Eng­land at­tack will need more va­ri­ety for over­seas tours

A suc­cess­ful sum­mer at home should not dis­guise the fact that toil­ing on flat­ter tracks abroad has al­ways been harder

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Cricket - By Tim Wig­more

Af­ter a sum­mer in which they have been sus­tained by the bril­liance of their seam bowl­ing, it felt a lit­tle like the ghost of Chen­nai past. Four years ago, Eng­land toiled for 190 overs in the suf­fo­cat­ing Chen­nai heat, as In­dia reached 759 for seven; that Vi­rat Kohli scored only 15 merely added to the ig­nominy.

Chen­nai was a nadir, but it was no one-off. Over the win­ters of 2016-17 and 2017-18, in In­dia and Aus­tralia, Eng­land con­ceded more than 600 four times in 10 Tests. On three oc­ca­sions, Eng­land won the toss, bat­ted first, scored 400 – and still lost by an in­nings. Across the two se­ries, each wicket cost them over 50 runs apiece.

The Dutch Dis­ease is the idea that the rise of one area – like nat­u­ral gas in Hol­land – can do dam­age to the econ­omy by un­der­min­ing other sec­tors. In Test cricket, there is the “English Dis­ease”. The ex­cel­lence of one as­pect of the bowl­ing at­tack – clas­si­cal English seam – dam­ages the rest of the at­tack by cre­at­ing an over-reliance on seam at home, deny­ing other types of bowlers op­por­tu­ni­ties to develop.

Af­ter the ini­tial se­lec­tion of only one clas­si­cal English seamer in the open­ing Test against West Indies led to de­feat, Eng­land reem­braced their tra­di­tional strength. Stu­art Broad and Chris Woakes have both played all five Tests since; James Anderson has also played five of the six sum­mer Tests.

At home, the three de­liver a re­morse­less at­tack. This sum­mer, Anderson, Broad and Woakes have shared 61 wick­ets at a com­bined 18 apiece; Broad’s per­sonal tally is 29 at an al­most in­de­cent 13. Lit­tle won­der Eng­land’s only Test de­feat of the sum­mer came when two of the trio were ab­sent.

Yet their bril­liance has come at a cost: deny­ing the rest of the at­tack a chance to develop. And how­ever long Anderson and Broad – who is still only 34 – con­tinue their as­tound­ing ca­reers, it is hard to imag­ine the two again lin­ing up to­gether in an away Test. It is al­most in­con­ceiv­able that the two and Woakes will again form a seam trio abroad.

On a slow, be­nign pitch of­fer­ing lit­tle move­ment, the fourth day at the Ageas Bowl of­fered an un­wel­come glimpse of what Eng­land could face when they re­turn to In­dia this win­ter.

Eng­land were never less than dis­ci­plined, as fru­gal as an ac­coun­tant in yield­ing just 1.8 runs an over and not do­nat­ing a sin­gle no-ball or wide. They were in­ven­tive, too. Dom Bess was af­forded an ex­tended bowl. Jofra Archer at­tacked in short spells and Broad tried wob­ble seam. There was just a scin­tilla of re­verse swing.

But by the day’s end it had added up to only two wick­ets in 56 overs. If Eng­land’s at­tack were more dis­ci­plined than dur­ing those in­ter­minable days in In­dia and Aus­tralia, it was scarcely more in­ci­sive.

There is some mit­i­ga­tion. The ab­sence of Ben Stokes as a bowler is most keenly felt in sit­u­a­tions like this. And af­ter their ex­er­tions this sum­mer, Eng­land’s bowlers could be ex­cused some fa­tigue.

Yet it was hard to shake the feel­ing that, for all their progress, Eng­land’s great­est road­block to mount­ing a se­ri­ous claim to re­turn­ing to be­ing world No 1 re­mains. When pitches are flat and clas­si­cal, English seam alone will not suf­fice, they are too of­ten neutered.

It is easy to see the al­lure of Adil Rashid: Eng­land might sel­dom need him at home, but – shoul­der and spirit will­ing – he could of­fer a new di­men­sion on flat­ter tracks over­seas.

And it is easy to see why Eng­land ini­tially wanted to al­low Archer and Wood an op­por­tu­nity to bowl in tan­dem this sum­mer.

Chris Sil­ver­wood termed the day “good prac­tice” for the win­ter ahead. It was un­doubt­edly that – but it hardly felt pro­pi­tious for Eng­land’s prospects when they re­turn to Chen­nai.

Swing when you’re win­ning: Chris Woakes, who has a su­perb record in Eng­land, chal­lenges the tech­nique of Azhar Ali yes­ter­day

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