England v India, ODI series: Captain Alastair Cook seeks immediate response
Last Updated: 28/08/14 1:20pm
Alastair Cook needs to find some effective answers quickly if England are to avoid making a damaging false start to their World Cup preparations.
After a 133-run trouncing against India in Cardiff, the hosts must hit back in the third one-day international at Trent Bridge on Saturday to retain any chance of winning the Royal London Series.
The consolation for Cook is that there are alternative options in England's 14-man squad. The worry, however, is the gulf which opened up between the two teams at the SWALEC Stadium and the sense that a little tinkering here and there will still leave some vulnerable cricketers in situ in Nottingham.
Among them, Chris Jordan's faulty white-ball radar was of particular concern as he sent down 12 of England's 16 Welsh wides to help Suresh Raina pile up India's 304-6 - and that after the tourists had lurched to 19-2 against the swinging ball under leaden skies in the morning powerplay.
Ben Stokes was no more assured as England wasted the new-ball handiwork of Chris Woakes and James Anderson.
Cook and coach Peter Moores can ponder the availability of a second spin option, from much-improved all-rounder Moeen Ali, or replacing one or both of Jordan and Stokes with Steven Finn or Harry Gurney - on his home ground.
The truth is, though, that England will be swapping cards not from a position of strength but weakness.
Even after the return of the waywardness which afflicted Jordan at times in this summer's Test series victory over India, they might be just as well sticking with him and hoping he can rediscover the form which more than once saw him excel beforehand against Sri Lanka in the limited-overs formats.
Cook acknowledged, after England had been bowled out in under 40 overs in pursuit of a Duckworth-Lewis target of 295, that there had been selection issues already in Cardiff.
"They do (bring something different)," he said of the tall Finn and left-armer Gurney.
"It was a really hard side to pick. We just went for that balance."
Finn and Gurney will bring risk as well as variety - the quality England's seam attack lacked as they went 1-0 down with three to play.
The former is still on his way back after his alarming dip in form last winter, and Gurney's inclusion in any team comes with the proviso that he is an out-and-out specialist whose batting and fielding are unlikely to contribute significantly.
"Whether you release the ball from the same spot (or not), if all four bowl really good areas, on that wicket they'd be hard to hit," Cook added.
"If you keep hitting the same spot, with a little bit of nibble in it, you're going to get rewards - so I didn't see (the similarity of the seam attack) being a problem.
Cook must set aside two more thorny side issues en route to the midlands.
He spent a portion of his post-match press conference voicing disappointment that "so-called friend" Graeme Swann, in pundit mode after retirement, has been calling for him to step aside as captain to try to stop England travelling to Australia and New Zealand early next year without a "cat in hell's chance" of winning the World Cup.
Then on Thursday morning, it was confirmed Cook will be fined 20 per cent of his match fee and face a mandatory match ban for any further transgression in the next 12 months after England were judged to have bowled their overs too slowly in Cardiff.
Keeping his eye on the ball, and avoiding distraction, is not something Cook has ever found too difficult - as he proved this summer by shutting out calls for his resignation as Test captain and turning round the Investec series.
Achieving the right balance in his bowling attack will be no easy task, though - and he spelled out the pros and cons of choosing between Moeen and England's established limited-overs spinner James Tredwell.
"That was another tough call," Cook added. "You saw what James Tredwell brings to the side. He's done really well in his 30-odd games, and is a really canny operator.
"But at some stage, I think we'll see Moeen play - because of his huge development this year, in Test cricket.
"If he can make those strides in one-day cricket as well, he gives us another option if we want to play a slightly different side. But Tredders is really hard to hit."
England lost seven wickets to spin on the way to defeat - although it was seamer Mohammed Shami who first put the run chase in jeopardy with two wickets in four balls.
Cook does not seem tempted by the notion of returning fire with fellow off-spinners Moeen and Tredwell in the same side.
Whatever the permutations, home series defeat - albeit against the current holders - is no way to set out on the road to that World Cup.