England pass first test in long summer of cricket

Felix Keith believes there were a lot of positives to take from the three-format defeat of the West Indies, but that much sterner tests are set to arrive with series against Australia and South Africa to come...

Ian Bell took advantage of Kevin Pietersen's retirement from limited overs cricket with an ODI hundred against the West Indies

As expected England were simply too good for the West Indies in every format of the game, but now sterner tests are on the horizon.

England began their summer campaign in a predictably dominant fashion as they brushed aside West Indies on the Test, one-day and Twenty20 stages. England excelled in every aspect of the game, with yet again the bowling attack being especially impressive and the batsmen contributing big scores when it mattered most.

Perhaps most encouraging, after Kevin Pietersen’s international retirement from ODI and T20 cricket, was how the chosen replacements for each format repaid the faith of the selectors with magnificent innings. Ian Bell, having previously been written off as a one-day batsman, gave everyone a reminder of his supreme talent and stroke-making ability by scoring 126 off 117 balls in majestic fashion at the Ageas Bowl in the first ODI. Similarly, Alex Hales grasped his opportunity to open the batting in the one T20 at Trent Bridge, recording the highest score by an Englishman in the shortest format in the process. Unfortunately for him, and his home crowd in Nottingham, this was 99, but despite the disappointment he is sure to have secured a place for the future. It seems that Pietersen might have done others a favour with his untimely retirement – maybe it was time he allowed the talented younger generation a chance.

Strength and depth; that phrase seems particularly apt in describing England’s bowling attack. England seemed more skilful, more consistent and more threatening than their West Indian counterparts. They had specific plans for each batsman and perhaps with the exception of Marlon Samuels, restricted their run scoring and removed them early. The young promising batsman that were identified as threats before the series largely disappointed. For example, Kirk Edwards scored just eight runs in four Test innings before being dropped. Darren Bravo, touted as the next Brian Lara, showed flashes of talent, but also struggled in English conditions against the swinging ball.

In contrast, England’s bowlers shared the wickets between them with the seam attack of Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Tim Bresnan wreaking havoc. England were even comfortable enough to rotate the squad in the third Test allowing Steven Finn and Graham Onions to come into the Test side. With first Australia and then South Africa boasting impressive top orders, England will need to continue their form with the ball and use home conditions to their advantage. One thing is for certain: the coming series will provide a sterner test.

Australia will arrive on Friday to Lord’s for the first of the five match ODI series. They are the number one ranked team in the world, with England currently fourth. The experience of captain Michael Clarke will be backed up by consistent performers like Shane Watson and Ben Hilfenhaus. England will be full of confidence and it is certain to be an interesting series, but it does have the feeling of a precursor to the more anticipated South Africa encounter.

South Africa boast an extremely formidable batting line up coupled with a dangerous, quick and aggressive bowling unit. Batsmen like Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla will provide the resoluteness and further down the order Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers the fire power. However, it is the bowling attack that really draws intrigue to the series: the combination of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel accompanied by Jacques Kallis is a mouth-watering one and will provide a thorough test for England’s batsmen.

England have passed the first test and will be confident of completing a perfect season. The toughest two teams in ODI and Test cricket await them next.

Felix Keith

Felix Keith is a sport writer and studies ancient history at the University of Birmingham. (@FelixKeith)



Published

27th June 2012 at 12:07 pm



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