The Ashes 2013-14

Saker wants bowlers under pressure

Andrew McGlashan

November 3, 2013

Comments: 17 | Text size: A | A

Boyd Rankin in his delivery stride, Western Australia Chairman's XI v England XI, 2nd day, Perth, November 1, 2103
Boyd Rankin may have ended the first warm-up match with his nose in front of his team-mates © Getty Images
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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

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Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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?

Posted by 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).

Posted by 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

Posted by 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.

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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