The Ashes 2013-14

McDermott says bouncer barrage will continue

Daniel Brettig

December 10, 2013

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Switch Hit: How low will they go?

Australia's bowling coach Craig McDermott is unapologetic about the short-pitched assault that has rendered England's tail all but irrelevant over two Tests, promising more deliveries around the ears of the touring bowlers at WACA for the third Test.

While the hosts' planning for England's batsmen has been surgical, there is a brutal simplicity to how the visiting tail has been targeted. McDermott's own effectiveness batting in the lower order in Test matches was severely cut back by West Indian throat balls in the 1990s, leaving him to often seek sanctuary outside leg stump with the notable exceptions of the one-run defeat in Adelaide in 1993 and a five-run loss to South Africa at the SCG the following year.

Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle have all delivered concerted spells of short-pitched bowling at Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Chris Tremlett and Monty Panesar in Brisbane and Adelaide, often with the near Bodyline field of a leg slip, short leg and forward square leg. The results have been stark, condemning England to a "six out, all out" pattern, in contrast to lower order runs made by Brad Haddin, Johnson and Harris for Australia.

"That's been our team plan and I don't think we're going to go away from that," McDermott said as the teams travelled to Perth for the third match. "There's not too many tailenders around the place who bat below seven that enjoy playing a lot of balls around their helmet, so, so be it. Speaking from my personal experience it never really affected my bowling but it certainly affects your batting.

"The way we want to play our cricket we will continue to do, and what you want to describe that as is up to you. We just want to play good, aggressive, Australian cricket, and keep doing that every single day from the moment we put our feet over the [boundary] rope."

Despite the wide margin of victory in Adelaide, Johnson, Harris and Siddle bowled almost as many overs as their England equivalents and will have a day less time to recover after bowling last in the second Test. McDermott forecast little or no bowling for any of the trio ahead of Friday's recommencement of hostilities, confident his experienced pupils knew how to revert to a fuller, swinging length for Perth, its bouncy pitch and assortment of breezes.


Shane Watson and Craig McDermott at a training session, Brisbane, November 19, 2013
"There's not too many tailenders around the place who bat below seven that enjoy playing a lot of balls around their helmet" - McDermott © Getty Images
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"We probably won't bowl too much between now and Friday to be honest, maybe not at all until the morning of the game," he said. "So it really depends on the next 24 hours and how the medical staff look upon that from a recovery point of view. But as a bowling coach I'm really happy with where the guys are at. You might be sore but if you're 2-0 up you're feeling pretty okay, aren't you.

"As far as recalibrating I don't think that's going to be too much of a drama from our point of view, with most of our bowling attack used to bowling at the Gabba or the WACA as their home grounds. We want to be able to swing the ball and bowl good short-pitched bowling when we want to. Our lengths were very good in Brisbane and here, so I'm looking forward more to having them rested and fresh for the start of the game."

McDermott admitted he should not be allowed to take too much credit for the revitalisation of Johnson, who has been the most irresistible force on either side in the first two matches. A haul of 17 wickets augers very well indeed for the WACA ground, where he has surged through 36 victims in five Tests since 2008.

"Everyone keeps talking about me, but it's really had nothing to do with me to be honest," McDermott said of Johnson's startling return. "He's got himself together … the 12 months out of the game has really done him the world of good I think, he's come back a complete cricketer and he's on top of his batting, he's bowling fast, and we've got a great unit. They're not just three or four bowlers, they're all great mates, and to see them on the dressing room floor yesterday afternoon, sitting together, talking about the game and having a beer is what it's all about. If we can keep up that sort of camaraderie in our unit we're going to go really well."

A common sight in McDermott's time as the fast bowling coach has been to glimpse him at the boundary's edge talking to one of his charges between overs. While many will speculate over the theories and techniques that may be discussed, McDermott said it was often a simple chat about life to keep his men relaxed.

"You talk about different things all the time, it might be just stuff, normal everyday things, what's going on in each other's lives, family, all those sorts of things," he said. "It doesn't always have to be cricket, because if you're cricket 24/7 your head's going to explode. It's good to just talk things through.

"They've done their homework, the team's done their homework, not only from a batter's handling their bowlers but where our field placements are. It's not just about getting the ball in the right spot, we've set very, very good fields with Michael [Clarke] and the team's input, so it couldn't be any more complete at the moment."

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

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Posted by El_Awrens on (December 12, 2013, 6:30 GMT)

More Aussie mind games. What worries me is that these will work just as well as the previous ones ("negative brand of cricket", "scared eyes" etc). Drone on about the pace and bounce at Perth and goad the England bowlers into bowling short - they'll marvel at the extra bounce and ensure the only way they'll get wickets is mis-timed hooks. By the end of Day 3 England realise that Aussie batsmen are excellent hookers and they ought to pitch it up - but of course by then it's too late.

Posted by Biggus on (December 12, 2013, 2:21 GMT)

@Sunil Narula:- What can I say, we Australians I guess by your reckoning should feel ashamed that we have to play an 'average' bowler like Ryan Harris who has a test bowling average of 22 because we don't have access to legendary players like Ishant Sharma with his average of 38. You try to berate @Shaggy076 for stating 'truisms' as you put it but then tell us a bowler with an average of 22 is average. Hey, call me crazy but I'd prefer truisms over willful ignorance in that face of facts. India can only in their wildest dreams imagine having a fast bowler like Harris, so we'll continue to select him, average or not, and he'll continue to take wickets for us. My God, some people......

Posted by Meety on (December 12, 2013, 0:48 GMT)

@Sunil Narula - re: Lyon, maybe you should see how many wickets Lyon got in his last Test v India - if he is ordinary - so is the entire Indian batting line up. In the series in Oz v India - Lyon outbowled Ashwin & co. So maybe you better go back to watching IPL & sandbox cricket in India & leave the adult cricket to everyone else!

Posted by Meety on (December 12, 2013, 0:38 GMT)

@Clyde on (December 10, 2013, 9:37 GMT) - fairly sure Justin Langar copped a ball flush on the helmet from Ntini (1st ball of the innings) & was concussed. The issue with a helmet is - it saves you from being killed when struck flush on the head. It doesn't stop your brain from being concussed. @Jason Harcourt - the WIndies were the ones who stopped adhering to that practice, combined with the improved protective gear, tailenders are regularly scoring big - they are now fair game. The unwritten rule was BEFORE helmets! @TheBigBoodha on (December 10, 2013, 12:13 GMT) - the problem that Test was - that it was the tamest WACA test pitch in history.

Posted by brisCricFan on (December 11, 2013, 22:57 GMT)

@Sunil Narula; Ok, you are so obviously correct on all things cricket... you're 100% right about how these guys are just very ordinary cricketers being made into stars by unimaginitive batting... and I'm certain when the might of India arrives on these shores they will put them to the sword...oh wait, that's right, they were here 2 years ago... and I recall the match at Perth where it was Harris and Siddle that set up an Innings victory... yep, just ordinary bowlers those guys.

T20 and the way it is played cannot be replicated in any form in a test match... even playing like you may a ODI won't work... think pure numbers... sure you make a rapid 300 off 60 overs... Opposition bats at a sedate 3.5 for rest of day so after Day 1 you are leading by 200 but they still have 10 wickets... day two, they lead by 100, Day3 they lead by 400 and declare with 2 days to bowl you out before you pass first Innings... not smart cricket... time is as important as runs.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (December 11, 2013, 21:38 GMT)

Sunil Naruda; You either have very little knowledge of cricket or better coach than anyone that has coached the game. I think I will go with the former. You say Harris and Siddle are ordinary bowlers, approximately 80 wickets @ 22 and 180 wickets @ 28 (I havent checked them but know these are close) welll if htese guys are ordinary then not many good bowlers have played the game. You say the English should attack them well guess what Cook and Pietersen got out cheaply playing aggressive shots to Harris in Brisbane, and Pietersen has got out being aggressive to Siddle. How many wickets do you want to lose to test the T20 theory. Then you say Cook has fallen into the trap of hooking Johnson what have you watched just the one replay, it was the fourth innings of the series and he hadnt done it previously must be the longest set trap in history. By the way there was only the fine leg back when he fell so the trap hadnt even been set. Out of room but Lyon and Watson are not ordinary either.

Posted by   on (December 11, 2013, 17:48 GMT)

so shaggy076 does know that test cricket and t20 are different...come out of these truisms...harris, siddle, watson and lyon are ordinary bowlers but are being allowed to dominate because of the tentative approach of english batsmen....carberry is allowing lyon to become shane warne...cook is trying to hook johnson when there is a trap on that side,...there is more percentage in cook trying to hook harris and siddle instead of johnson...if you get what i mean...but perhaps you only know platitutdes about cricket....like t20, odi`s and test are not the same...

Posted by ScottStevo on (December 11, 2013, 9:49 GMT)

@Shaggy076, a common reason why most touring teams have little success at Perth is due to the fact that their pace bowlers try to bounce us out and generally bowl too short (marvelling in their own magnificent carry through to the keeper!) as they've got the extra pace and bounce - only to find us carting them to all parts. I'd love to see the Poms bring in a rookie in Mills, who got caned in his ODI experience, or Finn, who can't seem to get it together (though could be dangerous if he does). Tremlett could be a scarier proposition as he's still been bowling accurately enough and at his height could get real lift out of length balls. But if they bowl too short continually, we will amass a load of runs and bury this arrogant Eng side back in the mire from whence they came!

Posted by milepost on (December 11, 2013, 9:40 GMT)

@Shaggy076, completey agree. There are too many neutrals and English coming in here to complain. They are running out of straws to clutch at though.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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