Bumble says Peter Moores has his work cut out to find the right blend in an England line-up minus Andrew Flintoff.
Last Updated: 21/11/07 3:45pm
It's a tough place to tour is Sri Lanka. It'll be absolutely stifling hot and they'll play tough, tough cricket. They've just come back from Australia and although they lost the series 2-0 they did pretty well out there.
We're the ones who are striving for form and looking for results since losing at home to India in the summer and it's going to be real tough against this lot.
I'm OK with the changes that have been made to the squad and I'm comfortable with the team. It'll be interesting to see where we would be most likely to win out there - I'd say at Kandy in the first Test. There's just a little bit of help for the quicker bowlers which will give us an opportunity.
I just think it's imperative against Sri Lanka that you win the toss - if you lose the toss and they bat then you can really be up against it.
The main problem for England will be how they lengthen the batting without Andrew Flintoff. It's becoming a problem while Fred is out of the team.
For me, it would be a real high-risk strategy to go there with four bowlers because it's too bloody hot! So the wicketkeeper will be a genuine all-rounder at number six. But then you have seven, eight, nine, 10 and 11 (all bowlers!) - who are we playing against? Muttiah Muralitharan will get them out, easily!
So there will be a tremendous onus on the top six and it will be a massive problem for Peter Moores and Michael Vaughan to get the balance right.
I hope England don't get sucked in to lengthening the batting instead of saying 'let's get 20 wickets'. Matt Prior is capable of batting at six - he is probably a better batter than Flintoff. But then again you're looking at number seven and eight... Stuart Broad has been selected because he will lengthen that order a bit.
I would like to think England will play two spinners at some stage, but at Kandy they'll probably only play one spinner. They have got Graeme Swann in as the second spinner because he lengthens the batting also and could easily do a job coming in at seven.
I think it's very important that Matthew Hoggard and Ryan Sidebottom play. They are accurate swing bowlers that can bowl all day. It's difficult to describe how uncomfortable the conditions are in Sri Lanka, especially to bowl in.
As a little insight for you, I've been doing some interviews with Muralitharan and he talks all the time about Hoggard. Hoggard, Hoggard, Hoggard. And his ability to bowl straight and hit the pads at a full length.
Apart from Kandy the pitches will be unbelievably slow, so don't think about getting bounce or movement. It's all about swinging the ball - either conventionally or reverse swing - and bowling slower balls. You've got to take the pitch completely out of it. You've got to bowl block hole, straight and look for a bit of swing. And change your pace!
Some may wonder then why it is that England are giving Steve Harmison every chance of being fit for the first Test and that is because Kandy offers you a little bit more as a fast bowler.
Peter Moores is a great believer in creating an environment where the player enjoys what they're doing and are in the best possible shape to enjoy what they're doing. For example, the responsibility of bowling is not his. I know exactly how he works, he'll say 'six hours out there Steve, I can't do it for you'.
'I'll prepare you and give you knowledge on the strengths and weaknesses of them but I can't help you out there'. He would also say 'we will need yorkers and slower balls'.
In net practice he will say to them 'you all accept that we need slower balls and yorkers?' and they will all nod their heads and say yes. And he will say to them 'show me. I want you to bowl six slower balls and two of them to be different, can you do it?'
'If you can't do it, come back and tell me when you can.' That's exactly how Moores works. Duncan Fletcher always wanted his bowlers under-cooked but Moores will say 'you've got to be fit and bowling in order to be ready for a Test match'.
In my opinion Fletcher gave the players a crutch to lean on and Moores doesn't do that. 'Out in the field, it's down to you' is his philosophy. The captain is responsible for the team. Fletcher would always say 'I picked this' and 'I wanted to do that'. Peter Moores will tell you that the captain is running this team.
Finally, just a word on England's dual-captaincy. It is working absolutely fine as neither Michael Vaughan or Paul Collingwood are after each others job. They're good mates and they work well together with an understanding that that's your team and this is my team.
I fully expect Vaughan to do very well out in Sri Lanka and if I had 10 pence to spare I would have a flutter on him being the highest run scorer in the series.
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Bumble answers your e-mail...
Bumble, There are some decent left-hand bowlers on the international stage at present - Vaas, Bracken, Zaheer Khan and our very own Ryan Sidebottom. Can you remember a time when there were a better crop of lefties in the international game? And who was the best lefty that you faced or umpired? Jason, Dorset.
BUMBLE SAYS: I did umpire Wasim Akram from time to time - not in big matches, but practice games and so on, and he's the best I've ever seen. The Australian, Bruce Reid got a lot of injuries but was bloody good, although I never faced him. From yesteryear I would say that John Lever was excellent for England and should have played a lot more international cricket than he did. Before my time another Aussie, Alan Davidson was talked about in the highest terms. At the minute I think the best of them all in terms of form is Sidebottom. I like his honesty, his endeavour, his stamina is excellent, and he's accurate and quick enough. You would think that this crop of left-handers would have been inspired by Akram.
Bumble, I have always been dying to ask this question to you or Bob, but if you could choose your favourite shot of all-time, played by one player, what would it be - i.e., the perfect example of a batsmen in complete and utter harmony. Personally, I could watch Brian Lara flick it off his hips all day long. Bob Smith, St Albans.
BUMBLE SAYS: You've picked a shot of the highest calibre there Bob. Gary Sobers would hit the ball so hard, with an enormous back-lift - like Lara. The power of Sobers on the front foot was amazing and a great sight, although not when fielding in the covers, I can assure you. The best I've ever seen at working the ball from off-stump to the leg-side was Vivian Richards. Extraordinary. When I played against him I would just think 'how does he do that? Why can I not do that?'