Saturday, 26 May 2012

Warwickshire defeat leaves a puzzle for Adams

It turned out to be the mere formality we all expected, even if we were hoping against hope that something extraordinary might take place this morning.

In the end it took Warwickshire's batsmen a little more than half an hour to knock off the 41 runs they needed. Rikki Clarke did the bulk of the work, clipping 12 runs from Stuart Meaker's one and only over of the morning. It wasn't an especially bad over from Meaker, though nor was it his best, Clarke was just able to play in the manner a batsman who only needs to find a few runs is able to.

Tim Ambrose, England's forgotten wicket-keeper, ended unbeaten at the other end on 89, a very impressive innings in the circumstances, a marker of what could be done with a bit of grit and application.

That leaves Adams' charges with just one win from seven matches. That isn't the form of title challengers and if they don't buck up their ideas we'll be in a relegation scrap. With teams like Lancashire and Durham in and around us, we could find ourselves in an almighty scramble come September.

So there's plenty for Chris Adams to ponder. His bowlers have done him proud but the batsmen have let the side down badly. One of the biggest disappointments, Jacques Rudolph, will now depart leaving a gap at the top of the order. How will the captain and coach reshuffle the troops to slot in his replacement, left arm spinner Murali Kartik?

Option one: The path of least resistance

This would see a straight batting swap for Rudolph and Kartik coming in for Chris Jordan. Exactly who that replacement batsman would be is anyone's guess. Adams may feel he has no option but to call on the experience of Mark Ramprakash, but I'm not sure this is wise given Ramps has had so few innings to get himself back into form. This means one from Rory Burns, Arun Harinath, Tom Lancefield, Gary Wilson, Zafar Ansari or Matthew Spriegel is primed for a call-up. In the most recent Second XI game both Harinath and Burns made 100+ runs opening the innings so would seem to be in the box seats. Burns also earned rave reviews for his attitude in the Sussex game in April. Zafar Ansari is probably held in the highest regard of all, but can't open the innings. Whoever it is, this leaves a side with a lengthy tail, Gareth Batty at number seven with his batting form of late is not good, but Adams may decide giving his top six batsmen a good kick up the arse is all they need. Instinctively this seems the most likely option.

Possible team: 1. Davies, 2. Burns, 3. de Bruyn, 4. Hamilton-Brown, 5. Maynard, 6. Roy, 7. Batty, 8. Kartik, 9. Lewis, 10. Meaker, 11. Dernbach.

Option two: The unthinkable - drop Batty

Coming off a game where he's taken 10 wickets this might seem a dopey suggestion, and admittedly I think it's unlikely, but it's just one to explore. This is basically the side above but with a stronger batting option at number seven. If this were Spriegel or Ansari we would miss Batty's bowling less (though neither offer quite the control that he does). Gareth Batty is a fine cricketer and he almost single-handedly kept us in the game this week, but all options should be on the table. A variation on this could see more of a reliance on de Bruyn and Hamilton-Brown's bowling and bringing in a pure batsman at number seven to further strengthen the tail, leaving just the four front line bowlers.

Possible team: 1. Davies, 2. Burns, 3. de Bruyn, 4. Hamilton-Brown, 5. Maynard, 6. Roy, 7. Ansari, 8. Kartik, 9. Lewis, 10. Meaker, 11. Dernbach.

Option three: Drop a seamer

Our seamers have done a sterling job this season, Lewis and Meaker in particular have taken regular wickets, while Dernbach has been frugal almost throughout. So dropping one of them, while Linley, Edwards, Dunn and Chris Tremlett are already on the sidelines might also seem a bit daft. But a lack of runs has hurt us this season, so one way or another some extra batting has to be found from somewhere. Given that Dernbach has taken the least wickets of the three, let's for argument's sake say he's the one to take a(nother) break. This option has the bonus of retaining Batty, but leaves us with only two seamers plus some fill-in from de Bruyn. This is not a route I can ever see Adams pursuing.

Possible team: 1. Davies, 2. Burns, 3. de Bruyn, 4. Hamilton-Brown, 5. Maynard, 6. Harinath, 7. Roy, 8. Batty, 9. Kartik, 10. Lewis, 11. Meaker.

It's worth noting that all of the above options require some runs from one Zander de Bruyn, who has just two fifties in eleven visits to the crease this season. The excellence of Maynard and Hamilton-Brown have papered over the de Bruyn crack (ahem) much of the time this season.

We need more runs in the first innings, that much is obvious. We've only passed 300 once this season and even then the opposition racked up over 500. So the question for Adams is does he back his top six to get him the runs, or does he sacrifice a bowling option for some insurance? Experience tells us Adams will always want Batty in the side (and who's to disagree?), and that he likes to have options on the bowling front. An attack of three quality seamers, a left arm spinner and an off spinner is not without charm. So the coach needs to find a way to get his top six batsmen working as a unit or we'll keep struggling to put teams under a lot of pressure. Who'd be a county cricket coach?!


Rob D. said...

I'd agree that your option 1 seems the most likely scenario - not least because it is still early in a season badly affected by bad weather (hopefully we've seen the last of that for a while).

It's a bit early to press the panic button and I think it would be good coaching to back players that have delivered for us in the past. We are a developing side that is still finding its way back in Division 1 - we probably went up a year too early but now that we're here there are obviously adjustments to make. I still back Adams to get it right.

Great blog btw - really well written.

Anonymous said...

I also agree that option 1 is most probable, but if I were Adams, I'd seriously be considering option 2. Obviously a lot will depend on the conditions, but playing two finger spinners at this stage of the season only seems viable if we are playing on a very dry Oval surface.
I'd also be inclined to give Spriegs a go ahead of Ansari. He bowled well last week in the 2nd XI game and while he could do with a few more runs, how much cricket has Ansari played of late??
Love the idea of giving Burns a go at the top of the order. Watched him get 130 odd against Wimbledon on Saturday and he looked a class above either Lancefield (who scored a decent 77) and Sprigel (who finished 30*).

GreenJJ said...

Thanks Rob - much appreciated. In general I agree that we don't need to be pressing the panic button just yet. We did go up unexpectedly but to my mind we've got the talent to hang about in div one, and maybe even challenge for the title but its about harnessing all that talent and making it work. So much easier said than done, I know! I don't see any reason to start thinking about changing the management, makes no sense.

Spriegel has been in good form in the 2s, and he's bowled really intelligently in the limited overs games as well. I just like him as a cricketer, really smart bloke I think. Same applies to Ansari mind you, they both have cool heads and they're both excellent fielders, not much in it for me.

I am a big fan of Burns, and you're right he looks a million dollars when he bats. I think Lancefield is doing a good job of keeping his name in the frame incidentally, quietly racking up the runs in the 2s, and in fits and starts when he was in the First XI a couple of years back he looked like he had real potential.

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Anonymous said...

I hear on the grapevine that Ramps is in line to get another go next week against Sussex but Burns is top of the list of youngsters.

GreenJJ said...

Hmm, interesting, given that he's barely had much time in the middle that makes a bit of a mockery of "giving him time to get his touch back"! Still, form/temporary class/permanent and all that, maybe it'll suddenly click. Burns seems very highly rated, and he's been in the runs lately to boot.