Cow Corner

England debate: should players be rested?

Do these bowlers need to be rested?

England swept to a convincing victory with a day to spare at Trent Bridge, prompting the debate: should key players be rested for the third Test?

Much has been made of the workload that players such as Stuart Broad have to contend with and, ahead of a busy English summer, should star performers be given time off?

England have a further 22 international matches and a potential 38 days of cricket remaining this summer, and the likelihood is that injuries will come into the equation at some stage regardless of how individual schedules are managed.

Furthermore, England have three Tests, five one-day internationals and three Twenty20 matches against second-ranked South Africa in what will be a gruelling test for Andrew Strauss's side, while Australia visit for five ODIs. Does Flower need to prioritise?

One argument is: England have a number one ranking to protect and a whitewash to target and should therefore select the best XI possible for the third Test. It must not be devalued with a tinkered line-up.

Another stance is: Andy Flower and Strauss must protect and be acutely aware of the fitness and health of their prized assets, and the third match is now nothing more than a dead rubber within the context of the series. Bigger challenges await this summer.

Bowling coach David Saker, interviewed after the match, admitted: "We are very mindful of resting these guys. It is something that's on our minds and we may consider it. We will assess what is the best thing to do.

"Some bowlers perform better when they are performing a lot, and some bowlers need to be rested and given some time off occasionally. We have to manage the situation."

Saker's quotes are entirely sensible and diplomatic, but what specifically should England do for the third Test? With the margin of victory so huge at Trent Bridge, the hosts could surely be forgiven for shuffling their pack.

Nasser Hussain has always used the example of his former pace attack with England, revealing that if Darren Gough was given a week off he would return completely out of form; on the other hand, if Andy Caddick was able to have a good rest he would return all the better for it.

Equally, certain players would not respond at all well to having their spots taken away from them, albeit temporarily (think Fred Trueman), while others would embrace the opportunity to gather themselves ahead of a hectic summer schedule.

There is much to be said for sustaining form and momentum as a side, and as individuals: England's stars did not fare at all well in the UAE after having been given an unprecedented time away from the game at the end of last summer. Flower was insistent that lessons had been learned from that situation.

But should a player who performs consistently in every format like Stuart Broad be expected to play every single match, particularly given that he shoulders the additional burden of being the captain of the Twenty20 side?

James Anderson is 29-years-old and the leader of the attack: his fitness must be managed ahead of a long summer with the challenge against South Africa in the Test matches surely the priority.

Steven Finn and Graham Onions, in particular, continue to push hard for spots in the side and have been positively bursting to get out on the field while carrying isotonics and jogging around the boundary with fluorescent bibs on.

There's only so many cricket mags you can read...

If England are to rest Anderson and Broad, for example, Strauss would still be able to lead a very fine XI on to the field at Edgbaston with the likes of Onions and Finn raring to get stuck into the action and already proven performers at Test match level.

On the batting front, England should not make any changes.

It is worth remembering that Jonny Bairstow was not England's first choice in this series; had Ravi Bopara been fit, he would have played. But England, having moved on from Eoin Morgan and unsure whether James Taylor was ready, instead took a chance on Bairstow, largely due to his encouraging displays in limited-overs internationals.

Bairstow, having been handed this chance, should now be given a good run in the side and the opportunity to settle into the England Test side against opposition that is not the strongest.

The Yorkshireman has not enjoyed a distinguished start to the series, but he is gaining valuable experience in this environment and making the slight technical adjustments a batsman can only make when exposed to match situations at the highest level.

England have key decisions to make before the third Test at Edgbaston on June 7, and Flower, Strauss et al are acutely aware of the challenges that lie ahead this summer.

To rest players, or not to rest players - that is the question.

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