When Eoin Morgan came into the England ODI setup England were a weak batting side. The top of the order was slow and obdurate and often left a lot of work for the lower order to do, putting pressure on them to score fast and score big. This often led to the inevitable collapse as run rates fell behind the target and players selected for the ability to hit out got to cheaply. Luke Wright. Ravi Bopara. Jamie Dalrymple. To a lesser extent, Broad and Swann. Whilst the latter two are certainly in the current team or their bowling, and rightly so on merit, you couldn’t help but feel that the lower order was, in some way, being selected to bolster the batting lineup, and in doing so were weakening the bowling.
Fast forward a year or so and Morgan gets poached from Ireland. Finally, England have a solid no. 6 who can come in, assess a situation, bat according to it and not just get out for 8 off 5 having a swing at every ball. in him we found a match winner. A century maker. Someone who will Be There At The End. Much like when KP himself broke into the team But is he good enough for test match cricket.
In English conditions, I don’t think so.
In the IPL and during his one day career so far he has proven himself against spin bowling. On low, slow pitches he thrives, with his inventiveness and quick wrists allowing him to play incredible shots to score in areas other batsmen can only dream of. However, he has shown himself to be weaker against the swinging ball, especially, it appears, in England, where, as we all know, the ball swings the most. Against Australia last winter he plundered some useful runs, and his batting against Pakistan last summer was, admittedly , top class at times. But I think that this was aided by the rose-tinted glasses that his ODI potential has made us wear. I don’t think he is the real deal in test cricket and I don’t think he is currently meriting his place in the team.
At the moment, England have a finely balanced test side. The batting is deep. Stuart Broad, in at 9 in the 2nd test vs. India, has a batting average of around 25. Swann is also very capable with the bat, having 3 first class tons to his name. Compare this to a few years ago when England had a long tail of Flintoff (too high at 6), Jones, Giles, Hoggard, Harmison and Jones. Then throw Panesar into that mix too and you have a tail that could fold in an instant. Now, with Prior coming in at 7 and making big, useful, fast runs, and Bresnan at 8, do we need Eoin Morgan in the side.
When he first came in he was a replacement for Collingwood. Collingwood was a fantastic servant for English cricket throughout his career, often scoring runs when needed and even when his batting failed his fielding was top class and his bowling could be relied upon for 5 or 6 overs Tann innings to let the quicks have a breather before the new ball. When he left the team there was a void in the bowling department that England don’t have the tools at the moment to fill. It i not a big void, but a lurking one. What happens when a front line bowler gets injured?
The only occasional bowler England currently have is Trott. With the greatest of respect for him as a player, his bowling is a bit Phil Neville. He sends it down, there is very little threat, 3-4 runs/over, thank you very much. Collingwood at least had the know how to take wickets.
So having lambasted England for picking bits and pieces players for the ODI side, am I now going to suggest one for tests?
England need reliability, consistency and high quality performers. Therefore solution would be to play 5 bowlers to ensure that at all times there is a strong and capable bowling unit on the field and to help alleviate some of the problems that come from playing too much cricket. Rather than waiting for bowlers to get injured, then replacing them, surely by spreading the load more evenly and reducing the overs bowled by each bowler we will see a higher quality, sustained bowling performance by the England team. But who do we leave out for this extra player?
As I suggested before, when Morgan broke into the team he was playing in a similar style to an early Kevin Pietersen. The team already has one Pietersen. I do not believe it needs a second player of his ilk. At the moment, 1 through 5 seem untouchable. Cook has hit a small blip of the back of a fantastic winter but is still playing well and will, one day, take over from Strauss as captain. Strauss is captain. A good one. He is solid with good plans and a great team to back him up. Trott is one of the best players in the world at the moment. KP has returned to form and Bell just looks in the form of his life. This leaves Morgan to make way from the team to allow the extra bowler.
Sadly, Trott has been ruled out of the third test, allowing Morgan to make his claim to finally nail down his slot. Trott’s replacement in the squad, Bopara, is enigmatic at best, and to my mind should not play. Therefore, to my mind, especially as India have a weakened bowling attack, England can afford the extra bowler and should line up as such on Wednesday: