England must seize opportunity to remain great

January 4, 2012

by Paddy Briggs

Two years ago England set themselves the goal of becoming the best side in the world under Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower, and it’s fair to save they have accomplished this in some style crushing every side that has stood in their way. The challenge that now awaits this team is to cement their position in the long run, much like the West Indies did in the 1980’s, and Australia in more recent times.

This will not be an easy accomplishment for England with countries desperately wanting to knock England off top spot. One place that England have traditionally struggled is the sub-continent. England will find themselves in Asia for the majority of this winter, when they come up against Pakistan in the UAE before they travel to Sri Lanka for a three Test match series, with salt replacement drinks being the order of the day.

England in recent times have gone in with a strict diet of three seamers, one spinner, and batting Matt Prior at 7. I have no doubt that England will start off with this strategy on the 17th January in Dubai on the first day of the series. However, I don’t think that this is a smart move in these conditions. When England beat Australia in 2005 they were riding the crest of a wave much like they are now. That series in 2005 was followed by a trip to the sub-continent to face Pakistan. England assumed that the same tactics that they had used to defeat Australia would work against what they thought were a lesser nation in Pakistan. However, they came unstuck and were defeated.

I believe England should play Monty Panesar in the UAE. Monty had an excellent season in 2010 for Sussex in division 1 of the County Championship. In hot conditions he will offer England’s seamers a great chance to rest, making sure that when they get the ball in hand they are able to be aggressive in the process. Prior’s form suggests he is good enough to bat at 6 and with the strength of England tail in Bresnan, Swann, and Broad England should not worry about a lack of runs on what should be batsman friendly pitches. The big question is can they take 20 wickets and push Pakistan aside in a similar fashion to that of teams on green hard surfaces.

England need to be a progressive team and a group that takes calculated risks in order to remain the best side in the world. If like after 2005, they go into Test matches with a feeling of looking at the past, then this side can be overtaken very quickly by a hunting pack that includes a hungry South Africa and Australia again.

The Scoop 04/01/2012

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