Ian Baker - England still lack an opener
10 Aug 2010 - 09:39:44
Another comfortable England win but unfortunately there are yet more reasons to be critical.
Andrew Strauss' side's nine wicket victory over Pakistan was never in doubt after a disastrous first session for the visitors helped them to be bowled out for 72 and end the match as a contest.
I don't think I have ever seen more inept batting than the Pakistani middle order's and that includes watching Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
England themselves continued to do anything but convince people with bats in their hands and there is now serious clamour over Alastair Cook's Ashes place when Ian Bell returns from injury.
Cook's seven Test innings this summer have yielded just 100 runs at an average of 14.28 against the might of Bangladesh and the admittedly threatening Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif.
The Essex opener looked to have sorted his problems outside off-stump on the South African tour where he eradicated the cover drive. He became an ultra defensive player who enjoyed putting away leg side gifts and strong on the pull to both seamers and spinners.
That form continued in Bangladesh where more offside attacking shots returned and it looked like he had corrected a major flaw in his game. But sadly those very problems look to have returned - particularly with the fuller pitched ball.
You can just see the smiles on the faces of Doug Bollinger, Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus already.
I suspect his low key back injury is more serious than indicated but it makes next week's Oval Test very crucial indeed for Cook. Quite simply he needs big runs or risks being dropped for the final Test at Lord's.
One thing saving him is the fact that England have no other natural opener to replace him. Michael Carberry failed to convince on the tour of Bangladesh earlier this year and there are no other openers in the county game worth considering.
Opening with Jonathan Trott or Bell seems like the only alternative but neither are likely to wipe the smile off the face of Bollinger and co.
England probably have six natural No.5s in Trott, Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Paul Collingwood and Ravi Bopara and one of them will have to step up if Cook cannot re-establish his form.
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