meanwhile, the marmite man that is Kevin Pietersen proved his worth to the side yet again with a resplendent 110 before retiring hurt with cramp in the hot conditions.

With Stuart Board suffering a bruised heel and Graeme Swann returning home for the next few days, Cook was relying on his top order to instil some confidence into the side and take the pressure of his bowlers. Former skipper Michael Vaughan has already spoken of the importance of the upper order leading from the front in the tough and unforgiving conditions of the sub-continent.

They certainly did this, and if Cook can inspire more high performances from his batsmen then England’s fragile bowling attack will be free from unwanted pressure to strike out India on their own turf.