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Posted on | December 23, 2010 | 1 Comment
If the Australians have any brains they should try to produce a bouncy pitch in Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test.
The pitch at the MCG is usually flat and, if anything, gets lower, so if they can’t make it fast and bouncy they should leave some grass on because if there is any kind of liveliness in the surface we are in trouble.
When you have bounce it exposes lack of technique and any faults are shown up.
For example, when we played the fifth Test match against South Africa in Johannesburg last January, we were terrible and made to look novices by Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
That was the one pitch in South Africa where the ball bounces and has pace because it is 6,000ft above sea level.
Once the ball gets up our noses we are all at sea and easily rattled. Our composure goes out of the window.
In Perth it was a thoroughly depressing and abject batting display. There is no shame in losing but some individuals should be embarrassed by their performances.
In the modern game there are so many flat, easy batting pitches around the world. They are so tame with no bounce that many batsmen look better than they are and their statistics flatter them.
Genuine fast bowling on bouncy pitches has always been the biggest test for any batsman in the history of the game.
Playing Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, Fred Trueman or Brian Statham, Wes Hall and Charlie Griffiths, Frank Tyson and Harold Larwood or any four of the West Indian fast bowlers of the 1970s and early 1980s required courage technique, commitment, patience and concentration.
Mitchell Johnson will never be a great bowler in that class because he will have some ineffective days, but he can be a match-winner on certain pitches. Like Andrew Flintoff, he can lift the team and supporters. He can be a leader of the pack and change a game with devastating spells.
That is a special quality. We failed that Test in Perth against him and sadly in the second innings we were not very good against a fast-medium bowler called Ryan Harris.
In Perth, two sessions killed us. On the first day after lunch when we had them 69 for five we should have bowled them out for 150. As well as we bowled in the morning, we bowled poorly, too short to be exact, in the afternoon.
We did not have enough intensity and aggression and probably complacently thought it was all over because we had the Aussies reeling and were already one up in the series. To allow Australia to make 268 was a mistake and proved costly. We should have nailed them.
Johnson’s spell on the second morning blew us away and after that it was all downhill.
England don’t have an X-factor like Johnson and Graeme Swann could be sidelined. At the moment he is not a threat unless it spins. In the third Test he was far too expensive and he could not keep Mike Hussey quiet. Swann has to find a way to bowl at him. He has never tried over the wicket at Hussey’s leg stump. He did not know what line or pace to bowl at him and consequently Andrew Strauss over-bowled our three seamers in the second innings.
When you play with a four-man attack you can’t under-bowl or hide one of the bowlers. Otherwise it will knacker the three who are bowling. Steven Finn has done a good job and has the habit of getting wickets, but he looks tired. Six days rest before the next Test may not be enough to get his energy back.
I always thought it would be a problem with three Test matches back-to-back and we now may need to freshen up the attack, or go with the fifth bowler, which they don’t like doing.
I think England will not want to change the team. They will talk up the fact we won in Adelaide. Paul Collingwood almost certainly will not be dropped but his form is a problem and Ian Bell has to move up the order now. Tell him we need big scores. Hundreds to control the match. Bright, pleasing-on-the-eye fifties will not do.
England’s batsmen also need to look at their technique on bouncy pitches.
They sit on the back foot because the ball is going to be short and get up high. They get so stuck they can’t transfer their weight forward. They are lbw candidates all the time because they do not take a big step forward like Hussey.
He is the perfect example. When he first comes in he doesn’t play at anything he can leave until he has been at the crease for 45 minutes. He makes the bowler bowl to him and doesn’t play away from his body. That is the key.
When he plays forward, he transfers his weight into a big stride. Ours never get past the batting crease. We play away from our body on the back foot.
For example, Strauss in the second innings played away from his body and nicked the ball.
You have to play tight and close to your body when there is bounce. There are too many playing defensively on the back foot with an open face which is giving slip catches. You need to play straight with the maker’s name showing.
Reproduced with kind permission from the Daily Telegraph