A couple of quiz questions, first.
What do the following batsmen have in common: Brian Lara, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Mohammad Yousuf, Stephen Fleming, Sachin Tendulkar, and Virender Sehwag?
Since the start of 2004, each of these players has scored more than one double hundred. Only one England player has made a double hundred in that time, and he only did it once. Who was that man?Bob 'Robert' Key
Bangladesh and Zimbabwe aside, the only country to have scored less than England's single 200 in this time is South Africa. West Indian players have scored a 300 and a 400 in that time, against South Africa and England respectively, so it's not the pitches that are at fault.
But forget South Africa. Nobody cares about them
. To retain the Ashes, England need to bat big. They need players to go on, to get to 50 and then to 100, then 150, then 200. They are very good at getting from 50 to 100, but woeful at pushing on from there. England's average century score since 2004 (130.53) is worse than all but Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Sri Lanka's batsmen average 169.93 in that period if they reach 100.
Again from the start of 2004, England score more 100s per Test than any side but Australia and Pakistan, but they convert less of those to 150s or above than any other major country than (surprise) South Africa. Andrew Strauss is the only current batsmen to have scored more centuries than fifties in Tests (Sehwag has an equal amount), and he's never passed 150
. Kevin Pietersen has only passed 150 once (but what a once
); likewise Collingwood
, Flintoff and Bell.
I'm always wary of pronouncements on how a team needs to play, or what is essential for a team to succeed beyond the obvious. But in Australia, tall scoring is key. The only team that hasn't lost there recently is India - and they did this on the back of some epic innings. Tendulkar and Dravid each made a 200, and every Indian century in that series was over 140
it may have been, but it was also effective.
England don't have the quality of batsmen that India did then, but a top five that each averages over 40 (only one less than 45, one over 50) can't be all bad. It shouldn't be up to the all-rounders
to ensure a big score. So my hope for tonight is this: England bat first and make it count.
Labels: ashes, ashes 2006