SPIRO: New Zealand show Australia how to win back the Ashes

Spiro Zavos Columnist

By Spiro Zavos, Spiro Zavos is a Roar Expert

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    New Zealand cricketers. AFP PHOTO / Michael Bradley

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    In a recent Spectator, the English sports writer James Nicholls argues that this should be the Australian XI to play the first Test at Trent Bridge in July: Rogers, Marsh, Khawaja, Clarke, Warner, Watson, Wade, Johnson, Pattinson, Siddle, Lyon.

    There is a lot to admire about this side. Rogers is a one-Test veteran who has a much better first class average than the more favoured (by the selectors) players, except I would think Philip Hughes, an exclusion from the Nicholls side.

    The three Ws in the middle of the order, Warner, Watson and Wade, although not a patch on the original three Ws, Weekes, Worrall and Walcott, have a certain pugnacity to their batting that is appealing.

    But there is a lot wrong with the side, too.

    It does not take into account the fact that the selectors, with no more Tests to play before the Ashes series starts, cannot start experimenting with new opening pairs and batting orders that are significantly different from those they’ve played with for the last few Tests.

    And the inclusion of Johnson ahead of Starc does not fairly balance the merits of the two left-armers. In my view, Johnson’s card should be marked, ‘never to play Test cricket again.’

    The fine mess the selectors have got themselves and the baggy greens into means that they are in the situation where they only tinker with the squad they’ve been using throughout the last couple of series.

    Luckily for them, the New Zealand team, which threatened to defeat England twice in the just-finished series has given the selectors some strong feed-back on how to win back the Ashes.

    First: Have a strong opening pair. My suggestion here is that Hughes should be promoted to open with Cowan. Hughes, as an opener, scores his runs fast enough to balance the tortoise-like pace of Cowan’s efforts.

    Second: I would play Warner at first drop. He plays fast bowling well enough to handle the fall of an early wicket. He is also a better player of spin than Hughes, with the capacity to hit someone like Swann out of the game if things fall in the right order for him.

    Third: I would bat Watson at four and tell him to stop the posing after a shot that always reminds me of body builder going through his posing routines.

    I would get into Watson’s head that scoring runs is preferable to his penchant for trying to look good.

    Be ruthless and use the power he has to get into the England bowling by batting the way he does in the one-day and T20 matches.

    New Zealand hit 12 sixes in their mammoth first innings at Eden Park, while England scrapped up one six in their two battling innings.

    Four: Restore Clarke to the number five batting position.

    He is more comfortable there. He has scored massively in this position but has struggled when he’s been moved up the list.

    The way he bats at number five enables him to turn innings around the way McCallum did for the Kiwis with his quick-fire innings as captain at Eden Park.

    The England attack, which relies a lot on cut and movement off the pitch, looked pretty innocuous on a pitch that didn’t do much.

    Five: Forget about the hit-and-giggle merchants like Smith and Maxwell. Wade goes in at number six in the order. He has scored a Test century, and given some sound tactical advice is good enough to bat this high in the order.

    Six: The key to beating England is obvious but difficult.

    You have to bowl them out twice, something that is incredibly hard to do as they showed twice against New Zealand, and against Australia in recent Ashes series.

    Australia is not going to post massive scores against England unless Clarke has another one of his Bradman-like run of a double and triple centuries.

    England will have to be beaten by being bowled out for relatively low scores that Australia can better.

    NZ almost did this with an pop gun attack compared with what the Australians have in their arsenal.

    The key to this was the success of their left-arm pace bowlers. This makes the inclusion of the best of the Australian lefties, Starc, an absolute requirement.

    Seven: stack the attack with three more quickies, Pattinson, Siddle, Bird. Use them relentlessly against an England batting line-up that, with the exception of the Pietersen and Prior, is a grinding outfit.

    Eight: Use spinner Lyon for the opening Tests, but if there are Tests that have to be won be prepared to gamble on Fawad Ahmed and his leg-spinners.

    Nine: Drop Clarke as a selector.

    It is difficult enough captaining an Australian side that outside of himself lacks any other great player.

    But the difficulty is compounded when the captain is associated with some of the more bizarre selectorial decisions that have been made.

    Ten: Take heart from New Zealand that this current England side is beatable by a side that plays relentless, hard and efficient cricket.

    This is not beyond whatever Australian side that takes the field, and certainly is not beyond the line-up I’ve suggested.

    Spiro Zavos
    Spiro Zavos

    Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.

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    The Crowd Says (32)

    • March 29th 2013 @ 8:24am
      Atawhai Drive said | March 29th 2013 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      Spiro, for the record, James Nicholls is English by birth but he’s been based in Sydney for at least 15 years. He was tied up with Getty Images for several years.

      He writes a sport column for The Spectator Australia. I don’t think it appears in the parent publication in London.

      As you say, there is a lot wrong with his Ashes XI.

    • March 29th 2013 @ 8:30am
      Praveen said | March 29th 2013 @ 8:30am | ! Report

      Not bad suggestions but I would definitely have khawaja in the top 6, watto will be bowling in the ashes which allows us to go in with 6 batsman and have khawaja in there given he plays pace and swing bowling very well

      • March 29th 2013 @ 9:06am
        Ken Hambling said | March 29th 2013 @ 9:06am | ! Report

        I agree with you Praveen and your logic makes sense, If Watson is bowing then its easy to slot in 6 batsman which has been our weakness for the last1-2 years. Khawaja for me is a must as well and i am sure Ashes will be his chance to shine. As for the spinners I would take either Holland, Beer or SOA as the backup bowlers to Lyon.

    • March 29th 2013 @ 8:54am
      richard said | March 29th 2013 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      NZ’s popgun attack, eh Spiro.That may be,but it still manged to get England out cheaply.And that on wickets that gave the bowlers little assistance.

      btw how did your “mighty’ attack fare in India? ’nuff said!

      • March 29th 2013 @ 10:09am
        JB said | March 29th 2013 @ 10:09am | ! Report

        Because we all know India is a fast bowlers paradise…..

      • March 29th 2013 @ 4:04pm
        JohnB said | March 29th 2013 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

        But they didn’t get England out cheaply (or at all) twice.

        • March 29th 2013 @ 11:04pm
          James said | March 29th 2013 @ 11:04pm | ! Report

          yeah they didnt manage to get england out twice, they got near once really but still were not able to do it. new zealand played brilliantly england really underestimated them i feel and just were not ready for pitches which really do not do much at all. also the top few english batsmen failing in 2 innings of a match will not happen that often. i think australia can learn more from england than they can from new zealand specifically how to not give in and bat out a match. thats something that england did brilliantly and something australia did terribly at.

      • March 30th 2013 @ 6:57am
        richard said | March 30th 2013 @ 6:57am | ! Report

        Actually,we did get them out cheaply in one innings – first or second test I think,All I’m saying is that our pop-gun attack may be a bit better that Mr.Zavos thinks.From a NZ perspective,this bowling attack is an improvement on what we’ve had for quite some time.

        And even though we had a great third test by Peter Fulton,the strength of this team is its bowling attack.

        JB- you lost in India because you have no quality spinners in your team,as you well know.

        • March 30th 2013 @ 1:40pm
          JohnB said | March 30th 2013 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

          You got them out cheaply twice – first innings of first and third tests. The English were good enough to bat out a long time for the draw both times – though only just in the third test. England deserve credit for that (and as James said the Australians could learn a lot from them there). NZ also deserve credit for putting England in that position (twice). I don’t disagree that NZ attack is a decent one – perhaps not good enough to win consistently on wickets not giving assistance, but certainly not popgun either.

    • March 29th 2013 @ 9:48am
      Allanthus said | March 29th 2013 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      Spiro, the headline was enticing but the article is mostly another in the long line of discussion about Australian selection, and doesn’t quite tie in for mine.

      No doubt that the Australian attack has more firepower and depth by comparison, but I’d be wary of writing off the NZ attack as “pop-gun”. Southee and Boult are developing into a formidable opening pair. Wagner is just off them in pace but runs in hard all day and was the leading NZ wicket taker in the series. Bracewell sat this one out due to stupidity but we already saw what he did in Hobart. McClenaghan is a sharp left armer who was excellent in the one dayers.

      Except for Wagner all are young, sharp enough and still improving. Chris Martin all of a sudden is nowhere near this team. In the right conditions this is a worthy and testing attack – bat mostly dominated ball in this series because of flat pitches, not because these guys are 125km trundlers.

      As for Bhudda above, to watch Australia’s batting flounder as it has then to say you wouldn’t have McCullum instead only shows that you didn’t watch any of this series. England basically had no idea how to bowl to him in all of the 20/20, one dayers and tests, he was brutal, clinical and showed much better shot selection than in the past. The only reason he didn’t score even more runs was because he ran out of overs, or came in so late after the top order had done well.

      • March 29th 2013 @ 10:06am
        Swampy said | March 29th 2013 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        If NZ ever play Australia again while Chris Martin is active and Phil Hughes is in the team then Martin would be first picked in my book!

      • March 29th 2013 @ 10:35am
        Felix said | March 29th 2013 @ 10:35am | ! Report

        Good points Allanthus, though in defence of Buddha I think he was saying that Australia’s batting lineup is rubbish and we’d love to have the likes of McCullum, Williamson or Taylor in our side!

        • March 29th 2013 @ 12:44pm
          ianm said | March 29th 2013 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

          McCullum’s still a flat track bully for mine, lo and behold his numbers are great on the pitches served up the summer in NZ. Taylor, Williamson, Boult and Southee is the back bone of a strong test side though.

          • March 29th 2013 @ 1:07pm
            Harry said | March 29th 2013 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

            I agree, McCullum wouldn’t get close to being in a lot of test teams, he’s a great short-form player and has got good figures over this series, but he has been woeful over the last few years. One of the objections to McCullum getting the captaincy in NZ was that his batting form wasn’t strong enough to make him part of the team – he’s a Shane Watson without the bowling. McCullum is great when there’s already a big score of the board and it’s a flat pitch and he can just go for it knowing it doesn’t overly matter if he gets out for 0, but he struggles massively when he needs to defend, build an innings or the pitch is ‘doing something’.

            The real stars of this NZ test team are Taylor and Williamson in the batting and Boult in the bowling. The other bowlers are also making a real case for themselves as well and Watling has done well since taking over the gloves.

            • March 29th 2013 @ 9:51pm
              Ra said | March 29th 2013 @ 9:51pm | ! Report

              Durrhhh….. That is an easy one …. The Kiwi king of international cricket, the big name player who puts bums on seats in stadia around the world is McCullum. I didn’t like him batting up the order and as we can see by him taking himself back down the order he has been of much more value to the team. I wish he had done that for Taylor.
              But those up and coming young pop guns rallied for their new leader. McCullum’s mana has in my opinion a lot to do with those young pop guns lifting their game. We all know what having a few top guns around can do to lift young guns to fire like an artillery battery especially when backs are against the wall, and that’s across the board.
              McCullums captaincy in the field, and the maturity of his captains knock with the bat were highly praised by television commentators on numerous occasions, and the fact that he lifted his own game to lead by example added steel to him young and inexperienced team.
              I don’t have a problem with Aussies calling our attack pop guns – that’s cool. Outside of Hadley, Vettori and Bond we’ve never really had a fearsome attack, but that is also the Archilles heel of international cricket sides also. They’re too busy worrying what McCullum might be able to conjure up and mistakenly under
              rate our pop gun battery.

    • March 29th 2013 @ 10:07am
      Anthony D'Arcy said | March 29th 2013 @ 10:07am | ! Report

      New Zealand would’ve won the series 2-1 if there was any deterioration in the pitches. The only reason they twice got so close to bowling England out on day five was their swing bowling. Boult in particular could be a bloody star in later years.

    • March 29th 2013 @ 11:18am
      hog said | March 29th 2013 @ 11:18am | ! Report

      Agree with the above comments regards NZ’s attack, it may not have genuine pace but they are young and could potentially turn into a world class outfit. Now that’s something i didn’t think i’d be saying a couple of years ago.

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