Been There, (Not) Got The T-Shirt

As the Andrew Flintoff Farewell Tour gathers momentum (someone really should produce a T-shirt), it seems like a good time to ponder on a few questions which England's performance threw up.

Firstly, while we can see how well Freddie is coping with his rebellious body (and, God willing, he'll make it to The Oval, although you certainly wouldn't bet on it), what of KP?

In the latter stages of his second innings he was struggling to run, and you could sense Collingwood's frustration as he tried to up the scoring rate. This didn't, couldn't, happen until the superb Prior came in, following which Collingwood himself was the one struggling to keep up.

Furthermore, Pietersen's 44 in the second innings was among the scratchiest efforts of his entire England career, raising the question of whether his continued lack of fitness has begun to affect his form with the bat. For perhaps too long England have regarded him as indispensable - and, at his best, that's obviously what he is - but you've got to wonder how long it'll be before someone on the medical side of things starts to question the wisdom of repeated injections and simply advises him to stop playing.

And then, while Andrew Strauss's form with the bat over the last year has been as good as that of any opener in the world, his captaincy at Lord's, with a lead of more than 500 in the bank, was often disappointingly defensive. Outstandingly though Clarke and Haddin played on Sunday afternoon, their partnership was allowed to gather momentum by Strauss's insistence on placing men on the square boundaries on both sides of the wicket, seemingly relying on the batsmen becoming frustrated by the relative difficulty of hitting boundaries. While this might work in county cricket, it's hard to see it working on players with the technical rigour and nous of Clarke, Haddin, Ponting or Katich.

But this is, perhaps, churlish. The correct way to do things - and the best way of slowing the scoring rate - is to try to get people out, and Swann and the majestic, irresistible, Flintoff did a pretty good job of that yesterday morning.

It was an uplifting, almost moving, experience to be there, with the rapid finish allowing a reflective afternoon in one of London's best pubs and the welcome discovery that cricket was back on the front pages.

Happy days.


Thiru Cumaran said...

Brian, I wouldn't necessarily say that the total of 500 is a defensive move by Strauss...nowadays, unless the pitch is really 2-paced, a decision to enforce the follow-on generally backfires because the team which is put in generally gets the hang of the pitch and of the bowlers and perform better...I frankly struggle to remember the last time a follow-on has had a positive effect on a team...the nearest must be in the Galle test between SL and England when England were dismissed for 80-odd...even then, England were looking quite comfortable in the second - innings with just 5 or 6 wickets down, Cook being unbeaten with a century!

As for KP, well, someone has to tell Strauss & Co. that a reliance on just one batsman is dangerous, esp. when he's injured...perhaps they should bring in Eoin Morgan..however, we all know this won't happen and Ian "I won't score much" Bell will be drafted in...will be interesting to see what happens for the third test! :)

Brian Carpenter said...

Thanks, Tragic. I think you misunderstood me slightly; I didn't feel that the 521 lead was negative in itself, just the way Strauss went defensive quite early, as though he felt Australia might get it (which I only thought was a remote possibility when Clarke and Haddin were going really well on Sunday night, and they were always going to have to come back cold the next morning).

Thiru Cumaran said...

Mmmm...didn't really watch most of the Australia innings but did read about it...I suppose that mindset of Aussies being world champs still lingers in Strauss' mind! :)

Gaurav Sethi said...

Like that t-shirt idea, though if he goes on like this, be more like a men's line.

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