Don Topley: Some harsh words helped stir England back to winning ways
In his latest column, Don Topley discusses the inconsistencies in the England team – and the harsh words which helped them avenge their first Test humbling by Pakistan.
Could the real England cricket team please stand up?
England did everything required of them at last week’s Headingley Test. They avenged the previous week’s humiliation at Lord’s and levelled the series with Pakistan with a dynamic innings and 55 run win in another three-day Test.
Joe Root and his boys attracted much criticism for their pitiful performance last week before, with the new Head of Selectors Ed Smith’s honeymoon period all but over.
This new era of English international cricket heralded some interesting selections, none more so than Jos Buttler returning to the fold and then the selections of others who went away to the IPL.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out why two proper Test Match bowlers have gone down injured, having bowled just four over spells for the previous two months in the IPL. These injured bowlers are no longer in England’s immediate plans for the white ball series with Scotland and Australia.
A five-day Test Match will demand bowling in excess of 20 overs an innings or possibly 40 overs a match.
England really only had to bowl in one innings in their poor defeat at Lords but bowled many more in the win at Headingley, where they clinically bowled Pakistan out twice.
Being on the field for six hours a day, for five days, is hugely demanding on the body, much more so than an intensive T20 (three hours) and bowling four overs.
Put simply, Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes may be strong, but returning to England, Stokes and Woakes were not bowling fit or ‘fit for purpose’ for a Test Match.
With England enduring another poor winter at Test cricket – to be exact having lost 22 out their last 40 Tests with no win in eight – our batting has been poor.
Mark Stoneman has gone, replaced by Keaton Jennings. Joe Root, whilst averaging a healthy 55 since being made captain, is desperately short of Test Match winning innings – ‘Daddy Hundreds’.
In reality, Root was thought of in the very top bracket of the world’s best batsmen, but his stock has plunged below that of Virat Kolhi, Kane Williamson and even the Aussie bad boy, Steve Smith.
Root is good enough to get back to that fantastic level, but he will need some serious soul-searching and that possibly happened with him and his team at Lord’s after the defeat.
Apparently there were some serious, harsh and honest words spoken in the dressing room by Root and coach Trevor Bayliss – and rightly so.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad bowled so much better at Leeds too, after Broad shared some angry words with former captain, Michael Vaughan.
Vaughan is everywhere these days – BBC, BTSport, ABC – and with such a high profile he is extremely opinionated. He proposed England should think of dropping one or both senior bowlers.
Broad phoned Vaughan (his former captain) and let him have both barrels. Whatever was said in the Lord’s dressing room, it wasn’t as motivational as the Vaughan/Broad exchange.
Vaughan is now laying claim that his telephone conversation resulted in the “desired effect”.
We are in modern times where non-stop flying and playing immediately in all the various formats of cricket is becoming the norm. We may not like it but that’s 2018 professional cricket.
This is what makes the bold selection of Buttler so remarkable. Jos was in great form at the IPL and his surprise return to Test Match cricket was a stunning success.
He has made two notable scores in his three innings: 67 and an 80 not out, batting down the order. Why did he succeed? Clearly, everyone selected to play Test cricket is extremely talented and probably works incredibly hard as they all do!
But Jos is an intelligent man and also a cricketer full of character – I like them! Buttler is measured, quite calm, very down to earth and has something about him which you cannot buy – character.
People suggest new boy, Dom Bess, just 20-years-old, is also full of character – no nerves, cannot wait for game time and just wants to be fully involved in every moment of the day, like a puppy!
He fielded like a ‘caged tiger’, batted heroically as ‘nightwatchman’ and bowled (his proper role) with some success.
Onto the next one then, and the real main course of the summer - the five-match Test series with India. Which England side will show up then?