Something clearly had to be done. England at last responded to the clamour for change yesterday by calling up the in-form flavours of the month to try to rectify their wretched batting in limited-overs cricket.
Jason Roy of Surrey and James Taylor of Nottinghamshire are in the squad for the solitary Twenty20 match against India next Sunday. But the selectors resisted any temptation to add either of them to the struggling 50-over squad, who are 2-0 down to the tourists with two matches to play.
Although, Roy’s place in the T20 match was put in doubt today when he was taken to hospital for an X-ray after being hit on the hand while batting for Surrey against New Zealand A at The Oval, the batsman later put those fears to rest.
“I tried to bat on for a bit, but then got a bit worried about it,” he said. “So I went for an X-ray to make sure I got peace of mind. It should be absolutely fine in a couple of days. A bit of ice and rest, and it should be sweet.”
Roy, who is uncapped in any format, and Taylor, who has played two Tests and two one-day internationals, had made seemingly irresistible cases. Had both been overlooked the selectors would have been accused of neglect on the job, such is the ferocious criticism of England’s batting method in the short forms of the game.
Roy was spectacular in the NatWest Blast domestic T20 competition this summer, finishing as the leading scorer with 677 runs at a strike rate of 157. Taylor was less successful but has made two thrilling hundreds in the Royal London 50-over competition in the past few days, the first against Middlesex from 55 balls.
Ravi Bopara, whose omission from the 50-over squad looks a bigger mistake with each losing game, has been recalled for the T20 match, as has the revitalised Tim Bresnan of Yorkshire after being overlooked since his weary performances in the World Twenty20.
Bresnan played no part in the Roses match at Old Trafford today as Yorkshire took no chances with the seamer’s pectoral injury.
There is no place for Sussex’s big hitter Luke Wright, narrowly second to Roy in the NatWest Blast scoring list but with a higher strike rate. After he played 51 T20 matches for England, a view seems to have been taken on Wright.
It seems that England have decided they have no option but to go out slugging, with Alex Hales also at the top of the order. As long as England bat as they have done so far in the Royal London series, that option will continue to enjoy support. But siren calls for attack and more attack miss the point that there has to be a balance in the 50-over format at least.
Alastair Cook, the 50-over captain again being derided, rightly pointed out that England had made rapid starts in both games played. It has been the failure of the openers to go on and of the middle order to build on the start which has largely caused the flops.
Contrary to perception, Australia, South Africa and India do not simply biff the ball all the way through. There have to be periods of consolidation and accumulation.
England are failing because their batsmen are making elementary mistakes. It was hugely disappointing to see so many of them performing so timorously against India’s spinners on Saturday. The ball was turning but that is what spinners are supposed to do.
An argument could be made for Cook neither being captain nor playing but, although he needs runs, he is not going anywhere. His obvious replacement, Eoin Morgan, who will lead the T20 match, is himself short of form.
Preparations for the World Cup next February are hardly going to plan. However, the fault may lie less with method than execution.
v India, NatWest T20 International at Edgbaston next Sunday):
E J G Morgan (captain), M M Ali, R S Bopara, T T Bresnan, J C Buttler (wkt), S T Finn, H F Gurney, A D Hales, C J Jordan, J E Root, J J Roy , J W A Taylor, J C Tredwell, C R Woakes.