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Bell in last chance saloon as one-day opening conundrum re-awakens itself

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Bell in last chance saloon as one-day opening conundrum re-awakens itself Empty Bell in last chance saloon as one-day opening conundrum re-awakens itself

Post by Shelsey93 Fri Jun 15, 2012 11:46 pm

Since Nick Knight’s retirement from international cricket at the end of the 2003 World Cup, bringing to an end a successful alliance with fellow left-hander Marcus Trescothick, England have tried a remarkable 35 different pairings at the top of the one-day international batting order. In the nine years that have passed, England have played 203 One-day Internationals but, remarkably, the first option which was tried after Knight’s retirement - Trescothick and Vikram Solanki - remains the partnership that has survived the instinct to change for the longest. Although that itself lasted a mere 20 matches.

The pair that will face the two new balls tomorrow have only opened together on one previous occasion, and have been put together somewhat reluctantly as the England team strive to get over the disappointment of Kevin Pietersen’s retirement from limited overs international cricket - disappointment which has been compounded by the fact that Alastair Cook and Pietersen each struck two centuries, and looked like being England's opening pair for years to come in the UAE.

Nevertheless, Ian Bell’s game, based on timing the ball and scoring a high proportion of runs in boundaries should be ideally suited to the role, in which Pietersen’s success, and that of others around the world including Mahela Jayawardene and Hashim Amla, has proved that proper batsmen are preferable to pinch-hitters. Bell’s ODI career to date has been overwhelmingly disappointing, with a single century from 108 games and an average below 35. But his natural talent, and the fact that he has only just hit 30 years of age, suggests that he is the contender most likely to score the weight of runs that KP would have, and thus that he deserves one last shot.

Cook, on the other hand, can now consider himself to be assured of his one-day place for the first time in his career. The captain has consistently demonstrated that he can adapt his game to the 50-over format in the last year, and his strike rate in the UAE was not far off that of Pietersen, whilst himself striking two hundreds.

Some sections of the media are likely to suggest that Cook, Bell and Trott bat too slowly to make up an ODI top three. But they are wrong on two counts. Firstly, it is a misconception that Cook and Trott in particular are purely ‘plodders’ - a term with negative connotations in this form of the game. Since returning to the side as captain a year ago Cook’s strike rate is almost identical to the supposed ‘dasher’ Craig Kieswetter. Meanwhile, Trott’s average is the seventh best of anyone in ODI history, and comfortably the highest by an Englishman. He may not have the gears to go through that others have, but he sets an invaluable solid base.

The other mistake which is commonly made is to believe that getting off to a quick start is essential to ODI success. This may have become the case for a while some years ago, but the introduction of two new balls and the combined effects of Twenty20 and batting powerplays mean that it has again become preferable to set a strong platform. Going too hard at the top can easily result in fatal collapses, whilst if wickets remain in hand for the last 15 overs just about anything is now possible. Therefore, England are right in assigning power-based cricketers like Jonny Bairstow and Eoin Morgan the role of finisher rather than opener.

Even with the disruption of the latest episode of KP-gate, England should start this particular three match series as favourites. The visiting West Indians have Chris Gayle back in their ranks for the first time in over a year, and also posess an array of exciting, if inconsistent all-rounders. But in swinging conditions it is difficult to see them making big totals against a selection of Anderson, Broad, Finn, Dernbach and Bresnan. The hosts definitely have the upper hand in the bowling department, where the forementioned seamers will be joined by Graeme Swann. West Indies will miss Kemar Roach badly, and will have to pray that Sunil Narine replicates his recent limited overs form rather than his Test Match form.

Just as the opening positions have been passed around by England’s 50 over team, the wicket-keeping gloves have also become the subject of pass-the-parcel in recent years. Kieswetter is the current incumbant, and is likely to start the series with the gloves and batting at six. However, the temptation to hand the gloves to Bairstow could quickly become stronger if Kieswetter fails to find his form. Bairstow has had a tough Test baptism, and could well be on the sidelines at the start of the ODIs. But team management will want him to feature at some point, and he will be keen to replicate his eye-catching debut from the tail end of last summer.

England’s ODI form has been a mixed bag over the last 12 months. But they won their last series, in the UAE, 4-0, and will feel that another whitewash is possible on home soil. Other than the obvious change at the top the selection has been consistent with that particular series. However, should Bell fail to perform here the onus may be on the selectors to come up with a 36th opening pair in less than a decade.


Those 35 opening partnerships since 2003 in full:

Opening partnershipODIs together since the 2003 World Cup
Marcus Trescothick and Vikram Solanki20
Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss17
Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan9
Vikram Solanki and Ian Bell3
Ian Bell and Matt Prior8
Marcus Trescothick and Geraint Jones7
Marcus Trescothick and Matt Prior5
Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior11
Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell6
Marcus Trescothick and Ed Joyce1
Marcus Trescothick and Alastair Cook2
Andrew Strauss and Ed Joyce2
Andrew Strauss and Michael Vaughan3
Andrew Strauss and Mal Loye3
Ed Joyce and Mal Loye4
Ed Joyce and Michael Vaughan6
Ian Bell and Michael Vaughan3
Alastair Cook and Matt Prior9
Matt Prior and Luke Wright1
Alastair Cook and Phil Mustard10
Ian Bell and Luke Wright4
Ian Bell and Alastair Cook1
Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara2
Ravi Bopara and Alastair Cook1
Andrew Strauss and Ravi Bopara10
Ravi Bopara and Joe Denly1
Andrew Strauss and Joe Denly8
Jonathan Trott and Andrew Strauss2
Andrew Strauss and Luke Wright1
Alastair Cook and Craig Kieswetter18
Andrew Strauss and Craig Kieswetter9
Andrew Strauss and Steve Davies7
Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen4
Jonathan Trott and Craig Kieswetter1
Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen4

Shelsey93

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Bell in last chance saloon as one-day opening conundrum re-awakens itself Empty Re: Bell in last chance saloon as one-day opening conundrum re-awakens itself

Post by Corporalhumblebucket Thu Jun 21, 2012 7:35 am

Shelsey93 wrote:
Nevertheless, Ian Bell’s game, based on timing the ball and scoring a high proportion of runs in boundaries should be ideally suited to the role, in which Pietersen’s success, and that of others around the world including Mahela Jayawardene and Hashim Amla, has proved that proper batsmen are preferable to pinch-hitters. Bell’s ODI career to date has been overwhelmingly disappointing, with a single century from 108 games and an average below 35. But his natural talent, and the fact that he has only just hit 30 years of age, suggests that he is the contender most likely to score the weight of runs that KP would have, and thus that he deserves one last shot.

Last two games have pretty much supported that view....

Corporalhumblebucket

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