Ill discipline costs England again

August 21, 2009

flintoffHeard the one about the English batsmen who just couldn’t resist nibbling at balls way outside off stump? It is an all too common occurrence and is the main reason why England fell short of a good first innings total in the deciding Ashes test.

Of course, flashing away outside the off-stump isn’t just a disease to afflict English batsmen, although the problem does appear to be more acute on these shores than any where else.

It’s an epidemic that has spread with the invention and subsequent proliferation of one-day cricket, which encourages the batsman’s need to dominate and unsettle the opposition’s bowlers.

The difference in test cricket is that the bowler is not required by the laws to bowl such a tight line around the stumps and therefore has more weapons in his armoury.

Five of the eight dismals to fall on day one were through players playing loosely outside the off stump. Of the five two can be offered impunity.

Captain Andrew Strauss was undone by a ball which inexplicably held its line instead of swinging in to the left-hander.

And Alastair Cook was delivered a ball that was so close to off stump that had he left it he may well have been listening to the lugubrious sound of the death rattle milliseconds later.

In saying that, Cook’s technique will always leave him more susceptible to nicking one from the right-hander bowling across his bows. Whereas Andrew Straus plays with a straight bat down the line of off stump, Cook plays with an open face and pushes out rather than down the pitch and therefore is guiding the ball directly to the gluttonous slip cordon.

He can learn a lot from his captain.

England’s plight is exacerbated by the profligacy when it comes to going on and scoring big hundreds, just one in the series so far, which brings us to Ian Bell.

He was England’s top scorer yesterday, yes, but he’s now had 32 innings batting at number three for England and has yet to register a century and that includes playing against teams of far less calibre than Australia. It is not good enough and exposes what many see as a mental weakness.

Say what you like about Ravi Bopara, but he scored two centuries in his first two innings in that position.

England’s bowlers will need to be on top of their game if they are to wrestle the initiative back their team’s way.

PHOTO: Andrew Flintoff of England misses the ball during the fifth Ashes test cricket match against Australia at The Oval in London August 20, 2009. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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