One thing I've noticed about the England Cricket team these days is their selection of 6 batsmen, 1 wicket keeper and 4 bowlers in their lineup. In the past, England would often go into a match with 5 bowlers - one of which would be the designated "all rounder".

With the advent of Adam Gilchrist as an all-rounder (wicket-keeper/batsman) teams are now thinking of picking wicketkeepers whose keeping skills are only moderate, but whose batting shows promise. Matt Prior is the current England wicket-keeper, who boasts over 6000 first class runs at over 38 and 267 dismissals in 111 games. He debuted against the West Indies this northern hemisphere summer and his batting form has been good.

At some point, however, average wicketkeepers with average batting skills may not be exactly what the team requires. Australian cricket got lumped with Wayne Phillips back in the 1980s. That guy was Rod Marsh's replacement and he never had the skill to replace him. He was originally selected as a batsman so obviously when Marsh retired the selectors thought it would be a good thing for Phillips to replace him (Phillips was South Australia's wicket keeper). Unfortunately neither his batting nor his wicket-keeping were of top standard after he started being the regular wicket-keeper, especially in a batting lineup that was increasingly fragile. He probably bore more than the regular amount of pressure from fans and selectors during that period, and was eventually dropped.

England, however, seem to be functioning quite well with 4 bowlers at present (Collingwood could never be considered a bowler). With 3 successful pacemen (Harmison, Sidebottom and Hoggard) and 1 spinner (Panesar), it is increasingly obvious that England's bowling stocks are getting better. If Flintoff makes a return, it would be better if he replaced a bowler rather than a batter (Harmison is looking quite out of form these days).

England will win the Ashes back in 2008 - that is my prediction.

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