Bayliss: We must improve to compete with Australia

Bayliss did not rule out Cook going on to 15,922 Test runs to overtake Sachin Tendulkar as the all-time record holder.

Published: 01st June 2016 11:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st June 2016 11:15 AM   |  A+A-

Trevor Bayliss

Trevor Bayliss. |AFP

Trust Uncle Trevor to tell it to us straight. While England's supporters celebrate Alastair Cook's 10,000 runs, and James Anderson's rise to No 1 in the world Test rankings, the head coach Trevor Bayliss quietly but firmly tells us how much England have to do.

"We're not a team in transition but we've still got a long way to go before we reach our best - or a position, or way of playing the game, that I think everyone would be happy with," Bayliss said after England had gone 2-0 up in the Test series against Sri Lanka.

"If we want to compete against Australia, who are the No?1 team at the moment, on a consistent basis there are areas we need to improve," Bayliss added. "So we are still a work in progress."

It was glaringly obvious during the Durham Test - whenever Anderson was not steaming in and papering over the cracks - that the areas where England "need to improve" are top-order batting, backup seam bowling, spin bowling, wicketkeeping, captaincy when spinners are on, and fielding.

That's all. But for public consumption Bayliss backs all of his players, starting with Cook.

"He is right up there with any of the best international players," he said of his captain. "He is not the biggest stroke-player of all time. He knows his game very well, he is very patient and he sticks to his game.

"To be able to do that over the period of time he has played and score as many runs as he has is a fantastic effort."

Bayliss did not rule out Cook going on to 15,922 Test runs to overtake Sachin Tendulkar as the all-time record holder. "It will be about how long he wants to keep doing it but certainly there is time on his side, so there is no reason he couldn't if his heart is still in it."

And is Cook's now sated? "Probably the opposite. Just listening to some of the press and the talk behind the scenes when I first got here [last June], all of the criticism and not necessarily winning as much as he'd have liked was weighing him down a little bit. I think a newer, younger team and winning with that team has given him a new lease of life."

More wise words from Bayliss on Steven Finn, who has taken four wickets for 138 runs on the same pitches on which Anderson has taken 18 at 7.72.

"I don't think there's any one thing you can tell anyone who's out of form or out of rhythm - it's about giving them as much support as possible and as much encouragement as you can," he said.

"I thought the two Tests Steven played in South Africa he was probably our best pace bowler. But sometimes you get a little bit out of nick - that's just what happens when you haven't played at this level for three or four months.

"I fully expect him to get back to where he was in that South Africa series very shortly. We know the devastating bowler he can be when he gets it right."

On the much flatter surface at Lord's, for the third Test starting on Thursday next week, England will need more than the odd wicket from Moeen Ali.

Or, as Bayliss said when looking ahead to the autumn tours of Bangladesh and India: "We've got room for improvement in terms of taking wickets."

This is why Michael Vaughan's proposal of Scott Borthwick in The Daily Telegraph yesterday had so much to commend it:

James Vince to replace Nick Compton at three, and Borthwick not only to bat at five but bowl leg-spin and be a sparky presence in the field.

Jake Ball, who has been named in England's squad for the third consecutive Test, has admitted that he "nearly chucked up" over the chairman of selectors James Whitaker on hearing of his original selection, having just eaten a chocolate tart.

Had he known he was only going to be 12th man for the first two Tests, Ball could have been forgiven for an all-out spew.

Bayliss said: "It was very close for this game whether we played young Jake Ball or [Chris] Woakes.

For me, yes, it would be good to have a look at Ball in a situation like that [the dead-rubber Test at Lord's].

"On the same side of things it'd be good for Woakes to have a few games in a row. We'll have to sit down and discuss it but at this stage I'd have thought it'd possibly be the same team for Lord's."

Anderson has never been No?1 in the Test rankings before. He became the fourth England bowler of modern times to reach this notional position, after Ian Botham, Steve Harmison, and Stuart Broad earlier this year.

Anderson's Sri Lankan counterpart, Shaminda Eranga, has been reported for a suspect action.

Eranga will be allowed to play in the Lord's Test before further testing, and England will not mind too much. He has taken one wicket in this series for 172 runs.

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