Brilliance of Tim Bresnan offers England chance to rest Stuart Broad
Tuesday 29 May 2012
England cricketers enjoy salaries and lifestyles beyond the reach of many of those who follow them, but they certainly work hard for their money. The team's schedule for the next 12 months and beyond is demanding enough to tempt Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower to rest key players and reduce the risk of injury.
Consider the case of Stuart Broad. The Nottinghamshire player takes the new ball in Tests, plays an important role in 50-over cricket and is captain of the Twenty20 side. He also missed parts of the last Ashes series and the World Cup, the entire limited-overs tour of India last autumn and the Second Test in Sri Lanka in April, a fitness record that would worry any captain.
The nine-wicket win over West Indies clinched the three-match Investec Series with a day and a Test to spare. England's fast bowling runs deep, and coach and captain will surely ponder whether to give Broad and his new-ball partner, Jimmy Anderson, a breather.
Strauss and Flower would be loath to devalue a Test, just as they would be reluctant to hand caps to second-choice players. Yet the year ahead will test minds and bodies. After South Africa's tour later this summer, England have the World Twenty20 and tours of India and New Zealand before they try to retain the Ashes next summer.
England's management speak often about the talent that exists among their fast bowlers, so why not make the most of it? It is not as though the players who would come in, Steven Finn and Graham Onions, are unproven in Test cricket. Finn has 53 wickets in 13 matches and would be included in most other international teams. Back problems kept Onions out for nearly two years but he performed stoutly in the 2009 Ashes and in South Africa the following winter.
Strauss spoke before this Test about the need to ensure that those on the fringes did not feel excluded. Finn is very highly regarded and has been so desperate to force his way into the Test team that he could be a fearsome weapon against this inexperienced West Indies top order.
There is a precedent for rotation. Broad and Paul Collingwood were rested for a two-match series against Bangladesh in 2010 after helping England win the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean. So England are sensitive to the labour-intensive nature of international cricket and even if they stick to the same XI at Edgbaston next week, some players will surely be rested for at least a part of the four-match one-day series against West Indies.
Broad, Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan are important members of the England squad in all forms of the game. There are those who would promote Finn at Bresnan's expense, but the Yorkshireman made an outstanding contribution at Trent Bridge. Four wickets in each innings gave Bresnan match figures of 8 for 141, his best in Tests. His unbeaten 39 in the first innings was vital in establishing a lead of 58. Just as against India last year, Bresnan was man of the match.
He has an extraordinary sequence to protect. In Tests, Bresnan has played 13, won 13. He is two short of the record held by the former Australia wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist but as the 27-year-old likes to point out, he is so much more than a mere lucky charm.
With the ball, Bresnan is sometimes dangerous, always dependable. He is also a fine No 8 batsman. Bresnan's batting average is just into the forties, his bowling average in the mid-twenties – worthy figures for an all-rounder.
How West Indies must wish they had such strength. Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy were excellent in this match but it is difficult to see England failing to make it 3-0 in Birmingham.
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