Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New Model Army

When it came down to a straight choice at Lords between Chris Tremlett and Stuart Broad, I was firmly in the Broad camp. My thoughts were that - based on what I'd seen, read and heard, Broad has the attitude and 'intangibles' to face up to a decent test batting line up - Tremlett doesn't. I still stand by that, admittedly rather sweeping, judgment. It didn't help that Tremlett had apparently been favoured based his performance in the nets on Wednesday afternoon! That smacked too much of the bad old days when that reason was used to justify Ashley Giles playing in a test after only a couple of first class games in twelve months. If that criteria still applies though - I wouldn't like to be a batsman facing Broad in any pre-test net session in the coming weeks. (I've already made a mental note to get to Trent Bridge early on Friday to watch the fun!)

I realise this is very short sighted, and more than a little unfair. Maybe part of the problem is that the trauma of last winter last winter is still very much in the forefront of my mind - and thus everything tends to be focussed purely on summer 2009 rather than the 'here and now'. When a new player, especially a bowler, comes into the frame my immediate thought is 'how will they do against Australia?' - or in India or in Sri Lanka? There have been too many false dawns over the years, too many 'next big things', and too many disappointments and let downs.

Tremlett's body language and performance during the ODIs in Oz were frankly embarrassing, whereas Broad had come in the summer before and shaken up some decent Pakistan batsmen - and given them a mouthful for good measure. Reports from the counties suggested that Broad has 'got what it takes' - and you there's also the fact that Broad Senior was a very good opening bat who had the happy knack of getting hundreds in Australia, whereas Tremlett Senior was a pretty average county medium pacer.

Hats off to Chirs Tremlett, therefore, for his debut performance. With the ball coming down from around ten feet high, you don't have to be lightening quick - though it would help, but he showed excellent control and had a very strong Indian middle order showing him the utmost respect from the word go. On TMS yesterday - Gooch and Ashley Giles were both making the point that he needs to get in batsmens face more. He comes across as almost sheepish though he certainly has a decent teacher to remedy that in his county captain. 'Sheepish' isn't a word in Shane Warne's vocabulary, unless it's describing one of his Aussie teamates girlfriends...

Perhaps it's churlish to carp on one particular point after someone has only played a single test. After all, no one can be expected to set the world alight on their test debut (unless their names are Botham or Trueman) so maybe we shouldn't be so critical, but it's done for the best possuible reasons.

You can only beat what's in front of you at the time. The truth is that, at Lords over the past five days, in old fashioned 'typically English' conditions a very inexperienced attacked exceeded expectations. They bowled as a unit - attacked effectively when they needed to attack, and were disciplined enough to go onto the defensive when necessary - Sideshow Bob especially showed admirable nous, shortening his length when the ball stopped swinging - and the Show Pony was an absolute revelation.

Although one swallow doesn't make a summer. it's safe to say that the biggest positive is that there now appears to be some proper depth to our quick bowling line-up. No one, except perhaps a fully fit Flintoff, can take their bowling place for granted. You have to hope that Saj Mahmood (once he's fit) and Liam Plunkett will take inspiration from this performance and be looking to return to the England set up as soon as they can.

If there's one element of doubt, it has to be that this particular four bowler attack consisted of four number ten batsmen. Although some of what Duncan Fletcher preached seems to have become heresy and sometimes his dogma became a little too rigid (Monty last winter) , you can't argue with his contention of the importance of bowlers being able to bat. Dear old Gilo had his critics, but he was a pretty effective number eight, as he proved many times over the years. it's quite alarming to consider that six down now means that the hutch is open.

Off to Trent Bridge!


Innocent Abroad said...

OMG - we're going to start selecting England fast bowlers on the basis of how good their fathers were as players, are we?

That, Sir, is Whiggery of the most port-encrusted variety - and I thought you were a leftie... oh well.

On the other hand, your point about a "six out, all out" team sheet is spot on - though whether, historically, we've done better when we've had a Giles or a Titmus at No. 8 I've no idea.

Mark said...

Fair comment! The point I was trying to make was that it would be no bad thing if Broad has inherited his old mans attitude and ability to perform well against Australia.