View from the Kirkstall Lane End: England's newfound confidence
England are shaping up as a fine one-day side, though the middle order may be a slight weakness
The final ODI between England and West Indies at Headingley was abandoned at 1.11pm after heavy rain in Leeds made conditions unplayable. The draw meant England won the series 2-0 after their two overwhelming wins at the Rose Bowl and the Oval.
The series was a minor triumph for England and Alastair Cook. Most judges, including the bookies made the West Indies favourites at the start of the series.
That was always an unduly pessimistic assessment of England’s chances, however. West Indies bat deep, but the technique of many of their players is brittle against high-class bowling. England’s five-man specialist attack was unrelenting in the two completed games and instrumental in two crushing wins.
No England bowler went for more than six an over in either game. The worst figures were Tim Bresnan’s 10-54-1 at the Oval, but that was acceptable enough and he was England’s best bowler at the Rose Bowl, where he took 4-34 in 7.4 overs. In both games all five England bowlers contributed wickets.
England are close to looking an impressive side in one-day cricket even without Kevin Pietersen. Cook’s rise has been phenomenal. He averages 54 in his past 24 games with a strike rate of 91, compared to 30 in his first 23 matches at a sluggish strike rate of 68.
His batting is simply a more aggressive version of his Test match performances. He has proved that it’s possible to do well with perfectly orthodox cricket strokes. (Though this is not a new formula outside England, where Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis have never strayed far from their textbooks).
Ian Bell has learned from Cook’s success. His hundred at the Rose Bowl, followed by his 50 at the Oval, were the innings of a man who has at last found his identity in ODIs. Like Cook, he is playing the same orthodox game as in Test matches. There's a little more adventure, but no excessive striving after power.
The one slight weakness may be the England middle-order. It may be that Matt Prior will eventually find his way back into the side and ‘do a Cook’ by playing his natural game rather than trying to force matters. He is too aggressive a batsman to be on the sidelines.
The arrival of Australia is irritating in many ways. As Trott has pointed out, there is a danger of overkill. But at least we can look forward to some competitive games and a real test for England’s confident one-day side.