England can relax now

Yesterday England failed to defend 298 in a 50-over ODI. It means they trail 0-3 in the five match series and have lost 13 of their last 15 matches against India in India. The pitch was pretty good and India are a good side, but England ought to have won. They were anchored by Jonathan Trott’s 98 off 116 balls and supported by Samit Patel, who scored 70 off 43 balls. (Patel also had an good match with the ball, taking 0-50 off his ten overs and winning a motorbike for his efforts.) The usual furore over Jonathan Trott erupted again with some thinking that a strike rate just under 85 is too slow for an ODI. This is nonsense, about which I blogged at the time. The real blame belongs to England’s bowlers and fielding.

Finn bowled well taking the new ball, but Bresnan and Dernbach were charged with bowling at the death and they had absolute shockers. Indeed, they’ve had a very poor series. Bresnan has taken 4-169 at 6.94 an over and Dernbach has taken 1-168 at 6.54 an over. As the strike leader and primary death bowler they have to do better than that. They had an indefensible total in the second ODI, but lost their grip on the match late in the innings in the first and third. India scored 300 both times, but shouldn’t have either time. The bowlers weren’t helped by the fielding, which was lacklustre at best. England allowed singles where there should have been dot balls and twos where there should have been singles, not to mention the occasional grotesque misfield for four. Kieswetter had a particularly bad match; he dropped two chances and then failed to effect what should have been an easy run out in the penultimate over.

It was this over that took the match away from England. Despite a general lack of discipline in the field and lack of incisiveness in the bowling, India needed thirty off the final three overs. Knife edge stuff, but England had taken wickets in the 38th, 39th and 42nd overs and steadily forced the required run rate up to something defensible. India had a good 48th over against Finn (who was England’s best bowler in the match) to get the equation down to 17 off the last 12 balls. Then the wheels fell off. Jadeja ought to have been run out off the first ball of the 49th over as he tried for a suicidal second run, but Kieswetter tread on the stumps and was unable to correctly put down the wicket. The wicket would have made England clear favourites. Dernbach’s radar was off, as it had been throughout the match, and he went on to bowl a wide and then a no-ball on height. By the time the over finally finished India needed just seven to win and Bresnan had no hope in the final over. (Not that he bothered to make it close.)

I say England can relax now because the last two matches of the series will be dead rubbers, giving them a chance to ring some changes. (They named an unchanged side in the first three.) The most obvious change is to bring in Ian Bell. I, and others, have been calling for it since the first match. I think he’ll come in for Kieswetter, who has done himself few favours in this series. Borthwick may also come into the side, though if so he would probably replace Patel and Patel has done very well in the last two matches after a poor start to the tour. He may instead come in for Bopara who hasn’t done much so far. I definitely expect Dernbach will miss out after having a very poor series. His replacement would either be Graham Onions or Stuart Meaker; probably Meaker since he was in the original party whilst Onions is a replacement for Chris Woakes. There are two matches left; time enough for each to get a game, but I’d actually like to see them both play and Bresnan miss out. This would be an ambitious move by Flower which would send a firm message to the under-performing bowlers. With Anderson and Broad both likely to return for the next ODI series it will make for good competition for places.

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