Is Strauss Back?

25 03 2008

Sports are a funny old thing. Cricket probably more than any other. After the first day of the third Test between England and New Zealand I was ready to launch into a tirade against the England top order, in particular Andrew Strauss. Sixteen Tests without a century was proof that he simply wasn’t justifying selection and his career hinged on his second innings.

Yet, there he was yesterday, not only racking up the century that I felt was a bare minimum but actually doing the one thing I prayed he would. The only thing that would show Andrew Strauss still had something to offer England was a big hundred, and he delivered just that. Ian Bell wasn’t under as much pressure to score runs, but having gotten to 50 it was imperative he showed he could convert, and he did.

However this middle order frailty is a relatively new trend. Certainly even during the Ashes whitewash Bell, Collingwood and Pietersen all came out with credit. The problems in that series, honestly, were mainly the bowling. As far as the batsmen were concerned, the opening partnership has been the problem consistently and I’m still not convinced England have solved this. They had better do so before Steyn arrives.

Going back to the Ashes woes and I still believe the bowling fell apart largely due to Harmison and Giles. The latter has already retired and I doubt the former has much of an England career left. People have said that if he goes back to Durham and gets back to bowling 90mph well he should return. However he’s always done well at Durham, only to fail with England. It’s a mental thing, he has the talent but lacks the mentality.

Giles was selected because he could bat a bit at number eight, whilst Harmison was selected not for pace, but his height and bounce. Broad so far has answered both of those concerns, and although he lacks the pace of Harmison, he gets a lot more movement, which I believe troubles batsmen more. Anderson has done ok, and I’d be loathe to jump to any conclusions based on two matches, but Hoggard, should he regain his fitness, should come back to open the bowling with Sidebottom.

Which simply leaves the opening batsmen, a problem that must be solved before the arrival of the South Africans, leaving the selectors simply the home series against the Kiwis to sort it out. For me Vaughan’s captaincy has been poor. At Hamilton he had a negative mentality that seeped into the team and cost them the match. At Wellington the team won largely in spite of his captaincy. They were like headless chickens.

Most worryingly, at Napier, when Broad was having trouble in the New Zealand first innings, instead of encouraging a young player, as a good captain should, he kept giving him looks. All that was needed was for Broad to bowl a little fuller, something the captain could have told him.Vaughan’s batting hasn’t been leading by example either.

This opens up some interesting permutations, in light of Strauss performance (although he’ll need to do it consistently to convince me he’s truly back to his best). Certainly I would expect the selectors to move Strauss back to open at home against the Kiwis, with Vaughan going back to his favoured position. I never did understand why, when Vaughan’s last hundred came at number three, and Strauss has always favoured opening, they were in the opposite positions. Surely this will be reversed at home.

Yet if Vaughan fails even in his favoured position, Strauss could complete a miraculous recovery (assuming he now performs consistently) from being on the brink of losing his England place to potentially captaining the team. It’s not as crazy as it sounds, his record as captain is excellent (if I recall correctly he’s unbeaten) and if he were captain, and opening, it would leave room for Owais Shah, who must be wondering what gods he’s sinned against not to be included. His domestic record is one of the very best.

A lot could yet depend on the home series against the Kiwis.



2 responses

25 03 2008

Fingers crossed tonight, let’s see them finish the job and get a series win.

26 03 2008
Mr President

Thank God for that, eh? Southee made it a bit nervy at the end…

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