Posts Tagged ‘eoin morgan’

England On The Back Foot

“I felt it was better to play him off the front foot.”

Those were the words of Nick Compton, who made 95 against Saeed Ajmal and his Worcestershire team-mates last July, when the Pakistani mystery man was turning his arm over for the Pears.

Eoin Morgan

Morgan goes back to a ball from Abdur Rehman and is bowled. Credit: Action Images / Paul Childs Livepic

Somerset racked up 591/9 before declaring and went on to win the game. Ajmal ended with five for 150 from his 51 overs.

“I stood on off-stump and looked to play very straight,” Compton added. “Ajmal’s not a big spinner of the ball and his main weapon is pace through the air, and I felt it was better to play him off the front foot. (He also used the sweep to great effect). The fact that he can skid it on and it might not bounce as much or go the other way, if you sit back I think you’re guessing and you haven’t got as much time to react.”

England might consider those words as they reflect on the wreckage of back-to-back defeats against an Ajmal-inspired Pakistan.

Granted – the pitch at New Road was a good deal flatter than those in Dubai, and particularly in Abu Dhabi. Granted – it was Abdur Rehman who caused the bulk of the damage this time around. Nevertheless the point still stands.

England were rooted on the back foot and seemed loathe to do anything that might be construed as a ‘lunge’ lest they incur the wrath of the traveling press. Gone were the days of Duncan Fletcher’s forward press, the Sky commentary team’s ’beloved’ sweep shot, or the advance down the pitch to meet the ball like a man. Instead we were greeted with the sight of one after another of England’s batsmen giving the impression of being perched on a shooting stick.

Ajmal and Rehman both bowl with relatively low arms, and, for spinners, relatively quickly. The pitches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are not renowned for their excessive or uneven bounce. The situation cried out for sweep – even the reverse sweep. Instead the Englishmen were paralysed with fear.

When the Pakistanis batted they used the sweep, only sparingly admittedly, but they paid heed to the another of Compton’s well-reasoned points – play straight. Misbah-ul-Haq walloped Panesar over long-on on a couple of occasions, while over-pitched deliveries from both Swann and Panesar alike were drilled down the ground.

Maybe England need to re-think their method against spin. It shouldn’t be too hard. Their coach, Andy Flower, was one of the finest players of spin bowling around and I seem to remember he was rather partial to the odd sweep shot too

Do England Need More Subtlety In Their ODI Batting?

Following England’s humiliating series whitewash in India, many disenchanted fans have called for a complete overhaul of England’s ODI plans involving the inclusion of more aggressive batsmen and have pointed to the need for more six-hitters to make use of the powerplays. Indeed, an article on Cricinfo today makes that very point while you only have to read people’s comments on Twitter and other message forums to know that it is a widely held view.

How long before James Taylor gets an extended run in England's ODI side?

However, is this assumption really correct? It is a fact that England actually hit more sixes in the series (14 maximums to India’s 13) than the hosts. It is also true that England’s batsmen are starting to look more and more like musclebound powerlifters with every passing series. Therefore I would argue that less, not more, power is the answer, especially on the suncontinent, to England’s ODI woes.

In fact what they are actually missing is flair; an ingredient that India’s batsmen have in abundance and an essential quality a batsman must have when facing spin in the middle overs. If you stand Kevin Pietersen next to Gautam Gambhir, or Suresh Raina next to Jonny Bairstow, for example you are immediately struck by their difference in body shape. Gambhir and Raina are wiry and relatively slight, whereas Bairstow or Pietersen have forearms that are threatening to tear their shirts apart at the seams, characteristics that are reflected in their batting styles. Whereas Pietersen and Bairstow look to get on the front foot to the spinners and play them straight down the ground, Raina and Gambhir will sit back and use their wrists to manoeuvre the ball and utilise the full 360 degree arc of the playing surface. The muscular aggression displayed by the first two may well work in the world cup in 2015 when it is held on the faster pitches of Australia or New Zealand, but unless their plans change then the seven-match ODI series against India in 2013 is going to be a long one for England fans.

So what can be done? Well I suggest bringing in a couple of players that pride themselves on accumulation rather than power for the next time England tour Asia. In a nutshell, what England really need is a player of the type of Neil Fairbrother, Graham Thorpe or Paul Collingwood.

Those that know me will be unsurprised to learn that one of the players whose inclusion I advocate is James Taylor, the other being Owais Shah, whose dropping from the ODI side after an excellent Champions Trophy has always puzzled me.

While Taylor’s inclusion is a matter of when not if, don’t expect to see Shah any time soon as he – like Samit Patel who was belatedly included and has been successful - is not one that appears to fit Andy Flower’s blueprint of a ‘new England’ player.

What do you think? Do I have a point or should England continue along their power-hitting route? Please let me know in the comments below.

Eoin Morgan with a new reverse sweep

Ahead of the T20s and ODIs against Pakistan, here is England’s Eoin Morgan showing off a slightly different reverse sweep: