Ben Stokes would be well-advised to seek an England bowler with genuine pace. This move would result in splitting Anderson and Broad which will cause an uproar, but it’s the right move as their attack needs to get younger
Stuart Broad (left) and James Anderson, England’s tried and tested fast bowling pair. Pic/Getty Images
Finally someone in the England set-up has vocalised one of the team’s biggest failings. When England’s new coach, former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum emphasised to his bowlers “Don’t focus too much on economy rates, I want wickets,” he was applying Test cricket commonsense. To sum up Test cricket simply, batsmen need to score sensibly in order to give the bowlers as long as possible to take the 20 wickets required for victory. England’s better bowlers often place containment above the more important priority of taking wickets. In plain language, I’ve never seen a batsman—no matter how good—who scores runs that appear in a scorebook while he’s sitting in the pavilion having been dismissed.
Need a balanced attack
Top-class batsmen can’t be contained out in the middle. Eventually they find a way to score at an acceptable rate. That’s one reason why they are rated as dangerous players. As good as they are, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad have both been guilty, especially overseas, of focusing too much on the economy rate. That’s why Ben Stokes needs to concentrate on their meritorious wicket-taking capability more than listening to quick-response talk of containment.
Another England problem— which was evident at Lord’s—is they have a very good seam attack, well-suited to home conditions. However, what England desperately require is a workable plan against the better sides when a pitch is flat. This is where it helps to have a balanced attack with a mixture of swing and spin but definitely containing at least one good genuine pace bowler.
A team can gain a dubious reputation amongst opponents and currently England are known as a side that can be forced on the defensive by counter-attacking lower order batsmen. Stokes has to alter this perception. This requires courage and despite the injury toll, he would be well-advised to seek an England bowler with genuine pace. This move would result in splitting Anderson and Broad which will cause an uproar, but it’s the right move as England’s attack needs to get younger.
Anderson is generally the better bowler and if fit, he should remain the first choice player in England. This is where England become too emotional and consequentially fail to select their best combinations. Almost immediately at Lord’s England felt the pain of requiring a substitute when Jack Leach was ruled out of the game with concussion. Rather than lament the situation England should look upon it as a lucky breakww; it’s time to move forward rather than look backwards to resolve the lack of good spinners. If this is a county cricket problem it is the concern of others.
A mammoth task
What the Stokes/McCullum combination has to do is ensure they choose the likely winning players and then provide them with the confidence to think positively. This is a mammoth task in itself and it won’t happen overnight. But it will require the forthright thinking and talking for which both are renowned.