A gradual but inevitable descent into cricket-based loathing and bile.

Don’t It Always Seem To Go, That You Don’t Know What You Got Til It’s Gone?

Posted on May 27, 2011 by in Opinion

Joni Mitchell sang that. Other than her narrow-minded viewpoint on city centre car parks and allowing the awful Counting Crows to cover her material, Joni had the right idea.

Today, we saw for the first time that the retirement of Paul Collingwood could hit England harder than at first anticipated. By the end, Collingwood looked like he was batting with a toothpick. Not so much Brigadier Block as Lieutenant Leg Side Hoick. But Collingwood was not just a batsman – he was a fabulous fielder, a useful bowler and in his own understated way, a leader and a motivator. His replacement Eoin Morgan falls short on various levels here.

England’s performance in the field in Sri Lanka’s first innings was sloppy, not just by their own high standards as established during The Ashes, downright sloppy. It isn’t Morgan’s fault that Alastair Cook is not an ideal replacement at third slip. It’s not Morgan’s fault that Kevin Pietersen continues to be a drama queen in the field with his needless dives and wild throws back to the keeper. It isn’t Morgan’s fault that Andrew Strauss, worthy fielder in his own right that he is, is not a specialist slipper to Graeme Swann. But the fact remains that Morgan himself is a poor fielder. His ODI appearances, and indeed those in the IPL, have been characterised by simple dropped catches, he’s not an agile man and already in this match we’ve seen three errors it’s unlikely Collingwood would have made; two very poor run out attempts on Thursday (the first more glaring than the second) and a sharp chance offered at point today that he never looked like snaffling.

Secondly, Morgan does not bowl at all. This has left England without a recognised fill-in option in the current six batsmen/four bowlers set-up. Jonathan Trott picked up a fortuitous run-out off his own bowling today but generally his spell was way below test quality, and it’s fanciful to suggest that Pietersen can become a viable option for a prolonged spell on anything but the most spin-friendly surfaces. The absence of Ravi Bopara, who has frequently bowled in excess of 20 overs an innings for Essex this season, is telling. He’s not going to inspire fear in batsmen, but nor is he going to bowl 70mph long hops. The lack of a true back-up bowler could also lead to overworking of the seamers, particularly pertinent with James Anderson missing much of the final session, though he was fit enough to take on his nightwatchman duties at the close of play.

Finally, Morgan is a newcomer to the team. He doesn’t seem a particularly vocal character and has limited first-class experience. One wonders how his team-mates feel about his eschewing of the county circuit in the last few weeks for the easy money of the IPL and his threats to return to India should he have not been selected for this match. Collingwood’s commitment to England, despite being an IPL player, could never be questioned, and his nous and experience was often vital when trying to break a stubborn partnership.

Of course, the Irishman could crack a spectacular century, as is his wont, during England’s innings and all will seem well. However, this writer will still long for a scrappy little 35 from a ginger Mackem fielding genius.

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