0Points to Ponder After Opening Loss

One test in, Eng­land are one-nil down. Well done Pakistan
Hav­ing brushed Sri Lanka aside Eng­land are in the midst of a much stern­er test against an in-form Pakistan. And the vis­it­ors suc­ceeded where many oth­ers have failed of late, i.e. to expose England’s weak­nesses.
Per­haps England’s main weak­ness is a lack of top qual­ity spin­ner. Moeen Ali is use­ful for a good few overs and tends to sur­prise many bats­men and trick them into a false sense of secur­ity. He is, how­ever, a second spin­ner. If he couldn’t bat would he be in the side? Very unlikely. He’s a backup option, not lead the attack mater­i­al. How and why Eng­land have chosen to ignore Adil Rashid amazes me. Over the dec­ades Eng­lish select­ors have shown a reluct­ance to pig leg-spin­ners and Rashid is seen as sus­cept­ible of leak­ing a few runs – but he has proven in ODIs and T20s that he is able to keep it tight. Thank­fully they have at least indic­ated they are will­ing to put this right by nam­ing him in the 13 man squad for the second test. They must pick him – espe­cially as Old Traf­ford tends to offer encour­age­ment to the twirlers. Eng­land have a bit of a selec­tion dilemma on their hands – I sus­pect Ben Stokes and Moeen are fight­ing it out for one place.

Weak­ness two is England’s reli­ance on Jimmy Ander­son and just how much they will miss the Burn­ley lad when he finally hangs up his boots. Jake Ball was latest to give it a go. One test in and it’s a little pre­ma­ture to make defin­it­ive pro­nounce­ments but he appeared to have some­thing about him. It’s imper­at­ive though that Stu­art Broad hangs around for a few more years and Jimmy bids a fond farewell.
Unfor­tu­nately against high cal­ibre oppos­i­tion such as Pakistan Eng­land need every­one fir­ing on all cyl­in­ders. One per­son who cer­tainly isn’t is Steven Finn. He did bowl much bet­ter in the second innings – and bet­ter than his fig­ures sug­gest – and that’s per­haps what’s kept him in the squad for the second test. Without the pace he once had though he will surely make way when the final XII is named.
Someone who is enjoy­ing a purple patch, how­ever, is Chris Woakes. He’s cer­tainly exceeded my expect­a­tions recently and would appear to belong at this level. The boy can bat too – pre­cious runs in the lower order giv­en Broad appears unable to recov­er his form of old – post face hel­met smash.
The jury is still out on James Vince – use­ful runs in the second innings – i.e. when it really mattered (but not enough) count in his favour but he could still do with a decent knock to con­vince the select­ors he belongs at this level.
And finally – the wick­et keep­ing conun­drum. Bair­stow gets in the side as a bats­man and is worthy of that spot. Time will only tell if Eng­land decide to opt for a bet­ter keep­er (Jos But­tler is the next in line but is only mar­gin­ally bet­ter at the glove­work).

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