England's fielding woes
This topic is cropping up a lot lately on match threads so I thought it was worth a thread of its own.
This match is littered with dropped catches and sloppy fielding. What has gone wrong? We've never been the best fielding side in the world but we have usually been able to field at least competently. Actually there are so many problem areas it's hard to know where to start. The outfielding, the in-fielding, the pointless throws to keeper and unnecessary overthrows.
The root of the problem seems to be the new slip cordon. We have lost some excellent slip fielders in Trescothick, Strauss and Flintoff. Vaughan and Moores evidently thought the answer was to replace them with England's best fielders, Collingwood and Bell, but so far it's not working. Both of them have dropped straightforward slip catches in this series. Someone has pointed out that Collingwood didn't have his hands cupped together like Flintoff does - but Flintoff does have huge bucket hands - so maybe it's just a technical thing. I'm sure they are capable of adapting to fielding in these positions, especially when the new fielding coach rolls up, but meanwhile things are going wrong elsewhere.
Alastair Cook dropped a catch under the helmet today and frankly has never looked comfortable as a close fielder. He is too tall and his reactions are a bit slow. Ian Bell is our best close fielder, has quick reactions and is agile in the field. When not at short leg or silly point he is effective in the covers. Standing at slip is just not the best place for him, even if he could sort out where to stand in relation to Matt Prior - and the wicket-keeping is yet another problem in this match; best leave that to the appropriate thread. Collingwood likewise is much more effective at backward point where he can take brilliant catches or run outs.
Cook briefly looked as if he was improving as a fielder, and he did effect a run out, but I'm not convinced, he looks a bit ordinary to me, and sometimes a bit vacant. Bopara is pretty good, but a bit of an exaggeration by CMJ to say he is England's best. Poor old Colly would be mortified. Pietersen is quick and athletic and can take catches, but he needs more responsibility. Why isn't he in the slips?
I'm also a bit unhappy about attitudes to Monty's fielding. He took a straightforward catch yesterday very competently, holding on to the ball rather than casually throwing it into the air - much better in my opinion than risking the view that you haven't got control of the catch. But the way we react is to say, look, Monty held on to a catch. I think we're past that with Panesar by now. He has taken a number of catches and I only recall one important drop. The attitude of the commentators and the public is one of patronising amusement, which I think is misplaced. He's not the world's best fielder but neither is he the worst in the side, he at least does his best with every fielding manoeuvre and doesn't go to sleep in the field.
The England fielders' habit of throwing the ball at the stumps or to the wicket-keeper after every delivery has now lost whatever point it had. What's the point of trying to be aggressive when the batsmen are not remotely intimidated, given our bowlers' and fielders' inability to dismiss them? All that's happening is that time is wasted (we're trying to win this match, aren't we?) and extra runs are given away pointlessly.
This is a bit of a ramble through some of the problems that have been thrown up in this series. I hope Vaughan and Moores have some ideas about addressing them.