Critics must be dropped in England quest for Ashes redemption

Angus Fraser
Saturday 30 July 2005 00:00
Comments

Well, we have seen. Sack Vaughan and make Graham Thorpe captain. Get rid of Geraint Jones - he looks as though he is keeping with a pair of cymbals. England cannot afford to carry passengers - Ashley Giles must go. Ian Bell looks out of his depth - ditch him. Axe Marcus Trescothick and let Vaughan open with Andrew Strauss. Pick Paul Collingwood and drop Andrew Flintoff to No 8.

These are a selection of the comments made in the aftermath of England's 239-run defeat to the world champions. Nobody has held back. Former Australian players - Geoff Lawson and Allan Border - have condemned members of the side, despite having seen very little of them in the last 18 months, and several retired England players have also called for change.

The most outspoken criticism has come from those who naïvely built up England's chances of regaining the Ashes this summer. And as England's last five wickets fell to Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in 50 minutes of demoralising play last Sunday, it could not possibly be they who were wrong. The fault, of course, lay in England's weak, pitiful, pathetic cricketers. Yes, the same fellas who won seven successive Test matches last summer, and 11 out of 14 in 2004.

England's selectors, who will tomorrow announce their squad for the second Test at Edgbaston, have to come up with a side capable of defeating Australia. It may be unlikely, but England can still win the Ashes.

It is to be hoped the selection meeting between David Graveney, Geoff Miller and Duncan Fletcher does not last long. The manner of the defeat at Lord's was disturbing but the selectors have to show faith in the players who turned England into a highly competitive and much admired team. A team that is ranked the second best in the world.

Many cricketers have become better players through not playing against Australia, and Paul Collingwood is the latest. Calls for him to be picked in the Test side have increased since Sunday, and two hundreds for Durham against Somerset at Taunton will only have helped his cause.

Collingwood is a motivated, committed and ambitious cricketer. The 29-year-old makes the most of his ability and is desperate to establish himself on the Test stage. He played two Test matches in Sri Lanka 20 months ago and did well, but it is hard to see the Australians losing any sleep over his selection.

Back to back Test matches against Australia over the coming fortnight may encourage England to name a 13-man squad, but it would come as a surprise if the selectors turned to Collingwood ahead of Robert Key or Ed Joyce.

Joyce, with 1,123 runs at an average of 80, is the highest run scorer in first-class cricket this season and Key - 968 at 60.5 - is fifth. Collingwood has scored 476 runs in his last three first-class innings but Joyce and Key have games which are better suited to Test cricket.

The selectors will be reluctant to add another player to their squad because it does not send out a particularly positive message and it will only lead to speculation before Thursday morning, and this will not help Vaughan's preparations. Before the first Test against Bangladesh the selectors were decisive and Key was omitted for Bell. And they were again last week, when Thorpe was left out.

If any of these batsmen were to play it would be at the expense of a bowler. Being dismissed twice for less than 200 is not good enough but through picking Geraint Jones England are playing seven specialist batsmen. This should be enough and dropping a bowler would reduce England's chances of completing the goal they need to achieve at least twice in the next four Tests - taking 20 Australian wickets.

Giles struggled at Lord's. Australia's batsmen did not let him settle, and they are unlikely to for the remainder of the series. It is part of their plan. If Giles is hit out of the attack they know that Vaughan will be forced to bowl Andrew Flintoff and Stephen Harmison more than he would like, thus reducing their effectiveness.

Giles took nine wickets against the West Indies at his home ground 12 months ago and he should be given at least one more opportunity to redeem himself.

Likely team for second Test

M P Vaughan (Yorkshire, capt)

M E Trescothick (Somerset)

A J Strauss (Middlesex)

I R Bell (Warwickshire)

K P Pietersen (Hampshire)

A Flintoff (Lancashire)

G O Jones (Kent, wkt)

A F Giles (Warwickshire)

S P Jones (Glamorgan)

M J Hoggard (Yorkshire)

S J Harmison (Durham)

Twelfth man: C T Tremlett (Hampshire)

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