Forgive the delay, I’ve been having an extended cry since we lost the test in such spineless fashion a few days ago.

It is rather painful to write about it, but England went in with a lightweight middle order and got steamrollered, simple as. Prior, for all his flair, is TOO flair to bat at six, and Broad, for all his nice strokeplay, should be batting at eight and concentrating on his bowling, which may or may not have turned a corner. In an encounter which it is better to draw than lose trying to attack (forgive my negativity, it was not misplaced), seven batsmen and four bolwers was the way to go, especially if you have Collingwood and Bopara to bowl pies and take up time. England lost it inside the first hour, which is
pretty awful going by all standards.

Australia did play well, let us not forget. Stuart Clark is a bloody good bowler, especially in England, Johnson is a class act, despite the crap given him by press here and in Australia, Hilfenhaus has been the best bowler for Australia this tour, and Siddle is matching that aggression with good length bolwing for the first time, and reaping
rewards. Watson has batted nicely since coming in, and when you have a middle order of Ponting, Clarke, and the suprisingly effective North, they can afford to carry Hussey a little bit, although he looks like turning the corner as well.

What to do? Ditch Bopara. One day he’ll dominate attacks, but right now his ego is writing checks his technique can’t cash. We can’t pick Ramprakash. He’ll get eaten alive with sledging, and whilst he might come up and beat it, he may well not, and it could derail his hugely enjoyable swansong at Surrey. The same is essentially true of
Trescothick. If the Australians sledge him, he might crack, and if they don’t, his highly active mind could turn him inside out before he faces a ball. The best choice is Robert Key. A shade below a class act, he is nevertheless a good player, and more importantly, would be a tactical and personal leader in an inexperienced team. Strauss
aside, none of the team are know for tactical nous, and Key has it in spades. He has a superb reputation as captain at Kent, and he is the best choice for the team and for balance of the side. I’d keep Bell for no other reason than he has failed less and has the talent today to score runs. Also, there aren’t any non-novices who are viable
replacements.

On the bowling front, a five man attack of Flintoff, Anderson, Broad, Harmison, Onions seems the best bet. I don’t really have any opinion on the turningness of the Oval, as it isn’t what it used to be, but if you wanted a spinner in there, the most obvious drop is Harmison. As a learned colleague of mine just said “There are times when Harmison hasn’t played, and I’ve wished he was there. But then he comes back and just bowls shit.” For that reason alone, I’d play Swann for variety on dead pitch, and because Broad can hit the deck (indeed he does little else now) for us if we need it and if Flintoff collapses. If we’re going to win this, everyone has to bowl well, and of all the people who can bugger things up for us bowling badly, it’s Harmison who is the biggest risk.