Joe Root is adamant he doesn’t want to make the same mistakes of England’s past couple of doomed Ashes tours and if that’s the case, he shouldn’t recall both James Anderson and Stuart Broad for the Second Test in Adelaide.
In the 5-0 whitewash of 2013-14 under Alastair Cook and the slightly less embarrassing 4-0 hammering they copped four years ago with Root at the helm, Anderson and Broad, when fit, were the spearheads of their bowling attack.
And rightly so – they were in the prime of their careers and England didn’t have better options but for the most part they were ineffective with the Kookaburra rather than the red Dukes cherry they prefer.
Anderson is now 39 and Broad 35, both in a valiant fight against Father Time’s unforgiving nature when it comes to fast bowlers.
Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood were two of only a select few English players who came away from the Gabba Test with their reputations enhanced. Robinson (3-58) and Wood (3-85) gave Australia’s batters plenty to think about but unfortunately for them, none of the other bowlers caused much trouble.
Chris Woakes should probably lose his place for the Second Test – he was the least menacing of the front-line pace trio and his record of 12 wickets at 47.83 from five matches in Australia suggests he is one of those English seamers whose undeniable talents at home do not translate well to Antipodean pitches.
But if 31-year-old Wood and 28-year-old Robinson are fit, dropping one or both of them to accommodate the much-older Anderson and Broad would be a backward step.
Left-arm tweaker Jack Leach is under immense pressure to keep his spot after being caned in the First Test but surely England will pick a spinner and not four fast bowlers to go along with all-rounder Ben Stokes’ seamers.
Otherwise, Root will have to add a mountain of overs with his off-spinners to his already crowded schedule in Adelaide – they were fined their match fees and docked world championship points for their slow over rate in Brisbane so an all-pace bowling attack would put them at risk of even greater sanctions.
Anderson’s record in Australia is not as horrible as some have made out but it’s still a pale imitation of his overall success.
He has amassed 60 wickets at 35.43 from 18 Tests from four previous tours at a strike rate of one every 12 overs with only one five-wicket haul.
In his 166-game career, his average drops to 26.62 for his 632 scalps, striking every 56.6 balls while notching five in an innings 31 times.
Broad’s stats make for similar reading – a 149-match career featuring 524 wickets at 27.84 and a strike rate of 55.1 versus 34 wickets at a ballooning average of 37.17 from 12 Tests in Australia at a cost of 75.2 balls per victim.
He has managed just seven wickets at 37.42 in three Tests this year – two against New Zealand and one versus India.
Despite being the senior citizen of the squad, Anderson at least has kept performing when called upon in recent years – he’s bagged 32 wickets from 10 Tests this year at 23.4, following on from his 2020 renaissance when he claimed 23 at 20.47 from six outings.
Anderson looked at the end of the road in 2019 when his Ashes campaign was hobbled by a calf injury after bowling just four overs of the First Test.
England probably will bring at least one of their veteran duo into the team for Adelaide, otherwise they might as well not be on the tour.
Anderson’s record in the South Australian capital, particularly with the pink ball, should give him the nod over Broad in that scenario.
He took 5-43 in the second innings of the day-nighter in the South Australian capital in 2017 and has 16 wickets at 29.5 from four Tests at the venue whereas Broad has found success only six times in three appearances at a whopping 47.66.
How Root would love to have the express pace of Jofra Archer in his squad – the 26-year-old was ruled out of their T20 World Cup campaign and the Ashes tour after undergoing elbow surgery.
His speed through the air and bounce off the pitch would have been ideal, a weapon England have lacked in modern times Down Under. Wood is the next-best option on that front and hurried up a few of the Australian batters last week, making veteran opener David Warner particularly uncomfortable with his raw pace.
Without using the old cliche of “doing the same thing over and expecting a different result being the definition of insanity”, Root was bullish about not repeating the mistakes of the past when he fronted the media after the first Test hammering.
Root tried to douse the fire of speculation about team selection in Brisbane by saying they wouldn’t worry about who plays and who doesn’t until they assess the conditions in Adelaide.
“If we go about things the same way as past tours we’ll get the same result. We have to be brave, we have to look to do things differently to previous tours,” Root said.
Going back to the future and immediately recalling both his veteran pacemen would be repeating the mistakes of the past.
Then he’s just got to find another three or four batters who can make runs, improve their fielding fourfold and instill a bit of spirit in the camp, and then England might have an outside chance of upsetting Australia.