August 4, 2009

Ashes

Not so rosy on the England bowling front

Kanishkaa Balachandran
Andrew Flintoff is slow to get up after falling, England v Australia, 3rd Test, Edgbaston, 5th day, August 3, 2009
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As the third Test wound down like an old clock, it became worryingly clear that England are too easily defanged when conditions do not give their bowlers an edge. The quandary for the selectors, who announce the team for Headingley is whether or not to take final-day form into account, writes Kevin Mitchell in the Guardian.

It was dispiriting to witness a potentially dramatic day peter out like this. The well-watered gathering expected more and they stirred from their late-afternoon slumber to acknowledge the obvious: England are still not killers. They are opportunistic muggers, maybe. They need things going their way.

In the Independent, James Lawton worries if Andrew Flintoff has enough steam to pound through the next two Tests.

Yesterday, though, on the ground where he riveted the crowd four years ago in one of the most unforgettable of all Ashes Tests, and on Sunday wielded his bat as though it was a broadsword, there was disturbing evidence that with the fourth Test at Headingley just three days away Flintoff might not be far from the point of physical breakdown.

Shane Warne feels that Graham Onions would be better off moving from Durham to a place where pitches are flatter so that his game develops. Warne also analyses the bowling attacks of both teams in his column for the Times.

Of all the grounds in England, Headingley is the place where conditions can most help the bowlers. I sometimes found it a horrible place to bat, with the ball swinging and jagging and bouncing. The new ball is crucial and I still believe that if Australia can get to the England middle order early they have a great chance.

In the same paper, Christopher Martin-Jenkins feels it may be sensible to rest Flintoff for Headingley, but it's obviously a big gamble.

Tim Bresnan or Adil Rashid would love a chance of playing an Ashes Test on their home ground but Ryan Sidebottom, a bowler in ripe form and Stephen Harmison, even with blisters, are the only serious candidates if strengthening the attack is the main criterion. Lose Freddie, however, and you lose that precious balance.

Stuart Broad's figures in the last three Tests may not be flattering enough for him to be retained for Headingley, but the selectors should persist with him because he finds ways to get into games and never shirks when he is down on luck, writes Patrick Kidd in the Times.

In the Telegraph, Simon Hughes writes that Strauss missed a trick by under-bowling James Anderson.

With a 40-minute break for lunch, Anderson would have been the canny choice to begin the afternoon session. Instead, Onions and Broad were called up – presumably a committee decision, as there was scope in the interval to discuss it.

Australia may still be trailing 0-1 in this Ashes series but it can take an intangible advantage into the next Test - momentum. Just like England did when it hung on grimly to save the first Test at Cardiff and then bounded away to win at Lord's, Australia hung on easily at Edgbaston and should be buoyed by its improvement, writes Malcolm Conn in the Australian.

It’s often been Shane Warne producing a ripper that turns a series but Graeme Swann’s scorching off break that shattered Ricky Ponting’s stumps on day four at Edgbaston has taken pole position for ‘that ball’ of the 2009 Ashes campaign. Jamie Pandaram has more in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Writing in the same paper, Peter Roebuck says England have been stronger and better balanced and he believes the hosts will win the Ashes. He admits though, it is never wise to underestimate any Australian team, but the gap between the sides is widening, not shrinking.

The Australian top order looks settled, now the focus should be on their bowling attack for Headingley. Australia must be tempted to tinker with their attack even if their options for change are limited, writes Vic Marks in the Guardian.

"It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." What a perceptive analysis of Australia's batting by Duke Ellington (albeit in 1931). Unless the ball is changing direction in mid-air the tourists look all too comfortable against England's attack on the benign pitches prepared for this series. They are vulnerable, it seems, only when the ball is swinging.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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