Cricket Expert & Columnist
The Ashes: too many soft England dismissals, says Andrew Strauss
Andrew Strauss says there were too many soft dismissals as England faltered on day one at Durham.
Last Updated: 09/08/13 9:01pm
The hosts made a solid, if slow start, reaching 107-1, and then 149-2 after winning the toss on day one of the fourth Test only to falter to 238-9 as the day progressed as spinner Nathan Lyon claimed 4-42.
Former England skipper Strauss was critical of the manner of some of England's dismissals, including that of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell who both fell tamely and says Alastair Cook's team must put in a much-improved display on day two if they are to get back on terms.
"You don't want to dwell too much on what has happened today - what's done is done," he said. "England weren't at their best today, there were a few too many soft dismissals and Nathan Lyon taking four wickets was a surprise.
"But England know that their bowlers will be hard work on this wicket as well. They are not out of the game by any means but they are going to have to come back well tomorrow. They can't afford to lose two days in a row in this Test match. If they do, then they are almost out of the game.
"I think a lot of the England batsmen really struggled to get it away today. Jonathan Trott was an exception - he did bat quite fluently. But they just got becalmed and a little bit frustrated. They couldn't get the ball away and that contributed to Lyon taking his wickets.
"A lot of the batsmen were trying to play big shots against Lyon and they didn't come off and as soon as the next batsman comes in he's under even more pressure, so things just didn't work out game-plan wise for England today."
Pietersen, fresh from his century at Old Trafford where he was widely applauded for taking the attack to Lyon, could not repeat the dose at the Emirates Durham ICG.
The 33-year-old attempted to dictate terms by striking the spinner for two fours but then fell for 26, edging behind to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, and Strauss was quick to praise Australia skipper Michael Clarke for keeping faith with his slow bowler.
"It was clear right from the start that Pietersen wanted to take the game to Lyon - he probably felt that he was going to be the easiest bowler to score off," reflected Strauss. "He went down the wicket first ball and clothed one and kind of got away with it.
"But often a captain in those circumstances will say 'look, I'll go back to my seamers and forget about the spinner for a while' but Clarke brought him back in and it paid immediate dividends. That's a little feather in Clarke's cap today - he did some smart things out there and got the rewards for it."
Fellow Sky Cricket pundit Nasser Hussain also lauded Clarke's captaincy but felt that England's batsmen - Trott (49) aside - fell too easily between two stalls in their tactical approach to dealing with the slow-scoring conditions.
"Jonathan Trott said that the ball went soft after about 40 overs and they couldn't get it through the field but England were a little bit two-paced - it was either block or play an extravagant shot. There was not a lot in between.
"I played with Graham Thorpe who would have tried to manoeuvre the ball and get off strike. It didn't seem to be that much in between. There were a lot of dot balls. Cook was a classic example of that and Pietersen was very extravagant against the spinner. It wasn't that bad a pitch that you couldn't just manoeuvre the ball around a little bit.
"England contributed quite a bit to their downfall today. You have to give credit to Australia again and their captain and the disciplines of their bowlers but, as Andrew says, there were a few soft dismissals.
"But at the start of the day if someone had said that it was going to be 238-9 we wouldn't have been surprised - we would have thought that 238 was about par for Chester-le-Street. What's surprising is that the pitch hasn't done a lot so it's either Australia bowling really well or England contributing to their own downfall."
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