Cricket Expert & Columnist
It's time to tee off
Andrew Strauss is a genuine threat when he hits powerfully down the ground, says Michael Atherton.
Last Updated: 13/07/10 2:59pm
As contests go, England's third and final NatWest Series match against Bangladesh made for fairly dismal viewing as it was as one-sided as the 144-run winning margin suggests.
By and large, sport only carries interest when there is an air of unpredictability about it and once their batsmen got going at Edgbaston it was pretty certain that England would win by a distance and take the series.
Andrew Strauss played brilliantly at the top of the order and, while you have to take into account that the bowling he faced was fairly ordinary, he deserved the runs that came his way because he has worked hard at trying to score in areas that are a little alien to him.
England's captain is very strong - he hits the ball a million miles on the golf course - and he's always had the ability to hit straight down the ground but now he sees it as part of his role to do that and he understands that you must have the ability to clear the ropes in modern one-day cricket.
There is an argument doing the rounds that says a batsman also has to be innovative to be successful these days but it's not one that I buy into; after all, Ricky Ponting is very orthodox and a high-class one-day player, as is Sachin Tendulkar.
Strauss was much more convincing when he was hitting powerfully down the ground than when he was attempting to dab, reverse sweep or switch-hit - he didn't look natural playing those shots in the way that Eoin Morgan does.
It was good to see Jonathan Trott come up with a century too given there was a certain amount of pressure on him to perform.
That's been a hallmark of his career to date - from his Test debut in the Ashes last summer to his double-hundred against Bangladesh at Lord's earlier this summer. He doesn't always necessarily look a fantastic player but he does accumulate useful and timely runs.
As with Strauss, the runs he has got of late have been against fairly modest attacks and it's worth remembering that against the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel this winter he looked far weaker, returning one half-century from seven innings in the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy.
Nevertheless, it is healthy to see such competition for places in England's batting order and after his whirlwind innings at Edgbaston I expect Ravi Bopara will be back in England's 50-over team before too long.
I'd probably pick Bopara ahead of Luke Wright because wickets are far more valuable in 50-over cricket than Twenty20 and the Essex player is the classier batsman.
In Ian Bell's injury-enforced Bopara certainly did his cause no harm at Edgbaston and he furthered his case for selection by picking up a few wickets too.
That could be important because judging by what we've seen in this series I'm not sure that England know what their best one-day attack is.
The selectors talk about the importance of rotation but that policy is at least partly driven by a clear need to find out more about one or two players.
While Amjal Shahzad looked quite impressive, doubts still remain about James Anderson's effectiveness in one-day cricket after he went wicket-less again in Saturday's defeat to Bangladesh.
Despite that victory, this has not been a successful series for the tourists. As great as it was to see Bangladesh have their moment at Bristol, the team was well beaten in the first match at Trent Bridge and was thumped heavily at Edgbaston.
The onus still remains very much on them to improve and, in so doing, to prove that they deserve their place at this level.
I think every cricket fan would love to see them succeed because it's not healthy (for any sport) when a side turns up only to lose 99 times out of 100. That's a very grim state of affairs indeed.