England’s Ashes headaches set to continue at the selection table

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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97 Have your say

    England are almost certain to change their line-up for the second Ashes Test after being thrashed at Brisbane, but their options are far from attractive.

    The tourists fielded five bowlers in the opening Test yet only Stuart Broad and James Anderson had any impact, with seamers Chris Woakes and Jake Ball, and spinner Moeen Ali, all proving impotent.

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    This comes as no surprise given Woakes and Moeen have awful Test bowling records outside England. Ball incredibly averages 114 with the ball from his four Tests.

    The most obvious difference between the teams at Brisbane was in bowling depth. While all four of Australia’s bowlers made major contributions, England looked far less dangerous once Anderson or Broad left the attack.

    Australia took note of this and in the second innings bunkered down during Anderson and Broad’s 10-over new ball spell. Cavalier opener David Warner shackled his attacking instincts during this danger period and crawled to 7 from 21 balls before returning to his normal approach once England’s vulnerable support bowlers appeared.

    David Warner

    (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    Woakes, so highly regarded in England, had a horror debut in Australia, taking 1-113 with his only wicket being tail ender Pat Cummins. Bowling at a gentle pace in the mid-130kmh range, without swing or sharp bounce, it is hard to see how Woakes will be successful at Perth, Melbourne or Sydney.

    He should, however, be far more effective in the second Test at Adelaide, where the pitch is likely to similar to traditional English pitches – slow and moist – as it was for the first two day-night Tests at that ground.

    The bigger immediate concern for England is the complete ineffectiveness of Ball and the manner in which Moeen was massively outbowled by Lyon at the Gabba.

    The problem for the tourists is that the alternatives in their squad offer nothing different or superior. Left arm quick George Garton would provide a point of difference. But when he was brought into the squad as injury cover, the English media suggested he was just there to give the batsmen net practice against a left armer.

    I have not seen a single English pundit suggesting 20-year-old Garton is a decent chance to play at Adelaide. It’s easy to understand why – with just 23 first-class wickets to his name at an average of 36, Garton would be an extremely risky selection in a Test England must win to have a hope of retaining the Ashes.

    The bowler far more likely to replace Ball is fellow beanpole Craig Overton. In England’s three warm-up games, the right armer took eight wickets at 28, hardly stats which demand selection given the extremely-weak batting line-ups he encountered.

    More importantly, he would add no variety to an England attack which desperately requires it.

    Overton is of a similar speed and approach to Stuart Broad, but obviously far less experienced and accomplished. At Brisbane, Australia’s attack had three things England’s did not – a left armer in Starc, a quality spinner in Lyon, and an express bowler who could intimidate the opposition in Cummins.

    England have no decent left armer they can pick, no reasonable spin alternative to Moeen, and the only genuinely quick bowler they have, in Mark Wood, was recently injured and reportedly won’t be considered until the third Test.

    Currently touring Australia with the England Lions, Wood will audition for the WACA Test during a three-day match against Queensland in Brisbane.

    If he gets through that match then England surely will pick Wood at Perth to try to give their attack a better balance. England’s spin cupboard is bare, though. Moeen reportedly battled a finger complaint at Brisbane and has averaged 57 with the ball in his past five Tests against Australia.

    Moeen Ali

    (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    Visiting Test spinners are flayed in Australia summer after summer. England’s only back-up slow bowler is 20-year-old Mason Crane. The leg spinner was hammered in England’s three warm-up matches, averaging 52 with the ball and conceding more than four runs per over.

    If that’s how Crane was treated by batting line-ups filled with domestic second-XI cricketers, what kind of cruel punishment would be meted out by the likes of Steve Smith and David Warner?
    Simply put, Crane is not a viable option for England.

    This all sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it? England’s shallow bowling stocks are reminiscent of the batting dregs Australia had in Tests for quite some time.

    The bright news for England, amid this gloom, is they might only need Anderson and Broad to win the Adelaide Test. Australia have collapsed time and again on seaming decks, and England have two of the world’s elite bowlers on such pitches.

    England badly need to make the most of those expected favourable conditions, because once the series returns to flat decks at Perth, their one-dimensional bowling attack could be exposed once more.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (97)

    • November 28th 2017 @ 9:05am
      Chui said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      If the rumours of Ben Stokes at Heathrow are true, he might play in Adelaide.

      • Roar Guru

        November 28th 2017 @ 9:33am
        Edward L'Orange said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        Apparently he is going to NZ to see his family. Convenient it’s only a hope skip and a jump to Australia.

        The coppers mustn’t have too much against him if he can leave the country. You’d think we’ll see him this series.

        • November 29th 2017 @ 9:47am
          Matth said | November 29th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

          “A hope skip and a jump”. I believe that is one of the more appropriate spelling mistakes I’ve seen.

      • Editor

        November 28th 2017 @ 9:33am
        Daniel Jeffrey said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        Stokes is heading to New Zealand, not Australia. He won’t play in Adelaide

        • Roar Guru

          November 28th 2017 @ 9:43am
          spruce moose said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

          I guess the only way we’ll know is whether someone is willing to go to Christchurch airport and see how much baggage he picks up from the carousel.

          • Roar Guru

            November 28th 2017 @ 10:53am
            Rellum said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:53am | ! Report

            Do any Kiwi’s know what a cricket bag looks like?

            • November 28th 2017 @ 11:42am
              spruce moose said | November 28th 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

              Oh snap.

              • Columnist

                November 28th 2017 @ 12:13pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | November 28th 2017 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

                There’s been a lot of talk Stokes will return for the 3rd Test, I wonder how much that will be influenced by the result of the 2nd Test?

                If England lose badly at Adelaide and the Ashes are all but gone you’d think they’d have much less motivation to call in Stokes than if they win at Adelaide and are 1-1 heading to Perth.

              • Roar Guru

                November 28th 2017 @ 4:39pm
                Fox said | November 28th 2017 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

                Stokes management, together with the England cricket powers that be, is negotiating playing for Canterbury this weekend as he has only been banned from international cricket in the very carefully worded ban.

                Nice – oh yes he will be called up – he is a kiwi by birth as we all know with his family still there but by playing in NZ he avoids the press headache that would come in England and stays game fit and ready and no jet-lag crossing the Tasman – clever

                It is pretty clear he will be playing at some point – yep he just got on the plane to visit family with his full kit bag – which he did -in the hope he would be playing for Canterbury – yeah sure

          • November 29th 2017 @ 7:38am
            qwetzen said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:38am | ! Report

            Hasn’t Christchurch suffered enough?

        • Roar Guru

          November 28th 2017 @ 7:45pm
          Ryan H said | November 28th 2017 @ 7:45pm | ! Report

          Is he actually playing for Cantebury NZ as suggested by some?

          • November 29th 2017 @ 11:50am
            13th Man said | November 29th 2017 @ 11:50am | ! Report

            Yeah sounds like he’s been given the all clear by the ECB and NZC to lineup for Canterbury.
            I think it’s simply a warm up before the third test.
            England do play a tour match v CA XI at Richardson Park in South Perth before the third test so I’d imagine they would try get him playing in that.
            All signs point to Stokes playing the third test in Perth.

    • November 28th 2017 @ 9:31am
      paul said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      I’ve been saying for weeks the England squad, as a whole, is weak and this is now being shown up. The have no depth to their batting or bowling which is going to be a huge problem moving forward.

      The Australians have clearly worked out how to bat against their attack; see of the opening spell then go to town on what ever comes after that. Granted things might be a tad different in Adelaide but the Poms complete inability to take one wicket in Australia’s second innings must be shattering.

      I notice your article doesn’t talk about the English batting. Cook is having a battle with demons, Stoneman batted okay both innings but nothing earth shattering, Vince & Malan were good in the first innings and poor in the second, Root looked classy but really didn’t make many, while Ali & Bairstow appear to be batting too low. The tail is a bowlers dream, something to improve the average as they can’t make any runs. The problem is, who can they bring in that’s better?

      I don’t think England can play any better than they did in the first two days. The problem is, they didn’t sustain that effort and the way it looks, won’t be able to do much in the coming Tests. It looks like being a long summer for Joe Root’s team.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 11:17am
        Albo said | November 28th 2017 @ 11:17am | ! Report

        They desperately need Cook to fire ! If he does, the England side become much more formidable, and I think their batting side can still cause us problems throughout this series.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 11:29am
          paul said | November 28th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

          Fair call Albo, bit Cook at the moment isn’t inspiring a lot of confidence.

      • Columnist

        November 28th 2017 @ 12:23pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | November 28th 2017 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

        Cook has for a long while now been very vulnerable against good pace attacks.

        He struggles badly against Australia and SA – hasn’t had a good series against either of them since 7 years ago.

        • Roar Guru

          November 28th 2017 @ 3:00pm
          Chris Kettlewell said | November 28th 2017 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

          Yeah, I was looking back at Cooks record, and that 2010/11 series is pretty much his only really good series against Australia. Outside of that one series he only averages 27 against Australia.

          He’s a batsman who can pile up big scores when he gets going, but looking at history, hoping for Cook to have a really good series is actually hoping for another anomoly rather than hoping for a return to “normality”.

          • Columnist

            November 28th 2017 @ 3:04pm
            Ronan O'Connell said | November 28th 2017 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

            Since that 2010-11 series, Cook has averaged 29 against Aus and SA over six Test series.

            • November 29th 2017 @ 4:37am
              Geoff said | November 29th 2017 @ 4:37am | ! Report

              Oh a full six tests!

              Wow, send him to the glue factory

              • Roar Guru

                November 29th 2017 @ 7:09am
                Dutski said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:09am | ! Report

                Test series. That’s a hell of a lot more than six tests…

              • Roar Guru

                November 29th 2017 @ 8:32am
                The Bush said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:32am | ! Report

                More like nearly 30 tests

    • Roar Guru

      November 28th 2017 @ 9:36am
      Chris Kettlewell said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:36am | ! Report

      Anderson and Broad both bowled well in this match, but the big issue of the back ups showed in that the Aussie batsmen were able to effectively just see them off and then score more off the other bowlers. If they are able to do that in Adelaide that will reduce Anderson and Broad’s impact there also I would expect. So England need to find a way around this also.

      I also think the impact of the day/night test is a bit exaggerated. Last year they didn’t keep as much grass as the previous year, and in the shield match this year I think they tool a little more off still, resulting in the pink ball, for the first time really, wearing enough for Starc to get some reverse swing with it. I’m not sure that it will give England as much help as they might be hoping it will.

      • Roar Guru

        November 29th 2017 @ 7:52am
        DingoGray said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:52am | ! Report

        While I agree they bowled well, they weren’t really destructive and didn’t look likely to take wickets.

        Especially second innings, they were pedestrian.

    • November 28th 2017 @ 9:46am
      Jeffrey Dun said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:46am | ! Report

      “Australia have collapsed time and again on seaming decks, and England have two of the world’s elite bowlers on such pitches.”

      I know they leave more grass on the Adelaide pitch to protect the ball, but is producing a normal (daytime-type) pitch for this test an option ? So what if they have to change the ball more often, if it negates the only advantage England has.

      It frustrates me that when we travel to the SC and England we are given pitches that turn square from day 1, or green, swinging seamers. Yet when England tour here we give them the only type of conditions in which they are able to excel.

      And we are now talking about not playing a test at the GABBA when India tour here next. That’s great news for the Indians.

      It’s bizarre that CA are so happy to forfeit home ground advantage.

      • Roar Guru

        November 28th 2017 @ 9:53am
        JamesH said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        Honestly, I’d rather we took the moral high ground and didn’t doctor pitches. It’s killing test cricket because it makes away series so hard to win (combined with the stupid warm-up games we keep scheduling for each other). Besides, giving visitors a sporting chance and still smashing them is oh so satisfying. England can boast about holding the Ashes but they know that if they hadn’t deliberately produced two raging seamers in the third and fourth tests last series, the urn would still be with Australia.

        My complaints about Australian pitches are simply that they are being homogenised. Only the Gabba, Adelaide and maybe Hobart have any real character now.

        • Roar Guru

          November 28th 2017 @ 10:51am
          Rellum said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:51am | ! Report

          This is my problem, all the character from the different pitches has been slowly removed. Even the Gabba is not like the Gabba anymore. It doesn’t just affect the Test series but it affects how Shield players learn the game at the highest level. They used to get exposed to variety which prepared them for Test cricket overseas. Not so much now. At Least Tassie has a deck that is a bit different.

          A lot of that is out of CA’s hands with the AFL and drop in pitches but they also love wickets that suit T20 cricket.

          • Roar Guru

            November 28th 2017 @ 2:16pm
            JamesH said | November 28th 2017 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

            Drop in wickets are definitely a blight. In saying that, the WACA and the Gabba don’t have them and the WACA is nothing like the pitch it used to be, with the Gabba perhaps starting to decline. I think CA wanting matches to last 5 days has something to do with the preparation of very batting-friendly surfaces.

            • November 28th 2017 @ 4:39pm
              ojp said | November 28th 2017 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

              true about the WACA pitch JamesH; and with the move to the ‘new stadium’ we’ll be getting drop in pitches in Perth too…

        • November 29th 2017 @ 7:45am
          qwetzen said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

          “My complaints about Australian pitches are simply that they are being homogenised. Only the Gabba, Adelaide and maybe Hobart have any real character now.”

          Agreed. But I’d offer that the SCG pitch has character. The type of character that’s usually referred to as; “known to police”.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 10:06am
        Sgt Pepperoni said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        Totally agree

        I reckon the Aussie groundsmen are directed more to prolonging games for revenue than assisting the home side

        Just than goodness we’re not playing in Hobart where I suspect Broad and Anderson would give us a free lesson- just as the South Africans did last year

      • Roar Guru

        November 28th 2017 @ 10:32am
        Chris Kettlewell said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

        I suspect that Adelaide won’t be as green and seaming as people are suggesting. With each year that passes the curator seems to cut the grass a little shorter than the previous year for the pink ball matches. For the pink ball shield round he cut it shorter than he had done last year, and the ball still lasted fine, but for the first time started to wear enough to actually get some reverse swing, and Starc ran amok with that. For the most part the pink ball seems to have swung less than the red ball over the last couple of years as well as lasting better. There weren’t too many demons in the pitch in last yeas Adelaide test, and will probably be less this year.

        But yes, I don’t know why we seem to go the opposite way to other countries and provide conditions to reduce our home ground advantage.

        • Roar Guru

          November 28th 2017 @ 10:46am
          Rellum said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:46am | ! Report

          I am firmly of the opinion that CA are working very hard to get a pink ball that can handle a batting friendly pitch like we saw in Perth for the last Shield game. Year by year they are getting closer, or are just loosing patience with the ball manufacturer.

          You can tell I have little faith in CA and their ulterior motives.

          • Roar Guru

            November 28th 2017 @ 11:14am
            Chris Kettlewell said | November 28th 2017 @ 11:14am | ! Report

            The fact that the pink ball got reverse swing in the Adelaide Shield D/N match suggests that they’ve now got a ball that can handle reasonably normal deterioration while still being entirely usable. In previous iterations of the ball they’ve tried to keep the pitches lush enough so the ball never deteriorated to that point because once it did it wasn’t any good. They have continued to get better and better each year, lots of work going into the ball.

            I am curious as to how long until they move to using pink balls in ODI’s. The fact that they can’t get a white ball to last for 50-overs so they use one from each end, yet they can play Day/Night with a pink ball and get 80 overs out of it makes me think that eventually that might the the option to take for one day games.

            • Roar Guru

              November 28th 2017 @ 12:54pm
              Rellum said | November 28th 2017 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

              If they can move to pink balls all the time then that is ok with me because I think the one tradition I would be ok to loose is the creams. Colour clothes for Test’s is a no brainer for me down the track.

              The other issue is with the upcoming Test championship they should really think about making a ball the standard ball across all series. In the Shield w have pink balls, red balls and duke balls at various times in the season and it does not help with fairness to a comp.

              • November 29th 2017 @ 8:08am
                qwetzen said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:08am | ! Report

                “If they can move to pink balls all the time then that is ok with me …”

                Well it’s bl00dy well not with me!

                I spent many years working while the cricket was on. So now that I’ve quit and can loll on the lounge all day watching while the working class go about their business what happens? CA start day/nighters! It’s not Effin fair! grumble mumble

            • November 28th 2017 @ 1:07pm
              jameswm said | November 28th 2017 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

              Chris that is a massive issue. If the ball starts reversing, Starc is lethal at the tail, as we’ve seen.

              • Roar Guru

                November 28th 2017 @ 3:03pm
                Chris Kettlewell said | November 28th 2017 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

                If the ball starts reversing Starc is lethal at more than just the tail!

              • November 28th 2017 @ 4:39pm
                jameswm said | November 28th 2017 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

                Yes fair call…

          • November 29th 2017 @ 7:58am
            qwetzen said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

            “You can tell I have little faith in CA and their ulterior motives.”

            And Fair Enough too. But I wouldn’t agree that there’s anything hidden about CA’s motives. They probably even publish them as KPIs.

            But on the Oz pitches, one of the great strengths and traditions of Oz cricket is the autonomy that our groundsman have. They do try, not always successfully, but they certainly try to produce the balanced wicket and any CA weasel who attempts to influence them is likely to have the light roller chasing them. Do you *really* want to emulate the Poms & Indians? I quite like being on the high moral ground. The air is cleaner and the outlook much better.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 9:52pm
          Worlds Biggest said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:52pm | ! Report

          The answer is simply Ching Ching, CA won’t the Cashola with games going to Days 4 & 5. Every other country prepares pitches to suit there own teams which is understandable. We used to do that here but the almighty dollar now is the priority which somewhat comprises our team’s home ground advantage.

    • Roar Guru

      November 28th 2017 @ 9:47am
      JamesH said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      I’m stunned that they didn’t bring a genuine backup spinner. Adil Rashid can be expensive but he is also a wicket-taker. Handy lower order bat, too. As for pacemen, maybe they just have to bite the bullet and throw Tom Curran in at the deep end. It’s a risk, but at 22 the guy has way more upside than Ball or Overton and he’s also decent with the bat.

      Liam Plunkett would have been a left field selection for the squad, although he could have offered something different – pure speed. As the fifth bowler it wouldn’t have mattered so much if he was a bit wayward. He’s about the only other guy I can think of who isn’t injured, which is a worry for England. What the hell are they going to do in a couple of years when Anderson and Broad retire?

      • November 28th 2017 @ 10:05am
        paul said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        The problem is the pool of players England has to chose from is virtually empty and those in it are either very inexperienced or badly out of form. No real quality players demanding selection.

    • November 28th 2017 @ 9:52am
      Brian said | November 28th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

      This series was effectively over when Stokes threw that punch. Woakes, Ball, Malan are all sub-standard, any chanve of the following team for Adelaide

      • November 28th 2017 @ 10:08am
        paul said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:08am | ! Report

        I still can’t understand why Stoke should, could or would be considered. The guy bashed another guy unconscious less than 2 months ago and it was clearly caught on camera. Unless he is found not guilty by the English legal system, he should not be allowed into Australia.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 11:01am
          Brian said | November 28th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

          Not saying he should play just they are rubbish without him.

          • November 29th 2017 @ 1:32am
            Brasstax said | November 29th 2017 @ 1:32am | ! Report

            Hmm… would like us to play without Smith and see if we are rubbish or not.

      • November 28th 2017 @ 1:25pm
        George said | November 28th 2017 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

        I predict a strong showing from Woakes in Adelaide.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 11:01pm
          Alan said | November 28th 2017 @ 11:01pm | ! Report

          Hmmmm, curious…

      • November 28th 2017 @ 4:26pm
        Pedro the Maroon said | November 28th 2017 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

        Wood is injured I think

        • November 28th 2017 @ 11:03pm
          Alan said | November 28th 2017 @ 11:03pm | ! Report

          Plus he bowls pies Pedro.

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