The Ashes 2013-14 November 3, 2013

Saker wants bowlers under pressure

17

A hailstorm, heavy rain and temperatures about 20 degrees lower than Perth greeted England's cricketers as they arrived in Hobart for the second leg of their Ashes warm-up.

The players were quick to take to Twitter to say how much it felt like home - and bemoan not packing a few warmer clothes - and for England's bowlers the feeling of something more familiar is likely to extend a bit further than the climate when they face Australia A this week on a ground that has a reputation for a spicy wicket and low scores.

They would be wise, however, not get too comfortable if they see some seam movement and swing because the batting-friendly conditions they encountered at the WACA are more likely to be the norm for the next few months.

Other than James Anderson, who eased into the tour with an accurate 23 overs against the WA Chairman's XI, it was an unconvincing performance from his fellow fast bowlers - the three who are trying to secure one vacant spot in the attack for the Gabba.

In fairness to Boyd Rankin, Chris Tremlettand Steven Finn there was an upward curve as the match progressed through its final day but a reasonably low bar had been set in the first innings as they trio produced combined figures of 64-6-303-2.

Anderson could be rested this week in Tasmania with Stuart Broad who, like Alastair Cook, had a few back issues in Perth needing to get his tour up and running while Graeme Swann also sat out the opening match. That means only two of the three other quicks are likely to find a spot in a match where England will hope to increase their intensity.

However, David Saker, the bowling coach who committed to England until 2015 at the beginning of the tour, was keen assure all his fringe bowlers that nothing would be decided on the basis of their first run out of a long tour.

"We're three days into a long tour and haven't really made any strong decisions yet, so they're still going to be fighting out for that one position," he said. "I think that's a really positive thing. You can see when they're working in the nets, or out in games, there's some added pressure on them which is great.

"We're always assessing after every session. People can jump [past] others and it just keeps changing all the time.

"From where I sit, it's exciting. I'm sure it isn't from where they sit. But it's always good having competition for spots because then you get probably the best out of everyone. If all of them bowl at their maximum, it's going to be a hell of a hard selection."

Saker was encouraged by the second-innings bowling display as the WA side closed on 5 for 168. Rankin, after a nervous start to his red-ball England career, removed both openers and Finn boosted his confidence with a brace of late strikes although still conceded more than five runs an over.

"They got some really good spells under their belts and all of them looked better as the game went on," Saker said. "That is a pleasing sign.

"Sometimes in Australia you get flat wickets and it's hard work. You've got to find different ways to get wickets, and the best way for us as a team is to try to build some pressure. As the game went on, I felt the guys were doing that. The last day was a good performance - 160 for 5 on that wicket."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dunger.bob on November 5, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    Howdy Mitty2: I was more or less saying the same thing about Mitch on another article. I'd go further though and say his problem seems to be against England in particular. Lot's of other teams have had a damn good Mitching, but he doesn't seem to be able to do it against the Pom's for some reason.

    Re the England bowlers; I think 3 tall poles could be a minor tactical error if they were selected simply because they were lanky. It is true that our pitches support bowlers, but they don't foster ordinary bowlers. I'm not saying that any of the English are average but, if that happens to be the case, they will get found out. Our batsmen might be crap but there're still good enough to make runs against bog standard bowling. .. Your own Jimmy isn't that tall but he has a lot of skill. On our pitches, you need skill above all else.

  • Mitty2 on November 5, 2013, 7:52 GMT

    @Jmcilhinney, I'm out of my depth when talking about the actions of fast bowlers - especially when they're not Australian - but I think that if you're bowling around 140-145km/h (around 90mph) like Finn was at Trent Bridge, I think it means you're rhythm is actually not that bad. When MJ was getting spanked by Cook and Trott, he was bowling around that mark as well. They were both in rhythm as far as I'm concerned but were lacking in confidence and so they bowled waywardly. When Finn was under Agar's and Haddin's pressure at TB he didn't think, he just kept on bowling half trackers. Likewise with MJ with his inability to bowl a stock ball. For me, as they're obviously that talented to get to that place, it's a mentality issue and not a technical issue. When Finn's been dropped twice in two different Ashes contests and where MJ's been smacked in both ashes, I'm certain that they'll both not do well this time around. Especially when one of them has no real form to speak of.

  • jmcilhinney on November 5, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    @Mitty2 on (November 5, 2013, 5:40 GMT), I think that a lot of people think that Finn might be best served by some time away from the Test team so that he can work out his issues away from the spotlight, much as Mitchell Johnson has done. Despite what some people seem to think, Finn's knocking the stumps is not something that he's been doing his whole career that's just been ignored. It was a recent issue that arose as a result of small changes to his run up and action. Not to say that some changes weren't required but the fix for one problem has created another and the fix for that has created another and so on. It may be that Finn will never be economical but he needs to improve his recent consistency to succeed in Test cricket. I think that he'll get another chance in Hobart and Tremlett will be the one to sit out but Rankin is probably the front-runner to play in Brisbane so Finn has to out-bowl him. We may yet see a fit-again Bresnan in Alice Springs and then Adelaide.

  • Mitty2 on November 5, 2013, 5:40 GMT

    "On that wicket"... Please, worst state side's second team, no excuses. Only Rankin got genuine wickets, Finn had been flogged as usual and his wickets were due to the batsmen trying to up the rate. I actually watched a fair bit of that game, and there definitely was sideways movement in the pitch and pace, just no one exploited it.

    It's got to be Rankin, he was the only one who threatened although he bowled waaaaaay too many full tosses and half-trackers, but then again if Eng choose Finn I'll be stoked. Eng's equivalent of Mitchell Johnson. Has been spanked in both Ashes series and in being dropped every time will have some serious nerves and pressure to redeem himself. I know that MJ won't succeed in this series, he's way too mentally frail, but at least he's in form....

    Rankin will be the best choice, and although he does fall away at the crease a fair bit, he hits the deck and the bat hard (unlike Tremlett) and can do it more economically than Finn can.

  • jmcilhinney on November 5, 2013, 1:24 GMT

    @Front-Foot-Sponge on (November 4, 2013, 14:14 GMT), I'd say that there's only two England players who did not play in Perth and likely won't play in Hobart either: Bresnan and Panesar. Cook and Broad both had some back stiffness and were rested as a precaution and will undoubtedly come in for Hobart. KP doesn't put much stock in warmups but will undoubtedly play the last two anyway. Bairstow probably sat out so that they could look at both Stokes and Ballance but he'll replace one of them in Hobart. Bresnan is still recovering from a serious back injury so the earliest we'll see him is the tour match between the first and second Tests. Panesar may be the one to not get a game at all because he'll only play a Test if Swann is injured. If that comes to pass then it may be an issue that Panesar hasn't played on tour but it's probably more important that the other bowlers get some overs as they are all more likely to play in at least one Test.

  • landl47 on November 4, 2013, 23:26 GMT

    One issue that might be a consideration is that Rankin is a poor fielder, in the Panesar class. If there's nothing much to choose between the three skyscrapers, then fielding might come into play.

    At present, Rankin looks the steadiest and Finn possibly the most dangerous, with his extra pace. Tremlett doesn't look in great form. Whoever out of the three of them doesn't play in this match isn't likely to play in the first test, so selection for this game is important.

  • Front-Foot-Sponge on November 4, 2013, 14:14 GMT

    JG2704, I was mainly referring to the guys who didn't play in Perth and look like they won't be playing in Hobart. I just thought it was strange that a number of players from the test side didn't play in WA where England have only ever won once, I'm all for Tremlett, he obviously bowled well last time in Oz but is apparently down on pace?

  • HatsforBats on November 4, 2013, 12:08 GMT

    Seems everyone is on the same wavelength here, but then again we're not coaches or selectors. If it was me, I'd give it to Rankin. Tremlett looks underdone (or done in), and Finn still looks a tad raw. My only question mark would be fitness between Rankin/Finn. Who can bowl 20 overs without losing form and getting spanked (the most)? The forecast looks pretty good this week so hopefully we get an uninterrupted game (plus I'm heading down soon and the cold shock may do me in).

  • JG2704 on November 4, 2013, 11:15 GMT

    @Front-Foot-Sponge on (November 4, 2013, 10:44 GMT) re "What good are warm up games if no one is warming up?"

    Unfortunately - acc to stats and CC fans who have seen him play - Tremlett looks like he's been warming up all 2013

  • Front-Foot-Sponge on November 4, 2013, 10:44 GMT

    Tend to agree with all the comments prior to this one though Tremlett might still come into play. What good are warm up games if no one is warming up? England might be taking a risky route to the first test here. Likely though Flower has his bases covered. Good to see competition for Aussie places, talks of zero depth are nonsense, I think the real issue was the selectors persisting with a few underperforming batsman or worse - dropping them after an innings. I realise the balance is difficult but some have been in or around the side for years.

  • dunger.bob on November 5, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    Howdy Mitty2: I was more or less saying the same thing about Mitch on another article. I'd go further though and say his problem seems to be against England in particular. Lot's of other teams have had a damn good Mitching, but he doesn't seem to be able to do it against the Pom's for some reason.

    Re the England bowlers; I think 3 tall poles could be a minor tactical error if they were selected simply because they were lanky. It is true that our pitches support bowlers, but they don't foster ordinary bowlers. I'm not saying that any of the English are average but, if that happens to be the case, they will get found out. Our batsmen might be crap but there're still good enough to make runs against bog standard bowling. .. Your own Jimmy isn't that tall but he has a lot of skill. On our pitches, you need skill above all else.

  • Mitty2 on November 5, 2013, 7:52 GMT

    @Jmcilhinney, I'm out of my depth when talking about the actions of fast bowlers - especially when they're not Australian - but I think that if you're bowling around 140-145km/h (around 90mph) like Finn was at Trent Bridge, I think it means you're rhythm is actually not that bad. When MJ was getting spanked by Cook and Trott, he was bowling around that mark as well. They were both in rhythm as far as I'm concerned but were lacking in confidence and so they bowled waywardly. When Finn was under Agar's and Haddin's pressure at TB he didn't think, he just kept on bowling half trackers. Likewise with MJ with his inability to bowl a stock ball. For me, as they're obviously that talented to get to that place, it's a mentality issue and not a technical issue. When Finn's been dropped twice in two different Ashes contests and where MJ's been smacked in both ashes, I'm certain that they'll both not do well this time around. Especially when one of them has no real form to speak of.

  • jmcilhinney on November 5, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    @Mitty2 on (November 5, 2013, 5:40 GMT), I think that a lot of people think that Finn might be best served by some time away from the Test team so that he can work out his issues away from the spotlight, much as Mitchell Johnson has done. Despite what some people seem to think, Finn's knocking the stumps is not something that he's been doing his whole career that's just been ignored. It was a recent issue that arose as a result of small changes to his run up and action. Not to say that some changes weren't required but the fix for one problem has created another and the fix for that has created another and so on. It may be that Finn will never be economical but he needs to improve his recent consistency to succeed in Test cricket. I think that he'll get another chance in Hobart and Tremlett will be the one to sit out but Rankin is probably the front-runner to play in Brisbane so Finn has to out-bowl him. We may yet see a fit-again Bresnan in Alice Springs and then Adelaide.

  • Mitty2 on November 5, 2013, 5:40 GMT

    "On that wicket"... Please, worst state side's second team, no excuses. Only Rankin got genuine wickets, Finn had been flogged as usual and his wickets were due to the batsmen trying to up the rate. I actually watched a fair bit of that game, and there definitely was sideways movement in the pitch and pace, just no one exploited it.

    It's got to be Rankin, he was the only one who threatened although he bowled waaaaaay too many full tosses and half-trackers, but then again if Eng choose Finn I'll be stoked. Eng's equivalent of Mitchell Johnson. Has been spanked in both Ashes series and in being dropped every time will have some serious nerves and pressure to redeem himself. I know that MJ won't succeed in this series, he's way too mentally frail, but at least he's in form....

    Rankin will be the best choice, and although he does fall away at the crease a fair bit, he hits the deck and the bat hard (unlike Tremlett) and can do it more economically than Finn can.

  • jmcilhinney on November 5, 2013, 1:24 GMT

    @Front-Foot-Sponge on (November 4, 2013, 14:14 GMT), I'd say that there's only two England players who did not play in Perth and likely won't play in Hobart either: Bresnan and Panesar. Cook and Broad both had some back stiffness and were rested as a precaution and will undoubtedly come in for Hobart. KP doesn't put much stock in warmups but will undoubtedly play the last two anyway. Bairstow probably sat out so that they could look at both Stokes and Ballance but he'll replace one of them in Hobart. Bresnan is still recovering from a serious back injury so the earliest we'll see him is the tour match between the first and second Tests. Panesar may be the one to not get a game at all because he'll only play a Test if Swann is injured. If that comes to pass then it may be an issue that Panesar hasn't played on tour but it's probably more important that the other bowlers get some overs as they are all more likely to play in at least one Test.

  • landl47 on November 4, 2013, 23:26 GMT

    One issue that might be a consideration is that Rankin is a poor fielder, in the Panesar class. If there's nothing much to choose between the three skyscrapers, then fielding might come into play.

    At present, Rankin looks the steadiest and Finn possibly the most dangerous, with his extra pace. Tremlett doesn't look in great form. Whoever out of the three of them doesn't play in this match isn't likely to play in the first test, so selection for this game is important.

  • Front-Foot-Sponge on November 4, 2013, 14:14 GMT

    JG2704, I was mainly referring to the guys who didn't play in Perth and look like they won't be playing in Hobart. I just thought it was strange that a number of players from the test side didn't play in WA where England have only ever won once, I'm all for Tremlett, he obviously bowled well last time in Oz but is apparently down on pace?

  • HatsforBats on November 4, 2013, 12:08 GMT

    Seems everyone is on the same wavelength here, but then again we're not coaches or selectors. If it was me, I'd give it to Rankin. Tremlett looks underdone (or done in), and Finn still looks a tad raw. My only question mark would be fitness between Rankin/Finn. Who can bowl 20 overs without losing form and getting spanked (the most)? The forecast looks pretty good this week so hopefully we get an uninterrupted game (plus I'm heading down soon and the cold shock may do me in).

  • JG2704 on November 4, 2013, 11:15 GMT

    @Front-Foot-Sponge on (November 4, 2013, 10:44 GMT) re "What good are warm up games if no one is warming up?"

    Unfortunately - acc to stats and CC fans who have seen him play - Tremlett looks like he's been warming up all 2013

  • Front-Foot-Sponge on November 4, 2013, 10:44 GMT

    Tend to agree with all the comments prior to this one though Tremlett might still come into play. What good are warm up games if no one is warming up? England might be taking a risky route to the first test here. Likely though Flower has his bases covered. Good to see competition for Aussie places, talks of zero depth are nonsense, I think the real issue was the selectors persisting with a few underperforming batsman or worse - dropping them after an innings. I realise the balance is difficult but some have been in or around the side for years.

  • jmcilhinney on November 4, 2013, 10:36 GMT

    @R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (November 4, 2013, 9:46 GMT), I don't know what the selectors will do but I would expect that the XI that play in Sydney will be the XI they expect to play in Brisbane. I expect Anderson to get a rest in Hobart so that they can bring in Broad and Swann while still playing two of Finn, Tremlett and Rankin. I expect Bell to be rested for Hobart too so that they can bring in KP and Bairstow while still playing Ballance or Stokes. That means choosing one of the two tall fast bowlers and one of the two possible #6 batsmen for the first Test and then Bell and Anderson replace the other two for Sydney, thus the preferred XI for the first Test would all play the last warmup.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on November 4, 2013, 9:46 GMT

    At least one of the warm-up games should consist of something close to-, if not THE full- team expected to play in first test. I see absolutely no point in playing a full three warm-ups with no specialist spinner for example. Bowling works in pairs - it's amazing the difference having a miserly bowler holding up an end can do for bowlers. Dare I even say it: some of the England bowlers could even finally come up with some sort of 'plan/strategy' and execute them better... How on Earth the selectors are supposed to simply choose between Finn, Tremlett and Rankin from a few games where each is trying to clean up the mess left after another is a very odd selection policy indeed.

  • lummox on November 4, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    Tremletts inclusion is a MASSIVE mistake and more importantly a waste of a position within the squad. Rankin is a good to average bowler with a bit of height. Hmm ? Onions is an above average bowler, with sucess in test cricket and in the form of his life. SIMPLE then ...................leave Onions at home !!! Oh dear. We may prosper we may not, but it will not be on the back of Rankin & especially not Tremlett

  • on November 4, 2013, 7:49 GMT

    They should have brought out Onions. In the end, it is not about how tall a bowler is but how well he is bowling. On that score, Onions should have been selected.

  • cric_J on November 4, 2013, 7:08 GMT

    @jmc @JG2704 Absolutely agree with you two. Jimmy should certainly be rested at Hobart and Broady and Swanny should come in as they need to get in the groove being our key cogs in the cart. I'd go for Rankin and Finny for the other two spots. Rankin looked the best of the lot at Perth. And though Finny fared the worst of the 3, I'd go for him due to sheer hope and belief in him that he could do really well if he finds his rhythm. For some unknown reason, I have lost any sort of belief in Tremlett doing well at the international level again. I may be wrong but his receding pace and accuracy seem to indicate we've already seen his best in 2010/11.

    For that reason mainly, I still maintain that Onions should have been in the squad in place of Tremlett eventhough he is more suited to bowling in English conditions. He would have provided more variety to the selectors and we can expect him to be certainly more economical than any of the 3 tall men on most days.

  • jmcilhinney on November 4, 2013, 0:31 GMT

    Is "exciting" the most over-used word in cricket interviews? I think that it's a bit of an exaggeration to say that wickets like the WACA will be the norm. Hopefully what we see in the Tests will be somewhere between what we saw at the WACA and what we might see in Hobart. It would be a shame if Hobart was overly green and England took loads of wickets as a result without actually having to bowl too well. It was encouraging that the England bowlers looked a bit better in the second innings in Perth but, while wickets fell more often, all but Rankin were still very expensive. They have scheduled three warmups for a reason, so there is still plenty of time to find some rhythm but it may be that one of Finn, Tremlett and Rankin has blown his last chance. You'd expect both Anderson and Broad to play in Sydney so whoever of the other three doesn't play in Hobart probably won't get another game before the first Test.

  • JG2704 on November 3, 2013, 21:04 GMT

    Still say they have the squad balance wrong and Tremlett should not be there regardless of what balance they went for. Obviously there was improvement in the wickets column in the 2nd inns but I recall there was also a worse economy rate so it could even be that the WACs were playing with less caution in the 2nd inns. We all know what Finn and Tremlett can do on their days but at the moment Rankin looks the best bet by default. The next game should tell us more. It'd be good to have all 3 lankies having another go - maybe rest Jimmy and bring in Broad as he needs to get into some form of Rhythm as does Swann. as with the batsmen guess it's difficult to balance sufficiently looking at the contenders while at the same time making sure our definite starters aren't too rusty

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  • JG2704 on November 3, 2013, 21:04 GMT

    Still say they have the squad balance wrong and Tremlett should not be there regardless of what balance they went for. Obviously there was improvement in the wickets column in the 2nd inns but I recall there was also a worse economy rate so it could even be that the WACs were playing with less caution in the 2nd inns. We all know what Finn and Tremlett can do on their days but at the moment Rankin looks the best bet by default. The next game should tell us more. It'd be good to have all 3 lankies having another go - maybe rest Jimmy and bring in Broad as he needs to get into some form of Rhythm as does Swann. as with the batsmen guess it's difficult to balance sufficiently looking at the contenders while at the same time making sure our definite starters aren't too rusty

  • jmcilhinney on November 4, 2013, 0:31 GMT

    Is "exciting" the most over-used word in cricket interviews? I think that it's a bit of an exaggeration to say that wickets like the WACA will be the norm. Hopefully what we see in the Tests will be somewhere between what we saw at the WACA and what we might see in Hobart. It would be a shame if Hobart was overly green and England took loads of wickets as a result without actually having to bowl too well. It was encouraging that the England bowlers looked a bit better in the second innings in Perth but, while wickets fell more often, all but Rankin were still very expensive. They have scheduled three warmups for a reason, so there is still plenty of time to find some rhythm but it may be that one of Finn, Tremlett and Rankin has blown his last chance. You'd expect both Anderson and Broad to play in Sydney so whoever of the other three doesn't play in Hobart probably won't get another game before the first Test.

  • cric_J on November 4, 2013, 7:08 GMT

    @jmc @JG2704 Absolutely agree with you two. Jimmy should certainly be rested at Hobart and Broady and Swanny should come in as they need to get in the groove being our key cogs in the cart. I'd go for Rankin and Finny for the other two spots. Rankin looked the best of the lot at Perth. And though Finny fared the worst of the 3, I'd go for him due to sheer hope and belief in him that he could do really well if he finds his rhythm. For some unknown reason, I have lost any sort of belief in Tremlett doing well at the international level again. I may be wrong but his receding pace and accuracy seem to indicate we've already seen his best in 2010/11.

    For that reason mainly, I still maintain that Onions should have been in the squad in place of Tremlett eventhough he is more suited to bowling in English conditions. He would have provided more variety to the selectors and we can expect him to be certainly more economical than any of the 3 tall men on most days.

  • on November 4, 2013, 7:49 GMT

    They should have brought out Onions. In the end, it is not about how tall a bowler is but how well he is bowling. On that score, Onions should have been selected.

  • lummox on November 4, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    Tremletts inclusion is a MASSIVE mistake and more importantly a waste of a position within the squad. Rankin is a good to average bowler with a bit of height. Hmm ? Onions is an above average bowler, with sucess in test cricket and in the form of his life. SIMPLE then ...................leave Onions at home !!! Oh dear. We may prosper we may not, but it will not be on the back of Rankin & especially not Tremlett

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on November 4, 2013, 9:46 GMT

    At least one of the warm-up games should consist of something close to-, if not THE full- team expected to play in first test. I see absolutely no point in playing a full three warm-ups with no specialist spinner for example. Bowling works in pairs - it's amazing the difference having a miserly bowler holding up an end can do for bowlers. Dare I even say it: some of the England bowlers could even finally come up with some sort of 'plan/strategy' and execute them better... How on Earth the selectors are supposed to simply choose between Finn, Tremlett and Rankin from a few games where each is trying to clean up the mess left after another is a very odd selection policy indeed.

  • jmcilhinney on November 4, 2013, 10:36 GMT

    @R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (November 4, 2013, 9:46 GMT), I don't know what the selectors will do but I would expect that the XI that play in Sydney will be the XI they expect to play in Brisbane. I expect Anderson to get a rest in Hobart so that they can bring in Broad and Swann while still playing two of Finn, Tremlett and Rankin. I expect Bell to be rested for Hobart too so that they can bring in KP and Bairstow while still playing Ballance or Stokes. That means choosing one of the two tall fast bowlers and one of the two possible #6 batsmen for the first Test and then Bell and Anderson replace the other two for Sydney, thus the preferred XI for the first Test would all play the last warmup.

  • Front-Foot-Sponge on November 4, 2013, 10:44 GMT

    Tend to agree with all the comments prior to this one though Tremlett might still come into play. What good are warm up games if no one is warming up? England might be taking a risky route to the first test here. Likely though Flower has his bases covered. Good to see competition for Aussie places, talks of zero depth are nonsense, I think the real issue was the selectors persisting with a few underperforming batsman or worse - dropping them after an innings. I realise the balance is difficult but some have been in or around the side for years.

  • JG2704 on November 4, 2013, 11:15 GMT

    @Front-Foot-Sponge on (November 4, 2013, 10:44 GMT) re "What good are warm up games if no one is warming up?"

    Unfortunately - acc to stats and CC fans who have seen him play - Tremlett looks like he's been warming up all 2013

  • HatsforBats on November 4, 2013, 12:08 GMT

    Seems everyone is on the same wavelength here, but then again we're not coaches or selectors. If it was me, I'd give it to Rankin. Tremlett looks underdone (or done in), and Finn still looks a tad raw. My only question mark would be fitness between Rankin/Finn. Who can bowl 20 overs without losing form and getting spanked (the most)? The forecast looks pretty good this week so hopefully we get an uninterrupted game (plus I'm heading down soon and the cold shock may do me in).