England 242-7 New Zealand 213-6 (New Zealand win by 34 runs (D/L) - New Zealand win series 3-1): Struggling England in need of an upgrade
Monday 25 February 2008
Satisfactory. That is Peter Moores assessment of how England's one-day side have performed during the time he has been coach. Those who have watched England play in New Zealand, where Saturday's four-wicket loss took them to a 3-1 series defeat in a five-match series, may disagree with Moores appraisal but it does make sense to judge the team on what it has achieved since Duncan Fletcher resigned rather than looking back solely on the past two and a half weeks whilst emotions are running high.
Moores, like all modern coaches, is fiercely loyal to his players but he did not rule out the possibility that England's next one-day side may contain a couple of new faces. "We will look at the whole year at the end of the Test series, decide what we have learnt from it and make decisions needed to move the thing forward," said Moores, before travelling to Dunedin for England's initial warm-up game before the first Test.
"I am satisfied we are going in the right direction. In the four series since I took charge we have won two and lost two, and we have learnt a lot about what people can and can't do. We now have to decide whether we need to jiggle things or find areas where people have to become more skillful to play on the big stage. We are seventh in the world and we need to get better.
"There is no quick fix. You can't just do half an hour's practice and get it right. It is an ongoing thing. It takes time and a lot of hard work to move sides forward, and providing we do the right things it will happen."
For Moores to see the difference between the two sides he only has to compare the five opening 10 overs of each team's innings. In the 50 overs England faced, they scored 221-6 at a rate of 4.42 runs an over, figures that are paltry when sat aside New Zealand's 334-1 at 7.64.
The statistics highlight two main problems for England – the inability of the top order to make the most of fielding restrictions in the opening 10 overs and the failure of the bowlers to control the opposition's aggressive openers. At the 2007 World Cup England played orthodox players – Michael Vaughan, Ian Bell and Andrew Strauss – up front and it cost them dearly, and they did the same here.
Alastair Cook and Bell are fine batsmen but they are not lavish and dangerous strokeplayers. Watching the pair prod and push around at a time when the opposition are teeing off made for painful viewing. Phil Mustard is yet to convince people he is good enough.He deserves further investment in the summer but another powerful, fearless player should join him at the top of the order.
Many believe Kevin Pietersen should be pushed up to No 3 but it would be foolish for England to lose their best batsman in the opening 10 overs trying to hit the ball over the top. England need Pietersen to bat for 35 overs and if he can do that he will be close to a hundred. Luke Wright has shown huge potential in the last week. The Sussex all-rounder has bottle, as he showed when bowling the last over in Napier, and his 47 during Saturday's four- wicket defeat proved he is a fearless striker of a cricket ball. England could do worse than to give him a go in the top three.
Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder batted superbly, ripping England's attack apart on three occasions, but England's bowlers cannot just shrug their shoulders, they have to come up with plans to cope with such assaults. New Zealand are not the only side that attack in this way.
England's selection policy of picking only three specialist bowlers did not help either. It left the side unbalanced and lacking variety. A fielding side would stand half a chance if the three frontline bowlers were at their best but when one is young and erratic and the other hopelessly short of confidence and form it is a huge risk. Stuart Broad's inconsistency should be tolerated but it is debatable how long England will persevere with James Anderson.
Anderson has been playing one-day cricket for five years and with 86 matches and 121 wickets of experience behind him he should be leading England's attack. Instead he looks like a novice. The 25-year-old will nervously await the verdict of the selectors when they meet.
England's refusal to pick a spinner in the final three matches was poor too. The small and peculiar shape of grounds here discouraged England but Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, was the joint-top wicket taker of the series and Jeetan Patel conceded only 3.2 runs an over in the two games he played. Paul Collingwood needed variety but like much of England's cricket it was too predictable. Post-Fletcher, one-day England may be making progress but it needs to quicken up.
Report card: England's winners and losers from the one-day series
Batted superbly in two matches and, with the exception of an embarrassing run out in Hamilton, led by example throughout. Must become more astute and imaginative as a leader.
Has been in the team for less than a year but is comfortably England's most consistent bowler. Deserved more than the six wickets he took, but they will come, maybe in the Test series.
Given limited opportunity but impressed hugely. His performance in Napier, when he bowled a superb final over, and his two innings showed him to be an exciting, fearless cricketer.
Conceded seven and a half runs an over in five matches, a performance that raises questions about his long-term future. Needs to simplify his gameplan to help his consistency.
After a good tour of Sri Lanka he would have expected to play in every match. Dropped after two indifferent performances and the selectors obviously doubt his ability.
Dropped after two games. Looked unbelievably nervous when batting and his running between the wickets was dreadful. Needs to regain his confidence in county cricket before returning.
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