Alastair Cook is considering taking the gamble that might make or break his captaincy by picking Simon Kerrigan for the second Test against India at Lord’s this week.
Kerrigan, the Lancashire left-arm spinner, has been called into the Test squad less than a year after a nightmare debut against Australia at The Oval. Kerrigan bowled only eight overs and, at times, struggled to land the ball in a horribly nervy performance.
But Cook, who cannot buy a run and whose team have not won for nine Tests after this draw at Trent Bridge, and coach Peter Moores are likely to turn to Kerrigan if they find a Lord’s wicket conducive to slow bowling. Against Indian batsmen who can play spin with their eyes closed, it would be a severe challenge, but one Cook is confident the 25-year-old Kerrigan would pass.
“Simon is a very tough kid,” said the England skipper. “Those eight overs against Australia were tough for him but he has fought his way back. Until he plays, you never know but he has been with us this week and he has bowled very well in the nets.
“[England coach] Peter Moores knows him well from their time together at Lancashire and that is very important. He was understandably nervous at The Oval and didn’t know many of the lads.
“We will only know when he plays how he might cope, but from what I have seen and heard, he has the character. I am sure he will be nervous when he plays again, but weren’t we all at the start of our Test careers.
“Until he makes a contribution we won’t know but given the talent he has with the ball, I’m sure he will be fine.”
Kerrigan last night admitted that his difficult debut would be on his mind. “What happened [on my debut] will be in my thoughts a little bit, it’s bound to be,” he said. “But what I learned from the experience is that the sun still comes up the next day and it is not the end of the world and that you just have to keep striving and keep working towards your goal, which for me is to get in the England side and do well for my country.
“The winter break gave me time to work on my game and realise that whatever happens is a learning experience. Everything happens for a reason and as long as you can take lessons from it then it’s good.
“I would have liked to have bowled a bit better than I have so far for Lancashire but it is a work in progress and is not going to happen overnight. I’m just trying to learn from every experience I get and keep progressing and keep getting wickets.”
The lifeless wicket meant it would have required something remarkable from either side to produce a positive result at Trent Bridge and, despite fine individual contributions, neither was able to achieve it.
Cook has two principal concerns and one is related to the other. The more groundsmen prepared wickets that fail to offer assistance to his seam bowlers, the more overs those bowlers will have to deliver, and the greater the possibility they will run out of steam. These five Tests against India will take place within a maximum 42 days.
Between them, England’s new-ball pair Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad sent down 113 overs in this game. Broad has an ongoing knee condition that must be managed and the next Test starts in three days’ time. With fine weather forecast, both men will be praying that Cook wins the toss and England bat first at Lord’s, although after taking his first Test wicket as the game petered out, the skipper might fancy another bowl himself.
Anderson was named man of the match for his 81 in the first innings but he is paid to bowl teams out and deserves a better surface than he was given here. He said: “Getting through 60 overs in five days isn’t ideal. If we end up bowling 60 overs every week, we’re not going to get through five Tests.”
Cook added: “You don’t go to other places around the world and expect anything different from what is traditional. We asked a week and a half ago for pace and bounce in the wicket, but the groundsman [Steve Birks] held his hands up and said he got this one wrong, and we know that preparing pitches is not an exact science.
“It’s important that wherever you go in the world, the characteristics are what you expect. In England, when the sun is out you want it flat for batting, and when the cloud is there you want it to swing around, and for the nicks to carry.”
Perhaps surprisingly, given the troubles his team had in more conventional English conditions three years ago, India captain MS Dhoni agreed with Cook.
He said: “When you come to a country, you want the speciality of that country to be placed in front of you. There is no fun going to India and playing on flat wickets. You want turning tracks, and the equivalent elsewhere in the world.”