November 25, 2013

What fast bowling does

It gives aggro to your fielders, jitters to the opposition, and thrills to the fans
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Good fast bowling can wilt even the hardiest batsmen
Good fast bowling can wilt even the hardiest batsmen © Getty Images

Only last Thursday, England were the pundits' unbackable favourites for the Ashes - don't let any of them tell you otherwise. Stick to the facts, said the glitterati of the game: England have the better cricketers. Wise heads predicted 3-1, or something like it, while the headstrong went for 5-0. Predictions are a mug's game. Last winter, England were going to be hammered in India. Wrong.

Form, fitness, karma in the two camps and recent history told us that there could only be one winner down under. Moreover, a suspicion lingered that the English batsmen were better suited to Australian pitches and that all those giants bursting out of tight England shirts would be the mother of handfuls on the hard bouncy pitches of the Great Southern Land. Oh, and England held the psychological cards. Well, all that was wrong too.

In one of the most startling turnarounds the game has ever seen, Australia beat England to a pulp at Fortress Gabba. Johnson became Thomson and the ghosts of 1974-75 haunted England from the moment Jonathan Trott began to fend prior to lunch on the second morning. In the days of the Chappells, Marsh and Lillee, Jeff Thomson took England by a mighty surprise. Legend has it that he bowled balls at 160kph as a matter of course. English county cricketers are said to have hidden behind armchairs when the BBC played newsreels from Australia and balls bowled by Thommo ricocheted off bare heads to cover point. Mitchell Johnson may not be Jeffrey Thomson but there was something brutal and utterly compelling about his assault on Alastair Cook's team.

This is not an age of crackerjack fast bowling. Indeed, Dale Steyn is the one true exponent and even he only slips himself when mood and circumstance take him. The game has been missing the sense of danger upon which much of its folklore is developed. From Harold Larwood and Bodyline to John Snow hitting Terry Jenner at the Sydney Cricket Ground; from the "Demon" Fred Spofforth through to Lillee and Thomson; from Merv Hughes and Brett Lee, Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff, the Ashes has frequently reminded us that physical courage is an essential part of a cricketer's make-up.

Cook has it in abundance and proved as much yesterday with a brave attempt to salvage English pride. When he fell immediately after the weather delay, and to an offspinner, his despair was apparent. He had, of course, stood as the non-striker and watched both Trott and Kevin Pietersen caught at deep backward square-leg in attempts to counter-punch. What would he have made of these dismissals? Clearly, he cannot expect everyone to simply defend, an approach that requires a specific state of mind. Probably he forgave Pietersen, who was looking to play his own adventurous game. Perhaps he bristled at Trott, who appeared to panic.

We shall never forget Mitchell Johnson's seriously fast bowling and the manner in which a highly competent, well-enough prepared and previously serene England team was humbled in 54 minutes while making just 9 runs

This is what fast bowling does best. It makes the opponent panic. Whether it be in the dressing room, whispering, or in the middle, wilting, batsmen are moved to an altered and confused state by the truly fast men. Quite literally, fast bowling keeps you awake at night and makes you sweat in the morning. Fred Trueman used to spend much of the hour before play in the opposing dressing room, frightening the life out of the freshers. The old 'uns were not immune either. Witness the Essex spinners Ray East and David Acfield, who used to wait in the car park for the likes of Andy Roberts, Sylvester Clarke and Joel Garner and then offer to carry their bags for them.

The next best thing about fast bowling is the effect it has on those teams that possess it. Otherwise mute fielders suddenly find an aggressive voice; short-leg fielders become hyenas, whooping on their man from a position so close that the batsmen can smell the carnivorous hunger; wicketkeepers remind everyone of the immediate possibilities of a cricket ball propelled at something close to 150kph and ensure the batsmen are in earshot. The Australian captain even went so far as to tell James Anderson to "get ready for f***ing broken arm", a splendidly unedifying comment from a charming enough man. Many a muscle has been flexed by cricketers with fast bowlers at their side.

The crowds live at the grounds love the gladiatorial nature of these passages of play, and television further enhances the frenzy with its tight shots, slow-motion replays, various angles and hyped-up commentators who have stories of their own to tell. It is a dimension of the game that needs protecting, while its less attractive offshoots need policing.

There is so much international cricket that, for much of the time, the players find a way to cope at around 80% of their output. This is not obvious to the spectator in any area other than fast bowling. Equally, the pitches are increasingly uniform and made to last, not to entertain. An argument says the Gabba is the best pitch in the world, for it allows the players to express all aspects of their game. Certainly Australia played a thrilling brand of cricket from the time Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson began their effervescent partnership on the first afternoon. (Forever, Cook will wonder how different this story may have been had England finished off the Australian innings right there.)

We shall remember that effort with the same clarity with which we will recall David Warner and Michael Clarke dashing to hundreds on the third day. And we shall never forget Mitchell Johnson's seriously fast bowling and the manner in which a highly competent, well-enough prepared and previously serene England team were humbled by him. Humbled in less than an hour. Humbled in 54 minutes, to be precise, while making just 9 runs. In this period, Australia took six wickets - Ryan Harris the first, Nathan Lyon a couple, and Johnson the other two, before dismissing England for 136. There is no coming back from that. Sometimes it takes five full days to win a Test match. Other times it takes under an hour. Thanks to Johnson, the Ashes has exploded into our consciousness and it is no longer England who hold the psychological cards.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel 9 in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dunger.bob on November 25, 2013, 8:46 GMT

    Many years ago our town had the fastest bowler in the local comp. Then he moved to another town and started playing for the opposition. 3 of our batsmen went with him because they didn't want to face him. They'd rather drive 160km twice a week for training than face him. .. I wasn't one of them, I stayed and in the first game he nearly turned my box inside out. Right about then I started thinking they were right.

  • connoblehill on November 29, 2013, 9:24 GMT

    Unfortunately, Australians cannot handle fast bowling and hence complain and winge when on the receiving end eg Larwood and John Snow.

  • brisCricFan on November 27, 2013, 4:41 GMT

    @m_ilind ; I'm not sure you can say they only rediscovered Mitch during the recent ODI series in India, after all he went there on the back of excellent form from the ODI series in England.

    But that said, I have been saying for the last 12 months that MJ was finding better consistency since his return to the domestic scene. I think the selectors noticed but had the nagging sensation of his last performances during Ashes... at some point his consistency (and the misfortune of injured Aus bowlers) had to be looked at seriously.

    In the lead up to this Test I was saying that you can stop asking which MJ is going to turn up... the answer is neither the good nor the bad, but the NEW MJ with his more repetitive motion... I think he will bowl well in Adelaide on a batsman's wicket but both WACA and MCG will give him good reward for those that bend their backs.

  • WC2011Champs on November 27, 2013, 3:21 GMT

    brisCricFan and Shaggy076, the trajectory and the heavier ball implies that it is the pitch. The back of the length balls are ricocheting off the pitch, climbing higher rather unexpectedly and hitting the keeper gloves harder or anything before that. MJ knows what that length is and was able to exploit it better than Broad. Harris is bowling fuller and has a different gameplan. Though totally agree with both of you - Mcgrath had some zip that would hurt at 135kmph so does MJ.

  • m_ilind on November 26, 2013, 21:33 GMT

    Aussie selectors rediscovered Mitchell Johnson during the one day series in India. He might have been overlooked otherwise, as his bowling form has been patchy otherwise. He bowled well in the IPL also for the MI, but that seems to go unnoticed as the IPL is seen more as a domestic competition by the foreign boards and players. Ian Chappell was critical of the scheduling of the one day series in India before the Ashes, wonder what he thinks about it now? All said, Mitch has been the main difference between the two sides.

  • Chris_P on November 26, 2013, 20:35 GMT

    Pace bowling coupled with a baying crowd completes the picture. The atmosphere at the Gabba was unbelievable, the crowd was humming, yelling, really stirring the emotions. If the bowlers couldn't get a high out of that, not sure what could. I think I am getting an idea how tough it is for us to win State of Origin matches up there especially when the crowd is buzzing. The plus for England is that no other ground attracts this sort of atmosphere although the MCG & SCG do have their moments. Adelaide, with Hobart, I found are the most conservative. Perth is the only ground I haven't gone to a test (although been to a Shield match once), so I can't comment on them.

  • on November 26, 2013, 19:05 GMT

    just think that too much is being made out of one test...remember mark ...kp is not the one who will back off from this challenge ...remember his 149 against SA last year where he pummeled an attack boasting of a steaming steyn morkel kallis and philander? cook has shown time and again that he can make the opposition cry with his remorseless accumulation of runs once he gets in.... don't count out Ian bell either...he s coming off a magnificent home leg of the ashes ....above all we know how consistent Mitchell Johnson is ! don't be surprised if he gets thrashed around in Adelaide and that will be the end of fiery Mitch for this series... In my view Ryan Harris is the only bankable seamer in the Aus line up and if he breaks down somewhere then it l be a thunderbolt for Clarke ! so there s every possibility that eng can look back after the series and laugh at the first test and at the comments you guys are making after it... beware ;)

  • on November 26, 2013, 17:51 GMT

    we need to wait till the last ball bowled in 3rd test to predict the outcome of this series. One win over a overseas team who did not get chance to acclaimatize in australia due to rains. I mean Mitchel johnson was bowling for aussies for last 6 years , he was always a good bowler with bad line. In last two months MJ bowled with line and length and with great speed. What if MJ gets injured. What if he starts to bowl old line outside the off stumps and out side the leg stump.

    I think we all need to wait and see how MJ bowls and how england batsmen play him and other aussie bowlers. I don't think eng will let this ashes go that easily.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge.. on November 26, 2013, 14:59 GMT

    What is worrying is we are bowling at club level and Australia at 90+mph. The wicket won't matter much in Adelaide if they bowl that fast at us again. This will be a long tour for us, a very long tour. I revise my 5-0 England to win pre series score and now know that Australia will win it 5-0. Phew, it feels good to come clean with that.

  • PadMarley on November 26, 2013, 11:13 GMT

    Its been a while since we last spoke about some serious fast bowling, except for Styn's occasional wonders. In 80s and 90s, these kind of performances were everyday occurances with Windies, Pakistanis, and Aussies having a batallion of MJs and Stynes. Those were the days... and sad to say that T20 has killed good cricket. Modern day batsmen are failing to handle one guy; Imagine they were up against 90s Pakistanis or 80s West Indies!!

  • dunger.bob on November 25, 2013, 8:46 GMT

    Many years ago our town had the fastest bowler in the local comp. Then he moved to another town and started playing for the opposition. 3 of our batsmen went with him because they didn't want to face him. They'd rather drive 160km twice a week for training than face him. .. I wasn't one of them, I stayed and in the first game he nearly turned my box inside out. Right about then I started thinking they were right.

  • connoblehill on November 29, 2013, 9:24 GMT

    Unfortunately, Australians cannot handle fast bowling and hence complain and winge when on the receiving end eg Larwood and John Snow.

  • brisCricFan on November 27, 2013, 4:41 GMT

    @m_ilind ; I'm not sure you can say they only rediscovered Mitch during the recent ODI series in India, after all he went there on the back of excellent form from the ODI series in England.

    But that said, I have been saying for the last 12 months that MJ was finding better consistency since his return to the domestic scene. I think the selectors noticed but had the nagging sensation of his last performances during Ashes... at some point his consistency (and the misfortune of injured Aus bowlers) had to be looked at seriously.

    In the lead up to this Test I was saying that you can stop asking which MJ is going to turn up... the answer is neither the good nor the bad, but the NEW MJ with his more repetitive motion... I think he will bowl well in Adelaide on a batsman's wicket but both WACA and MCG will give him good reward for those that bend their backs.

  • WC2011Champs on November 27, 2013, 3:21 GMT

    brisCricFan and Shaggy076, the trajectory and the heavier ball implies that it is the pitch. The back of the length balls are ricocheting off the pitch, climbing higher rather unexpectedly and hitting the keeper gloves harder or anything before that. MJ knows what that length is and was able to exploit it better than Broad. Harris is bowling fuller and has a different gameplan. Though totally agree with both of you - Mcgrath had some zip that would hurt at 135kmph so does MJ.

  • m_ilind on November 26, 2013, 21:33 GMT

    Aussie selectors rediscovered Mitchell Johnson during the one day series in India. He might have been overlooked otherwise, as his bowling form has been patchy otherwise. He bowled well in the IPL also for the MI, but that seems to go unnoticed as the IPL is seen more as a domestic competition by the foreign boards and players. Ian Chappell was critical of the scheduling of the one day series in India before the Ashes, wonder what he thinks about it now? All said, Mitch has been the main difference between the two sides.

  • Chris_P on November 26, 2013, 20:35 GMT

    Pace bowling coupled with a baying crowd completes the picture. The atmosphere at the Gabba was unbelievable, the crowd was humming, yelling, really stirring the emotions. If the bowlers couldn't get a high out of that, not sure what could. I think I am getting an idea how tough it is for us to win State of Origin matches up there especially when the crowd is buzzing. The plus for England is that no other ground attracts this sort of atmosphere although the MCG & SCG do have their moments. Adelaide, with Hobart, I found are the most conservative. Perth is the only ground I haven't gone to a test (although been to a Shield match once), so I can't comment on them.

  • on November 26, 2013, 19:05 GMT

    just think that too much is being made out of one test...remember mark ...kp is not the one who will back off from this challenge ...remember his 149 against SA last year where he pummeled an attack boasting of a steaming steyn morkel kallis and philander? cook has shown time and again that he can make the opposition cry with his remorseless accumulation of runs once he gets in.... don't count out Ian bell either...he s coming off a magnificent home leg of the ashes ....above all we know how consistent Mitchell Johnson is ! don't be surprised if he gets thrashed around in Adelaide and that will be the end of fiery Mitch for this series... In my view Ryan Harris is the only bankable seamer in the Aus line up and if he breaks down somewhere then it l be a thunderbolt for Clarke ! so there s every possibility that eng can look back after the series and laugh at the first test and at the comments you guys are making after it... beware ;)

  • on November 26, 2013, 17:51 GMT

    we need to wait till the last ball bowled in 3rd test to predict the outcome of this series. One win over a overseas team who did not get chance to acclaimatize in australia due to rains. I mean Mitchel johnson was bowling for aussies for last 6 years , he was always a good bowler with bad line. In last two months MJ bowled with line and length and with great speed. What if MJ gets injured. What if he starts to bowl old line outside the off stumps and out side the leg stump.

    I think we all need to wait and see how MJ bowls and how england batsmen play him and other aussie bowlers. I don't think eng will let this ashes go that easily.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge.. on November 26, 2013, 14:59 GMT

    What is worrying is we are bowling at club level and Australia at 90+mph. The wicket won't matter much in Adelaide if they bowl that fast at us again. This will be a long tour for us, a very long tour. I revise my 5-0 England to win pre series score and now know that Australia will win it 5-0. Phew, it feels good to come clean with that.

  • PadMarley on November 26, 2013, 11:13 GMT

    Its been a while since we last spoke about some serious fast bowling, except for Styn's occasional wonders. In 80s and 90s, these kind of performances were everyday occurances with Windies, Pakistanis, and Aussies having a batallion of MJs and Stynes. Those were the days... and sad to say that T20 has killed good cricket. Modern day batsmen are failing to handle one guy; Imagine they were up against 90s Pakistanis or 80s West Indies!!

  • Beertjie on November 26, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    Agree @The_other_side on (November 25, 2013, 17:52) that it is nowhere near 1974 attack yet. But in England in 2015 they may be betyter than they were in England 40 years before! Then they had Lillee Thomson Walker Gilmour. They may well have Cummins Pattinson Bird Starc and Johnson. If these guys are all fit and firing watch out!

  • Shaggy076 on November 26, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    WC2011Champs; I dont think the speed guns all its cracked out to be. Some bowlers just bowl a heavier ball than there speed gun says. I think usually if the ball is still rising and smashing the keepers gloves then they are seriously fast. Mcgrath used to hit the gloves as hard as Lee and his bouncer was much harder to play then Lee, but he was always clocked at 135. Johnson was smashing the gloves in this game, even in the 79th over with an old ball on a fourth day pitch, he was way more dangerous than Lee ever was.

  • on November 26, 2013, 8:19 GMT

    Seems most have forgotten how Mitch destroyed the saffas(literally) a few years back. If hes in the kind of form and mood...i feel sorry for the english.

  • on November 26, 2013, 7:17 GMT

    It is curious that nobody has commented on the pace...or lack of it...of the English bowlers! No paceman averaged higher than the early 130s and Tremlett was regularly bowling at 127. England's dominance of the last few years has been built on quality pace bowling. Here, even though Broad bowled well, there was just no zip. This must be the most worrying thing f rom England's point of view. They need to play Finn and get Anderson to step up...

  • on November 26, 2013, 7:16 GMT

    The English batsmen have seemed to forgot the basics, if you face a left arm over bowler you adjust your stance and guard accordingly to ensure that you play down the right line. The abject failure to do this basic element made the English batsmen look as if they played away from their bodies and not in control of their shots. if you fail to play down the line correctly especially with fast bowling this is the effect you get both innings out for under two hundred and lucky to achieve that. I am very disappointed as an English fan that the side just capitulated so easily. The other element that was a surprise was that the bowling unit did not fire or apply sustained pressure, if this is the way we are playing now we just as well surrender the ashes before the second test.

  • brisCricFan on November 26, 2013, 4:26 GMT

    @ WC2011Champs; I was just talking to a few guys here about the perception of the different bowlers... I was at the Gabba and witnessed it first hand (and with the naked eye) both square on and behind the bowlers arms...

    Firstly, lets talk the speedometer, a few times Ryan Harris nudged the 140kph mark, which for all intent is only just slower than MJ's regular ball which was coming through supposedly at 144kph...

    Secondly, lets talk about the angles, I think the difference in trajectory makes the difference because the batsmen were far more comfortable with Harris and as an observer, MJ's deliveries were hitting the keepers gloves quicker, harder, and higher than Harris all day. When trying to take photos, it was much harder to get the ball still in frame for MJ and I don't see how this could have anything to do with the pitch, they were both bowling on the same wicket.

    As a layman, MJ was coming through much faster than anyone else seemed to regardless of a speedo!

  • dboys on November 26, 2013, 3:19 GMT

    @SurlyCynic you seems to be suffering from pot / kettle syndrome, the Saffas might want to look into adopting Raza Hasan into their fold; top shelf slow left arm spinner, also only 20 years old : )

  • WC2011Champs on November 26, 2013, 2:20 GMT

    Are these speedometer really accurate? 90MPH or 145KMPH is fast but not uncommon these days. Don't tell me MJ is faster than Brett Lee, Tait, Akhtar, or even Steyn who were regular 150KMPH. Is the Gabba pitch made it that much harder or is it the body line bowling? With MJ's style of bowling one thing is certain that the batsmen can't come prepared. Heck MJ himself does not know whether the ball is going to land. I am very very certain that like all other skills the fast bowling has also broken previous speed barriers. Newer generation bowlers are training harder (in gym), extending themselves with the help of technology, the coaches and the physios. And willing to break down as often. Larwood and Fred Truman might have been 125KPMH and WI pace battery must have been around 135KMPH that was threatening enough with uncovered pitches and without protective gears.

  • blah_blah on November 25, 2013, 23:06 GMT

    The most refreshing part of this Test was the pitch. Hopefully the AFL rabbles' demands for a drop-in pitch will be ignored.

  • Alexk400 on November 25, 2013, 21:12 GMT

    if aussie play pattinson in place of nathan lyons or even replace siddle or harris with pattinson. It will be terror for england sure.

  • Gmale on November 25, 2013, 18:49 GMT

    I guess what England need is a crop of players who have an unquenchable thirst to win. Ability and confidence to turn the match around in a session. A leader who is courageous, attacking, innovating, inspirational, and yet graceful. Cook is graceful, might be courageous, he's not attacking or innovating, and unknown to me regarding inspirational. KP would check most of these boxes but he's so brawn no brain. The only current player who comes close in my humble opinion is Matt Prior. With some form he could build a team, instill ruthlessness, and imbibe in his players to go for the kill each time they put on an England shirt. He should be 'The Leader' of the team, given a free hand to run and select a team, and charged with 'un-nicing' the England team. Only then will you take the attack to aggressive opposition players like Mitchell Johnson, Dale Steyn, Ajmal, Kohli, Warner, etc.

  • The_other_side on November 25, 2013, 17:52 GMT

    It is not just pace... Multiple factors have helped Aussies. Australians have a decent bowling attack- Siddle Harris and Johnson bowled well. England were also undone by some not-so-good shots! I dont think it is anywhere near 1974 attack yet!! Remember Mr Nicholas, Lyon chipped in with key wickets in both innings. Only Ian Bell got an unplayable delivery from Siddle in 2nd innings. Failure has been apparent in Matt Prior's case and Trott's case only. Trott is going home already!

    Another place where Australians prospered was when England could not clean Australian tail when Australia batted.

    In my opinion England can improve by cutting down on playing across and away from the body, bowling better to Australian tail, and playing Lyon better. I think Cook success is important as he may be the most potent weapon for attrition of Australian bowling. Fortune favours the brave...

    All in all a good start to Ashes series and one has to wait and see how England respond!!

  • SurlyCynic on November 25, 2013, 17:35 GMT

    England need a new generation of Saffas as the current generation are a bit old and stressed out now. I recommend their scouts check out a keeper/opening bat by the name of Quinton De Kock, only 20 years old but with a first class average over 50 and attacking hundreds in the short forms he could be a good recruit for the future.

  • PPD123 on November 25, 2013, 17:05 GMT

    lets not jump to conclusions yet as to where this series is headed. One Swallow does not make a summer! Aus won the crucial moments in Gabba & put Eng under serious pressure. Mitch Johnson has been around for some time now and we know he can be irrepressible on some days and absolutely awful on others. He is no Holding or Marshall who, badweather or high water will be excellent. The next match is in Adelaide where I do not think he will be much of a factor and it Eng can bat big in the 1st innings, they have the fire power to get a result in their favour in Adelaide. For me the problems will start if they lose in Adelaide. Then the 3rd match is in Perth & with 2-0 down that could spell trouble for Eng. For now,I will wait and watch the result of the 2nd test.Also now that Trott has become unavailable, this adversity might just unite Eng in a positive manner. We all know what happened in Ind - the lost the 1st test by a big margin but came back to win the series in scintillating manner

  • Beertjie on November 25, 2013, 15:32 GMT

    Hoping Pattinson can make it for the WACA. That would be awesome!

  • CMarshBLilly on November 25, 2013, 14:53 GMT

    I was enjoying the article thoroughly - of course beautifully written by Mark and remembering Lilly, Thommo annihilation of Poms. Many years ago our town had the fastest bowler in the local comp. Then he moved to another town and started playing for the opposition. 3 of our batsmen went with him because they didn't want to face him. They'd rather drive 160km twice a week for training than face him. .. I wasn't one of them, I stayed and in the first game he nearly turned my box inside out. Right about then I started thinking they were right.

  • on November 25, 2013, 13:57 GMT

    I feel England didn't come into this match mentally prepared and to face Johnson. I think they thought Johnson would again be same erotic bowler they saw in previous encounters and did not realize he will show such control on his pace, line and length and body line attack. We all are forgetting one thing after this test, this is first test match and England never played well in any of the first test in last 5 series and bounced back to win the series after their dismal first show of the series. They are capable enough and also have their own players who can win matches for them. when they had OZs reeling at 100/5 they became bit complacent by thinking they have this match in bag and played bad cricket from there on as I watched this match keenly from the beginning. Definitely Clarke is also vulnerable to short pitched stuff, but England relinquished short bowling after two balls went for four. That truly surprised me. Wish this ashes won't be like 2007 Ashes.

  • on November 25, 2013, 13:53 GMT

    Why are batsmen scared of fast bowling given their protective equipment? Is it that modern bowlers are in fact much faster than Thomson, Holding et al were? It is illuminating to watch highlights of the 1974-5 and 1975 Ashes series and see Colin Cowdrey and David Steele (wearing glasses) moving right into line against Thomson (as Dennis Amiss did against Holding in 1976) - they were chosen to bolster the batting after others had been injured or got scared and you can see why when you look at their fearless technique. (I think the absence of any padding on the forearm would be what would scare me the most since you are far more likely to be hit there than on the head.) Even so, I don't think they faced fast bowling as often and consistently as batsmen do now.

  • blogossip on November 25, 2013, 13:44 GMT

    A very good illustration by Mr Nicholas although he failed to mention mighty Calypso juggernauts like Holding, Garner and Ambrose etc. Its true fast bowling is the death knell for batsmen and teams which dominate cricket always have them . England may need someone like devon malcolm else state of things suggest Australia will snatch the urn from England

  • Sir_Ivor on November 25, 2013, 12:48 GMT

    Wonderful to read Back-foot-Cringe. That is how it was back then.

  • stormy16 on November 25, 2013, 12:35 GMT

    What I find hard to understand is I thought Eng came with the tall timber to scare Australia? I think all of Fin, Broad, Trimlet, (Irish bloke) are taller than any of the Aussies. I also thought that fast bowling doesn't really bother the English. Yes sure they would lose the odd game to good fast bowling but this was a sub-continent team like performance. While I see the excitement (for the fans) in the spirit of the article of pure fast bowling, it's hard to imagine its built around Johnson! It's like everything is upside down/inside out after the first test. We would never know what it was like when Lillie and Thomo came out with raw pace but surely Johnson, Harris and Siddle just don't even compare. Johnson wasn't even good enough to make the touring party 3 months ago and probably only got a look in due to injury to other but man has he caught the imagination and the attention of Eng.

  • Back-Foot-Cringe on November 25, 2013, 11:05 GMT

    Larwood was once timed at 96 mph. It was by a bloke with a stopwatch & likely not a perfectly precise measurement, but we know he was express back in 1932-33.

    Larwood was a little guy for a quickie at under five-foot-eight, but with a back made strong from mining coal he could rock 'em & was as accurate as he was rapid. Reckons he got his pace from timing & rhythm. Watch him bowl on YouTube & you'll see the most perfect action in cricket history. Lindwall tried to copy it & did a pretty fair job.

    Larwood says he took a pinch of snuff (finely ground tobacco) from his pocket & sniffed it with gusto when he was of a mind to send down an especially quick one.

    Hostile with the ball but sweet in nature, when he cracked Oldfield's cranium with a bumper, he ran to him to say, "I'm really sorry, Bertie." Oldfield replied, "It wasn't your fault, Harold." So polite they were then.

    In the end, Jardine sent him an ashtray inscribed, "To Harold, for the Ashes. From a grateful skipper."

  • Bonehead_maz on November 25, 2013, 9:52 GMT

    It was similar to 1974, except this week England didn't have a good batting captain and everyone bowled 10Kph slower.

  • rwdbailey on November 25, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    Pietersen went at him a little early, but he knows well that Johnson is a fragile ego and with a little slice of luck and one good battering to all parts of the ground and Johnson will collapse again. Terribly sad to see Trott depart, but I think England's resolve will be strengthened. Attack is the best form of defence.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on November 25, 2013, 9:41 GMT

    @dunger.bob (post on November 25, 2013, 8:46 GMT): great story there :-) 90mph+ is definitely something I'll never like to face... I'd be one of those guys standing there thinking "has he bowled yet?" - only to turn around and find the stumps broken. We tend not to get many express pace bowlers here in U.K. as swing and seam are the biggest weapons in this climate and typical pitches; fast but straight, non-hostile bowling tends to simply race off the bats quicker to the fence. Great thing to watch the likes of MJ at his best here.

  • SurlyCynic on November 25, 2013, 9:39 GMT

    Interesting seeing Shane Warne's comments on what Anderson said (to a debutant) to prompt that response from Clarke. Looks like Anderson deserved it and the English press should focus on him instead.

  • TheBigBoodha on November 25, 2013, 7:50 GMT

    Yeah, I think Clarke and the Aussie enjoyed that one! Johnson really scared the Poms. And I am in no way disrespecting them in saying that, as fear of hard objects being hurtled at your head at 150 km/hr is perfectly human.

  • TheBigBoodha on November 25, 2013, 7:50 GMT

    Yeah, I think Clarke and the Aussie enjoyed that one! Johnson really scared the Poms. And I am in no way disrespecting them in saying that, as fear of hard objects being hurtled at your head at 150 km/hr is perfectly human.

  • SurlyCynic on November 25, 2013, 9:39 GMT

    Interesting seeing Shane Warne's comments on what Anderson said (to a debutant) to prompt that response from Clarke. Looks like Anderson deserved it and the English press should focus on him instead.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on November 25, 2013, 9:41 GMT

    @dunger.bob (post on November 25, 2013, 8:46 GMT): great story there :-) 90mph+ is definitely something I'll never like to face... I'd be one of those guys standing there thinking "has he bowled yet?" - only to turn around and find the stumps broken. We tend not to get many express pace bowlers here in U.K. as swing and seam are the biggest weapons in this climate and typical pitches; fast but straight, non-hostile bowling tends to simply race off the bats quicker to the fence. Great thing to watch the likes of MJ at his best here.

  • rwdbailey on November 25, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    Pietersen went at him a little early, but he knows well that Johnson is a fragile ego and with a little slice of luck and one good battering to all parts of the ground and Johnson will collapse again. Terribly sad to see Trott depart, but I think England's resolve will be strengthened. Attack is the best form of defence.

  • Bonehead_maz on November 25, 2013, 9:52 GMT

    It was similar to 1974, except this week England didn't have a good batting captain and everyone bowled 10Kph slower.

  • Back-Foot-Cringe on November 25, 2013, 11:05 GMT

    Larwood was once timed at 96 mph. It was by a bloke with a stopwatch & likely not a perfectly precise measurement, but we know he was express back in 1932-33.

    Larwood was a little guy for a quickie at under five-foot-eight, but with a back made strong from mining coal he could rock 'em & was as accurate as he was rapid. Reckons he got his pace from timing & rhythm. Watch him bowl on YouTube & you'll see the most perfect action in cricket history. Lindwall tried to copy it & did a pretty fair job.

    Larwood says he took a pinch of snuff (finely ground tobacco) from his pocket & sniffed it with gusto when he was of a mind to send down an especially quick one.

    Hostile with the ball but sweet in nature, when he cracked Oldfield's cranium with a bumper, he ran to him to say, "I'm really sorry, Bertie." Oldfield replied, "It wasn't your fault, Harold." So polite they were then.

    In the end, Jardine sent him an ashtray inscribed, "To Harold, for the Ashes. From a grateful skipper."

  • stormy16 on November 25, 2013, 12:35 GMT

    What I find hard to understand is I thought Eng came with the tall timber to scare Australia? I think all of Fin, Broad, Trimlet, (Irish bloke) are taller than any of the Aussies. I also thought that fast bowling doesn't really bother the English. Yes sure they would lose the odd game to good fast bowling but this was a sub-continent team like performance. While I see the excitement (for the fans) in the spirit of the article of pure fast bowling, it's hard to imagine its built around Johnson! It's like everything is upside down/inside out after the first test. We would never know what it was like when Lillie and Thomo came out with raw pace but surely Johnson, Harris and Siddle just don't even compare. Johnson wasn't even good enough to make the touring party 3 months ago and probably only got a look in due to injury to other but man has he caught the imagination and the attention of Eng.

  • Sir_Ivor on November 25, 2013, 12:48 GMT

    Wonderful to read Back-foot-Cringe. That is how it was back then.

  • blogossip on November 25, 2013, 13:44 GMT

    A very good illustration by Mr Nicholas although he failed to mention mighty Calypso juggernauts like Holding, Garner and Ambrose etc. Its true fast bowling is the death knell for batsmen and teams which dominate cricket always have them . England may need someone like devon malcolm else state of things suggest Australia will snatch the urn from England

  • on November 25, 2013, 13:53 GMT

    Why are batsmen scared of fast bowling given their protective equipment? Is it that modern bowlers are in fact much faster than Thomson, Holding et al were? It is illuminating to watch highlights of the 1974-5 and 1975 Ashes series and see Colin Cowdrey and David Steele (wearing glasses) moving right into line against Thomson (as Dennis Amiss did against Holding in 1976) - they were chosen to bolster the batting after others had been injured or got scared and you can see why when you look at their fearless technique. (I think the absence of any padding on the forearm would be what would scare me the most since you are far more likely to be hit there than on the head.) Even so, I don't think they faced fast bowling as often and consistently as batsmen do now.