Top order worry for England

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This is a game England should have won, having been 215 for one replying to 350 in the first innings, particularly as they took two wickets immediately after putting New Zealand in to bat.

A silly run out, that of Adam Lyth on Saturday evening, in effect cost England the game because they were in control before then.

It is best not to get too up after a victory and too down after a defeat, but there are clearly areas of concern for England ahead of the Ashes series, in particular the form of Gary Ballance and Ian Bell at Nos 3 and 4 respectively.

Lyth played really well here and looks a good player but he will be starting his first Ashes Test in Cardiff next month and you don’t know how he will cope when he faces Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc for the first time.

And if you are following a lad who has played in just two Tests with a three and four who are horribly out of nick, as Ballance and Bell clearly are, then that is a major worry for me.

They should both play in the first Ashes Test, but I have always been concerned about Ballance at three, even when he was averaging 60, and I would look at the batting order.

I would also send them both back to county cricket to try to score as many runs as possible between now and July 8, and also to work on their catching because that has let them down in recent times, too.

Ballance had the worst game imaginable on his home ground — he called Lyth for the single when he was run out, too — but that can happen in Tests because it is a hard school.

The same applies to Joe Root, who had a difficult game after a fabulous run in Test cricket, and he has to make sure he doesn’t get too carried away with his success. The game can always come back to bite you. Another area for concern is that the two big bowlers in Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad appear to think they know better than the team tactics, particularly against tail-enders.

Andrew Strauss used to run up to them when he was captain to remind them of the plans, and if they didn’t want to follow those he would find bowlers who did. Alastair Cook doesn’t do that and he has to be firmer.

There was an occasion in the first innings here when Broad bowled a short, wide delivery that was cut for four. The field was clearly set to try to get Ross Taylor out lbw but Broad just waved a fielder out deep and told Cook he was changing the field. That’s not the way to go.

I would have said: ‘No Stuart, this is the plan, if you can’t bowl to it I’ll take you off. If you want to change it, let’s talk about it later but you’re not setting the plans out here.’

The last area of concern is Moeen Ali, another one who should benefit from returning to his county and bowling a lot of overs for Worcestershire now he has not been picked for the forthcoming five-match one-day series against New Zealand. He needs to prove he is the best spin bowler in the country if he is batting at No 8.

It’s not all doom and gloom and Cook’s batting in this series has been a revelation. He is right back at his best and the mental strength this bloke has shown to come through his blip is to his enormous credit.

What you have to say, though, is that 1-1 is a fair result in this Investec series because New Zealand have been excellent over the two matches and it would have been very harsh on them if they had finished empty-handed.

If the Kiwis had lost this series, they would have dropped down to No 7 in the world rankings, and that would have been ridiculous.

They are a fantastic side who are well led by Brendon McCullum and there is no shame for England in sharing a series with them.

6.87

IAN BELL has averaged just 6.87 runs in his last eight innings for England, producing a top score of only 29. His totals: 11, 1, 0, 0, 1, 29, 12, 1. – Daily Mail

Original source: Top order worry for England

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