JASON GILLESPIE: You could play into Australia’s hands! The Aussie bowlers have the potential to blow England away – on the benign pitches they asked for – in the huge Ashes series
- Australia captain Pat Cummins leads from the front and can bowl genuinely fast
- Australia most wary of Ollie Robinson as he releases from a massive height
- James Anderson tests batters by getting the ball to go both ways at pace
As a Test-cricket lover, it’s been immense fun to watch the way England have gone about things over the past 12 months and it will be fascinating to see the clash with an Australian attack who will be ready for their onslaught.
What we’re hearing is that England want grass shaved off pitches to promote aggressive batting, but I just wonder if this particular tactic plays into Australia’s hands a bit more.
Australian bowlers are probably better suited to bowling on those types of surfaces than the English bowlers, whose strength lies in their own conditions, playing with the Dukes ball.
If you negate the off-the-surface movement with benign pitches, Australia have the air speed and height in Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green to take full advantage and are clearly better stocked than England, who have only two tall bowlers in Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson.
If Jofra Archer was fit, he would have potentially altered things, and it’s really disappointing to see a lad who’s desperate to perform not able to play.
Australia captain Pat Cummins leads from the front and can bowl genuinely fast
Having been a fast bowler myself and missed key series through injury, I know it’s a heartbreaking feeling. You just want to be part of things, so he’ll obviously be devastated.
It’s disappointing for the game of cricket too because in huge series you want players with genuine pace creating great theatre, as Jofra did in the 2019 Ashes — although, I don’t think the Australians are complaining too much that he’s not there.
Bowlers win matches, they say, and here is my assessment of the two attacks trying to come out on top over the next two months.
Age: 40 Caps: 179
Ashes record in England: Matches 14 Wkts 44 Ave 33
HE has been at the very top for 20 years and to have the discipline to maintain such a long career and still be like a kid in a candy store, excited about everything that goes into being an elite cricketer, is extraordinary.
It’s not just what you see when he is bowling that is key here. You don’t see is what it takes to get on to the parks. Things get a little bit more challenging as you get older but the way he has kept himself physically right at the age of 40 shows how strong he is mentally.
We all talk about him being the Swing King and expert in English conditions and combating that type of bowler has been the Achilles heel of Australian batting for 30 years because we don’t get a lot of them back home. He tests the front-foot defence of batters by getting the ball to go both ways at good pace.
Age: 36 Caps: 161
Ashes record in England: M 20 W 84 Ave 26.19
THE pantomime villain of Australian cricket. Everyone loves to hate him but a lot of his off-field stuff is just great banter designed to create a stir.
But you don’t get to the age of 36, and close to 600 wickets as a Test player without a huge appetite for competition. In his long career there have been lots of phases. You have to recreate yourself at times to survive.
At one stage, he looked to pitch the ball up and swing it, then he had a period when he came wider of the crease and bowled leg-cutters to the right-handers. During the last Ashes in England, he had a lot of success around the wicket to left-handers, and to David Warner in particular. Doesn’t get a huge amount of movement, but when you are 6ft 6in, the ball only needs to do just enough.
James Anderson tests front-foot defence of batters by getting the ball to go both ways at pace
Age: 29 Caps: 16
THE one Australia will be most wary of, without a doubt. I gave him his debut for Yorkshire but he got a bit homesick and needed to be down south. Later, I was with him for a couple of years at Sussex and he’s matured as a cricketer since. That hasn’t surprised me.
He’s a real thinking bowler, nibbles it around at a good pace and releases from a massive height. He’s consistently a bit quicker than both Broad and Anderson, hits the pitch pretty hard and although he gets movement through the air, it is mainly off the track that batters must worry about.
He’s a really street-smart operator who researches his opposition a lot and comes up with really clear plans on how he’s going to take wickets, and certainly having guys like Broad and Anderson around him to learn from will only have helped him further. He’s also got the confidence that comes with playing a bit of Test cricket and dominating on the county scene.
Age: 33 Caps: 28
Ashes record in England: M 4 W 10 Ave 39.10
IT would be a shock if he plays more than a couple of Tests as an impact bowler.
Various ailments over the years have prevented him getting a good run of games together and I think England will try to use his genuine pace strategically rather than across a full series. Maybe, he will come in when Broad or Anderson is rested. His action puts a lot of strain on his body, particularly his front foot landing. That’s the price you pay for bowling quick. Minimal grass on surfaces may lead to the Dukes ball reverse swinging as well and that could play into his hands.
Age: 34 Caps: 45
Ashes record in England: M 5 W 11 Ave 38.81
I AM inclined to look at Broad, Anderson and Robinson as the big three but injuries can throw a spanner in the works so England will also have a strategy on how they want to use their back-up bowlers, and at which grounds.
Because it’s probably the most condensed Ashes series in history, a squad mentality will be necessary for England’s seam attack. Woakes is at his best when he looks to swing the ball, not bowling it too full but at a length that the Aussie batters will be thinking they can score off from front-foot strokes. If you can get that right as a bowler without getting into driving length, it introduces jeopardy.
Australia will be most wary of Ollie Robinson as he releases from a massive height
Age: 31 Caps: 91
Ashes record in England: M 10 W 19 Ave 38.42
AT the back end of his career, Ian Botham was a bit of a liquorice allsorts bowler, trying stuff while giving the main quicks a bit of a breather. I view Stokes in that role now. Someone who will look to create, whether it’s coming in around the wicket with some short stuff to a specific field, hanging it out wide of off-stump, or coming in and trying a couple of bouncers, yorkers, changes of place. He will be best utilised in short bursts given the recent injury issues.
Age: 31 Caps: 34
Ashes record in England: M 4 W 12 Ave 25.83
THIS is where the game of cat and mouse will come in, because I think the Aussies will look to dominate the left-arm spinner and this could be an interesting battle throughout the series.
Being able to score quickly and heavily off him will influence how England use their other bowlers. Australia will want to force Stokes to take him off and bring back one of the quicks or bowl himself.
In 2005, Ashley Giles took only 10 wickets at 57 but he gave the seam bowlers a breather, picked up key wickets and didn’t get blown away from a runs per over point of view, regularly bowling over the wicket to really good fields and going at around threes. I’m not saying Leach should bowl like Giles but he’s got to find a way to have an impact in whatever role that he’s entrusted with.
Age: 30 Caps: 49
Ashes record in England: Matches 5 Wkts 29 Ave 19.62
HE leads from the front and it’s going to be interesting to see how often he bowls because history has shown that fast-bowling captains under-bowl themselves at times. He’s added skills to his repertoire: he can bowl genuinely fast, swings it in, swing it out, and can do that donkey work, hitting the back of a length, which means as well as being captain, he is leader of the attack. All this places makes him one of the finest fast bowlers to wear the Baggy Green.
Age: 33 Caps: 77
Ashes record in England: M 9 W 33 Ave 31.27
THE idea of Starc bowling first change has been floated by former Australia left-armer Brendon Julian and the reasoning is that during that first six to 10 overs, the lacquer is still on the ball and it swings more after this period.
Although I see some merit in that, I’d still want him to take the first over, bowl fast and create a little bit of indecision. England are going to play pretty aggressively and Australia should therefore unleash the beast that is Starc, their most aggressive bowler, as early as possible.
The left-arm angle is something different and I am not sure there have been many bowlers in the history of Test cricket who have consistently bowled fuller. Starc attacks the stumps and front pad with the new ball and that has been very successful. Don’t look at the runs per over, look at the wickets column. He’s up to 306 now.
Age: 31 Caps: 59
Ashes record in England: M 8 W 36 Ave 23.58
ONE of my favourite bowlers to watch but he’s been dogged by injuries.
He’s played only four of Australia’s most recent 19 Tests, is out of the World Test Championship final against India and it’s a race against time for Edgbaston. Fingers crossed, he’ll be fit and firing because he has so many great attributes: tall, with a great motor, good pace and an ability to hit the same spot on the pitch over and over, just doing enough with the ball to create doubt in batsmen’s minds.
Age: 34 Caps: 7
I’ve heard the him described under-rated but he’s certainly not under-rated in Australia and his 28 Test wickets have cost 13.42 runs apiece. He’s never bowled in a first-class match here but in traditional English conditions he could be a proper handful, just nibbling the ball around at a brisk pace of around 84 miles per hour. Relentless with his line and length. Expect him to play, if Hazlewood doesn’t make it.
Age: 23 Caps: 20
Consistently hits the high 80s in mph and at 6ft 6ins, when on song he can create a lot of problems with extra bounce. You have a bigger margin for error when you slightly miss your length when you are that tall.
Too full and batters don’t feel as confident driving and too short, the same goes for cross-batted shots. In Australia, the pitches carry more and you can bowl in the channel as it can invite nicks behind. Offer width in England though and the ball just sits up, batters can get to the top of the bounce and launch it through the off-side. So Australia’s all-rounder will need to bowl a bit straighter.
Age 33: Caps: 2
HE has had a wonderful season so far with Glamorgan. Bustles in, hits a good spot on the wicket and challenges the top of off-stump regularly. He is a gun fielder and genuine all rounder, with three first-class hundreds. So he could force his way in, despite not being named in the original squad. The Australian selectors will be glad they have an in-form bowler waiting in the wings.
Spinner Nathan Lyon has the experience to be able to combat any aggressive batting
Age: 35 Caps: 119
Ashes record in England: M 13 W 45 Ave 31.62
KNOWN as the Goat. Adaptability is his massive strength. England will look to have a crack at him but I reckon he has the experience to be able to combat any aggressive batting. I haven’t seen too many teams go hard at him in trying to put him off his game and succeed. It’s going to be a great battle. With all respect to Leach, Lyon is a far superior spinner and will handle the counter-attacking of opponents better.
England might get him away now and again, but he always has the last laugh.
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