2016 is England’s Year – The London Economic

By Jack Peat, Editor of The London Economic

The 2-0 series defeat in the Arab Emirates tells a familiar tale for England Cricket supporters; a side that fell short in all three departments, with only the seam department worthy of praise in what is another abject and disappointing display from Alastair Cook’s side.

At least, that is how the press has reported it this morning. The BBC’s Stephan Shemilt brought the gauntlet down on Ian Bell, Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow while the Mail Online’s Paul Newman quipped that England will struggle to put positive spin on the defeat in reference to a record-breakingly bad series in the spin department.

Geoffrey Boycott picked out the positives in typical fashion – “We don’t have an opening partner, number three is going downhill, there’s still a question mark against number five and number six, we’re still waiting for the wicketkeeper and the spinners aren’t winning matches” – and Piers Morgan waxed lyrical about a return for ageing Kevin Pietersen after he hit a T20 century in South Africa’s Ram Slam.

Morgan’s man crush aside, it is not all doom and gloom for me.

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that we struggled against one of the strongest Pakistan teams in decades on their home turf. In 2012 we were annihilated 3-0 after losing the first test by ten wickets and losing the last test despite bowling Pakistan out for 99 in the first innings. In contrast we were unlucky not to win the first test this year and should have closed out the third test for the draw after an excellent bowling display.

Sure we can take a pop at Rashid, but let’s not discount his heroic rescue job in the second test when he was out for four hours before losing his wicket at the death. As Shane Warne alludes, Rashid has all the tools, we just need the patience. And we didn’t exactly do him any favours by leaving him out of the Windies tour.

This open letter from The Independent Editor Amol Rajan to Rashid is a must read.

Indeed, our entire spin contingency lacks the experience needed to compete against batsmen who have grown up playing against spin in desert conditions. Samit Patel, aka “the Asian Tommy Cassady”, struggled, as did Ali, but they will undoubtedly get more rewards for their efforts in future tours in more favourable conditions. Backed by the seamers, that makes an interesting bowling proposition.

On the batting front we finally have Cooky back in form and if we can supplement that with a more permanent partner – Alex Hales should probably have opened in this tour and I’m still not sure why Nick Compton never features in the discussion – then we have the foundations of a sturdy batting line-up. Ian Bell’s days are numbered and I think it would be a more positive move to look at James Taylor in that position with Root at four.

The point is that all of this bodes well for 2016. If we can get off to a positive start in Durban on Boxing Day then I foresee a series win for us in South Africa.  Then it’s Sri Lanka and Pakistan in England, who will both struggle against the conditions and our new, positive style.

The big question is whether we have the guts to close games out. A 2-0 defeat in UAE is an unfair reflection of a tour in which we challenged Pakistan on many levels and really should have come away with more. Which makes it a confidence game. If we can perform in South Africa and win a couple of tests on the bounce, 2016 could well be our year. If the papers aren’t more positive this time next year, we only have ourselves to blame.

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