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Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 4th day

England consider changes for Melbourne

Andrew Miller at the WACA

December 19, 2010

Comments: 32 | Text size: A | A

Steven Finn signals to the crowd after removing Phillip Hughes, Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 2nd day, December 17, 2010
Steven Finn is the leading wicket taker in the series but looks in need of a rest © Getty Images
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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.

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Posted by Rohan0309 on (December 20, 2010, 7:59 GMT)

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

Posted by King_001 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.

Posted by Sameer-hbk 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!

Posted by Sulli001 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.

Posted by KiwiPom 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.

Posted by stormy16 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.

Posted by nair_ottappalam 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.

Posted by Nadeem1976 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.

Posted by Meety 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.

Posted by Meety 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.

Posted by dsig3 on (December 20, 2010, 0:56 GMT)

Have not been impressed with finn so far. Yet another McGrath clone who is not fit to clean the great mans shoes. Just shows how good McGrath was and how hard it is to keep a consistent line and length. Not sure if there should be many changes for england. Maybe get a fresh face to replace finn. Anderson looked stuffed too. Not sure if something was wrong with him but he was bowling 120km in his last spell. England will bounce back in Melbourne. Hopefully Aus can shut them down.

Posted by yunaimin on (December 19, 2010, 20:51 GMT)

The only question marks for England are Collingwood and Finn. Dropping Collingwood means bringing in Morgan, who apart from that hundred against Pakistan has done nothing in Tests so far and consequently his record reads like Marcus North's minus the wickets. Finn has been expensive but he still took five wickets in the match, and is the kind of bowler who'll get someone out when it seems least likely. Dropping him for Bresnan or Shahzad would be a roll of the dice which is something the Aussies have done plenty of this series, none of which having paid off.

Posted by jackiethepen on (December 19, 2010, 20:44 GMT)

Bell is second averaging 71 in the Tests so far and Colly is averaging 15. Bell is top averaging 83 on all matches on Tour. Both Strauss and Flower need to wake up to where Bell should be in the batting order. It's not a question of form either, Bell used to bat at 5 and Colly at 6 and Bell has his highest average at 5. Bell is a better batsman than Colly. Colly loses nothing by being at 6, the team does if Bell is batting that low because he can contribute many more runs. In any partnership with Colly, Bell has nearly twice the runs. Why are Flower and Strauss so reluctant to move Bell up the order when he outbatted the top order at the Gabba in the difficult first innings? Flower talks about a knee jerk reaction. It should have been a considered response to Bell's form since coming back into the side.

Posted by Evilpengwinz on (December 19, 2010, 19:26 GMT)

@Redbacks.bites - I agree on the Collingwood issue, but you could argue that amount of runs he saves us in the field by taking catches that other players maybe wouldn't (EG Ponting in the 1st innings) makes up for the lack of runs he's getting at the moment. I'd personally stick with him for what he gives to the side in the field, but move him to 6 and promote Ian Bell to 5, to take advantage of his form at the moment. Then give him the World Cup and a couple of county games to perform, and drop him for next summer unless he starts making runs.

I remember some people, myself included, was saying we should drop Cook and KP for the series, then they went and hit a double century each, so I wouldn't be too quick to drop someone.

Posted by Guernica on (December 19, 2010, 18:00 GMT)

For once I have to agree with @Witty (to an extent) - regarding Finn. A few of his wickets have been leg-side strangles and he bowls a lot of 4-balls. I think he needs a rest. I would go for Shazhad next game - mainly because the Aussies know little about him.

Posted by swervin on (December 19, 2010, 17:30 GMT)

yeah aust shouldn't get too complacent - their batting is still weak and should be strengthened so i am not sure about smith (though he did make better contributions than some others), good news for australia is that harris is going to be a great bowler, johnson is doing better and watson and hussey are looking solid batting-wise, hilfenhaus i admit contributed a lot by bowling tight even though he is not a wicket taker - but what is aust going to do about a spinnner in melb, syd? still an issue - might get away without one in melb but not syd depending on the pitch...

re england - finn should get a rest and collingwood down the order but is actually hard to drop anyone - i think the england bowling is over-rated, aust's bad batting has been making them look pretty good...i think eng are still favourites to win but it could go either way if aust batting can show some composure...

Posted by Faizal23 on (December 19, 2010, 16:26 GMT)

England can bounce back......................................

Posted by Trickstar on (December 19, 2010, 16:24 GMT)

@popcorn Funny you should say that because wasn't that what most of cricketing world was saying to Australia,in fact even most Australia fans were saying it too. You better hope Hussey can keep his form up and this hasn't been a one of for Johnson, because there is not much there apart from those 2, is there? It's back to MCG where the wicket was the slowest of the tour for England,when they played there the other day and has we've seen this Australia team struggle to take 20 wickets on flat wickets where England have shown they can do it.

Posted by Something_Witty on (December 19, 2010, 15:51 GMT)

dh74, I was not referring to that series, (although the state of the pitches in Cardiff and the Oval were very questionable), however, a lot of English groundsmen have made their pitches to suit the composition of the English team and the state of the series in the past. A couple of examples I can name, at Old Trafford when Laker took his 19 wickets in the match, the pitch was under-prepared so England could dominate with their two spinners, but more recently, in 1993, the curator at Trent Bridge (I think his name was Rob Allsop), readily ADMITTED that he had let the state of the series and the composition of the two teams affect how he had prepared his pitch. Anyway, I was merely pointing out that Australian curators do not do this.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (December 19, 2010, 15:30 GMT)

I think Strauss' handling of Swann was poor,and hopefully he will have found his lengths again by Melbourne. Hopefully the bowlers will be rested up again by then and no-one will have made a long distance flight. Finn needs to play in Melbourne. They should stick with his class as he is on a steep learning curve. Melbourne may have some help for seamers and quite frankly Bresnan should only play as a last resort, as a carthorse cannnot really do the job of a racehorse. The problem was with Anderson in the bowling-his body lacked zest. The batting needs to look at itself. The first inniongs collapse was inexcusable, but batting in Melbourne should be more normal. I think Collingwood is once again on 'deathrow' as he has not made a real contribution since Jo'burg. Anyway he likes these situations, but it must be near Morgan's time. The main batting should confine their fishing exploits to real rivers not channels of uncertainty. Prior needs runs badly too. Davies is a hot player.

Posted by harry93 on (December 19, 2010, 14:49 GMT)

What a surprise, Miller's still pushing the Broad factor. You should take a leaf out of Strauss' book and stop playing what-ifs. Typical Poms - two great batting performances in the first two tests and they start crowing like we haven't beaten them in decades. Lose one badly and the excuses start coming out.

Posted by La_Bangla on (December 19, 2010, 14:13 GMT)

Paul Collingwood- lets admit he is out of sort for a while now. Either he needs to be moved down to #7 or bring in Morgon in his place

Posted by Guernica on (December 19, 2010, 13:52 GMT)

The ideal 5-test series should have all kinds of pitches to test both batsmen and bowlers. Slow and low - hard and bouncy, swinging and not swining. That's what this series appears to have and the same goes for the last ashes in England. I don't know what doctored pitch(es) you were referring to in the last ashes @Something_Witty?

Posted by righthandbat on (December 19, 2010, 13:02 GMT)

I wouldn't mind seeing England risking Shahzad in the next game. He is a very good bowler when on song.

Posted by Aethelwulf on (December 19, 2010, 12:11 GMT)

Yet again, the bowlers get it in the neck when the batsmen fail. Australia were bowled out twice (in good time) for a total of 577 runs. The English batsmen should be able to reach that total in two innings.

Posted by popcorn on (December 19, 2010, 11:55 GMT)

No use,Pommies, WHATEVER changes you make, you'll STILL lose the Ashes.

Posted by andrew-schulz on (December 19, 2010, 11:52 GMT)

Vindaliew, it has been important for a long time that Perth become as pace-friendly as it was. Nothing to do with giving Australia an advantage. Will you please check the facts. The first three Tests of last years Ashes series- on Swann's home turf, Hauritz totally outperformed Swann before he was dropped for the last two Tests. Your accusation of pitch-fixing is totally brainless.

Posted by Something_Witty on (December 19, 2010, 11:21 GMT)

Also, @Vindaliew, Australian curators do NOT doctor their pitches like the ones in England do. Perth has always been renowned as a seamer's pitch, so to say that it was deliberately made that way to counter Swann is ridiculous.

Posted by Something_Witty on (December 19, 2010, 11:18 GMT)

Finn bowls too many meat pies and has been rather lucky to get as many wickets as he has done. I would compare him to Brett Lee when he was young, only about 20 K's slower and nowhere near the same class. At best I can see him being a steady and efficient first change seamer for England in the future, but at the moment, he is bowling tripe. Simple as that.

Posted by JB77 on (December 19, 2010, 10:57 GMT)

Has any batsmen in history traded more on 'looking classy' rather than (meaningful) runs scored than Ian Bell? I've been reading the same comments about him his whole career - looks classy, pity he doesn't go on with it/throws it away, perhaps he'd be better suited to batting at *insert batting position number here*.

Posted by uknsaunders on (December 19, 2010, 10:13 GMT)

Being an England Supporter, we rarely go a summer without cocking up at least one game, so I'm hardly surprised at the result on one of Australia's banker wickets. I suspect Johnson and co will have a harder time finding a similar seamer friendly track in Melbourne or Sydney.I also suspect gun barrell straight Johnson will loose the ability to swing the ball without the massive sea breeze to help him. Doubt England will change much, though I can see Finn getting a rest on a low slow Melbourne track.

Posted by Vindaliew on (December 19, 2010, 8:55 GMT)

Shouldn't be too hard on Swann's performance. England's best bowler, and Australia's worst, is the spinner, and as a result Perth was made totally pace-friendly and a spinners' graveyard. Unless Australia can kill the spin in the remaining two venues, which is a good strategy for them as it negates Swann lets them play four quicks without need for a mediocre spinner, Swann will come good eventually.

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Andrew MillerClose
Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
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