Cricket Expert & Columnist
NatWest Series: England must bolster bowling, says Nick Knight
England must play a fourth specialist bowler to get back into the NatWest Series, says Nick Knight.
Last Updated: 09/09/13 11:24am
The hosts, who chose to field first, suffered a crushing 88-run defeat in the second ODI at Old Trafford as Australia racked up 315-7 - their highest 50-over total against England in England - against a weakened attack.
With senior players James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann all rested England went into the match with just three specialist bowlers - Steven Finn (2-68), Boyd Rankin (2-49) and James Tredwell (1-60 off eight overs) - leaving all-rounders Ben Stokes (0-66) and Ravi Bopara (2-57) to bowl 10 overs each.
Michael Clarke (105) and George Bailey (82) cashed in with a fourth-wicket stand of 155 before England's chase wilted to 227 all out in 44.2 overs despite half-centuries from Kevin Pietersen (60), skipper Eoin Morgan (54) and Jos Buttler (75) as Clint McKay returned 3-47.
Reflecting on the result, which puts Australia 1-0 up in the five-match series after the opening contest at Headingley was rained off, Knight told Sky Cricket he believes that England's chances of victory were 'hamstrung' by their selection.
"It was a poor decision at the toss and I think it was made because of the balance of the side - England felt they had absolutely no chance but to go that way and it proved to be an injudicious decision," said the former England opener.
"I'm really disappointed with England's selection. We were down in Malahide just a few days ago and we saw Ireland get 269 against this very England attack and I felt watching the game there that England surely can't go in to this series with that same attack.
"With no disrespect to Ireland, if they are going to get 269 how many will Australia get? It proved too many. Therefore inevitably your batting side, however good they are - however good Ben Stokes is at eight - is going to be put under tremendous pressure to chase 300-plus.
"A score of 320 might become 300 without the regulation changes but it is still a huge, huge score for England and it proved to be too much for them. I'm frustrated that they didn't learn their lesson from a few days ago."
The NatWest Series continues on Wednesday when the teams meet again at Edgbaston and Knight suggested that England might have to consider axing Yorkshire batsman Joe Root - who made three before he was bowled by James Faulkner on Sunday - to get the team back on kilter.
"It's alright for us to sit in our chairs and say 'England should play an extra bowler' but the problem they have is if they do that, who are they going to leave out? They want to have a look at Michael Carberry, and that makes a lot of sense because he's been the standout player in county cricket and deserves a go," said Knight.
"So you are going to have to leave out one of Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen or potentially Joe Root. You are not going to leave out Pietersen because they quite like the idea of him going in at the top of the order - he's done well in the past in that role - and they like Trott at three because he gives them stability.
"I would have left out Joe Root. Why? Not because I don't think he's good enough to get in the team but because they need to have a look at an Overton or a Jordan, so they can re-balance the bowling line-up. If that doesn't work at least they give themselves a chance of staying in the game at halfway if they happen to be bowling first.
"If you go back to the Champions Trophy earlier this year in England, England went with four genuine bowling options and had Bopara as their fifth and Root as their sixth because they realised that's what they needed in England with two new white balls and two bouncers an over.
"You cannot have Ravi Bopara bowling the 11th over of the innings - it happened against Ireland and it happened here again. When the ball is five or six overs old you want another big, tall lad charging in trying to get early wickets.
"I mean no disrespect to Ravi - I'm a big fan of his - but he needs to be operating in the middle overs when he can take the pace of the ball, which has got a little bit older and he can try to control those middle overs.
"If you're batting and the opening burst of Rankin and Finn has finished and Ravi comes on, I think you're saying 'thank you very much'. But take nothing away from Australia; they were much the better side."
Watch the third NatWest Series ODI between England and Australia at Edgbaston this Wednesday from 1.30pm on Sky Sports 1 HD.