August 30, 2013
It certainly wasn’t the most exhilarating Ashes series in recent times and England without a doubt were not at their best for large parts, but all things considered if you had offered Alastair Cook a 3-0 series victory before Trent Bridge he would have snapped your hand off.
The five venues were under clear instruction from the ECB to produce dry wickets that aided spin and reverse swing to favour Graeme Swann and James Anderson the two most skilful bowlers in these conditions in either side.
If the surfaces produced were to assist England’s bowlers, then this certainly wasn’t the case for the batsman, and also more importantly fans of good cricket. Cook, Joe Root and Jonathan Trott looked like they were going to war without any battle equipment, and survival was the only natural instinct. At times you could have turned the clock back 50 years to when two runs per over was acceptable and at nearly £100 a ticket this was bordering on unacceptable.
Bowlers certainly in the main are the chief reason Test matches are won, but without Ian Bell England may not have won a Test match in this series. The Warwickshire batsman has shown a maturity in his game in recent years that would have been impossible to envisage when Warnie was calling him ‘The Sherminator’. Technically he is as sound as any current batter playing the game and combine that with the ability to play the situation in tight contests rightly earned him the man of the series award and much praise to match.
Many people are suggesting that when Cook, Root and Trott find their form on quicker surfaces England will have no struggles in Australia and the series will finish with a similar score line to that of 3-0. However, the worry for Andy Flower would have been the way that Michael Clarke and his bowlers appeared to have worked out how to bowl at England’s top order and their inept performances were not so much down to form, but technical deficiencies.
England top three have three months to get in the nets with Cook needing to find a way to score when its full and outside off stump otherwise he won’t score at all, Root must get his weight and feet in a better position when the ball is going over the top of his off stump, and Trott must figure out a method against the short ball. These players are all good enough but they have work to do to overcome a pack of bowlers who won’t let them off the hook like Australia did the last time England toured.
I would be tempted to bat Michael Carberry at the top of the order and slip Joe Root back to number six. Carberry when looking to be positive is a fine player of pace bowling, and Root has shown in one-day cricket his flexibility to bat in all situations and a couple years down the order will not hamper his Test career providing he is managed well.
For Australia it is so important they get their batsmen firing. Michael Clarke will score runs but he needs friends. If David Warner and Shane Watson can finally reach their potential in the gold and green then we could see a surprise this winter. I still think England will have just enough to win the series but they must play produce more quality this time round.
Chris Murtagh 30/08/13