Thursday, May 29, 2008

New Zealand Tests


I'm off to Nottingham next week to see the Third Test against New Zealand – well not the whole thing, but the second day (Friday) weather permitting.

Good time to assess where the England team are at this present time.

Opinions are varied. You can, of course, only beat the opposition that is in front of you. In that respect, England's victory in the Second Test was welcome – if overdue. Wisdom has it that NZ are not really very good. Wisdom is probably correct. They have lost a world-class batsman, Stephen Fleming, and a world-class bowler, Shane Bond. Fleming has retired – far too soon – and Bond is making big bucks in the IPL. What's left, meanwhile, is fairly mediocre.

What is even more telling is the way England won at Old Trafford. It was hardly convincing. In the first innings when you should get the majority of your runs, they didn't. The bowlers rescued the batsmen with an inspired performance by Monty to dismiss NZ for next to nothing in the second innings. Before then, NZ were really in the driving seat.

Not really much to crow about!

Commentators keep banking on about the England batting, and they are right. I've been saying for as long as anyone will listen that Bell and Collingwood are not really Test batsmen. I also say that Pietersen is greatly over-rated. For my money he is no better than a Test number six.

I like the Sky commentators line. Batsmen get endless opportunities and faith in continuity from the selectors: bowlers get the chop. Fact is the bowlers are carrying this team at the moment. Some continuity is good, but too much is just stubborn and pig-headed.

One commentator suggested that the England First Innings failure was down to the batsmen being nervous and playing for their places. This is nonsense. Batsmen should always be nervous and playing for their places. What the selectors have been doing is the opposite: they have given endless chances to some technically un-gifted players!

There is a school of thought that England have too many players to choose from. New Zealand, on the other hand, have a small pool and make the best of what they have. This is also nonsense. Having a large pool of players should ensure that the most talented rise to the top and get picked. Then it's a results game.

You get results or you get dropped. Having a number of ready-made replacements on hand should concentrate the batsmen's minds. Competition is good, but it only works if it is put into practice. Endlessly talking about changing the team is no good unless occasionally you actually change it!

It's time to change some batsmen for some others. Bell and Collingwood should go and go now. With the series as much as won – it's time to see what others can do before the South Africans get here.

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