England trapped on roller-coaster by the gung-ho urge to attack

Jonny Bairstow's batting approach is symptomatic of the problems facing England, writes Geoff Boycott.
CARL RECINE/REUTERS

Jonny Bairstow's batting approach is symptomatic of the problems facing England, writes Geoff Boycott.

OPINION: It is always interesting, exciting cricket with England, but there is no consistency. We have good seam bowling, score quick runs and sometimes get quality batting from Joe Root and Alastair Cook.

In between, there is a batting frailty that keeps everyone on the edge of their seats. We never know what the England batsmen will dish up. It is either flamboyant, edge-of-the-seat cricket or rubbish.

They go from one extreme to the other. One match, they can look like world-beaters, next, their brains have gone out the window. It is as if they cannot think or adapt to different pitch conditions and can bat only in a gung-ho attacking manner.

Jonny Bairstow hits out only to be caught out for 16 runs during day four of the second test against South Africa.
STU FORSTER/GETTY IMAGES

Jonny Bairstow hits out only to be caught out for 16 runs during day four of the second test against South Africa.

If they do not get a four-ball to hit every over then they have to try to smack a good-length ball to the boundary. It is fraught with danger.

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Jonny Bairstow's first innings of 45 was a perfect example. This pitch cried out for a good technique against a moving ball, some patience and self-restraint but Jonny flailed and missed or edged at least 20 times.

South Africa's Chris Morris celebrates the wicket of England's Alastair Cook with teammates.
CARL RECINE/REUTERS

South Africa's Chris Morris celebrates the wicket of England's Alastair Cook with teammates.

Graeme Smith, the former South Africa captain and opening bat, watched it all and said: "It is as if he doesn't trust his defence," - and it was true.

England have a one-dimensional test batting line-up, as well as being a one-dimensional one-day batting team who know only how to attack on flat, dry, easy surfaces.

If England do not learn to think and change occasionally they will always keep flattering us with wins and horrible losses.

This test was lost on the second afternoon with careless, irresponsible attacking batting. On the third morning, James Anderson was interviewed and said England like to bat positively. Playing positive and attacking cricket sounds great, but does not always get the job done.

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I would have liked to bat like Wally Hammond or Brian Lara, but I was not good enough to do that so I learnt how to make runs my way, which was best for the team and me.

If our coaches keep telling the team to attack, and the players keep telling each other to attack as well, then we are going to stay on this roller-coaster of wins and losses, highs and lows and nothing in between.

The team need to understand it is a five-day match. The batsmen need to occupy the crease and show patience with a good defence like Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis did to frustrate England and take the game away from them.

Nobody wants to tell our batsmen to play defensively or negatively but they need to balance attack with caution. Swashbuckling, cavalier-style batting on every surface, in every situation, is a recipe for success and failure, elation and frustration.

The England selectors, coach and captain should be embarrassed by their selection of two spinners on a slow, seaming pitch at Trent Bridge. What a blunder that was.

Batting has been England's weakness for far too long. We are too dependent on the quality of Root and Cook and the strong middle order of Bairstow, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali.

Brian Close at Yorkshire taught me that on a batting pitch you need an extra bowler, on a bowling pitch you need to select an extra batsman.

It was complacent and arrogant of the selectors after a great win at Lord's to pick the same XI. The 22 yards of a cricket pitch should dictate who plays, whether you bat or bowl first. That old saying "never change a winning team" is absolute rubbish.

Spinners have never won tests at Nottingham. It is seamers who do the damage, yet we played two spinners, and I question the judgment of all three selectors who think that Liam Dawson is a test cricketer. It is mind-boggling they think he is better than Adil Rashid. Even if Rashid had been in the squad for this test, I would not have picked him after seeing the pitch on the first morning.

England need an extra batsman. They are not very good at batting. A slow, seaming pitch is rare for Nottingham but that does not mean it was a bad surface. It required bowlers and batsmen to adapt.

First day, England had a great chance to bowl South Africa out cheaper than they did. But they bowled too short, too often.

Until Anderson bowled full on the second morning, none of England's four seamers could consistently hit the dangerous areas. It can look good when the bowler swings the ball or nips it off the seam, but if the batsman is allowed to stay back, he has more time to watch the ball and play it or leave it. Drawing the batsman forward without being too full and easy to drive is vital.

Once a batsman is committed on the front foot it is very hard to change your mind or stop your shot when the ball moves.

It is not losing we are irritated by. It is the way we lose and the fact our coaches and players will not learn any lessons or change.

 

 

 

 

 

 - The Telegraph, London

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