ICC Champions Trophy 2013: England needs a power-hitter in their top four

(From left) Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Joe Root — England’s strong top-order and four prolific run-scorers who provide stability. However, the necessary punch is missing and these men are generally content in setting the platform for the hitters to come © Getty Images

In Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Joe Root, England have a prolific top-order at the ICC Champions Trophy 2013. However, they might be missing a trick somewhere. They certainly need a man to muscle the ball at the top. Nishad Pai Vaidya explains why. 

Does England need a power hitter at the top? Numerous experts and commentators have said that their solid top-order needs an aggressor to take the attack to the opposition. Although England have a good record at home in One-Day Internationals (ODIs), the absence of that attacking batsman at the top may hurt them in the long run — especially at critical stages of a big event.

For the ICC Champions Trophy 2013, here are England’s top four: Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Joe Root. This is a strong top-order as it has four prolific run-scorers who provide stability. However, the necessary punch is missing and these men are generally content in setting the platform for the hitters to come. They are not natural hitters and usually play the waiting game.

Let us have a look at the ODI career strike-rates of the top four:

Player Strike-rate
Alastair Cook 78.26
Ian Bell 74.96
Jonathan Trott 76.14
Joe Root 83.95

Strike-rates in the 70s aren’t good enough in the modern era. Cook, Bell and Trott may pile the runs, but need to score at a better rate if England are to do well. Root has played only 12 games and his strike-rate is decent — a number that might go up as his career progresses.

While playing a stable hand does bring value, it can backfire. Scoring at a relatively slower rate may put tremendous pressure on the aggressive middle-order. One cannot expect them to turn the tables on every occasion and it is a tough ask. England’s recent game against Australia is the best example to illustrate the point. Trott and Bell set-up a good platform, but England were motoring along — at a rate around five runs per over. They lost wickets in a heap and ended with only 269. Australia did not chase and it was largely due to a good bowling performance. Perhaps a more in-form unit wouldn’t have had much trouble in overhauling the challenge.

England should find a way to rearrange their batting order to add dynamism to their ranks. The interesting thing is that all their hard-hitters are in the middle — Jos Buttler, Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara. If one of them is promoted to the top four, it would certainly bring in a fresh change and the opposition may review their strategies while bowling to England.

Cook has come a long way in ODIs since he has taken over the mantle of leadership. There is more urgency to his game and his solid technique comes in handy while tackling the new ball. At the other end, you have Bell – who has a similar approach. England should consider sending in a more aggressive player at that spot as that would complement Cook well. Trott cannot be moved from No 3 as he holds the innings together.

It is obvious that the absence of Kevin Pietersen robs them of the aggressor. The right-hander is a fearsome hitter and often intimidates the opposition. He can score at a very good clip and change the course of the game in a matter of minutes. When fit, he walks into the top four and it looks a completely different unit.

It is a bit of teaser for England as they have to deal with four men in form. But, they have to realize that other teams may surge ahead owing to a more dynamic top-order. The stronger One-Day units would capitalize on that flaw and trump England. It is time they threw the wind in the sails earlier than they usually do. Otherwise, it might cost them dearly at some point.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with cricketcountry.com and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)