England slumped to their 6th heaviest all time defeat when Jimmy Anderson was dismissed in a somehow inevitable comedy run out to complete a comprehensive Aussie victory at Brisbane.
The reaction has been strange with pundits such as Mark Butcher and Michael Vaughan still predicting we will win the series, and this result is a mere aberration. We may well go on to Ashes victory, but this will be due to Australia’s dire batting line up. Even in victory Rogers, Watson and co failed yet again leaving Clarke, the inconsistent Warner and the lower order to bale them out.
England’s problems revolve around the fact that four of the top seven batting places are failing. Since the retirement of Strauss we haven’t found a consistent opening partner for Cook. Compton is out of the equation, Root did well at the top of the order, but due to the number six position being a revolving door (Bairstow, Morgan, Taylor have come and gone) he was moved back down and Michael Carberry replaced him in Brisbane when in truth the Hampshire man should have been installed at Trent Bridge.
After the opener and number six issue, the third problem lies at first drop. Jonathan Trott is in a wretched run of form, the first major drought since his début back in 2009. His career average is a stunning 46.50 but since Trent Bridge back in July, the Warwickshire star has contributed a mere 312 runs at a very ordinary 26.00. He now looks like a walking wicket and the Aussies smell blood every time he comes to the crease. Now that Mitchell Johnson is back and in a deadly groove, Trott must be losing his legendary cool when called upon to walk to the middle. But there is no viable alternative and we must just hope that the flatter nature of the Adelaide strip will allow Trott to regain his form. But then comes Perth…. The alternative is Bell at three with Bairstow replacing his Yorkshire colleague at six.
The final problem is the most worrying. Since his monumental rescue of a seemingly lost cause when he batted the whole of day five in Auckland to save the match, Matt Prior has endured an absolutely miserable trot. 137 runs at a dire return of 15.22. And with absolutely no sign of things turning around this means that there must be a review of his position. This is especially needed because, by his own admission Prior is far from being England’s number one glove man. He is there for his batting, and to put on quick runs with the tail, something he has always excelled at. There have been numerous occasions (Sydney and Trent Bridge 2011) when the Sussex keeper has come in and turned an average batting card into a match winning one, but his total lack of confidence at Brisbane means it is time for a change.
There will be calls for Bairstow to come in as a batter who can keep. But with chances having to be taken at this level, and with the Yorkshire man not even keeping regularly in the County Championship, it would be far too much to expect from him to keep to test level and contribute big runs in the lower order. James Foster is the best keeper bar none that we have, and should be brought in, batting at eight. His first class average is 37.08 and he has notched up 19 first class tons, so the Essex man may well give us a few bonus runs anyhow. His reputation as the best keeper in the business may well spur on the recently lack lustre Swann to greater feats. The Aussies are targeting the Notts spinner, but with Foster minding the timber they know that they will not get away with any mistakes.
Bowling wise, Anderson has done little damage since Trent Bridge, but he is a class act and will produce a devastating display sooner rather than later, and his opening partner Broad, is on fire at the moment. Swann is still taking wickets regularly, but the Aussies have a plan to go after him, so adaptation will be required. Tremlett has no snap in his action since his injury so there is an argument for Finn, or even the height and pace of Boyd Rankin to come in. The Irishman clocks up high 80mph pace with unsettling bounce from a good length, both massive assets for Adelaide’s flat surface. Confidence gleaned here will be vital to take advantage of Perth’s legendary pace and bounce.
Line up for Adelaide: A.N. Cook*, M.A. Carberry, I.R. Bell, K.P. Pietersen, J.E. Root, J.M. Bairstow, S.C.J. Broad, J.S. Foster+, G.P. Swann, S.T. Finn, J.M. Anderson.