Irani's extended stay hints at problems ahead

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The Independent Online
Ronnie Irani held up the Indians for 139 minutes on the last afternoon and played an important part, therefore, in helping England get away with a draw. Yet ironically, as he went into the pavilion after dragging Paras Mhambrey on to his stumps, there remains a nagging question mark about his future as an England player.

He is unquestionably a batsman who can bowl rather than a genuine Test class all-rounder. His bowling gives the captain another option at this level but the fact that England played four seamers in addition to Irani puts his bowling into a truer perspective.

The question mark hangs over his batting. In the first Test he played a most engaging and attractive innings of 34 which contained seven fours - all lovely firm strokes. For a time he took the pressure off Nasser Hussain and in the context of that match and the Edgbaston pitch it was an admirable little innings which made a significant contribution to England's victory.

After being bowled round his legs in the first innings at Lord's, he came in to bat in the second in a situation which required an entirely different approach from that at Edgbaston, which is of course his instinctive way of playing. Now, at Lord's, after England had lost those three wickets before lunch, the progress of the hands on the clock was more important than that of the numbers on the scoreboard.

For all that, Irani was not really able to contain himself. He still went for his strokes, looking to get on to the front foot when he could. In doing so he was suiting the Indians, for he was always giving the bowlers a chance, although as it happened he got away with it for more than two hours.

His strokes were not always as tightly controlled as they should have been in this situation, and it was also most noticeable how strongly his bottom hand comes into play. Too often the right hand took control, which meant that he was playing across the line of the ball, and at this level batsmen cannot afford to do that.

He is not at his best against spin and yet in the second innings he did not play Anil Kumble all that badly, and he had obviously thought about it. Irani is an exciting natural cricketer; if he is to consolidate his place in the England side he must think still more about his batting and learn to become more adaptable - to tailor his batting to meet the requirements of different situations.

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