England won this Test, and the series at a canter against a very poor Kiwi outfit who, despite showing guts and fight a plenty until the Sunday at Old Trafford, folded like a pack of cards, despite having us at 85/5 mid afternoon on day one. Only a marvellous rearguard action from KP and Ambrose saved England blushes.
The selectors named an unchanged eleven for the fifth consecutive Test, the first time that has occurred in over a century, and you would imagine that this signals stability and that all is well.
You would be wrong.
Three of the top six batters are in absolutely wretched form and we haven’t posted 400+ in the first innings, which was the bedrock of the Ashes triumph in 2005, for over a year and this includes six Tests against New Zealand.
Bell, and especially Collingwood can’t buy a run at the moment and yet there is no hint from above that they will be axed for the more formidable series against South Africa, which begins next month.
No one wants to go back to the ‘Eighties nadir when the revolving door policy saw England fail to win a single home Test match, let alone series between 1985 and 1990, but the persistence with this top six produces inertia in the squad and burning frustration for Owais Shah, Ravi Bopara and County pros across the Nation as it seems that the selectors in no way rate the First Class game in any way, shape, or form despite recent scintillating form from these two.
But, if you are a bowler it seems there is no mercy. On bad game and you are out, witness the axing of Hoggard and back in the Winter Trent Bridge hero Jimmy Anderson.
Cook has got starts and looks likely to get runs, but the axe must fall on Bell and Collingwood in order for them to get some cricket, and form back in time for next Summer and the Ashes.
Bowling wise we are in rude health as the effectively second string pace attack have been the ones to deliver the victories, thus I would start with Anderson, Sidebottom and Broad for South Africa with the rejuvenated Harmison (four wickets in three overs yesterday) Simon Jones, hopefully Flintoff and Hoggard to come.
Starting Eleven v South Africa.
Cook, Strauss, Vaughan*, Pietersen, Shah, Bopara, Ambrose+, Broad, Sidebottom, Andersen, Panesar.
Reserves: Simon Jones, Ramprakash.