Bowlers waste ideal conditions

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Because cricket is a slower moving game than most, one would have thought that it left the players with more time to make decisions. If so, why did the England seam bowlers start the second Test match by bowling badly and growing steadily worse until the lunch interval?

Mike Atherton won his first toss of the summer, which should have given England an important advantage in conditions that were excellent for seam bowlers. But what happened? They bowled too short to allow the ball the chance to swing on an overcast morning or to bring the batsman on to the front foot, where he is more vulnerable to late movement.

Not content with this, they also bowled too wide of the stumps, and the best bowler in the world would not be able to take wickets if the batsman is able to leave the ball alone.

All this makes one wonder how intelligence is passed on. Did the captain have a quiet word with his bowlers and try to set their minds straight? Or is he of the opinion that once bowlers have reached this level they should be able to work things out for themselves?

If this is so, it was counter-productive for England yesterday. It would have been surprising, to say the least, if the bowlers had been unable to work this out for themselves. But they persisted in the error of their ways for so long that one is forced to this conclusion. Surely it should be a captain's duty to remind his bowlers of the need for a tighter or different length and line if it is going to be to the greater advantage of his side.

And what about the coach in the dressing room? Should he sit on his hands and wait for the next interval or should he act at once? Obviously he cannot rush out on to the field, but there are time-honoured ways of getting a message to the bowlers or the captain: the 12th man can take out a sweater for a fielder and pass on a message at the same time, or even have a word with an erring bowler when he is fielding on the boundary.

It is indefensible to have allowed the sort of bowling England produced at the start to continue for two such crucial hours in these conditions.