England’s Bowling Attack: Ashes Worthy?

10 08 2010

The England juggernaut rolls on to its sixth win in a row, having pulverised the Pakistani’s into submission.

Well actually we are not sure about the legitimacy of calling this side a ‘juggernaut’ yet due to four of those wins being against a supine Bangladesh side and the last two against a Pakistan side as inconsistent as its possible to be, and, being England, there is still a reasonable chance of everything coming to a shuddering halt at the Gabba on November 25th.

What there does seem little doubt about though is the fact that Pakistan are likely to lose this series 4-0. Possibly certain people may argue that Pakistan showed signs of fight in this match and point to what happened against Australia, yet we simply cannot see any sort of reversal in fortunes. The difference in the two contests lie in the bowling attacks, with England’s being a much more accurate, efficient and downright dangerous one than the Aussies’. Much of this can probably be put down to a familiarity with home bowling conditions but this is not the full story. Anderson in particular has rediscovered his ‘mojo’ and has been ably supported by Finn and Broad and, for the first time in this series, by Graeme Swann. (Not that Swann has bowled badly before – just that he hasn’t really bowled!)

The question that has struck us whilst following this series is; will four bowlers be enough down under during the coming Winter when the ball is not hooping around like a golden snitch in a Harry Potter film? Anderson, for one, has been rendered toothless a couple of times before as the shine comes off the ball, (and as the commentators love to keep reminding us they use a Kookaburra ball in Australia which doesn’t swing as much anyway) and it remains to be seen whether he has developed into a genuine all surface, all weather bowler. Indeed, during the last 18 months when asked to lead the bowling attack, Anderson has been strangely absent with this particular load falling on Broad or Swann’s shoulders.

Broad is a fast improving bowler (if still a spoilt, immature and petulant man) and looks more consistently dangerous every game. It will be his first trip to Australia but being a more consistent operator in terms of line and length he should do well. Broad also has the happy knack of taking wickets at important times, and whilst perhaps not yet in the quantities England would like, he remains an important cog for England.

Finn is the interesting one. Finn has started his career brilliantly and it would be feckless to criticise him for having taken his wickets against two of the weaker sides in world cricket – you can after all only bowl at the people put in front of you. To say his early record is encouraging (27 wickets in 6 matches at an average of just over 21) would be an understatement and like Harmison was once before him, he looks like the sort of bowler made for Australian conditions. Quick and with the sort of steepling bounce associated with bowlers of 6 foot 7 inches, but crucially perhaps without any signs of the curious homesickness that so afflicted Harmison’s away performances, he could be the difference in the coming series. Still only 21 years old there must be a risk that he suffers at the hands of the Australian’s famed batting line up yet, for us at the Compulsive Hooker, he is the real deal. Not a new Glenn McGrath as some people have been saying (he’s quicker than McGrath ever was) – just the first Steven Finn…

Swann of course is a given and has proven himself a match winning, dangerous and clever bowler  under any conditions. Having grown up in the 90’s watching England’s flirtations with such stellar names as Peter Such, Ian Salisbury and an ageing and decrepit John Emburey, it is a remarkable and wonderful thing to know we have the best attacking spinner in world cricket. Along with Finn, Swann could prove key in turning England’s tour into a successful one.

But are these four enough? That is the essential question we started out with and to tell the truth we hadn’t made up our mind until literally a moment ago. Such sage judges as Michael Vaughan (who with an Ashes win behind him has far more pedigree than us! Nevertheless…) have been advocating for some time the advantages of five bowlers but in our view we think this would be a flawed policy. In our eyes you have to pick your best available team and currently there is not a fifth bowler worthy of selection – bearing in mind that any extra bowler would almost certainly be a seamer, thereby ruling Monty Panesar out. The two obvious choices are Sidebottom and Bresnan yet these selections are fraught with danger. Sidebottom has lost his nip, Bresnan never had any and quite frankly there do not appear to be any other alternatives. From our point of view we would rather have six batsman who deserve their place and rely on four bowlers of high quality, than five batsman and select an extra bowler who is clearly not going to bring anything extra to the party.

The batting line up could yet change with Bell to come back from injury and Cook horribly out of touch; but this would be our preferred line up.

1. Strauss 2. Cook/ Trott 3. Trott/Bell* 4. Pietersen 5. Collingwood 6. Morgan 7. Prior 8. Swann 9. Broad 10. Anderson 11. Finn

*We realise we can’t justify dropping Trott (much to our personal disappointment) and so have selected him twice against the names of the most vulnerable other members of the England side. Morgan is a must for us…

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7 responses

10 08 2010
Ceejaypee

Agree pretty much about the bowling, I think I would be taking Shahzad, certainly I’d look to play him in one of the Pakistan tests to rotate the bowlers and see how he goes. Although that said he is a skiddy bowler rather than a bounce bowler.

I dont think there will be any real turning pitches in Aus to negate Swann (as the best Aus have to offer is either Smith or Hauritz), otherwise I’d like to see Rashid make the trip, Monty has had an OK season but I’m still not convinced.

Of the other bowlers around at the moment, I think England should have a look again at Tremlett. Tall, Quick and likely to get bounce in Australian conditions, and he seems to be fit again.

Not sure I would agree with Morgan as an automatic choice in test cricket yet. Trott is dull to watch I agree but he is very effective nonetheless. My concern is over the opening berth, Cook needs to rediscover his touch, and fast as I can’t see who else could do the job.

10 08 2010
Bradders

Hi Ceejaypee, thanks for commenting. Forgot Shahzad when writing that so would like to put the record straight and say that, yes, I would like to see him go on tour. He would definitely get my vote as the fifth bowler as I was impressed with him against the Bangladeshis. Arguments can be made for Rashid too so agree that he should probably travel as well. As for Tremlett – he never convinced me – always looked too ‘nice’ and didn’t have enough fire to look like a regular test threat.

10 08 2010
James Parrett

Hi Brad,

Some good points in there. I feel firstly i should apologise for giving Bangladesh a bashing in an earlier comment. The Banglies look the ultimate professional side compared to this Pakistan squad. These games could actually have been quite close if all but the simplest of catches hadn’t been dropped. The Banglies batting actually looked far more threatening than what we are currently watching.

I think the current line-up including 4 bowlers is probably the best one we can put out. We simply don’t seem to have the confidence to put enough runs on the board with just 6 bats (inc Prior). The only solution would be an all-rounder – Bresnan or Bopara on current form, though neither is a genuine all-rounder in my eyes.

As for a fifth bowler i would def look at Shahzad over Sidey/Bres, mainly due to him being an unknown quantity for the Ozzies. Is there any update on Graham Onions? Hopefully he can get back to fitness and push for selection again.

Do we have anything really to fear from the Ozzies this tour? I know they are always a competitive and dangerous outfit, but Ponting is the only great in their line up and he is on the wane. Clarke is very good and a few others warrant a mention, but I feel the Ozzies have far more cause for concern than we do.

My starting line-up for the 1st test would be exactly as has started the last 2 tests. This is very unfortunate for Ian Bell, but I much prefer the look of the team right now. Trott isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but he has much more steel than Bell and his one outing vs Australia speaks for itself.

Hugely biased, but i predict a 4-1 Eng win in Australia!!

10 08 2010
Bradders

Hi Pol, hope this kept you amused for 5 minutes to take up some of your surfing time!

Forgot Shahzad and would definitely take him on tour so if 5 bowlers is necessary he would be the one. As for Onions, sadly a bit injury prone and seemed to be one of those bowlers who beat the bat alot without taking too many wickets. Did like him though.

Thats a big prediction but would love it to happen!!

10 08 2010
Mahek

I agree with you in that you should pick your best eleven. However, I think an XI with Ajmal Shahzad or Adil Rashid as the fifth bowler is much stronger than one with Cook and/or Bell. Cook absolutely has to go and I’m still not convinced about Bell at number 3. Also, promoting Trott to open the innings might backfire and if Bell gets shown up once again England will be firefighting throughout the series. They could go with KP at 3, and I think he should always bat there, but he seems reluctant to bat there and isn’t batting too well right now.

I’d still gamble with Trott and KP in the top 3 thought. My XI would be

Strauss
Trott
Pietersen
Collingwood
Morgan
Prior
Rashid/Shahzad
Swann
Broad
Anderson
Finn

12 08 2010
Russ

Funny, I’ve always felt the 2005 England squad was a batsman light, with the frequent collapses for middling scores to prove it. They got away with it, because Flintoff scored some crucial runs, but can any player in England, right now, be expected to average 40 with the bat, and 30 with the ball?

The thing about a fifth bowler is that the times you need him (when the opposition is running up 400+) correspond to the times you need batting insurance. If the opposition have an impregnable batting defense, then you are playing for a draw, and therefore need an impregnable defense yourself.

Funny, conceived that way England have a lovely modern 4-2-1-3 going:
Prior keeping.
Cook and Strauss in central defense.
Collingwood and Trott at fullback.
Pietersen and Morgan in the holding midfielders role, breaking up opposition attacks.
Swann in the playmaker role, setting the tempo.
And three forwards: Anderson, Broad and Finn.

Would you really want to convert that to a 3-2-2-3 or 3-2-1-4?

God knows what that makes Australia though, 2-5-3?

12 08 2010
Mahek

There is another situation in which you need a fifth bowler – When one of your bowlers get injured during a game.

I don’t think England were a batsman light in 2005, they seemed so because the selectors in their infinite wisdom picked between Thorpe and KP instead of KP and Bell. Bell had absolutely no business being there and yet all the talk was of Thorpe missing out because KP’s time had come. Besides, Flintoff was in the middle of the only spell of his career during which he genuinely contributed with bat and ball.

Having said that, I’d never advocate playing a fifth bowler just for the heck of it. I’d say the same for a sixth batsman too. Pick whoever gives you more value.

Oh and Cook in central defense can be as bad as John Terry at the World Cup 🙂

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