ODI Cricket: England can prosper in long-term
Australia have been quick to gain a small measure of revenge for their Ashes defeat as they have beaten England 5-0 in their first five One Day International matches, and have their eyes set firmly on a 7-0 whitewash as a small manner of swift retribution.
When England captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower described their Ashes Victory as a ‘stepping stone’ I doubt whether even they would have expected their words to have been backed up quite so emphatically by their deeds in this One Day series.
Compared with their Australian counterparts, the England One Day team have stood firmly in contrast, reliant on Andrew Strauss in the batting department (how often have we said that this summer?), and hoping for Australian wickets to fall, lacking a figurehead strike bowler in the manner of Mitchell Johnson or Brett Lee.
For watchers of England in One Day cricket these results should not be surprising, one Ashes victory does not overnight immediately transform a One Day team which has appeared ill-equipped and incapable of challenging for years.
Neither Flower nor Strauss is to blame, for this is a problem which dates back to the halcyon days of England under Duncan Fletcher and Michael Vaughan.
While in this series, certainly question marks can be raised. Selection has, at times, appeared confused. For instance, the decision not to select Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott – both fine One Day cricketers for Warwickshire, and instead opt to persevere with Matt Prior at number three, and an out-of-form Ravi Bopara and Paul Collingwood is mildly baffling.
Meanwhile on the bowling front. There was the horses-for-courses selection of Bresnan over Rashid-who had enjoyed a fine start to the series at the Oval-for the second and third matches, and then the decision to reinstall Rashid again but this time at the expense of Swann on a pitch which offered Nathan Hauritz enough turn to be a threat.
While at times the thinking has been confused, the opportunities haven’t been missed. And although England’s lack of wins in this tournament is depressingly familiar for England fans, there are some silver linings on very dark clouds.
The selections of promising duo Joe Denly and Adil Rashid, along with the highly promising middle order batsman Eoin Morgan, hint at an England team who are hoping to build for the future.
Denly, who started the One Day programme top-scoring with 67 against Ireland, has endured a rough ride since then. Dismissed for a duck in a 20/20 international, injured while playing football and then caught for 11 aiming a cut at a wide ball, it is hardly the stuff of legends compared to other international debuts, but followed up with a fine 45 before being caught trying to accelerate the run rate.
But simply his selection is an exciting choice. Denly has long been mentioned as a future England opener, who aggressive play and ability to hit over the top has been compared to a young Marcus Trescothick, no bad thing there.
Meanwhile the selection of Rashid is another exciting choice. Since he made his County debut Rashid’s path to the England team has appeared almost inevitable. Wrist-spinning all rounders do not often appear in England, but Rashid’s arrival has sent tongues wagging.
Fine form in the county championship (a century and a five wicket haul in two matches running) and the fall of Monty Panesar have made his selection possible. While his start was more prosperous than Denly’s, a challenging spell of leg spin and a flurry with the bat that almost brought England home, he too struggled in his latest outings, managing to get wickets but generally proving expensive.
But the selection of these two, while not guaranteeing England immediate success, proves that the selectors of England are taking a long-term strategy to improve England’s short-term fortunes.
While their debuts have hardly been auspicious, often that is the case. For if England are to allow these players the time to grow into their roles, then it is inevitable that there will be some growing pains along the way.
But their arrivals hint at long-term investment, at building for the future to ensure that England, despite their recent struggles, can ultimately prosper in the long-term.
Both England’s captain and coach described their Ashes victory as a stepping stone towards greater things, and so it has been proved. While their current one day performances have shown them how far they still have to go, England are slowly but surely building towards getting there.