Australia A v England XI, Tour match, Hobart November 10, 2013

Cutting departs from script

Ben Cutting's spell during the afternoon may have caught the selectors' eye, whilst also giving England the testing workout they craved
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As he watched Ben Cutting charge in at England's batsmen on an otherwise turgid final afternoon of the Australia A match in Hobart, it is likely the selector on duty, Rod Marsh, would have been equal parts impressed and peeved.

Impressed because Cutting was taking the opportunity presented to him in a way few of his team-mates did across the match, striving to earn higher honours rather than going through the motions to avoid injury. But peeved because Cutting's rhythmic speed, lateral movement and sustained accuracy was providing England with the sort of quality batting work-out that Marsh, the national selector, John Inverarity, and the team performance manager, Pat Howard, have been deliberately trying to withhold from the tourists.

After completing a spell of 9-3-17-2 that included the significant wicket of Jonathan Trott, Cutting revealed his bowling was not only the result of earnest endeavour but also malice aforethought, including a phone call to his Queensland compatriot Ryan Harris to discuss Australia's Ashes plans for the touring batsmen. Trott faced up to a leg slip before edging a good one behind, and Joe Root floundered visibly against the ball well pitched up.

"Leading into this game when I thought I was going to be playing I spoke at length to Ryan Harris about bowling plans," Cutting said. "He did so well over in England I couldn't think of a better person to ring and talk to. That [leg slip] was one of his ideas and I decided to run with that and give it a go myself. I don't know if I was bowling that quick, I haven't seen the gun, but I only bowled one bouncer all day. I bowled a handful on day one, but in saying that I didn't bowl one to Alastair Cook, so I do pick my targets."

It was all very good and very thoughtful bowling, suggesting that the 26-year-old Cutting has matured into a paceman as intelligent as he is hostile. Looking on from the England viewing area, the team director, Andy Flower, could not help but approve of Cutting's expertise and the resultant stiffening required of the touring batsmen to counter him. For those nine overs, a lifeless game briefly mimicked something like the intensity of a Test match.

"I thought he bowled superbly," Flower said. "He bowled an excellent length, conditions were a little subcontinent-like, with the bounce of the ball. He bowled a perfect length for that pitch and he was good on the first day as well, I thought, without much luck. But he was excellent today. It was good for us to face that sort of quality bowling."

On day four, Cutting departed from the script so markedly that Flower learned more about several batsmen in just over an hour than he could have deduced from the previous 13 days on tour

Good for England, but in all probability too good for the aims of the Australia selectors. In much the same manner as last summer when compiling the Australia A team to face the South Africans in Sydney, Inverarity's panel had hoped to prevent England from gaining much sight of top-class fast bowling before the first Test in Brisbane. The team for Hobart was lopsided, leaning heavily on batting and choosing only the seamer Trent Copeland to share the new ball with Cutting.

As a result of this, England's captain Alastair Cook and his likely Gabba opening partner Michael Carberry were able to dominate day one, playing themselves into the pinkest of form before the rain set in for two days. They were aided by a fielding display that bordered on the uninterested, leaving many to wonder whether the players involved were fully aware of the chance on offer to them, and if they would have been so slovenly were they playing for their state.

On day four, however, Cutting departed from the script so markedly that Flower learned more about several batsmen in just over an hour than he could have deduced from any of the team's previous 13 days on tour. It can only be hoped that Cutting has also forced the selectors to depart from their own planning for the Gabba by considering him for a place in the squad. Two years ago, Cutting's chances of a debut against New Zealand were checked by a back injury in the Sheffield Shield match preceding the 2011 Brisbane Test, an experience he still winces about.

"It's a funny one because it's such an amazing high and then the next day I was injured and a ridiculous low," Cutting said. "I missed a lot of cricket after that and dropped right down the pecking order, as I have done each time I've been injured, so the goal for me is just to stay on the park. I know if I can stay on the park and put the performances together that something will happen eventually."

In Hobart, Cutting put on a performance that should make his selection happen immediately. Whether Marsh chooses to look past the foiling of the selectors' subterfuge to appreciate the bowling on display will only be known when the Ashes squad is announced on Tuesday. One thing is certain: a handful of England batsmen will be hoping fervently that he does not.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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  • Meety on November 12, 2013, 7:57 GMT

    @ScottStevo on (November 11, 2013, 12:59 GMT) - agree re: One Test comparison, the only point I want to make on Faulkner is - I under estimated him, & he is proving himself to be a capable specialist bowler. The comparisons with Bird do hold up a bit better when you consider they are Shield team mates & so would have a lot of shared match experiences. So in the end - all I am saying is that, 99% of Ozzy fans rate Bird very highly, yet whilst Faulkner's performances are stat-wise very similar & comparable, probably on 9% of Ozzy fans rate him highly as a Test bowler. I have now entered the 9% camp, I don't think he will be a destructive bowler - but could easily end up with career stats like 3.5 wickets per test, around 60 S/Rate & ave around 30. If that is combined with a batting average in the high 20s - that is a good cricketer. Who knows - a few sessions with Wasim & he could be anything???????

  • ScottStevo on November 11, 2013, 12:59 GMT

    @Meety, I was rather disappointed with Bird's showing in Eng. Both he and (especially) Pattinson looked down on their regular pace. Not sure whether that was due to their injuries, or trying to produce more swing - either way, it was noticeable. I'm not really sure that a head to head comparison on one test match is worthwhile data either. Faulkner looks to be a very good cricketer. But his skills look more suited to limited overs stuff than tests. I just don't think he's got enough to consistently trouble top flight test batsmen and when all our bowlers are fit, I'd select others to bowl before considering his selection.

  • Meety on November 11, 2013, 9:04 GMT

    @Shaggy076 on (November 11, 2013, 4:44 GMT) - well said - I agree. @ShutTheGate on (November 11, 2013, 4:48 GMT) - bear in mind - whilst Cutting didn't take a wicket on Day1 - he created half chances, can't remember for sure if he was the one who had a dropped catch & an LBW shout that was unlucky not to be given too.

  • Meety on November 11, 2013, 8:59 GMT

    @ ScottStevo on (November 10, 2013, 17:17 GMT) - point of order re: Faulkner, you say that Bird is well ahead of him - yet Faulkner has comparable FC stats to Bird, they play the same grounds at the same time. Also Bird failed to do anything in England (maybe he was injured during the match rather than after), but in head to head in England, Faulkner was way out on top. I under estimated Faulkner for a very long time, but I am starting to think he is good enuff to be a specialist bowler, with his batting a very sweet extra.

  • dunger.bob on November 11, 2013, 7:24 GMT

    @ ShutTheGate: Point taken about the green top. It's the same one Anderson and co bowled on.

    As you can see, we the fans are not even close to settling on a side. I'm not sure about our selection panel, but I hope they're still keeping their options open. If, and it's a big if, we play an all rounder then I am leaning towards Faulkner simply because he's already done the business in the few opportunities he's had at the top level. Cutting is slightly more explosive in both batting and bowling but Faulkner isn't far behind. .. They're both valuable players who've shown form over a number of seasons. .. It's an early sign of our rebirth. Be afraid England, be very afraid.

  • ShutTheGate on November 11, 2013, 4:48 GMT

    I'm not sure if this tour match proves cuttings worth. He has potential but I'm not sure if he's test ready yet.

    He didn't get any wickets on day one and he obviously bowled well on day 4 after the pitch had been covered for 2 days but we need a bowler who can take wickets when there is not a lot happening with the pitch. We have plenty of bowlers who can take wickets on green tops or when there is a lot of uneven bounce.

    The most impressed I've been by Cutting is when he was batting in the Ryobi cup.

  • Shaggy076 on November 11, 2013, 4:44 GMT

    I've read this article a few times and find it quite a disappointing article. Im sure the Australian selectors played Cutting, Copeland and Holland in this game as they are in the back of there minds. They did not play these guys as they didn't want to test England at all. To say the selectors would be peeved is really poor journalism, and is undermining of the talents of all those bowlers mentioned. I'm sure the selectors would be ecstatic that Cutting produced and not only had they hoped he would they believed he could pre-game.

  • ShutTheGate on November 11, 2013, 4:34 GMT

    @ Ben Ingham that is ridiculous.

    The reason why Cook, Trott, Prior and Root didn't turn up as you put it was because they lost the battle against our bowlers. IE they were out played. It is highly unlikely that the English will perform better in Australia than they did at home.

    On the flip side it is highly unlikely that the Aussies will not perform better at home than they did in England. Not only because they're more familiar and comfortable with home conditions but the team is settling in with the new coaching staff and playing together as a team - in the last ashes we had half of our players having played less than 15 test matches let alone having played many games together.

    The Aussies are on the improve. Whether they're good enough to reclaim the ashes remains to be seen. What I can guarantee is that it will be a good contest.

  • dummy4fb on November 11, 2013, 1:30 GMT

    *Barring serious injuries to this England team, I don't see how Australia will win a test. England won the series 3-0 without Cook, Trott, Root or Prior really turning up. Thinking that Cook or Trott won't turn up again is just stupid, they had one average series and will turn up for this one. The only thing going for Australia is their record at grounds like The Gabba and The WACA. I've never been one for exaggeration, but if England win the first test, I can't see Australia passing 350 or winning a test.

  • dummy4fb on November 11, 2013, 1:27 GMT

    Siddle Harris and Lyon should all be automatic picks. Not picking an off spinner because England have an off spinner and they're 'used to playing one in the nets' is one of the stupidest arguments I've ever heard. Lyon and Swann are different bowlers, but playing a front line spinner gives you control as long as they can bowl tightly. Picking Agar over Lyon because of his batting was stupid, he looked so average with the ball and it cried of desperation.

    Harris (when fit) is a great bowler that the Aussies have, while Siddle will run in all day and give 100%, and always turns up against us. As for the other slot, I wouldn't go anywhere near Mitchell Johnson, he wasn't good enough for the tour in England, I don't see how he should be good enough now. You'd be better picking Cutting/Hilfenhaus and having some kind of control, Watson showed that in England. If you can hold an end up and sneak the odd wicket then the other end you have the batters going after your strike bowlers.

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