Monday, May 14, 2007

A four-man attack

So, Andrew Strauss has been appointed captain and Matt Prior is the new wicket-keeper. Moreover, Liam Plunkett has been selected over James Anderson and Saj Mahmood.

The only question left, as far as I can see is that time-old cricketing question: should we pick an extra batsman or an extra bowler?

There is talk regarding Andrew Flintoff’s poor form in the bat must entail some kind of demotion. Does that mean we select six specialised batsman, shift Andrew Flintoff down to seven, with Prior, Matthew Hoggard, Monty Panesar and Steven Harminson to follow?

This leaves only four specialist bowlers, with Paul Collingwood and whoever else to contribute if things get desperate.

England did OK with four bowlers last season, when Flintoff was injured. Arguably, with weaker bowlers (Anderson, Mahmood, etc.) and stronger opposition. There were some instances when England lacked penetration, and struggled to take vital wickets. But it is hard to see how extra bowlers would provide this.

On the other hand, we can persist with Flintoff at six and miss out on more runs, but retain the extra bowling option – by bringing in Plunkett, who can also bat a bit.

To be honest, either option is not going to change the course of the series. The West Indies’ unpractised bowlers are not going to trouble five specialist batsman, and I doubt their ill-disciplined batsman will always get the better of four England bowlers.

As such, the make-up of the side should be determined by future considerations: do we want to develop Owais Shah, or Plunkett? Do we want to increase Flintoff’s confidence as captain? Do we want to wait to give a “fair run” to a player?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but buy me a few drinks and I may be able to come up with something.

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