Preview Edgbaston: Perspective England

Posted: August 9, 2011 by thecognitivenomad in Cricket, India in England 2011
Tags: , ,

 Chandrasekhar Jayarama Krishnan

Head of Cricket, CouchExpert

9 August 2011

We have just received reports from various reliable sources in England that Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower do not plan to pay a visit to the Indian dressing room ahead of the toss at Edgbaston tomorrow. This means, it is entirely at Dhoni’s liberty to call either side of the coin as it is flipped on Wednesday.

In what would turn out to be a crucial call, as that coin is flipped in the air, adjacent to a wicket which is believed to posses grass with a density comparable to that of the rest of the field, Strauss would probably hope to get this one right. He has called the right shots so far this series, probably barring the Bell incident, and he might hope to get his side of the coin right, a lone facet that blemishes what otherwise has been a dream run for Strauss & co.

The media, and public, obsession surrounding the Trent Bridge controversies – a subset of which majorly includes the recall of Ian Bell and debates over the DRS – must recede in interest if the focus needs to be shifted to two very good games of cricket that are left in this series. Messrs Nasser Hussain and Ravi Shastri have certainly had enough time to polish their high-minded credentials.

The recall of Ian Bell, and perennial discussions over the spirit of the game turned out to be the cricketing world’s classic media bang-sizzle. But cricket goes on, conveniently at the moment.

And England enter this arena with a wicket which, in the past, spat venom poisonous enough to dock points of Warwickshire due to its poor and relentless nature when a few batsmen from opponents Worcestershire hobbled of injured,  their sky-high confidence will hope to wound the Indians’ morale. After all, they are just one win away from reaching pole position in the ICC Test Rankings, a metric that has recently undergone a lot of shuffle in other categories.

The batting forms of Cook & Strauss are still of major concern to England

The only worry for England would be the form of their openers, one that hasn’t changed since the last time I wrote a preview for a game this series. Cook has probably worked with Graham Gooch harder than he’s ever done before, even if it meant running with six bricks, and Strauss might have consulted Andy Flower for reasons other than visiting the dressing rooms of their opponents. But there is no hiding the fact that England’s concerns largely linger around the starts required from their southpaws at the top of the order.

The absence of Jonathon Trott, due to an injury he picked up during the test at Nottingham, witnesses the return of Ravi Bopara who has been in wilderness since his debacle of an Ashes back in 2009. His decision to snub an offer from the IPL, one for which he received lavish media attention and praise, seemed decisively incomplete when Morgan got the nod of him ahead of the Sri Lanka series.

Bopara’s return appeared to be unthinkable when one gauged the forms of Trott and Bell in the middle order, but with Morgan being the long standing target of test match temperament, there was always going to be an opportunity for Bopara to pounce at.

Bopara returns after a two year wilderness following a poor 2009 Ashes

That he replaces Trott now, due to injury, is not how the script would have seemed. Bell’s form will mean that he will slot in at three, and Bopara will likely play at 5, ahead of Morgan. Bopara’s medium paced seamers, additionally, are bound to come in handy on a green wicket.

England’s dominance in this series owes largely to their pace bowlers and the lower order batting. The wicket-keeping/batting department is one that expands the bridge between England and India, a reflection of the Indian skipper’s poor run of form both from behind, and in front of the wickets. And Matt Prior’s brilliance.

Additionally, the performance of Tim Bresnan, who slotted in for the injured Chris Tremlett, made many wonder why he wasn’t in England’s scheme of a playing XI selection at Lord’s. England’s tryst with replacement players shining instantaneously is one that they have carried since their Ashes victory down under.

On what beckons to be a decisive test match, one that would topple the charts at the top of the rankings, England will enter Birmingham with intent to kill, while India will look to strike back to protect their position at the top. India’s share of injury problems might give England the upper hand, but to assume that this test would be a walkover might be crudely misleading.

The prevailing view is that England will not withdraw and recline on a 2-0 lead. A 3-0 lead might tempt England to try their next generation of wannabe superstars – the pack being lead by Leicestershire’s young batsman James Taylor, and Durham’s all-rounder Ben Stokes. Unlike a lot of the other teams, the world hasn’t seen young English talent in the international arena. This presents as an opportunity to sort that out, and could well be playing in Andy Flower’s mind of late.

If that is a prospect appealing enough, their pacers should continue to hold the key that can unlock the trove to hand them the Number One status.  Their batting should continue to post enough runs to ensure that the bowlers have a sufficient margin of safety.

But hopefully, what shouldn’t continue are talks over what happened at Trent Bridge.

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