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Their bowling display has been a feather in the cap for the hard work of coaches Craig McDermott and John Davison
November 22, 2013
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Matches: Australia v England at Brisbane
Series/Tournaments: England tour of Australia
As Australia's bowlers gorged themselves on England, the stands encircling the Gabba were in tumult. Each wicket drew a bloodcurdling roar, every near miss an equally visceral "ooooh". In a session that accounted for six England batsmen, such sounds were legion.
Whether it was Australians whooping in delight or Englishmen chilled to their bones, not a soul could be unmoved by this episode, the kind of Test match passage so exhilarating for the fact a five-day contest's course was being decided in a matter of minutes.
At the instant of this thrilling, runaway momentum taking hold of the Test, the pace bowling coach Craig McDermott and the spin coach John Davison sat side by side in the Australian team viewing area, an island of calm in a perfect storm.
Smiles grew on their faces as each Englishman trudged back to the players' area below them. They expanded into beaming grins when the bowlers returned to the dressing rooms at tea, a match and perhaps a series now tilted towards the hosts. Neither man has been around the national team much in recent times, but their presence in Brisbane was a significant factor in orchestrating the mayhem of the second afternoon.
McDermott's return to the national team after an 18-month absence had been engineered only weeks before the series began. His 291 Test wickets, empathy for the struggles of fast bowlers, and preference for simple tactical and technical advice had been highly influential during an earlier stint in 2011-12, most pointedly in encouraging Australia's pacemen to pursue a fuller length and bring their slips cordon into play. He established strong relationships with many of Australia's bowlers, and remained in touch with them during his time away.
Davison, meanwhile, has worked quietly with Australian spin bowlers in his role at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane. His playing days are best known for a star batting turn for Canada at the 2003 World Cup, but he also experienced the difficult life of slow bowling down under, battling the defensive tactical whims of captains and coaches as much as the more obvious opposition provided by aggressive batsmen and unresponsive pitches. That grounding has helped build a strong alliance with Nathan Lyon, who pushed successfully to have Davison work with the team more closely this summer.
At Allan Border Field, McDermott and Davison had worked assiduously with their pupils well in advance of the full team's arrival in Brisbane on Sunday. Their work centred on honing the plans concocted for each England batsman, either tightening what had been attempted in England or tweaking it slightly to accommodate the greater bounce on offer in Australia. Both men were impressed by what they had seen: Mitchell Johnson was fast, Ryan Harris precise, Peter Siddle persistent, and Lyon gaining notable loop and spin.
But when Australia's innings concluded at 295, a total delivered by Brad Haddin's combination of elegant technique and gritty countenance, McDermott and Davison had to let their bowlers go. Initially the signs were not overly encouraging. Harris was a little too short and straight, Johnson was completely unpredictable, and Siddle flat. Alastair Cook's outside edge was a reward for Harris' self-improvement across the morning, while Jonathan Trott's leg glance after a panicky stay conveyed the jumpiness that exists in England's batting when confronted by high pace.
Promising as a lunchtime score of 2 for 55 appeared, the lunch break afforded the opportunity for further counselling. As Haddin attested, McDermott's message to the pacemen was typically blunt, decrying the amount of short stuff directed at the hips of the touring batsmen; "pitch it up" was his directive. He has used these words countless times before, as have many bowling coaches, but like David Saker with England, McDermott's gift appears to be the fact that the bowlers under his direction believe and follow his instructions.
|John Davison has worked tirelessly to build Lyon's confidence, eschewing the instructions he could recall from his earlier years with Victoria.|
Elsewhere Davison sat with Lyon and reinforced the positive messages that all spinners need to hear at times. Dropped twice this year despite not really doing anything to deserve such a fate, Lyon was the last man picked for this match, New South Wales being informed he would not be available for Sheffield Shield duty less than two hours before the first ball of the Test. Nonetheless his enthusiasm for the team is unmatched, and Davison has worked tirelessly to build his confidence, eschewing the "don't do this, don't do that" instructions Lyon could recall from his earlier years with Victoria. A moment would arrive for Lyon, and he was good enough to seize it.
What followed was a bowling attack working in near perfect harmony, each man contributing to the destruction in a way that vindicated much of McDermott and Davison's work. Befitting his standing, it was Harris who started the roll for the hosts, capitalising on a tight bowling partnership with Siddle by tempting Kevin Pietersen to flick a catch to short midwicket. The previous over, Lyon had joined the attack, and immediately created doubt by spinning his offbreaks past the otherwise sturdy Michael Carberry. Johnson was brought back to replace Harris, and from around the wicket widened the breach by finding Carberry's edge.
At times Lyon has been questioned about his ability to make a decisive difference to a match - it is the source of recurring doubt for the selectors that he is yet to bowl a team out on the final day of a Test. This time his spinning fingers would twirl a decisive brace. Bowling around the wicket, Lyon extracted turn but importantly bounce, of the kind Shane Warne so loved in Brisbane. It was this that did for Ian Bell, the man of the series in England. A gentle attempt to flick to leg brought a deflection and a catch to short leg, the nimble Steve Smith. Next ball, Matt Prior did more or less the same thing, Smith diving headlong to take the catch, then convincing Clarke of the need to refer Aleem Dar's unfavourable verdict.
Though a hat-trick was averted, England were now tender prey, and Johnson turned the Gabba into a cricket Colosseum by hunting down Joe Root and Graeme Swann. Root fell to a ball pitched up and angled across him, while Swann squeezed a lifter to short leg in an act of self-preservation. Six wickets had fallen for nine runs.
It was in these moments that Johnson stole the headlines for tomorrow, gaining recompense for previous indignities suffered at English hands. But Australia's domination had been achieved through forces combined and sights recalibrated, plans executed and persevered with. All the bowlers deserved credit for a triumphant scoreboard. Nudging each other happily in the team viewing area, McDermott and Davison knew that more than anyone.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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