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March 03, 2009

Strauss refuses to blame bowlers as England are forced to bat our fourth test

The fact that Andrew Strauss has publically backed his under-fire bowling attack after England drew the fourth test with West Indies is no surprise. The England captain is hardly going to admit his attack never looked like taking 20 wickets is he?

Instead, Strauss pointed to the fact that he would struggle to blame his bowlers who ‘tried hard’ on a pitch that offered them very little assistance. He believes that they ‘stuck at their task’ and that their effort cannot be faulted in any way.

This may well be the case. However, the selection of a ridiculously un-fit Ryan Sidebottom has to be questioned. There is just no way on earth he should have played. If England were 1-0 up in the series, perhaps his ‘economical qualities’ would have been valuable.

The fact that England picked him for a must-win game as part of a four-man bowling attack though was ridiculous. What had he done to justify a place? Yes, he was excellent during parts of 2008, but he hasn’t hit those heights in quite a few months.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming Sidebottom. He, as Strauss suggested, will always give his all. The problem being that ‘his all’ on a flat pitch that offers little swing isn’t anywhere near enough.

The selectors knew about his fitness / form problems and they knew that West Indies would probably prepare a very flat pitch. Despite this, they still picked Sidebottom as part of a four man attack. The phrase ‘masters of their own downfall’ comes to mind.

In all honesty though, the selection of Steve Harmison or Amjad Khan probably wouldn’t have affected the outcome. However, Strauss would have been given more variety and Khan in particular would have given the bowling attack a much needed fresh face.

With the West Indies on 281-4 in their innings, England were one decent spell away from getting into the West Indies tail sooner than they did. Perhaps the unknown factor could have resulted in Khan being the man to provide this?

Hopefully he will get the nod for the final test in Trinidad. Harmison seems out of favour and I can’t imagine England going for broke with the same line-up. You never know though and the cricket odds are by no means ruling it out.

Onto a slightly more positive note – Alistair Cook’s hundred. The England opener hit three figures for the first time since December 2007 and has since revealed that the ‘monkey’s now off my back.’

Cook also said that he was now determined to ‘go to Trinidad and get another one’. This is the key as far as I’m concerned. It’s no good getting a hundred in a relatively meaningless innings and then waiting 15 months for the next one.

It is time that Cook kicked on as a test cricketer and started converting his 50’s more often. If your opening batsman is consistently hitting centuries, the team will benefit a great deal.

Overall though, it has been a disappointing tour for the team so far. Cricket betting suggested that they would win the series, but this is now impossible. Instead, they have to win in Trinidad to ensure that they come away with a drawn series.

With another flat track likely, this surely means that some sort of change needs to be made to a seam attack that was totally outshone by an off-spinner on a lifeless pitch.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England cricket


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