Iain Fletcher: Peaks too late for England

Twin peaks: The stunning scenery at Dharamsala may provide a distraction from England's disappointing form. Photograph: Reuters
Twin peaks: The stunning scenery at Dharamsala may provide a distraction from England's disappointing form. Photograph: Reuters
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England arrived in Dharamsala for the fifth and final one-day international against India expecting freezing temperatures and possibly snow.

There was doubt whether the game would be played but, instead, there have been balmy temperatures, at least during the day.

The mercury plunges at night and the ground features possibly the most stunning backdrop to any 
in the world – the snow-capped Himalayan mountain range which dominates the skyline.

The England players should take the opportunity to remember what sport is about – enjoyment and marvel – as they need a bit of both after a most dispiriting series.

It started so well with an excellent victory but England have been thrashed with ease in each of the subsequent games and trail by an insurmoutable 3-1 margin.

Twice the batting was woeful and, when they did manage to muster a score in the fourth match, the bowlers were unsure where the other end of the pitch was.

Even then, England had a chance when Steven Finn dismissed Suresh Raina but, in his delivery stride, dislodged the bails with his knee. As per international instructions the umpire called dead ball and England looked grumpy and hard done by. Well, not really lads. Stop bashing into the stumps when bowling. It has gone on for too long and is not the batsman’s fault, nor the umpire’s. It is Finn’s and no one else’s. Raina resumed, batted to the end and won man of the match.

So what can England deliver now to make the journey back to Blighty a little easier. Discipline would be good. Both with the ball (Finn take note) and in the field. Samit Patel casually threw a ball ten feet over the fielder backing-up last Wednesday and turned a simple dot ball into an easy two.

Alastair Cook, ever the officer, remained phlegmatic, the only sign of irritation a slight clenching of the jaw. There are other captains who would have given Patel a few choice words, and rightly so.

The curious part of these matches has been how the ball delivered at good length around off-stump has proved mighty hard to attack. Every Indian batsman has played and missed when the bowlers have probed the fourth stump channel, just as they do in Test matches.

Bouncers, slower-ball bouncers, slower balls from the back of the hand and slower balls from the front of the hand are all very fashionable in one-day cricket and can, when delivered by a skilful practitioner such as Lasith Malinga, prove unplayable but, when Jade Dernbach or others attempt them, they end up wide or hit.

James Tredwell has been England’s best bowler in the series. He shuffles to the crease, delivers the blandest of off-spin and adopts only the slightest of variations in pace. Some deliveries are flat, others slightly less so. It has worked beautifully. Simple yet disciplined and, despite not being flash, it stills requires a lot of skill.

Maybe the seamers should stick to a more old-fashioned method and make the Indian batsmen work a bit harder.

Similarly, when batting, England need to regain a bit of discipline and structure rather than a cavalier method. They started to do this on Wednesday and scored 100 off the final ten overs to post a respectable total.

Cook, Kevin Pietersen and the impressive Joe Root scored the runs in three different styles. Cook started slowly and cautiously to set the innings up and then accelerated. Pietersen was studied, by his standards, but excellent and Root clinical with a pleasing array of dabs, sweeps, chips and finally whacks.

England were only 20 runs short of a winning target, so the aim must be to score more runs in the first 30 overs. Put like that it does not seem daunting. If England think it is, they should look upwards and consider the peaks that some seek to conquer.