Strauss's one-day side remain a work in progress
Sunday 04 July 2010
Just hang fire on that ticker-tape parade and put the open-top bus back in the garage. Suddenly, thoughts of witnessing an Ashes and World Cup double in the space of a few months this coming winter look a touch optimistic, unless of course you happen to be Australian.
The boys in yellow and green dished out a dose of reality at The Oval a few days ago when winning the first of two dead rubbers by 78 runs. But, just in case anyone over here missed that result – what with the prolonged wailing and gnashing of teeth after a certain football result – they gave England another going- over at Lord's yesterday.
So where does all this leave Andrew Strauss's outfit? Well, pretty much where they were before the start of a five-match NatWest Series which finished 3-2 in favour of the home side but concluded with Australia reminding everyone that there is plenty of life left in the old dingo yet when it comes to 50-over cricket. England have already made great strides in the Test arena under the guidance of Strauss and their coach, Andy Flower, and were only recently crowned world T20 champions. As for the "old-fashioned" one-day game, though, there remains plenty of room for improvement.
In fairness, Strauss and Flower have been saying exactly that throughout the past fortnight. They know Australia will go into the 2011 World Cup, to be held on the subcontinent, as tournament favourites while England can expect to be among a cluster of countries considered capable, if everything comes together, of denying the holders a fourth consecutive triumph.
Before that multi-nation jamboree, of course, there is a tasty little two-team affair to think about. And while both camps will insist, with plenty of justification, that history will count for nothing come ball one in Brisbane on 25 November, England can at least puff out their chests at the thought of having beaten Australia in all three forms of the game in the space of 10 months. Best of all, they hold the Ashes, and will believe they can keep hold of them.
There is still a fair bit of water to flow under the bridge before battle recommences at the Gabba with, apart from anything else, both countries playing Test series against Pakistan. But while the electrifyingly quick opening spell of Shaun Tait yesterday must leave Australia with plenty of food for thought, it is doubtful whether England's Ashes plans will have been greatly influenced by events over the past fortnight.
Eoin Morgan, man of the NatWest Series after making a wonderful century at the Rose Bowl and playing consistently well throughout, looks to be the batsman most likely to break into the Test XI. But he failed to make the most of his chance against Bangladesh earlier this summer and may not get another opportunity to press his Ashes claims unless injury creates an opening against Pakistan.
Craig Kieswetter probably deserved a go in the one-day side after contributing on both sides of the stumps to England's World T20 success. Against Australia, though, he has made only 69 runs in five innings, allowing Matt Prior to sleep a little easier in his bed after some people had suggested it was only a matter of time before the Somerset man became England's batsman-keeper in Test as well as limited-overs cricket.
And as for those folk hoping England will go into the Ashes series with a more balanced side, namely five front-line bowlers rather than four, Luke Wright has done little to advance his claims to be considered a full all-rounder. Indeed, Tim Bresnan now appears the best bet for a role unlikely to be created.
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