Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 4th day December 19, 2010

England consider changes for Melbourne


It was England's batting that let them down in Perth, but it is the state of their bowling that will give Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower the greater food for thought in the build-up to the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. Speaking in the aftermath of a series-levelling defeat, Strauss insisted there would be no knee-jerk reactions, but hinted nevertheless that changes were on the cards for the MCG, as an intense campaign takes its toll on England's resources.

Despite an impressive return to Test cricket for Chris Tremlett, whose eight-wicket haul included a career-best 5 for 87, there were jaded performances from the remainder of the seam attack - in particular Steven Finn, who looks in need of a rest - and an anonymous one from their trump card, Graeme Swann, who came off a distant second-best in his latest duel with Mike Hussey and bowled just nine expensive overs in the second innings.

While Swann's ineffectiveness can be put down in part to the vagaries of the WACA wicket - a surface on which even Shane Warne failed to claim a five-wicket haul in 12 visits - it had a knock-on effect on the remainder of the attack, with Australia scoring their runs at more than three-and-a-half an over in both innings, compared to rates that barely exceeded three an over on the more placid surfaces in Brisbane and Adelaide.

The most culpable bowler in that regard was Finn, who claimed a further five wickets in the match to cement his position as the leading series wicket-taker with 14 at 33.14, but who conceded 183 runs in 36 overs all told. Despite showing immense promise at the age of 21, he currently lacks the experience and conceivably the stamina to last the distance in a five-Test series, and he could well make way in Melbourne for the sturdy Tim Bresnan, who proved in Bangladesh that he is an asset on unresponsive wickets, or the more explosive Ajmal Shahzad, whose particular penchant for bowling at left-handers could be useful in dislodging Australia's main man, Hussey.

"I wouldn't think there will be wholesale changes because it's not a time for panic, but I certainly wouldn't rule anything out at this stage," said Strauss. "We have played a lot of good consistent cricket over this tour so far and we're going to need to do something similar in these last two matches. It's all about bouncing back now. We've done it well in the past and we're going to have to do it in Melbourne.

"We have a got a few days to take stock of the situation," he added. "There are definitely lessons to be learned from this game, it would be wrong for us to wash our hands of it completely. But our intensity in the field was pretty good and the bowlers for the majority of the time did a very good job. Bowling Australia out for 260 and 300 on a pretty reasonable wicket was a decent effort."

One character whom England most certainly missed was Stuart Broad, who tore an abdominal muscle in the closing stages of the victory in Adelaide, and whose tally of two wickets at 80.50 did not do justice to the hostility and control that he brought to the attack in the first two Tests, in which time his economy rate was 2.30, the best by any bowler on either side. All things being equal - and to judge by England's pre-match comments - both he and Tremlett might well have played here, with Finn missing out on rotation, but Strauss rightly refused to be drawn into "what ifs".

"I think Broad would have been very effective on this wicket but unfortunately he was injured and there is no point crying over spilt milk," said Strauss. "Chris Tremlett came in and bowled outstandingly well, I thought. His hostility all through the game was there to see, batsmen didn't enjoy facing him. He grabbed his chance with both hands so I'm delighted for him. But to win Test matches you need 11 guys to perform, not just one or two."

After a fortnight in which his own team's bowling issues had been scrutinised in minute detail, Ricky Ponting was glad to be able to pass some of the problems over to England. "I think England will now be starting to have a bit of a look at their team make-up and the sort of cricket they have to play to beat us," he said.

"Broad has been an important player for them for a couple of years," he added. "He is their most hostile bowler and would have enjoyed bowling here, although Tremlett was probably the pick of their bowlers, so it was going to have an impact on their team. But we have played Swann particularly well. He bowled well in the second innings at Adelaide, but that was on a pitch that suited him."

Given how integral Swann has been to England's recent upsurge in fortunes, it is inconceivable that he will be kept this quiet throughout the remainder of the series, especially when one considers how quickly he bounced back from some rough treatment in the first Test at the Gabba. "He understood the situation, that's the way it goes," said Strauss. "Sometimes he will be very effective, sometimes less so. The great thing about him as a bowler is that he's proved over the last two years that he's going to be a threat more times than not.

"There was nothing in it for the spinner," added Strauss. "He did well to get a couple of wickets in the first innings but there was no turn, the ball skidded onto the bat pretty well. In those circumstances, it will always be difficult for a spinner to exert any sort of pressure. Australia played him well and positively. But the remaining two wickets in the series should suit him more than this one."

England's other major talking point is the positioning of Ian Bell in the batting order. Despite the loss of five wickets in less than 50 minutes on the final morning, Bell once again looked the classiest batsman on show as he stroked a range of cover-drives before falling lbw for 16, the first time he had failed to reach fifty in the series. With Paul Collingwood looking horribly out of sorts with his series tally of 62 runs at 15.50, Bell needs to be given more of a chance to make a positive impact higher up the order, rather than being left to milk his runs with the tail.

Strauss, however, said that there had been no thought given to promoting him in the second innings of this match, despite England losing five wickets on the third evening, including Collingwood for 11 to the last ball of the day. "We have got to keep perspective about things and realise there has been a hell of a lot of good batting on this tour so far," he said. "We have no reason to expect that to be any different going forward."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rohan on December 20, 2010, 7:59 GMT

    This is the Australia we know! Ruthless and unforgiving! And what a comeback by MJ!!

  • Richard on December 20, 2010, 7:11 GMT

    Bowler for Australia: Johnson, Harris, Hilfenhause, Siddle, Cameron White/ D hussey for phil hughes (please go for experience). Steve Smith gives positive energy for the team.

  • sameer on December 20, 2010, 6:50 GMT

    There is nothing drastically wrong with the bowlers. If you cannot get 580 runs in the two innings of a test match on that track Strauss should realize that it is the batsman who failed... including himself!

  • Matt on December 20, 2010, 6:37 GMT

    England will not win another test in this series, the Aussies have been given a opprotunity now to win, all they needed was to get thir collective confidence back. It seems a coincidence to me that with the arrival of the English WAGS, the team has since lost its focus and concentration and I am guessing the distraction that family bring will only make it worse.

  • Geoff on December 20, 2010, 5:23 GMT

    I think the efforts of England's top order in the first two tests took a lot out of them both physically & mentally. They were 10% down and that's not good enough at this level. Perth was a step too far. Look for England to bounce back.

  • Dru on December 20, 2010, 5:22 GMT

    Unless Eng want to panic I dont see the need for changes. I am not sure why the subject of Swan would even be brought up - that wicket had nothing for the spinner and the game before he got a 5fer!! Finn was expensive but surely you cant drop a guy whose taken wickets all series. Yes he was expensive but wouldnt matter if the batsmana has done a bit better than 187 and 123!! Going in to the business end I guess you want Collinwood in there, sure he is out of form but I think he adds enough in bowling and fielding to keep his spot and find some form when it matters. The case of Bell is a shame - the guy looks in ominous form but he cant find anyone to bat with - I reckon bat him # 4 or 5, yes ahead of KP, sure he got a 200 but hasnt done much else while Bell has shown consistent form and deserves a chance to bat.

  • vinod on December 20, 2010, 4:32 GMT

    I agree with Redbacks.bites. Bring in Morgan in place of Collingwood, who badly needs a break from test cricket for the time being. Colly can bounce back in the limited overs format. Despite the bashing at WACA, England will still hold the edge to win the remaining two test matches at MCG and SCG. Swann is far far better than his Aussie counterparts for these two venues. Well England might have lost the advantage at WACA due to the long wagging of Aussie tail in the first innings which gave them a vital 81 run lead, followed by some excellent batting display by Hussey and Watson. The early advantage England got by putting Aussies in on the opening day was thus done away with. Take it from me England is going to win the Ashes atleast 2-1 if not 3-1.

  • Nadeem on December 20, 2010, 3:25 GMT

    I think collingwood needs to give chance to Morgan. It was cook who played bigger part in first two matches thats why we did not notice collingwood but i think he is no more effective. He needs to give chance to new players like Morgan.

    Morgan can be effective at MCG and he was great temprament.

    I think Finn is not bad bowler , he is young man and need rest after three test.

    But england dont have better fast bowler than him. So i will keep fin and let colingwood go.

  • Andrew on December 20, 2010, 2:16 GMT

    @JB77 - re: Bell, I he always looks like he is trying to pinch a loaf, or some other uncomfortable bodily function! @dh74 - I agree that variety is good, I don't think there is a place in Oz cricket for slow & low pitches. I don't beleive Great Cricket is encouraged on these types of pitches. All in all what most fans want is - Juicy on the first 2 days, flattening over Days 2 to 4, with Day 4 & 5 showing real wear on the pitch. The best thing about the WACA in this test was the old feature - large cracks, started to appear on Day 4 & 5.

  • Andrew on December 20, 2010, 2:09 GMT

    LOL - England missing Broad with an average of 80+!!!! What impact would haveing lost McGrath for a couple of tests have made in 2005? England appear to be exploiting the soft ICC stance on over rate. They bowled 24 overs in the morning session on Day 3 - coincidentally a period where Oz was on top. I have noticed over the last 7 or 8 years, a tactic used against Oz is to slow over rates down to 12 an hour, then pick up the intensity when wickets have fallen. Most nations do it but the Poms wer atrocious on Day 3 @ the Gabba, despite players running 100 metres to congratulate a player who made a decent save in the field - the players can't amble quick enough between overs into position. ALL sides should be penalised if they can't get at least 28 overs into a session. The penalty should be dealt in RUNS & FINES. @Vindaliew - LOL re: Doctored WACA pitch. Mate is not half of what it was in the 1980s - where you needed a "fly slip" 2/3 to the boundary to catch big nicks.

  • No featured comments at the moment.