There is no getting around this fact: England have been out played, out thought and out sledged by the Australians in the first two test of this summer. Don’t get me wrong: I have loved every minute of the pummelling dished out over the last two test matches. That said, there is a part of me that yearns for a competitive test match between these two oldest of cricketing foes. In order to be competitive in Perth it is clear, and Andy Flower (England’s Director of Cricket) agrees, that some changes need to be made.
I mentioned during the series in England over the winter that Jimmy Anderson did not look one tenth of the bowler he did in the first test at Nottingham where his bowling, basically, singlehandedly rested victory for England from the jaws of possible defeat. Since that 10 wicket effort, where he bowled a massive amount of overs, Anderson has taken 17 wickets in 12 innings at an average of 44 all against Australia. He has already been rested from the ODI squad for the games following the test matches and it seems to me that he is not quite right physically. I would suggest he be rested for the Perth test match given the short back up and the fact that he is just not bowling well.
I would bring in Bresnan, now fit, for Anderson. He hits the wicket hard and is one of the toughest players in the English squad. His inclusion would also add some starch to a lower order that has been beaten up by short bowling in the first two tests of the summer.
I am a fan of Michael Carberry but his dismissals in both innings in Adelaide were just bad batting and showed that he may be out of his depth at the top level. Joe Root showed, not for the first time, great application and courage in the face of a barrage from the Australian fast bowlers. He should open in Carberry’s place with England’s best batsman of 2013, Ian Bell, moving up the order to number 3. This “engine room” will give more stability around the captain, Cook, whose efforts so far have been less than stellar and show a muddled mental state.
Replacing Bell at number 5 is a choice between Gary Ballance and Jonny Bairstow. For mine, statistics don’t lie and Ballance has the first class record advantage over Bairstow. Nearly 5000 runs at over 50 per innings in 67 first class games is a record worthy of a trial in the top team. I know that throwing a debutant in at Perth is akin to throwing him to the wolves but from all I have read about the Zimbabwean import he has the temperament to handle it.
In the bowling line up, the resting of Anderson aside, there is no way England can play two spinners in Perth. It seems like a case of the lesser of two evils when it comes to spinners with Swann in ordinary form and Panesar simply not good enough in the field to set off what he brings to the table with the ball. I would lean to Swann given that he seems to have more steel about him than Panesar. There is a sameness about all of the bowlers in the English squad with the available options all tall right arm fast medium bowlers. Finn and Tremlett are both scarred from having played and failed against Australia of recent times so I would add Irishman Boyd Rankin to the line up for a debut on Australia’s fastest pitch.
So, all of that considered, this the team I reckon the Poms should put on the field come Friday in Perth:
Cook, Root, Bell, Pietersen, Ballance, Stokes, Prior, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Rankin
I think this is a team that could make a game of it against Australia and whilst I, again, will say am enjoying Australia destroy England I am also keen to see a contest.
Postscript: I will avoid the obvious quip that this team really ought be renamed the English Dominion XI given that 45% of the line up were not born in England (Ireland, South Africa, Zimbabwe and New Zealand being the places of birth of players selected in addition to England).