By Gaurav Joshi
Only four months ago, it was Australia that was in same situation as England now, two up after a comprehensive thrashing at Lords. Many experts started to label the Australian team as one of the worst to tour England. Each person was predicting a 5 – 0 drubbing and the general consensus was that Australian cricket was in doldrums.
Four months on, the shoe is on the other foot — England were walloped in Adelaide, former captains like Michael Vaughan are sensing a 5 – 0 whitewash, and experts believe England need change of guard. But, surely if Australia were able to change their fortunes, then so can England.
The result of the failures is largely due to the batting. Australia struggled to cope with the swing and spin in England, and now England are struggling to cope with pace and bounce. The first step towards Australia’s success was that they got the batting order right, Michael Clarke moved to number 4 and Nathan Lyon came in to do the holding job from one end.
Similarly, England need to get their selections spot on. Garry Ballance needs to bat at six, so that England have six specialist batsmen. Tim Bresnan’s inclusion is vital as he has been England’s holding bowler. Bresnan’s inclusion is likely to be at the expense of Monty Panesar, but also given the way Australia has stocked their batting with right handers, England need to take a gamble and drop Graeme Swann. Tim Bresnan is likely to play the holding role more effectively than Swann in Perth.
England selectors have based their bowling on the theory of ‘horses for courses’ and the WACA pitch is best opportunity to exploit this theory. Either Steve Finn or Boyd Rankin needs to be picked to ensure that the England attack gets another dimension. Finn has been in the English benches for a while now and with James Anderson on the other side of 30, the tall man needs to be thrown into the deep end.
England needs to believe Australia’s batting can be toppled. Alastair Cook must dwell upon the vulnerability in Australia’s top six. Brad Haddin has been the chief architect who has glued the Australians together. David Warner and Clarke have run riot on the back of a substantial lead in the first Test. Clarke managed another ton in Adelaide, but had Joe Root stayed on his feet, he could well have snapped the chance offered by the Australian captain when he was on 22.
The other batsmen have fought gallantly but are yet to make a stern impression. Perhaps it is confidence that is the only factor lacking in the English bowling.
On a technical perspective, the WACA pitch is well known for its consistent bounce. Batsmen are able to trust the bounce and England batsmen need to duck under short balls, rather than riding with them. Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Joe Root and Michael Carberry are quite tall, if they fall into the trap of riding the short ball off the back foot, they will once again fall prey to Johnson and co. It is imperative the batsmen duck under the ball at the WACA.
Australia are the raging favourites to dismantle England, but as India showed in Perth three years ago, if you handle all the adversity and play the correct team, Australia can be disassembled rather quickly even in their own backyard.
(Gaurav Joshi is an Indian-born Australian who played with Michael Clarke in his junior days. He coaches and reports for a Sydney radio station. Over the years he has freelanced for Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and is a regular on ABC cricket show Cow Corner. He is the author of the book “Teen Thunder Down Under” – The inside story of India’s 2012 U19 World Cup Triumph)
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