England are between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they are pretty keen to stick it to Australia in the limited-overs series and thus finish a captivating season on a high note. On the other, they have the future to plan for and the prospect of sticking it to Australia and everyone else in the World Cup in four years’ time.
Almost every match they have between now and then will be played as part of the grand design for that tournament, although there is also the (slightly) smaller matter of the Champions Trophy in two years. Both competitions are being staged in this country and England are desperate to put behind them years of abject failure in the big 50-over events.
It was part of the reason Trevor Bayliss was appointed as their coach earlier this summer. A significant section of his impressive CV contains the details of his limited-overs success with almost every team he has coached, whether internationally or domestically. It is why his strategy now is worth listening to and why it may be worth tolerating a few defeats.
“You can’t go jumping at the loss of one or two games, or a series or two,” said Bayliss at Old Trafford. “I think the role of a selector or coach these days is trying to make a decision on which guys you think have got the goods. Sometimes it’s not evident straight away.
“Some guys, you think, ‘We need another look at him’, other guys, not so much. It is a bit of a juggling act. You can cop some criticism because of it, you’ve got to take that on the chin, because we have got a long-term view with the next World Cup coming up.”
England have rested their star batsman, Joe Root, for this Royal London series, in which they have lost the first two matches, as well as their prime fast bowlers, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, at least one of whom, Anderson, will not be around for the next World Cup. They are also asking Moeen Ali to bat in a position much lower than he probably will when the proper business begins. But it cannot be one prolonged experiment and Bayliss knows it. He has to pick a team that starts winning, preferably long before 2017.
There will be at least one change in England’s side today with Jonny Bairstow coming in as wicketkeeper for Jos Buttler, who has been sent home for rest. Buttler has had a long summer. Not that Bairstow has exactly been short of work. England may also decide to offer the left-arm swing of David Willey another bash. In the search for wickets, they are finding it difficult to exert control.
“Both teams are probably not quite full strength,” Bayliss said. “It is early in that four-year cycle and, to a certain degree, Australia are doing the same as us, having a look at giving guys an opportunity, with a view to 18 months to two years out from the World Cup, if you can settle on a group of guys you think are going to make up your squad.
“That takes a bit of time, for players to work that out for themselves. Some of them will make it, some of them will not. So maybe from that point of view, there’s some younger players on both sides but to me that’s exciting for the fans to come along and watch the beginnings of new careers. In 10 or 15 years’ time, to say, ‘I was there when some of these young guys were starting’. It just evolves.”
There is the slim prospect of an extra edge in the rest of the series, provoked by Ben Stokes’ dismissal for obstructing the field in the second match at Lord’s on Saturday when Australia went 2-0 up. Stokes said yesterday that he did not wilfully handle the ball as the bowler, Mitchell Starc, attempted to run him out at the striker’s end.
Both sides seem eager to put the incident behind them, though Starc and the tourists’ captain, Steve Smith, can expect to be jeered for the rest of their careers in this country after deciding to press ahead with their appeal. Bayliss, however, spoke common sense. “That’s just the way it goes, isn’t it? It’s just one of those incidents in cricket that make it more interesting as you go forward.”
Pace bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile is the latest Australian to pull out injured from the series, following the loss of Shane Watson and David Warner, who has been replaced by Aaron Finch. Seamer John Hastings, who has been playing for Durham, and Gloucestershire wicketkeeper/batsman Peter Handscomb, born in Melbourne to English parents, have joined the squad for today’s game.Reuse content