England fight back, and some thoughts on coaches

To the audible relief of South Australian cricket administrators, England provided some much needed resistance on day four, and saved them the prospect of half-empty stands for the Second Test starting on Friday.

England were set an insane target, worked out by Ricky Ponting on the formula of multiplying my overdraft times the speed of light, or some such nonsense, and let his bowlers loose, while retiring to the massage table. He would have dined well as England lost two early wickets, and with Cook playing a range of loose shots, promise of more to come.

However, Pieterson and Collingwood provided stout resistance and some fiery entertainment for another large crowd, stated as being 37,000.

Yet England will surely lose, and they deserve to lose- while there was some magnificent batsmanship today, there was also some shameful episodes. Strauss, Cook, Collingwood, Flintoff and Pieterson were all guilty of some dreadful shot selection at various points in the day, treating an Ashes Test as little more then a knockabout in the park.

Pieterson’s innings was an instructive example. There was some lovely drives, all through the V, yet there were also some grotesque cross-bat swipes. None of these have cost him his wicket (as yet), but what happens if rain comes about three PM tomorrow and England have been bowled out at 2.35?

If England had batted with a slightly more applied approach, they might well have been three wickets down tonight, not five. That’s a big difference.

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What do readers think about Andrew Flintoff’s dismissal? Shane Warne gave him an ugly serve on his way, and Justin Langer was smiling in delight even before he took the catch; the arrogance of it will grate on English sensibilities.

But it is an arrogance reflective of an Australian team that knows the value of their wickets, and the absolute folly of Flintoff’s shot. I don’t recall Ricky Ponting playing such an agricultural heave during his defensive masterpiece at Old Trafford last year. Duncan Fletcher may or may not remind his charges of that innings between now and the morning.

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Speaking of coaches, I came across this article on my web-meanderings this evening, asking about the worth of overseas coaches. Given the kvetching about Duncan Fletcher that I’ve read in British media outlets the last few days, I wondered about the role of the coach.

It seems to me that for a coach to be a benefit, rather then a hindrance, there needs to be an absolute understanding between the coach and his captain. In many first class teams, it seems to be the increasing trend that the coach is the top banana and the captain merely his on-field lieutenant, rather in the way a football manager operates. That may work, but there does need to be a clear line driven, and both sides working in tandem.

It’s never been the Australian way. Would you fancy being the coach telling Steve Waugh how he was to arrange his batting order? John Buchanan always knew his place in Waugh’s order of things.

I’m not sure about the inner workings of England’s team, but Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher certainly were working on the same wavelength. It may well be that the relationship between Fletcher and Andrew Flintoff isn’t quite so attune.

Live discussion: England v Pakistan, 5th ODI, Edgbaston

So then, the series is alive (sort of). It’s 2-1 to Pakistan and England at least have a chance to level it. It’s also Paul Collingwood’s 100th one-dayer today. Anyway, leave your thoughts and comments below. I think Emma is at the game so will no doubt provide some musings later.

One last look

For the first time this one-day series, or any in recent memory, we can expect an unchanged line-up from England. Something to be celebrated!

As well as providing Collingwood with his 100th ODI cap, tomorrow will also be the last England game before their Ashes squad, and Ashes captain, are announced next week. Strauss will certainly want a win to push his credentials. Test and one-day captaincy are certainly very different, but if Strauss responds with another captain’s innings tomorrow, it will help prove his ability to lead in a form where he had not until recently been a certain selection. But, of course, I wouldn’t like to tempt fate.

Ian Bell an irresistible No. 6

My Editor and I were chatting about Ian Bell today and the increasingly irresistible case he states for an Ashes place. Indeed not just a place for the first Test but forever more.

With my devil’s advocate hat askew, I argued (to myself, really) that Paul Collingwood is an absolute shoe-in for the Ashes. He makes hundreds. He’s impossibly gritty – an Australian Steve Waugh minus the greatness but the best fielder and catcher England have ever possessed. Were he placed in a nailbiting situation in Brisbane or Sydney, he’s your man.

Before Old Trafford, Bell would not have been your, or even anyone’s man, for such prickly tight spots which England invariably find themselves in during an Ashes series. Yet after scoring his third hundred in succession today, his fifth overall, he is producing the kind of form which warrants inclusion whatever the situation. Always a batsman of the highest class – aside from Mark Ramprakash he is the most technically correct batsman in England – he is now scoring heavy, big runs. While Kevin Pietersen rather impetuantly gave his wicket away today, Bell calmly motored onwards and brought up his hundred. It was inevitable. He is some batsman, one of a flurry of quite exceptionally talented middle-order players England have these days. Cup runneth over, etc.

Who to chose, then?

An example squad of 12
Trescothick, Strauss, Cook, Pietersen, Collingwood, Bell, Flintoff, Read, Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard, Steve Harmison and Monty Panesar

Do you drop Collingwood and shift Bell to five to allow for four seamers and Monty? Do you leave out Monty for seamer-friendly pitches and bolster the lineup with Collingwood and Bell? Do you forget Bell altogether? After all, he bottled it in the last Ashes – won’t he bottle it again?

And that’s the conundrum. It’s a delicious one to ponder over and I’d be fascinated to hear everyone’s thoughts. Incidentally, do read Andrew’s piece to find out his views.

Second day at Lord’s

Terrific day for England, and a really superb innings from Paul Collingwood. Ian Bell’s was a mixed affair; clearly he was intent on upping the scoring rate as wickets fell, but he simply isn’t able to. That’s not to say he isn’t a fine batsman, an elegant strokeplayer and the most technically perfect batsman England has had for a while. He’s just old school; a 1990s stodger in a post-modern world of speed and aggression.

Collingwood’s innings was remarkable. I heard one of the commentators compare him, loosely, to Steve Waugh – and actually, he had a point. There is something of the ungainly, dogmatic determination of Waugh in Collingwood; a refusal to be beaten, and to score runs however they come. He is arguably the most important name on the sheet for the plane to Brisbane for the stability he offers, and he also happens to be the best England fielder since, well, ever. His catch at third slip today was breathtaking.

Good stuff from England, then, although they’ve had their fair share of luck.

Collingwood’s sandwich

Martin Johnson has long been one of my favourite writers. He has an eye for the game, an eye for the comical and is not only unfailingly funny in most pieces he writes, but usually deadly accurate.

I enjoyed this:

One thing you can say for certain about this England batting line-up is that it is packed with crowd pleasers. What’s more, in distinctly contrasting ways. There are some, like Kevin Pietersen, who send the spectators into a lather of excitement when they walk in to bat, and others, like Paul Collingwood, who induce the same effect when they’re walking back to the pavilion.

It’s not really Collingwood’s fault, but when you find yourself sandwiched in the batting order between Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, getting yourself out almost qualifies as an act of selfless patriotrism.

Also: spot the Telegraph typo…

Weekends mean disorganised open threads

Englad race to 288 with Pieterson and Collingwood doing well; India chasing are 45/0 after 8 overs. Yes, it is the 7th England vs India ODI open thread.

India v England, 1st Test, Nagpur, Day Three

(Day one comments | Day two)

Interesting day, yesterday. England fought their way to 400 (falling just short) and, thanks to the lower-order supporting him, Paul Collingwood hit a fine first century. He’s not Bradman, but he does have a lot of guts.

So India trail by 257 runs. At stumps yesterday, Rahul Dravid (40*) and Wasim Jaffer (73*) were batting quite serenely – but they still trail, and won’t be sleeping too easily. Were it not for Collingwood’s century, England would be in a mess right now. And while his knock has helped balance the scales somewhat, the ball is in India’s court. It could be a long day for the fielders.

Chat away, chaps.

Broken Shards

What’s the go with all the bats breaking in the ODI game yesterday? I remember Rod Marsh’s bat breaking at the handle all those years ago but I never saw a bat split in half like it did to one English batsman. (Can’t remember who it was, think it was Collingwood but I can’t be sure)

England Warm up with a narrow loss

England have had a narrow loss to Pakistan A in their warm up game for the ODI series. Good features for England were contributions from Matt Prior, Paul Collingwood, and Jimmy Anderson.

Telegraph report.