England may go with Steve Finn (left) ahead of an out-of-form Stuart Broad in Kolkata © Getty Images
Banking on the deception of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann, England trumped India in the second Test of the four-match series at Mumbai and gave them a taste of their own medicine. Bowling in tandem on a turner at the Wankhede Stadium, the tweakers picked up 19 Indians – players who are known to play spin well. The famed English pace attack didn’t have much of a role to play as the spinners completely dominated the contest. That performance camouflaged the fast-bowlers – a department that hasn’t performed so well off late. Andy Flower and the team management would be bit concerned even as England rejoice their victory.
During England’s rise to the top of the Test rankings last year, their fast bowlers played a critical role and helped them win a number of Test matches. With a number of options, they seemed to have depth as an injured player would be seamlessly replaced by someone waiting in the wings. In 2012, England have majorly toured Asia and their pace attack hasn’t been very dominant. One might have expected such returns given the unhelpful surfaces.
Stuart Broad is clearly under pressure as things have gone downhill for him after the series against Pakistan in the Middle East. In fact, David Saker, the England bowling coach admitted that Broad hasn’t been up to par so far on this tour. The right-armer has failed to pick a wicket in the two Test matches on this tour. It hasn’t been an easy ride for James Anderson as well (who has picked two wickets), but his place is assured as he has been decent.
In the aftermath of England’s loss in the first Test, Broad had a go at some of the experts who had scrutinised his performance. Broad tweeted, “And before u listen to too many ex playing ‘experts’ being negative, ask them if they ever won a Test series in India.” Considering Broad’s record in the sub-continent, he shouldn’t have put his foot in the mouth. Here are his overall numbers in the sub-continent:
||2 for 70
||3 for 135
*does not include the Middle East.
One can see that Broad has struggled to perform on tours to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. In seven games he has scalped only 11 wickets and has a match best of three for 135. These aren’t figures one would expect from a frontline bowler. He did decently well in the Middle East early this year, but if you take that out, his record in Asia is found wanting.
England’s other option, Tim Bresnan has had a difficult 2012 and hasn’t replicated the consistency he showed last year. Due to this, he finds himself on the sidelines with England opting for two seamers. Here is his record in 2012:
||4 for 37
||8 for 141
If one excludes the match haul of eight wickets he got against the West Indies, one can see that he has picked only eight wickets in the remaining six Tests. Bresnan lost his place to in the final Test against South Africa at home even as England played three seamers. It was clear that their preferred trio was Anderson, Broad and Steve Finn.
England have been bolstered by the fitness of Steve Finn. The tall right-arm pacer had missed out on the first two Tests due to injury, but is now fit and raring to go. England would want to maintain the same bowling combination for Eden Gardens i.e. two spinners and two fast-bowlers. Anderson would not be dropped as he is the leader and the senior bowler. Thus, Broad may have to make way for Finn to give some life to the fast bowling. Finn’s progress over the last twelve months has been fantastic and he has grown in stature. He bowled well during England’s limited overs tour to India last year and that should hold him in good stead.
Given Broad’s struggle, they can ill-afford a non-performing member in the eleven. England have to maintain the intensity as they have won a Test against all odds. That has put India on the back-foot and they need to put pressure on the hosts. A stronger English pace attack would certainly help in that regard.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)