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England's bottom-up approach

Gaurav Phadke
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
278   //    31 Aug 2018, 14:32 IST

England v India: Specsavers 4th Test - Day One
Curran has been England's second highest run-getter so far in the series

The current England-India Test series is turning into a real cracker, with India winning the 3rd Test to reduce England's lead to 2-1. If anyone without knowledge of the series and performances looks at the scoreline (2-1), he/she would imagine England have been doing really well, with their batsmen scoring freely, their bowlers knocking India over cheaply and their fielders latching on to even half chances.

However, the reality is that most of England's best performances have come from the bowling unit.

This is not really a surprise, given in Anderson and Broad, they have two of the finest exponents of swing bowling, for which the English conditions are more than conducive.

The less we speak about England's fielding, or specifically their slip catching, the better! Statistics can follow, but in essence, this must be the worst slip cordon England has ever assembled!

Let's get down to the real point of this article, the English batsmen. On paper, the lineup showed real promise, with the likes of Cook and Root and a lot of high scoring youngsters.

But the "promise" has not really converted into performances, but let's try to look at the reasons for this.

Cook and Root seem to be under tremendous pressure, given that the other players in their batting lineup are either not experienced, or not Test specialists as such. They've had the likes of Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali (apart from Pope and Curran) playing as specialist batsmen on various occasions.

No offence, but none of these would play at a position any higher than number 6 in any other top Test team! So effectively, England is playing with four or five "number sixes".

Having so many all-rounders (Bairstow and Buttler are wicket keeping batsmen, and Stokes and Ali are bowling all-rounders) provides plenty of depth and options can be a great strength, but the long-standing issues around England's batting, which showed themselves again in Southampton (fourth Test), center around an excess of free-scoring players.

There is an abundance of lower-middle-order players when England are in desperate need of specialist batsmen. To illustrate this, England's top scorers in five innings this series have been Curran (twice), Buttler (twice) and Woakes - none of them can be rated as specialist batsmen. This is not to be considered a positive or an advocacy for playing more "bit part" batsmen, but this is just a reflection of the dire condition English batting is in.

This also doesn't bode well for Cook and Root, as they have really underperformed despite being the two senior batsmen in the team. But it seems like they are under too much pressure to perform, as they know there's not a lot in the tank after they depart.

Having said this, it was a choice that England's management and leadership team took, keeping the conditions on offer in mind. The Indian bowlers have outperformed themselves (and their predecessors) with a mind-blowing performance. That England did not have more specialist batsmen in their team should take nothing away from the performances of this "fast and furious" Indian bowling unit.

England could still go on to win this series, but the selection of players should be a topic that's discussed at length in the retrospective meetings (if they have any).

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Gaurav Phadke
CONTRIBUTOR
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