My Two Hundred Dinars: Things Are About To Get Interesting…

Posted on November 25, 2013

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I was all set up to write a post this morning calling for calm following the 381-run massacre in Brisbane. Most of it was going to revolve around Jonathan Trott. Sure, he’s been going through a poor run of form over the last few months, but a lot of people are overlooking some facts with hi. There is no way you can average 46 in test cricket without being able to play the short ball. He’s scored centuries in Australia before against attacks featuring Mitchell Johnson. He is as talented a batsman as any in the top order, and a lot of people need to remember that. However, as I woke this morning and checked the news, the headline surprised me a little. Trott is going home, citing stress-related illness. Stress-related illness is hard enough as it is, without being under the microscope of international sport against a side who are fighting as much a mental battle as they are the war on the wicket. It’s a brave decision by Trott, but also a wise one. Here’s hoping that he recovers fully.

The series is set up beautifully now, and all of a sudden England are in a genuinely sticky position. Just going 1-0 down in the series looks bad enough, but upon closer inspection the next test in Adelaide really has become a must-win. The third test will take place at the WACA in Perth, and England’s record there over the last 30 years is, well, abysmal. They’ve lost the last nine tests there on the bounce, and by a variety of huge amounts. It is widely regarded as the fastest pitch in world cricket. If Cook and co thought Brisbane was quick, they will be in trouble in Perth. Winning in Adelaide will be difficult as well, as the drop-in pitch is almost guaranteed to be as flat as they come. I think it was Martin Crowe who once said that only three things in life are definite; Death, taxes and a century in Adelaide. This is a ground where England wracked up a 500+ score in 2007, only to still lose. Sure, it is probably the pitch that will be suited more to England’s bowlers than Australia’s, but if Australia bat first and find themselves in a strong position at the end of day one, we could find ourselves in a desperate, desperate situation.

So decisions are going to be made with regards to the make-up of the England side. Bizarrely, and this is one of the most frustrating aspects of cricket for me, it would seem that a bowler is going to take the can for the fact that England couldn’t bat in the first match. Chris Tremlett will likely make way, despite bowling well in the first test. Fitness pending, Tim Bresnan has to come in. He is England’s third seamer, and more than capable with the bat also. There are arguments in favour of Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin indeed, but Bresnan can’t be overlooked. Adelaide is going to be flat, and the pitch won’t allow for running up and banging it in. Bresnan is an altogether cleverer bowler than Finn and Rankin. His nous and ability might be vital.

Trott is gone, so there is guaranteed to be a batting change, including a move in position for someone. The two main candidates for the number three spot are Joe Root and Ian Bell, and again both make compelling cases. I would lean in the direction of Root, mostly because he is an opening batsman by trade and therefore suited to playing against the new ball. What this does mean is that you have a top three featuring two immensely inexperienced international cricketers, but Ian Bell is too valuable as a number five to move around. Then who to come in at six? Well, no one is making a particularly compelling case. Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance are the reserve batsmen. Bairstow hasn’t really set the world alight in his test matches so far, and Ballance was a surprise inclusion for the tour. Another option is Ben Stokes at six, but he isn’t near to test match number six quality yet. After being so settled for so many years, all of a sudden the lack of strength in depth for England is worrying.

That said, the side is still dripping with quality from top to bottom. Alastair Cook is due a big innings. Kevin Pieterson still has more natural ability than possibly any other player on the planet. Matt Prior is as good as any keeper-batsman in world cricket. A team doesn’t become a bad side over night. In many ways an Australian win in Brisbane was the best thing that could happen for the series, as the intensity has been ratcheted up more than just a few rungs. Roll on Adelaide.

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