James Nixon | 11:58pm gmt 12 Jun 2012
England fans who woke up extra early, fired up their Sky satellite TV
and settled down to breakfast in front of the recent test series against Pakistan often found themselves wishing they'd stayed in bed. Despite the fine form of the bowlers, England's batsmen consistently let themselves down and they slumped to a heavy defeat.
However, the team performed much better in the subsequent One Day series, and also took a fine (if somewhat narrower) victory in the T20. To the bemusement of most observers, England's batsman took apart the talented Pakistani spin attack in the One Day series, only days after being bamboozled in the Tests.
There's no doubting that England's bowling unit is one of the best in the world, and the most encouraging aspects of the Test Series was that the seamers remain threatening even on unhelpful pitches. More worryingly in the bowling department, Monte Panesar outperformed Graham Swann, leading some critics to suggest that opposition batsmen have ?worked Swann out.'
This seems a blas? way of writing off one of the world's finest bowlers, and Swann will no doubt return to his previous brilliant form. A greater problem for England is that their batsmen seem at sea against quality spin-bowling.
In this respect the One Day matches aren't a great indicator, after all, tactics and pressure are very different in the One Day matches to Tests, but the key lies in taking a similar attacking approach. When England are at their best ? as with any team ? they're positive and attacking, and somehow they allowed themselves to be cowed into a defensive mindset against Pakistan. If Cook had started innings the way he did in the One Day, or Pietersen had played with the same concentrated aggression,
And there's no doubting that England's batsman have a lot of talent, particularly on familiar pitches. It's easy to criticise players for not being able to handle strange and unfamiliar playing conditions, but that's one of the reasons why cricket is such an engaging sport, and why victories away from home are such a great achievement.
Ultimately, the major reason why England will not suffer another defeat like they just did against Pakistan, and why they'll stay at the top of the ICC Rankings
is because of the strength (and strength in depth) of their bowling unit. The most important thing in cricket is to take 20 wickets, England have a unit that will almost always be able to do that, and the batsman have sufficient talent, it's just a case of them getting into form at the right time.