Three areas of concern for Alastair Cook with Test series approaching...
England may have to pick an opening batsman for the first Test on a hunch
Sunday 04 November 2012
1 THE OPENERS
Neither Yorkshire's Joe Root nor Somerset's Nick Compton has yet put forward a good case to be the heir to the retired Andrew Strauss and be the man to step forward and open the England innings alongside captain Alastair Cook. The 29-year-old Compton fell to a three-ball duck in the first warm-up match and on Saturday was bowled, playing down the wrong line, for a solitary run in the fifth over of the second warm-up match. Hardly the stuff of his early County Championship form when only rain prevented him reaching 1,000 runs before the end of May. The highly promising Root, 21, fared slightly better on Saturday in his only innings so far on tour but his 28 was eked out over 75 deliveries.
If England's depleted attack can muster six more wickets between them tomorrow morning, the pair will have another chance to stake a claim in England's second innings. Failing that they will both head to the third warm-up match with it all to prove. One of them will have to be selected for the first Test because Cook has already said that Jonathan Trott will not be asked to open, and Ian Bell is out of nick. So without runs from Compton or Root, Cook and Andy Flower could soon find themselves picking an opening batsman on a hunch – not an ideal scenario for New Zealand at home; for India away, it couldn't be much worse.
2 THE NO 6
On the face of it Samit Patel, the Nottinghamshire all-rounder, would appear to have the No 6 slot sewn up: he scored an impressive century in England's first warm-up match and followed that up with 59 not out in the first innings of the second in Mumbai.
However, is he really good enough to play for England as the second spinner? Monty Panesar was the most impressive bowler yesterday when England were searching for wickets and it was he who removed the obdurate No 3 India Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, albeit after he made 87.
Patel bowled nine overs for 37 runs yesterday but was not threatening and his bowling in the first warm-up match was not too taxing for the batsmen either.
Jonny Bairtsow has done all he can to throw his hat into the ring as a potential No 6 batsman with a lovely knock of 118 on Saturday. Eoin Morgan has also done his cause no harm with big runs in both warm-up games. For either to play at No 6, Panesar would have to come in at No 11, meaning England have an attack of two spinners and two seamers plus bits and pieces bowlers (Trott, Pietersen, Root).
3 THE SEAMERS
As they boarded the plane to India, England's management would probably have been thinking of a bowling attack of the seasoned campaigners James Anderson and Stuart Broad plus Steve Finn, who was the best bowler against South Africa last summer.
Finn's injury is a real worry and he now looks likely to miss the first Test at least. With Broad following him to the scanning department because of a heel injury, England are in danger of losing two thirds of their first-choice seam attack.
Tim Bresnan would be the next cab off the rank and he at least strengthens the batting, but in his last three Tests he has taken five wickets at 78 runs each.
Graeme Onions is in the mix but he was tidy yesterday rather than threatening. He lacks the pace and the awkward height and bounce that Finn can generate. England have also called for the Surrey quick Stuart Meaker, who is as fast as Finn but, like Onions, is not as tall and therefore doesn't get the lift of Finn.
There is the option of England only playing two seamers and two spinners – as discussed in point 2 – but it would put a big burden on the two quicks and would probably require Trott to bowl more overs than England would ideally want.
Suddenly, the problems of "reintegrating" Kevin Pietersen into the England fold seem to be the least of Flower and Cook's problems.
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