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England’s Fast Bowling Reserves Sum up English Cricket

After a disastrous World Cup campaign that saw England fail to reach the knock-out stages, the international juggernaut never stops, as Alastair Cook returns to lead an upcoming tour to the West Indies where they can hope to banish the painful memories of what has been a miserable eighteen months for English cricket.

After a quick stop in the Caribbean, the big boys come to play as newly crowned World Champions Australia head over in the summer looking to retain the Ashes they took from an out-of-sorts England side at the back end of 2013 and whilst there is optimism that Peter Moores’ side are a better test match team, it looks like they will face stiff competition to regain the Ashes.

Since the disastrous tour to Australia began almost 18 months ago, there has been a lot of talk about England’s batting being the source of the problem but three 400+ scores last summer against Sri Lanka and India suggests the batsmen are heading in the right direction.

That being said the repeated calls for the return of Kevin Pietersen seem to have got louder in recent months after incoming ECB Chairman Colin Graves gave the controversial South African born Englishman a piece of rope from which to dangle. Where he fits into a line-up that includes skipper Cook, Ian Bell, a returning Jonathan Trott and the exciting trio of Moeen Ali, Gary Ballance and Joe Root remains to be seen, but it does point to the batting being, as they say, on the up.

What they must be concerned about is their bowling, with England’s fast bowling reserves a particular worry. In Jimmy Anderson, who is about to break Ian Botham’s record for most test match wickets, likely on the tour of the Caribbean, and Stuart Broad, England do have a couple of talisman bowlers that they can rely on to get wickets on a regular basis but for how much longer can both go on and what is there coming behind them?

Anderson will be 33 in the summer, whilst Broad will be 29 and with injuries a regular thorn in his side. It is likely that sooner rather than later England are going to need to replace them but who are those who will be knocking on the door, should the inevitable happen in the next couple of years?

What the recent World Cup has shown is that England are falling behind when it comes to players with the ability to bowl at 90mph and above. Australia have the two Mitchells, Johnson and Starc; New Zealand have Trent Boult; South Africa have got arguably the best bowler in world cricket in Dale Steyn; India have Ishant and Shami; West Indies have Jason Holder and even Bangladesh have got Rubel Hossain.

England bowlers have touched 90mph on rare occasions, most notably through the improving Chris Woakes but they need to find that consistent bowler who can bowl at that speed regularly. Steven Finn has been a disappointment since his return to the international scene after being described as ‘un-selectable’ at the back-end of the last Ashes contest and there are doubts he will be able to get back to his best that saw him regularly hit 90mph for Middlesex.

England have called up Durham’s Mark Wood for the tour to the Caribbean, who has been described as one of county cricket’s fastest, regularly touching the required 90mph, but injuries have been his downfall. Hailing from Ashington, the same town as former England bowler Steve Harmison, Wood is anything but similar to the 2005 Ashes hero. At just 6ft tall, Wood has a whippier action and hurries the batsman into playing balls that skid on so it will be interesting to see how he fares should he get thrown into the mix against the West Indies.

Liam Plunkett also makes a return to the squad for the tour to the Caribbean and will be a quick-fix for the summer but there is a need to look beyond the Yorkshire paceman who performed pretty well in 2014. Chris Jordan will no doubt get another chance to showcase his talent, and there is obviously a hell of a lot of it, but his progress has been slow, though he does have that added string to his bow; he can launch the ball out of the park with the bat too.

What England are crying out for is a bit of variety to go along with pace and that could come in the form of the erratic Tymal Mills, now at Sussex after a summer move from Essex, who was touted at the start of last summer for recognition before injury scuppered his chances. A left-arm paceman who regularly hits 90mph, he could be the long-term future for the England bowling corps but patience will be the key for England fans and selectors, as like Mitchell Starc’s early career, he can be wayward but does have that x-factor raw pace that England need.

If you are looking for variety and want a left arm seamer who can swing the ball both ways then another product of the Essex youth system, Reece Topley could be your man. There is the possibility he could just be another quality county cricketer with the inability to make the transition to the international stage, but we all thought Ryan Sidebottom was your ten-a-penny county seamer and look how that turned out for England.

What is plainly obvious is that there aren’t many that are banging down that door to give the England camp an extra option with coaches intent on developing English-type bowlers who nibble the ball at a gentle 80mph. That’s all well and good but England need to develop regular 90mph bowlers who do a lot more with the ball.

Often there are those who say Glenn McGrath was only an 80mph bowler, and they are right, but name another bowler blessed with similar pace that sustained a career, as the Aussie legend did?  Angus Fraser? Give me a break. Matthew Hoggard? No chance. Both mighty fine cricketers but we all remember a Harmison over a Hoggard or a Johnson over a Siddle. Unfair? Perhaps, but deep down we all know it.

How we produce cricketers in England is all wrong and something will need to be done and soon else we will start to get left behind talent-wise as well as how we play the evolving game of cricket. England invented the game, but that means nothing if they don’t move with the times.


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