Well played England, but….
After a tragic defeat at Lord’s in the first Test, England returned from the dead and bounced back emphatically in the second encounter at Headingley to give Pakistan a taste of their own medicine. England lost the series opener by nine wickets but seek sweet revenge by beating Pakistan by an innings in the second. Should this win camouflage the flaws in this English line-up? Absolutely not. They might have managed to win square the series somehow, but still have a lot of issues to be addressed in their line-up. They needed this win to infuse some confidence in them, but still, have a long way to go.
After the Lord’s defeat, they were on the brink of recording their third consecutive series defeat, but it wasn’t to be. The side clicked to an extent collectively and did well to avoid another series defeat. They needed some kind of push and have got it just at the right time. But there is a lot of repair work to be done in this English line-up.
First and foremost, England need to give their players a longer rope. So much of cutting and chopping won’t let a Test side bloom. Players need to have that assurance and longer run in order to establish themselves in the Test arena. So much of cutting and chopping will only create uncertainty and insecurity in the minds of players, which might affect their performance. For instance, the exclusion of Mark Stoneman in the second encounter. His inclusion in the squad was a big surprise to being with; he didn’t have a great run for Surrey, but selectors decided to invest in him. Now, when he was trusted with the opening slot, wasn’t a solitary game too small a sample size for his exclusion?
Who knows, he could have scored a century in the second game and cemented his spot for a while. Talking about his replacement, Keaton Jennings, who was roped in on the back of some incredible form in the domestic circuit was dropped from the English side last year. Jennings in a press conference also stated that the Headingley Test might be his last for England, which indicates the kind of insecurity that mounts over English players.
“It might be the last Test I play. So I really want to enjoy the feeling and the five days of tough, hard cricket. I want to play with a free, happy heart and take in every moment I can,” Keaton Jennings said in a press conference prior to the second Test.
Talking about their batting, it has been quite mediocre in the recent times. They have failed to inspire confidence and looked bereft of oomph on numerous occasions. Their opening slot is yet to stabilise. Although Alastair Cook showed some good signs against Pakistan, but their openers have a mountain to climb now. The middle-order failed to fire and most of their batsmen fizzled out after emphatic starts, which is criminal at the level.
In the Headingley game, seven English batsmen got solid starts, but only one converted that into a substantial score. Test cricket demands daddy hundreds and massive partnerships, which has been lacking in this English line-up. If we talk about numbers, since the Ashes England have 15 players and 44 innings’ where batsmen have been dismissed between the scores of 20 to 49.
England’s bowling has been quite inconsistent in the recent times. They need to pull their socks up in this department as well. Although they did incredibly well in Lord’s, but their performance has often oscillated between ordinary and sparks of brilliance. Of course, the batsmen have not posted enough runs and it will be cruel to blame the bowlers, but there is always room for improvement.
England’s next assignment will be against India, who did reasonably well in South Africa and almost pulled off a series win. They will certainly be a tough nut to crack and will pose challenges of a different kind. As of now, India does have a well-balanced and well-oiled attack, they have a formidable bowling backed with some steady batting. England can’t afford to bank solely on their bowling to bail them out, their batsmen will have to step up and score daddy hundreds. If truth be told, their bowling has also been a little inconsistent in the recent times; they have to pull up as a unit. They dropped a lot of catches at Lord’s, which demands some hard work on the field too.