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Sight Screen

Thursday, July 28, 2005

When in doubt...

...do something. Anything. Because activity is calming, you get the feeling you are doing *something* to remedy the problem.
That seems to be the underlying principle behind this move, by England, to bat Kevin Pietersen up the order (thanks, Manish).
Bell didn't score runs, Pietersen did, so they swap places for the second Test. And if Vaughan, say, has another "off day" at Edgbaston, Pietersen moves up to three?
There is a big danger in putting all your batting eggs in one basket against Australia, as England here is in danger of doing -- Team Australia promptly zeroes in on the guy; taking him out tops their collective agenda, and when they succeed (which they do, more often than not), the rest of the side folds. (Prime example? Remember India in Australia, under SRT? The thinking was, SRT would keep McGrath and Warne at bay, the rest of the guys would bat around him. Didn't work -- but the next time they toured, under SG, the onus was on all the batsmen, with no one man singled out for the role of Horatio, and it worked.)
For all you know, KP might get runs at four; I suspect, though, that this not only adds to the pressure KP is under to play St George to the Australian dragons, it also gets the team into this defeatist mindset of figuring that Pietersen is the only guy who can do it for them; that all their eggs are in this one new basket.
*Plus*, if Pietersen falls early (Buchanan has prolly been spending the time between Tests cueing up every moment of KP's two innings, looking for lines and lengths to bowl to him and fields to set), the pressure on Bell is doubled.
Is the batting order the root of England's problems -- or is it the absence of a gameplan?
The single most noticeable aspect of England's play in the first Test is not the seven catches they muffed, but the fact that 20 batsmen managed to played a sum total of only 108 overs.
Of this, the top five -- Trescothick, Strauss, Vaughan, Bell and Flintoff -- managed 55 spread over two innings. Could failure to occupy the crease have been the real key to defeat?
All the talk coming out of the England camp is on the lines of how they are going to attack McGrath and Warne -- which plays right into the Aussie hands; they *want* batsmen to come after McGrath, and commit unforced errors in the process.
Edgbaston should not be as helpful as Lord's was -- shouldn't the preferred strategy be crease occupation? Wear McGrath down (sure, work him around, hit the bad balls -- but primarily, don't go fishing and give him wickets to deliveries best left to Gilchrist to deal with), and you then expose an out of form Gillespie -- a more logical time to attack.
Flintoff, elsewhere, makes all the right positive noises. Andrew Miller, on Cricinfo, suggests Flintoff could well be part of the problem. And Alec Stewart (whose wicket Warne has claimed more often than any other England batsman's) has a neat suggestion (pity he didn't think of it when he was playing) on how to cope with the leg spinner: Pretend he ain't Warne; just think of him as some innocuous blond... um, say, like Britney Spears or some such.
More amusingly, Ashley Giles has a neat explanation for why questions are being raised about his utility to the side: It's because the critics don't want England to win, he says. Much heat here -- poor guy (one of Wisden's famous five this year, no less) is obviously feeling the pressure more than somewhat.


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