20 December 2016

Now What? - England in Bangladesh and India - Review

Let's make one thing clear: England were never expected to win this series. An embarrassing failure to beat Pakistan on home soil in the summer, exasperated by an even more embarrassing defeat to Bangladesh in Dhaka, and England landed in Rajkot, as reported by ESPN Cricinfo, "weary and unprepared".

England's performances, however, got worse as the India series went on. From being the stronger side in a drawn Rajkot game to making 400 and losing by an innings in Mumbai and Chennai, England have now reached what must be their nadir. They must not stoop any lower.

England's record in 2016 is played 17, won 6, drawn 3, and lost 8. It means England have failed to win their last three test series - and have only won three out of their last nine in a barren spell now stretching over 19 months. The blame game for the Indian disaster has already begun - The Daily Telegraph being particularly unsavoury - but there was a catalogue of avoidable management errors both on and off the field. It's time for Cook, in particular, to go. Ostracising bowlers on the field who aren't bowling terribly - and continuing to bowl players who were - is a sackable offence in itself.

We'll begin with the batting. England finally got their act together in the first innings in the final two tests by making over 400. To an extent, therefore, the defeats in Mumbai and Chennai cannot be exclusively blamed on the batting. In the second innings, yes, there were some utterly terrible pieces of batting, but when you put 400 on the board in the first innings, you expect to have done your job. However, Liam Dawson, Joe Root, and Jonny Bairstow were the only Englishmen to have made it into the top 10 for the series averages.

Indeed, these numbers aren't exactly shockingly bad for these three, and indeed there are a few bubbling under it. The issue is that for somebody like Moeen Ali, there was not enough consistency. Look at this graph on your right. Throughout the series, this highlights Bairstow's consistency with the bat as he kept his average stable. Moeen Ali, on the other hand, in his nine innings, made 2 centuries, 1 fifty, and 1 forty, but did not score above 20 in any of the other five, hence the volatility in his series average over time. 

It's OK making 400 in the first innings, but in the second innings England's batting was woeful, as this shows:

Only Haseeb Hameed, Alastair Cook, and Chris Woakes had a higher 2nd innings average in the series than the 1st innings. Only Root, Cook, and Hameed had anything respectable in the second innings. Everyone else couldn't average 35 in the second innings. This is also one of the reasons England lost. Time after time. Right?

No, the fault really lies with the bowlers, and with Cook's terrible (mis)management of them, and Batty in particular. No matter what you score, you shouldn't be conceding 759-7 on any pitch, even a road. On Batty, he was probably England's best spin bowler in Chittagong - so why was he ostracised after that? Well, in Dhaka, they wanted to give Ansari a go. For some bizarre reason, probably to do with thinking that's 20 years out of date, for Rajkot it was decided that off spinners can't bowl to right handers (despite Batty getting 3 of his 4 wickets by bowling around the wicket to right to handers). Ansari duly played in Rajkot and Visag. In Visag, Ansari was taken ill and so England found themselves a bowler short. In Mohali, Batty was finally selected, but did nothing except run around the outfield all day, as it transpired that 3 spinners was not the right answer. England made completely the opposite mistake in Mumbai, and picked 2 spinners, but then ostracised Woakes. In Chennai Cook ostracised Stokes. Ostracising your bowlers *on* the field is something no captain would ever do unless it was not spinning (so he would not bowl any spin) or vice versa. But he didn't ostracise a discipline, he ostracised good bowlers. Only in Rajkot in the India series did Cook make full use of the tools at his disposal.

After Mumbai, where Ali and Rashid were made to bowl over 50 overs each with only 10 for Joe Root, Alastair Cook declared those two were England's best spinners. Sorry, Alastair, but the series stats disagree. Whilst Rashid finally came good in the India series (after a poor Bangladesh one), Moeen Ali had an absolute shocker with the ball, and must be time to drop him - or at the very least use him as a specialist batsman. 

Arguably England's worst spinner on this tour, Moeen Ali averaged a pathetic 64.90, the worst of any English spinner (save for Batty, who didn't take a wicket in his "thank you for coming" outing in Mohali). Ali only took a wicket, on average, every 18.5 overs, and went at 3.45 runs per over, worse than Dawson and Batty. 

The seamers don't get away with it either. Of the bowling averages list, only 4 Englishmen made it into the top half:

Broad, Stokes, and Rashid are probably, therefore, the only bowlers to escape this tour with their dignity somewhat intact. But when you have a look at the worst bowling averages of the series, only three Indians are in it. Jake Ball played two games (one more than Gareth Batty incidentally) and yet could only take one wicket in 246 tries, spilling 140 runs in the process. Chris Woakes could only do a wicket per 154 deliveries at 81.33 runs each. It was also a lacklustre performance from Anderson, with a strike rate of 118.50, a far cry from his career figure of less than half of that, 57.47. 

Captain Cautious made too many mistakes, and it's time for Joe Root to have a go. If his 3 overs in Mumbai when he made the best captaincy decision England made in the entire series are anything to go by, England may have a better captain again. An attacking captain. Like Vaughan. In Visag, Cook turned to Ansari before either Ali or Rashid - why? Ansari was picked as England's third spinner, and indeed after Dhaka, if you had to pick between Batty and Ansari (as England did), what did Ansari provide that Batty didn't? On the evidence of Bangladesh, nothing.

Going forwards, England's 2017 schedule is so packed that England will inevitably rest some of their players (a policy I'm not a fan of - Gareth Batty, who was 38 in the summer, played every single Surrey fixture bar one). Root, Stokes, Buttler, Rashid, Ali, Woakes, and possibly Bairstow currently play in all formats. That's not even accounting for players such as Jason Roy or Stuart Broad who want to get into the other formats' teams. They may find themselves missing the dead rubber in each format. We may end up with a situation where we get to the final test against the West Indies and we go in with Cook, Hameed, Jennings, Roy, Foakes (wk), S Curran, Broad, Batty, Wood, Finn, Anderson - or something equally ridiculous.

Time for England to let go of the lacklustre Cook and move on.

No comments:

Post a Comment