Posted by: tootingtrumpet | May 2, 2009

England vs West Indies – Test Series Preview

220px-wisden_trophy_1Not so long ago, Test cricket would announce itself in early June with the FA Cup Final but a distant memory, Hicky approaching 1000 First Class runs and hayfever warnings in the air. But, in this era of income stream potentialisation and all those other ideas that brought the banks to ruin, Test cricket arrives in England in early May (fortunately just after KP and Chris Gayle), tramping down the spring grass and filling the all-important gaps between the adverts on Sky Sports.

If the Trumpet sounds unusually unenthusiastic, it’s because he is – the two teams have only just ground through the attritional series in the Carribean with the Wisden Trophy (above) deservedly returning to the Islands after nearly a decade in England. We are in this position for three reasons: the ECB’s contract to deliver seven home Tests to Sky; the West Indies Board’s tragic-comic mismanagement leaving them pursuing money so soon after their World Cup; and the withdrawal of scheduled visitors Sri Lanka due to player contracts with the IPL. Instead of Murali and Mendis, we’ll have Sulieman Benn and Brendan Nash; instead of Kumar and Mahela, we’ll have Devon Smith and er… Brendan Nash again. Let’s hope English cricket fans get to see Prasanna Jayawardene keeping to Ajantha Mendis with four men round the bat as soon as possible, as it’s a throwback to a style of cricket in danger of disappearing with a McCullum slog over the deep midwicket cheerleaders.

To the “series” itself. As in the Carribean, there is likely to be little between the teams, with the men that play the key moments better most likely to prevail. A couple of months ago, that man was Jerome Taylor sensing that it was his day and blasting out a shell-shocked England for 51 in Kingston to, as it turned out, secure the series. It should not be forgotten that England failed when their big moments came along, allowing the admirable Fidel to bat out two draws when his team were nine and eight down.

Lord’s may be as flat as the Antigua Recreation Ground, so England may go with two spinners delaying introducing the yeoman virtues of Tim Bresnan until Chester-le-Street’s Second Test. Whisper it, but there’s another Tour later this summer, and Andy Flower may be particularly keen for Monty to get a bit of success in front of the egg and tomato tie men his mauling last year at the hands of Graeme Smith and co. For the West Indies, much will depend on Fidel staying fit and firing, knocking over a few with the new ball and getting at England’s Number Six and a half (Prior) and two Number Eights (Broad and Swanny). Sarwan, Gayle and Chanderpaul will then need to bat at their best to drive home the advantage as late order blocking won’t be quite as straightforward as in the Carribean.

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Responses

  1. zimbabwe were the scheduled visitors . not sri lanka. eng- sl series was not in the ftp

  2. nik – I bow to your knowledge, but nobody really thought Zim were ever going to come and we all thought SL would have been the visitors as was planned at one point.

    A full strength Zim would have been good fun, but we haven’t seen that for 10 years or more.

  3. ecb tried to plan sl series after the zimbabwe series was cancelled. and ecb and ranatunga tried to plan the series without asking the players. sl series was not confirmed at any stage.

  4. nik – I don’t blame the players for honouring their IPL contracts at all. The SL players are amongst my favourite players as talents and as men.

  5. “As in the Carribean, there is likely to be little between the teams…”
    I agree, and yet elsewhere, you say England will compete closely in that other series we’re not mentioning here. Seems to me there’s a contradiction there, unless you consider Aus and WI are neck and neck. I’m a bit confused.
    Whatever the circumstances behind SL coming or not coming, and despite the pleasures of watching them, I’d never regret WI turning up. In fact I quite like the home and away format, as Aus and SA did recently, it seems to examine both teams from every angle possible.
    Quite right regarding the “key moments”. Taking those is the difference between good and great, draw and win.
    Should be a very interesting “series”, especially with a few new English faces. I really hope KP gets a chance to bowl to Shiv too.

  6. fred – Thanks for commenting.

    I see quite a few close series now, especially if some key ICL men come back. England vs SA was close last year – England may even have won if Monty had appealed when Smith gloved it. SA went on to do well in their next series I recall.

  7. Is Prior really a 6 1/2? For my money he has looked Englands best ‘technical’ middle order batsman in the last few series he has played, and I believe he could bat four or five.

  8. England at home are always going to contend – that’s true of any of the top 8 teams apart NZ possibly. So, I fully expect an English win, and also expect a reasonably close Ashes resulting in an Australia win. But I don’t expect England, or the current version anyway, to come anywhere near repeating the heroics of the 2004 team in South Africa later this year. And that’s really where England have regressed – they’re pushovers away from home, and haven’t won a single test against Aus/WI/Ind on their last three sojourns there.

    It’s encouraging though that Bell and Vaughan have been shelved – the former is a miserable competitor, averaging 35-odd v teams apart from Zim/Ban, and 23 against the big 3 of SA/Ind/Aus. That’s in Ashraful territory, and he deserves to be shut out for a long time.

    With Vaughan, the temptation is to dwell on his past glories (see also: Andrew Flintoff), and while he was magnificent for a 2-3 year spell early in this decade, he’s regressed pretty badly, with a few flashes of brilliance, like the century against India at Trent Bridge 2 years ago. He’s getting older, his touch is failing, and Ravi Bopara deserves a chance.

  9. jcnl – If Gilchrist was a 7, Prior is a 6 1/2 at best! But I do take your point – he is growing into a fine middle order player and may well go tour the sub-continent as a specialist bat when two spinners are playing regularly and a “proper” keeper is needed.

    rajesh – I favour 2-2 for The Ashes, but in every other respect I agree with your post. It’ll be a very tough winter for England unless there is a quantum improvement in wicket-taking especially.

  10. Gilly was a counter attacker so 7 suited him fine. Prior needs time to build a proper innings without fear of running out of partners. Which is also why experimenting with Prior opening in ODI’s was a non-starter.

    I think the position you bat is not just about ability but also getting you at the crease at the stage of the game which most suits your style of batting.

  11. jcnl – You are building a good case. Prior will bat six in both these Tests I expect, so we’ll find out a bit about whether he can back up your thoughts. He’ll probably bat six even when Flintoff comes back too.

  12. It will be interesting to see what happens if Foster pushes for the WK spot with good 20/20 performances. Prior has shown that he is more up for the fight with the bat than Bell, Shah etc. I think the best case scenario is that Prior can improve his keeping enough – as Alec Stewart did.

  13. Can Eng. talk Kumble into playing for them?

  14. jcnl – Prior has a very long way to go and, unlike Stewart, has always been a keeper.

    Dement – No. But Sean Ervine is close I believe.


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