Ashes 2013 Review: Top five bowling performances

Ryan Harris (left) doesn’t believe in the modern theory of bowling in ‘good areas’, but his modus operandi is to attack the stumps and make the batsman play all the time © Getty Images

By Bharath Ramaraj

The recently concluded Ashes 2013 witnessed numerous incisive bowling performances that changed the course of the game. Even though the batting didn’t match the high standards, it was often left to the bowlers to do the job for their respective sides and they responded in some style. While England’s bowlers put in a team effort throughout the series, Australia heavily relied on Ryan Harris.

Let us revisit the best spells of the Ashes 2013.

Ryan Harris’s 5 for 72, 2nd Test at Lord’s

When Harris was selected to play the second Test at the home of cricket — Lord’s — his critics opined that he may not last the whole game, let alone the series. However, he gave a strong riposte to his critics by not only playing four Tests, but also by spearheading Australia’s attack wonderfully well. In the second Test at Lord’s, he reaped rewards for his effervescent endeavours by taking a five-wicket haul in the first innings.

For many bowlers from the visiting teams, Lord’s can be a difficult place to bowl because of the slope factor. But, just like Australia’s legendary pacer, Glenn McGrath, Harris used the slope to good effect by bowling from the Pavilion end. For instance, in the first innings, Kevin Pietersen, played for movement down the slope, only for it to hold its line and take the edge of his bat.

In fact, Harris is like a whiff of fresh air, as he takes cricket fans to the bygone era. He doesn’t believe in the modern theory of bowling in ‘good areas’, but his modus operandi is to attack the stumps and make the batsman play all the time. No wonder, he took advantage of the slope at Lord’s.

Graeme Swann’s 5 for 44 and 4 for 78, 2nd Test at Lord’s

In the game where Harris dazzled, England’s veteran spinner and trump card, Graeme Swann, too shone like a beacon by taking nine wickets in the match. On expected lines, five of his victims were left-handed batsmen.

It can be opined that there was a rough to work with for England’s premier spinner at Lord’s. But it takes a fine bowler to use it to his advantage and take wickets at crucial junctures.

It also has to be observed that going into the Ashes series Down-Under, Swann seems to have the better of Australia’s mainstays in the batting line-up — Chris Rogers. At Lord’s, Swann dismissed him on both occasions though, he won’t be exactly proud of the way he dismissed the Australian opener in the first innings of that game.

Ryan Harris’s 7 for 117, 4th Test at Durham

Harris’s dominance in the series was such that he makes it into the list of top five bowling performances of the series twice. At Durham, he approached the crease with a bustling run-up and delivered the ball at a good pace. He almost single-handedly took the game away from England.

In the second innings at Durham, barring Ian Bell and to a lesser extent, Pietersen, none of England’s batsmen could counter Harris well. He maintained a strategy of hitting the seam to extract considerable movement off the pitch and keep the batsmen on tenterhooks with well-directed bouncers.

During the first session on , Day Four, with a brand new ball in hand, Harris had England in a real spot of bother by taking the wicket of in-form batsman Bell, followed by dismissing Matt Prior with a vicious delivery that nipped back. A combination of factors which included Tim Bresnan‘s late-order willowy-heroics and an Australian collapse meant that Harris ended up on the losing side.

Stuart Broad’s 5 for 71 and 6 for 50, 4th Test at Durham

Stuart Broad‘s spell at Riverside Ground in Durham was in some ways reminiscent of how he bowled against Australia at The Oval in 2009. In both innings, he came charging to the crease and bowled quite a few unplayable deliveries.

On the second day, the kind of exaggerated seam movement that Broad extracted from the surface would have troubled the best in the business. Even late on Day Four, he ripped apart Australia’s batting line-up with some rip-snorting deliveries to take England to a famous win.

James Anderson’s 5 for 85 and 5 for 73, 1st Test at Trent Bridge

James Anderson’s great bowling in the first Test won him the praise of many and filled many columns in the paper — flowing with appreciation. In short, it would be fair to say that it was one of the greatest bowling performances in an Ashes game.

It was tough to name the best spell bowled in this series as there are some formidable contenders. But this writer is of the opinion that Anderson’s spellbinding magic at Trent Bridge was the most complete bowling performance of the series.

Australia’s off-spinner, Nathan Lyon’s sprightly bowling spell in the first innings at Durham deserves an honourable mention.

(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)