COACH Andy Flower has called England’s senior batsmen to account for his team’s false start to the Ashes series and has promised changes for the third Test in Perth.
The tourists find themselves 2-0 down with three to play, and needing to overturn almost 80 years of Ashes history if they are to win the urn outright for the fourth time in succession.
Three times – in both innings of the series opener in Brisbane and then again at the first attempt in Adelaide – England failed to approach a total of 200.
The upshot was two landslide defeats as Mitchell Johnson’s pace flummoxed most of England’s specialist batsmen.
A change is definitely expected in the attack, with at least one of the two spinners, Monty Panesar or Graeme Swann, set to be dropped with conditions in Perth in mind, but Flower is not afraid to consider further moves.
He said: “We have taken some serious hits but we do have a squad full of people who are determined to turn the ship around, and that’s what we must do. I’m absolutely ready to make tough decisions. There will obviously be changes in Perth. Our fans watching back home, I can understand that frustration, absolutely.”
By the end of England’s second innings in Adelaide, they had lost half of the total of 40 wickets taken by Australia over two Tests to leg-side catches.
In Test match cricket, off stump is almost always the line of attack by frontline bowlers aiming principally for edges or to get through the batsman’s defence for lbw or bowled.
“There has been a disproportionate number of those types of [soft] dismissals, and dismissals on the leg side. We have to address those areas,” added Flower. “The balance between attacking shots and ensuring you bat long periods is a challenge for all batsmen at all times, and we haven’t got that balance anywhere near right. That’s not just the younger batsmen, it’s the experienced ones as well. The challenge at Perth will be to assess those conditions accurately and have clarity on the risk-reward that you always have to judge when you’re batting.”
The most established batsmen are the ones Flower agrees England need to set the example as they go in search of a first win at the WACA in 35 years. He said: “In these sorts of contests and series, where the intensity levels are high – which makes for very exciting cricket – you do need your more experienced players, players who have been through similar situations in the past, to come through tough periods and play match-defining innings or produce pressure to create chances with the ball.”
The third Test starts, perhaps ominously, on Friday the 13th and, if England opt to go without spinners at all it would mean Swann – a non-negotiable first choice when fit since 2009 – dropping out.
Flower was unsurprisingly unwilling to give too many clues as to his thinking on England’s best bowling attack, especially before setting eyes on the pitch at the WACA. A pace-dominated arrangement is a possibility, with Tim Bresnan most likely to return in place of Panesar and tall men Chris Tremlett and the uncapped Irishman Boyd Rankin also in the reckoning. Flower added: “Graeme Swann has been an outstanding spin bowler for us and been very much a part of England’s success, but we’ll assess those conditions and see who will best be able to help us take 20 wickets. Bresnan is a strong option for Perth, but the other guys have a shout themselves.”
England will have to find a a way to deal with Johnson – especially at his home ground which is famed for pace and bounce and therefore likely to play into his hands. Flower believes his batsmen, far from being intimidated by the left-armer who already has 17 wickets in the series, will meet the challenge head on.
“I wouldn’t say [they’re] scared,” he said. “He’s bowled at good pace, but that’s what you expect in Test cricket. You expect to face quick bowlers – it’s one of the really exciting aspects of playing Test cricket.”