19 December 2010

England selection for Melbourne

With Australia levelling the series in Perth, attention is suddenly on the make up of the England side - amazing how one result shifts focus. While last week I was defending Ponting and Clarke, this week it looks like it will be the likes of Collingwood and Finn!

Paul Collingwood

Let's start with Collingwood. England have chosen to go with 4 bowlers which means they pretty much have to play Collingwood. He's proven that his canny medium pacers can do more than give the main bowlers a rest - he really should have had 2 wickets in Australia's 2nd innings in Perth if Swann could catch. He also went at a miserly 0.5 runs per over. In any team with four bowlers, there has to be a batsman who can be relied on for a few overs and Collingwood is that man for England.

Now let's look at Collingwood's fielding. He's the best allround fielder in the England side - people like Bell and Anderson (and Morgan) are as athletic but less good catchers...people like Strauss are as good catchers but less athletic. And given Andy Flower's emphasis on statistical analysis I expect he has a metric of some sort to demonstrate that Collingwood's value in the field is second-to-none - we'll never know if Ponting would have gone on to a huge innings but for Collingwood's one handed stunner, but he may well have done.

And finally the batting, which I've deliberately left until last because it's the two paragraphs above which clinch why Collingwood should be selected. Morgan is the anti-Collingwood - ultra-talented but a little loose - they have two completely different styles. I would put them as equals in terms of Test match batting, but I know which of the two I'd want batting for my life.

So for me - and I'm sure Andy Flower - it has to be Collingwood, but it's possible they'll look at moving him to 6 given Bell's good form. I'd consider that as an option for two reasons....first, Bell doesn't seem at his best when batting with the tail. He's always looked class but he starts to play pretty strange shots when with 10 and 11 and, although there's been much talk about him running out of partners, he was the 8th wicket to fall in the 1st innings in Perth. And in Brisbane in the 1st innings he was the 9th wicket to fall when Anderson was holding up an end nicely for him. I've Burbled before about how top-order batsmen get their tactics wrong when batting with the tail, and I think Collingwood is more likely to get that right. The second reason is of course Bell's good form. He's not in Michael Hussey world-beating form, but he's looking a class act and averaging 71.

Steve Finn

I couldn't work out if Finn was fully fit at Perth. He grimaced a few too many times and his run up - which is never that fluent at the best of times - looked laboured. He bowled too short and leaked runs, but he's the leading wicket-taker in the series. He's 21 and the odd poor performance shouldn't mean he gets dropped. But Broad's absence demonstrates that without him England's tail is longer than we've got used to in the last couple of years and Bresnan would certainly strengthen that area.

For me it all comes down to fitness - if Finn is fit then he needs to play in Melbourne and bowl at the top of off. If he isn't fully fit then pick Bresnan and take the benefits he offers, which is more swing and a stronger batting line up. But with 7 batsmen (after all I don't think anyone in England would suggest that Prior is Foster's equal at wicket-keeping), England shouldn't be worrying too much about the bowlers' batting capabilities.

So fitness excluded, the same side again for England at Melbourne. It won't stop there being a huge amount of talk in the press about possible changes though!


Muttley said...

I fully agree with what you are saying. It certainly doesn't look like Finn is fit - he was down on pace in the 2nd innings a Adelaide too - but if he is, he should play.

As for the batsmen, I also agree Collingwood should stay, for now. It isn't the time to bring Morgan in, despite Colly's poor form. However, I think he is nearing the end of his Test career. He has always been a player that has good spells and poor spells, but his patches of good form are getting shorter and fewer and far between. One top of that, Bell now seems to have finally got some steel to his game, which means Colly shouldn't be missed as much. Whilst his fielding and bowling are useful, it isn't enough to warrant him a place in the long-term - England should develop another plan by working on Trott and Bell's bowling.

So, I hope Colly plays and gets runs in Melbourne and Sydney, but for me that's the end for him. After the Ashes is the right time to bring in new players.

Ed said...

I see Michael Vaughan is suggesting a change of batting order for the same two reasons - Bell's form and Collingwood's batting with the tail.