With summer on our doorstep and plenty of cricket on the way, we had a chat with The Full Toss blog to see what the summer has in store for us...
Have you been keeping up with England’s cricketers? This time last year, England were staring down the barrel at an Ashes series against a heavily favoured Australian team, and seemed to be far from their best. Fast forward twelve months, and not only did Alastair Cook and co take down the Aussies, but they’ve reeled off test series victories against Sri Lanka and South Africa too, and were beaten finalists at the ICC World T20 in India earlier this year.
With summer on our doorstep and plenty of cricket on the way courtesy of Sky Sports, we sat down for a chat with James Morgan – Editor of The Full Toss blog – to see what the summer has in store, and if the sun will continue to shine on English cricket.
A successful twelve months…
“I think they’ve done really well!” says James, when we ask him to assess England’s last twelve months. “They’re not the finished article by any means, and a couple of spots in the team are still up for grabs, but results have definitely improved since the Australian, Trevor Bayliss, became head coach last year.
“The test series win in South Africa was a major achievement,” he continues. “England were a little lucky because South Africa’s two opening bowlers picked up injuries, but the team still exceeded expectations. Since then we’ve reached the final of the World T20, which was another pleasant surprise, and we’ve just beaten Sri Lanka at home in what was always going to be a one-sided series.”
Next up, England face Sri Lanka in a five match One Day International series. You can watch every game on Sky Sports over the next two weeks, and if the first game of the series was anything to go by there will definitely be some fireworks, with England’s Liam Plunkett smashing the last ball of the game for six to rescue a draw for England.
“Sri Lanka will be a tougher nut to crack than they were in the test series, but I still expect England to win,” says James. “Although our bowling attack isn’t brilliant, and lacks a bit of pace and experience, we should have more than enough batting firepower.
“I still think we’re better at test cricket than limited overs cricket, but we’re definitely improving in the shorter forms of the game,” he continues. “England had a somewhat old-fashioned approach to one-day cricket under Ashley Giles and then Peter Moores, which led to humiliation at the last World Cup, but we’re now playing more aggressively.
“I still think we’re better at test cricket than limited overs cricket…”
“That said, I think our recent success in one-day cricket has actually been a little exaggerated. We’ve certainly improved, and we’re playing a more attacking style, but people forget that we lost our last three ODIs in South Africa and lost the series 2-3 after winning the first two matches. We also lost the two subsequent T20s.”
Consistency has certainly been a problem for this side, and although England’s batting and fast bowling line-ups have improved in that area, there’s still a real gap when it comes to quality spin bowling – which is particularly vital at test level.
“England’s main problem is a dearth of quality spin bowlers,” says James. “Moeen Ali has done reasonably well considering that he’s primarily a batsman, but he hasn’t quite progressed as much as I’d hoped. Adil Rashid has bowled relatively well in the limited overs games, but he seems to bowl too many bad balls to be effective in test cricket.”
“Our lack of a world-class spinner is really going to make life tough this winter…”
“Our lack of a world-class spinner is really going to make life tough this winter, and there are some tougher challenges coming up,” he says. “England go to India in November, which is always difficult, and next winter we’re defending the Ashes in Australia. I think we’ll know a lot more about the strength of English cricket after those tours.”
Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. “England are a dangerous team whatever format they’re playing,” says James, and this England side still features some of the world’s finest players, across all formats of the game.
“The bulk of England’s current XI is young enough to keep playing for a few years yet,” he adds. “The likes of Joe Root and even Alastair Cook have plenty of test cricket ahead of them too. Jonny Bairstow has improved dramatically as a batsman, though his keeping still needs some work, and the one-day team is lifted enormously by Jos Buttler, who is a star in limited overs cricket.”
In Joe Root particularly, England have a man who is “undoubtedly one of the five best batsmen in the world,” says James.
“I think he’s the best young English batsman we’ve produced since Graham Thorpe,” he continues, “but it’s important not to go over the top. We’re playing in an era where pitches are generally flat and batting averages are much higher than in previous years. Young Joe is certainly very talented though, I just hope he can stay fit! The test side relies too heavily on him and Alastair Cook at the moment, and he has a niggling back injury that might shorten his career.”
The future is bright…
Although the future promises some tough tests for England’s cricketers, James believes the future is bright for England cricket. Not only does the side have a young core of players that can grow into a formidable unit in all forms of the game, but England will be playing a lot of cricket at home, where they have always been extremely hard to beat.
“The next two big international tournaments – the Champions Trophy and the World Cup – are both going to be held in England,” says James in closing. “To be honest, we’ve got a good chance of winning both. England are usually strong at home and we finally have some big hitting batsmen who can turn games in our favour. It’s certainly an exciting time to be an English cricket fan.”
You can find more of James’ musings, and follow along with the latest happenings from the cricketing world at The Full Toss blog.