England welcome strength in youth

About a month ago, I wrote a piece on the Ashes 2006-07. April 18 marked the halfway point.

After losing the second, England’s young team prospered emphatically in the third Test at Mumbai to square the series. The victory lacked the glitz and historical significance of the Ashes, but it was no less important. Even Duncan Fletcher was moved to label the win as ‘a huge achievement…[it's] close to the Ashes’. It demonstrated England’s strength in depth; young cricketers with bottle, nerve and immense talent were performing immediately. It takes some courage, not to mention cockiness, to dance down the pitch to your fourth ball in Test cricket as Owais Shah did.

I tried to make the piece as balanced as possible, as it wasn’t the place for my own personal views on who I felt had their noses in front. And, besides, I wasn’t sure. One the one hand, Australia are back to winning-ways. On the other, England have bred youngsters who performed with ease, maturity and immense bottle on the subcontinent.

So I was fascinated to read Mark Nicholas’ “halfway piece” in today’s Telegraph in which, quite categorically, he says England are all the better for their disasterous injury list which caused them to introduce so many debutants.

Had the team who returned the Ashes continued together in Pakistan and India we would be none the wiser as to the quality of the resources in reserve. By promoting mainly young, and when not then untried, new players, the selectors can now choose from depth. The stunning victory by England A over Sri Lanka last week helps to confirm this. The positioning of Alastair Cook at first-wicket down today is its very best illustration. Ideally, England should turn up in Brisbane come November with Cook as Andrew Strauss’ opening partner and Marcus Trescothick at No 4, making the best use of his skill against spin. Assuming Vaughan’s fitness and the presence of Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, this makes for a front six who can handle the extra bounce in the pitches that is still the greatest challenge for all who travel Down Under.

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