Saturday, August 10, 2013

England's scoring rate under the microscope

England's poor batting form continued with another poor display at Chester Le-Street that again showed how brittle and bereft of confidence their batting order is.

Whilst Alastair Cook ground out another half century his scoring rate of 31.10 is an issue and Joe Root merely appears to be hanging around waiting to get out with a run rate of 30.77 yesterday. Whilst Cook should be commended for 'hanging in there', in the process of facing 164 balls he is at some point probably going to get a good ball.

Trott scored freely for once and KP attempted to break the shackles in a slightly unhinged way and whilst he faced only 35 balls he was England's 3rd highest run scorer. Crease occupancy is one thing but England have to start finding a way to score runs more freely as they once did.

With the openers scoring at around 2 or less an over it allows the opposition to maintain attacking fields and England's consistently low totals show that this uber conservative approach is simply not working. The openers are offering no platform for the middle order.

Whilst Andrew Strauss was clearly - by his own admission - in decline, his presence as an opener gave England steadiness and direction. England's scoring rates this series have been dismal with the openers as culpable as anyone.

Bell's scoring rate was only 35.29 and Johnny Bairstow's rate of 18.18 belies a man simply trying to survive. By putting no pressure whatsoever on the bowlers, England are making their task with the bat infinitely harder. Both Prior and Bresnan had scoring rates below 30 also, it is simply making it too easy for Australia.

Australia didn't even appear to be bowling particularly well yesterday with line and length trying to be simply adhered to. Bird was bowling with no real pace, Harris looked to be struggling for rhythm early on and Watson was a little wayward yet their economy rates look like something Glenn McGrath would have been proud of.

England's overall scoring rate for the day was 2.64 per over. If England had scored at even 3.25 per over - hardly overly aggressive in the modern game - they would be just shy of 300 and in a much better place.

More scoring shots would also force Australia to adjust their fields in turn taking pressure off England's bogged down batsmen, they need to break the negative spiral.

Whilst if and buts don't win matches and England have retained the Ashes with two tests to spare, some better weather in the last test and England could be facing upto 2-2  by the end of this match with a cliffhanger at the Oval to come. With some luck going the other way in the first test they could have been looking at going 3-1 down. England are going to have severe problems down under if they cannot remedy their batting problems.

Johnny Bairstow will again come under focus and whilst he is clearly struggling, the order above him could do much to help him by getting England into stronger positions before he comes to the crease. His confidence looks entirely shot and only a big score will help him gain any confidence before heading to the Gabba in November if England indeed keep faith with him.

For Australia, whilst the Ashes are gone for this series, it now looks far from a disaster and they must now be feeling far more confident about holding the urn when England depart Sydney in January.

This is of course no team of world beaters, it is the poorest Australian team for 30 years with their own deficiencies with the bat there for all to see. They do however seem to be prepared to knuckle down far more than England, bowling with discipline and playing with a degree of aggression with the bat that England would do well to consider.

It is possible that the pitch is not as good as it looks and only after Australia have batted will we really know but one must suspect that Australia will again have a decent first innings lead - No Nonsense.