In the aftermath of the fifth One Day International, the team at 51allout sit down for a collective brainstorm. Pencils- and a few knives- are sharpened, heads are scratched and the scorer’s notes are interrogated.
One of our Indian members (Ravinder) starts by recommending that England should settle on an opening pair, and stick with them. The openers set the course for the rest of the innings and should be specialist, i.e. England must not attempt to convert middle order batsmen; moreover chopping and changing doesn’t benefit anyone. Dan disagrees, and wonders if it is worth re-examining the experiment with Pietersen as opener, though Ravinder insists Pietersen should bat at 3. At this point Al put his tongue firmly in cheek and stated that we should continue with a keeper, any keeper, opening. It worked for the Australians with Adam Gilchrist, therefore it must work for us. Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc, as President Josiah Bartlet or anyone with a basic grasp of Latin would say.
Matt L thinks the time is right for James Taylor to be given a long run in the middle order, but declines to state who should be dropped. His silence on the matter speaks volumes and everyone else nods in agreement: it’s curtains for you, Bopara my dear. Dan suggests that one feasible solution would be too shuffle the metaphorical deckchairs (though to continue the metaphor, England are far from being the sinking Titanic, rather a rubber dinghy with a slow puncture), give Jonny Bairstow the wicket-keeping gloves and entrust Ben Stokes to bowl ten overs. Riv pipes up, saying that he would like Pietersen to be rested from ODIs and retained for Test cricket only.
Carlos believes a complete overhaul is needed, pointing out England only win thanks to Duckworth Lewis and the British climate and weather. He has long-term doubts about Cook and Pietersen, he thinks Patel is far from being our second best spinner (although his good series with the bat is acknowledged), doubts Kieswetter should be selected still and suggests that if Bopara is stuck with, then it should be as a bowler who can bat a bit, and not the other way around.
Nichael also demands ruthless changes to the team. He declares Pietersen and Bell to be both living on past glories and describes Bopara “as a fungal infection that you just can’t shift.” He fancies that the ODI team should be significantly different to the Test side and sees a long-term role for Bairstow, Buttler and Stokes. James questions this policy though, asking if both Buttler and Bairstow are good enough to warrant a place in the side, particularly if captain Cook, Trott and Morgan are to be regarded as certainties.
James then grabs the conch (nb: there isn’t actually a conch) and continues. He points out that England had been doing rather well aside from this series and the Australian series; he also says that none of Trott, Pietersen and Bell should be discarded just for the sake of experimenting. He shows some stats to back this up: the ODI record under Andy Flower is better than in the preceding years: 34 wins and 32 losses in 72 matches, compared with 29 v 37 in the previous 72.
Who should keep wicket has long been a focus of our discussions, and so it is again. Denzel advocates a return for Matt Prior, “because however poor his ODI record may be, he’s more than good enough to play the Dhoni role if we give him stability in there.” However Riv opines that Craig Kieswetter has been one of the few success stories of the last 18 months. Al strongly disagrees, pointing out his average is down to 29.96 and his keeping is getting worse.
Steve explains that taking wickets is crucial in ODIs, as a means to reduce the run-rate and increase the chance of victory. In his view, Kieswetter’s dropped catches and missed stumpings show that he is not good enough in this key area, albeit he does occasionally take some stunning catches off the quick bowlers. Steve thinks Kieswetter’s batting record is okay, insofar as three times out of five he’ll get a decent and quick start to the innings. On balance though, he would prefer a recall for Prior, at which point Nichael stops quaffing cider, puts down his plate of cheddar and stands up for his Somersetian / South African man. “Prior should have scored some runs, if he wanted to play more games to be fair,” he says. Meanwhile Dan whispers something about James Foster and Matt H mentions Steve Davies being the forgotten man in all this.
Denzel turns his attention to the bowlers. He considers a long-term bowling unit should be chosen, and stuck with. The constant shuffling of players results in players declining to take responsibility at difficult times, similar to the Test team of the 1990s. Selecting Broad, Woakes, Swann and Finn as the core bowlers would help, he says, with Bresnan filling the no. 7 spot as an all-rounder. Brendan Nash nods in agreement.
Al thinks James Anderson should be kept solely for Tests, but he assumes Dernabch will be persisted with, though he should be encouraged to bowl quick with the occasional slower ball and not vice-versa. There is at least depth in the bowling, though whether the likes of Shahzad, Onions or Woakes can be reliable in ODIs remains to be seen. Dan encourages innovation in the bowling, as the team have been too formulaic in recent weeks.
Steve then takes the ECB to task for the domestic setup. Is having a 40-over competition causing England problems in the international 50-over game? Everyone rubs their chins, sagely.
So the only consensus formed is that Cook, Trott (albeit perhaps he could learn to accelerate in the final overs of the innings), Morgan, Bresnan, Broad and Swann are the definite picks.
And then, as talk turns once again to potential all-rounders, Adrian Mascarenhas and Luke Wright are both mentioned. It’s going to be a long night…