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England's bowlers face Oval challenge

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Oliver Brett | 08:00 UK time, Friday, 14 August 2009

The few acres of turf that will decide whether the famous urn is kept by Australia or regained by England are already steeped in Ashes history.

In 1880, The Oval was the scene of England's first home Test match, it staged the game two years later which led to the creation of the Ashes, witnessed England's massive score of 903-7 in 1938 and, a decade later, Don Bradman's duck in his farewell appearance.

And, of course, for many English cricket fans, memories of Kevin Pietersen's century four years ago which saw the urn regained (sparking open-top bus celebrations and a liberal sprinkling of gongs) always brighten the mood when times are gloomy.

But how do you win a Test at The Oval? The ground has a reputation for being something of a nightmare for bowlers, and that has been the case again this summer - with all four Championship matches drawn.

England's 1997 vintage were Ashes winners at The Oval

The most recent of those saw Leicestershire, the bottom club in Division Two in the County Championship, amass 593-5 before hosts Surrey nonchalantly cruised to 608-4. And in the match before that, Kent replied with 620-7 after Surrey had made a mere 386 all out.

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But there was, equally, a fascinating match back in May when Middlesex, with two wickets in hand, needed three to win off the last ball but managed only one. And at the very start of the season, a match involving Gloucestershire would almost certainly have seen a result were it not for rain wiping out almost half the overs.

Paul Sheldon, Surrey's chief executive, told me that the Championship wickets are flatter than the Test ones, because they don't have quite as much loving care bestowed on them by the club's award-winning groundsman Bill Gordon.

A man who shuns media interviews, Gordon always gets a full week to prepare an Ashes wicket and Sheldon confirmed that bowlers would have to work hard for their wickets in the Ashes decider.

"What we try to do in consultation with the ECB is to produce a wicket that favours the batsmen over the first couple of days and then spins towards the end of the match. It's flat. It's a good, fast batting wicket. You have to bowl well to get wickets at The Oval.

"It never swings prodigiously. A good bowling side will hope to bowl a good batting side out for 450," he said.

But has the pace gone?

"A lot of people say it hasn't. The thing is there haven't been any really, really quick bowlers who have worked up a head of steam since Devon Malcolm in 1994. I wouldn't have thought we would be picking two spinners," Sheldon added.

Ah yes. Malcolm, that most enigmatic of quick bowlers who could frequently drive captains to distraction, was an irresistible force against South Africa that day, taking 9-57 in a memorable victory.

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Looking back at past Test results at The Oval one does not see draws dominating the archives - far from it. The nine Tests in SE11 played this decade have produced just three stalemates, while in the 1990s there were just two Tests in 10 that failed to produce a result.

The cricket played may not always be the most competitive because The Oval tends to stage the final match in a series, and that can often mean a "dead rubber".

But ignoring that small issue, it is encouraging that England's own record at the ground is pretty good, with just one loss in this decade (against the 2001 Australians) and a 15-6 lead in Ashes Tests - including the relatively recent successes of 1985, 1993 and 1997.

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Perhaps the most significant recent result that must give heart to this year's team - especially Andrew Flintoff, James Anderson and Steve Harmison, who were key figures in the side - was the astonishing win, again over South Africa, in 2003.

Graeme Smith's men batted first and were 345-2 with 12 overs to go on the first day, but England turned the match around so dramatically that they won by nine wickets - and this was no dead rubber.

One of the great fascinations of watching, and presumably playing, Test cricket in England is the very different challenges offered by the various grounds.

In the run-up to Headingley, we were told not to get seduced by past stories of the bowlers dominating, that the ball did not really swing as much as it once did. But the England batsmen were shot out for 102. Why? Poor technique in face of excellent Australian swing-bowling.

But this time, unless something very odd happens, swing will not be a key factor.

Backing up Sheldon's observations, The Oval has rewarded bowlers in the past, but rarely the swing merchants. It's more the out-and-out pacers (Michael Holding, Dennis Lillee, Fred Trueman and Malcolm) and the spinners (Jim Laker, Tony Lock, Shane Warne) who have held sway here.

Batsmen generally get good value for their shots, but they must display a strong technique for dealing with well-directed short-pitched pace-bowling, or pay the consequences.

Michael Holding destroyed England at The Oval in 1976

In a classic scenario, a team looking to win at The Oval would want to bat first - as England have done in their past four Ashes successes here - post a score of at least 500, and aim to do enough with the ball to secure a lead in excess of 100 at least.

More solid batting in the second innings could set up a tricky declaration, and during days four and five you would expect the spinners to come into the game, exploiting a wearing surface that has dusted up, a few footholes to pitch the ball into and trouble the left-handers, and force victory that way.

There are unlikely to be sessions of play, as there have been in three of the four Tests played to date, that wickets will tumble in a heap. But as long as there are no significant rain interruptions, teams should still assume a positive result is more than a possibility.

England must try to believe it's the right sort of positive result, that they possess more of the right type of bowlers in Flintoff, Harmison, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann than Australia.

If that's the case, and if - to use a modern cliché - those bowlers "execute their skills" correctly, then England's chances of winning back the urn may not be as improbable as the performance at Headingley suggested.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    "...post a score of at least 500, and aim to do enough with the ball to secure a lead in excess of 100 at least.

    More solid batting in the second innings could set up a tricky declaration..."

    Hmmmm. I have some nagging doubts about this England team's ability to do this, but I can't put my finger on why....

  • Comment number 2.


    Good blog - sounds like it could be a wicket that'll suit Harmie rather than Onions.

    Let's hope the groundsman has the commonsense to produce a result wicket - I don't think anyone wants to see a draw (even the Aussies have said that they are going for the win). Let's see something in it for the bowlers and may the best team win the series 2-1 and take the Ashes.

  • Comment number 3.

    "In a classic scenario, a team looking to win at The Oval would want to bat first - as England have done in their past four Ashes successes here - post a score of at least 500, and aim to do enough with the ball to secure a lead in excess of 100 at least.

    More solid batting in the second innings could set up a tricky declaration, and during days four and five you would expect the spinners to come into the game, exploiting a wearing surface that has dusted up, a few footholes to pitch the ball into and trouble the left-handers, and force victory that way."

    Isn't that the best way to win just about any Test match in any situation? Perhaps the bowlers should target the top of off stump and the batsmen should look to turn 50s into centuries!

  • Comment number 4.

    Interesting that you include a photo of England's Aussie-beating team from the Oval in 1997, when some bloke called Ramprakash took part in a match-winning second innings partnership of 79 with Graham Thorpe - is this a hint to the selectors maybe ?

  • Comment number 5.

    The first television programme I saw was the 1953 test at The Oval, when England regained the Ashes, with my hero Denis Compton scoring the winning runs. I lived near the ground for many years, left the area to travel shortly after the amaxing test against India (who should have won with a record score) in 1979, accidentally emigrated to Australia and now live near The Gabba - though the cricket grounds have never driven my choice of home!

    It's hard to see how England will bat well enough and quickly enough to bowl out Australia twice, I'll be very interested to see who's selected.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    The Oval's been a batsman's paradise this year. It skews averages very badly, vis. Ramprakash making 274 in a match everyone knows is going to be drawn. Do we go out there to win, or to not lose?

    Here's a radical idea, why don't both teams agree to declare an innings before the match. That'll keep things interesting...

    OK, that's a joke, but I do think there's a point to be made about the astonishing amount of draws there are in the county championship: Somerset, for example, are currently second in division one with 3 wins and 7 draws. I can't see this breeding a winning mentality. If a team was regularly prepared to back themselves and declare from a position where things could go either way, I think they'd take the title by storm...

  • Comment number 8.

    Is batting first the answer? I think the chance of victory is better if the Australians are first in. England have to get 20 wickets and the sooner they begin that process the better. Put our faith in our bowlers to perform well and at the same time give the batsman a chance to get a good look at the way the pitch is playing.

  • Comment number 9.

    If Flintoff plays, surely they'll drop Harmisson and your left with a couple of swing bowlers who need the conditions to be right, an average spinner and poor old Freddy stumbling in on one leg. Then there's a batting line-up that's not set the world on fire to now.

    Johnson and Siddle can certainly hit the pitch, Hilffenhaus has been bowling well and we've got our very own average spinner who's numbers are a lot better than Swann's this series. Our batsmen shouldn't struggle you'd think on a flat pitch, they've shown a lot more resolve, apart from Lords first innings, than England.

  • Comment number 10.

    Reference comment # 9 - I do not think England have anything to fear in terms of the Aussie bowling line up. Their only genuine wicket-taking bowler is Johnson, who is just starting to perform. Hilfenhaus and Clark have been spot on and accurate, but have no great pace and should not be a threat at the Oval, Siddle is aggressive, but does nothing with the ball, so should not get out decent batsmen, Hauritz is a decent stock spinner, but shouldn't be a wicket taker. The problem is, England batsmen so far this series don't need to get out, they are very capable of getting bogged down by accurate bowling and getting themselves out. If they can start playing Test cricket, the Aussies shouldn't cause them problems. The biggest fear is that the pitch should be good, so it will be very difficult for England to take 20 wickets, especially with the likes of Ponting, Clark and North who don't give their wickets away.

    In short, to win the test, it sounds simple, we have to bat like Test batsmen and not give out wickets away, and bowl like we are capable of and take 20 wickets - this can happen as per Lord's, alas at Edgbaston and Headingley, we looked nothing like taking 20 Aussie wickets, other than glimpses.

    It'll be tough, but come on England, let's hear those Lions roar!

  • Comment number 11.

    Excellent blog, I hope the selectors are on your wavelength. As you point out the Oval does not favour swing bowling, but favours the quicks.
    Although Harmison drives me crazy with his somewhat erratic bowling, this is where he should make his mark bowling in tandem with Flintoff, another who will find the extra bounce to his liking.I would also be brave and go with both spinners, I know this weakens the batting but the fact is a draw is no good we have to take 20 wickets to regain the ashes.

  • Comment number 12.

    Just looking at the picture posted on this blog...take another look, unless I am very much mistaken you have 10 players outwardly smiling and Ramps with his back to the camera staring at the floor...this is an omen

  • Comment number 13.

    England do have to take 20 wickets but if the chance of spin is only likely on days 4 and five two spinners does not seem the way to go.

    I know everyone sees the game at the oval last year against South Africa as a so called dead rubber but looking at the bowling it appears to me that our lineup should be: flitoff, harmison, anderson and broard with swann as the spinner.

  • Comment number 14.

    I personaly think that the selectors should stick to the same side that was thrashed at Headingley,(with the addiion of Flintoff)it would be all too easy to dismantle the side for the likes of Ramprakash,key,Trott etc,the players who lost the 4th test should be held to account.Bell,Bopara,Collingwood and Cook should then be dropped if they under perform again,this paves the way for a new start in the winter,why has'nt Ian Blackwell got a mention as an allrouner?????

  • Comment number 15.

    #13 You are right, I think your bowling line up is the one most likely.I just have a feeling Monty would do well on here, but I take your point it is a huge risk.

  • Comment number 16.

    #13 you have picked the most likely bowling line up.. I think monty's confidence might not be up to the job...if it was, I have the two of them bowling in tandem...but you have convinced me otherwise.

  • Comment number 17.

    "What we try to do in consultation with the ECB is to produce a wicket that favours the batsmen over the first couple of days and then spins towards the end of the match. It's flat. It's a good, fast batting wicket. You have to bowl well to get wickets at The Oval."

    I realise that there are limitations to what any groundsman can do with a wicket, but would it not be reasonable to try and do everything possible to produce a wicket that favours bowlers, and would be more likely to give a side the chance of twenty wickets?

    And if that means Australia win, so be it. But no-one wants a high scoring draw.

  • Comment number 18.

    No. 3 - The point I am making is that you need a big bundle of runs to be competitive at The Oval. There are many places around the world, and particularly in England, where you might consider bowling first, or may not simply need nearly as many runs.

    No.7 - it's tough to win on many pitches these days, unless there is overhead assistance with thick cloud cover and so on. Pitches have improved radically and are indeed sometimes "too good" - though one could also make the point about moderate bowling meeting decent batting.

    No. 8 - very interesting thought, but remember the wicket will almost certainly be at its very best on the first morning, and very gradually deteriorate.

    No. 13 - like a couple of others, that's the bowling line-up I would go for too, crossing fingers and touching all wood available when Harmy gets the ball.

  • Comment number 19.

    Why not try something different as we need 20 wickets and the pitch will have bounce, i would keep harmison in and drop bopara for flintoff, with bell batting at 3 and collingwood 4 it will leave us light on batting but flintoff,prior,broad and swann can all bat and as long as we get close to the aussies 1st inns score it will be game on and put pressure on them,also we have an extra bowler if flintoff breaks down during the match,maybe replace onions with panesar if it looks spin friendly but would be reluctant to drop onions who has bowled well,this attack has everything then if it swings,bounces and spins to get them out

  • Comment number 20.

    Like Faustino @ #5, we lived near the Oval from the late forties to the mid-fifties. Unlike him, I was in the ground in 1953 when England won the Ashes for the first time since WW2. What a thrill that was!

    The Oval was a regular haunt of ours, following Michael Barton's, then Stuart Surridge's Surrey in the years when they were County Champions more times than I can remember. If we didn't have the entry money, we were always outside the Jack Hobbs Gates, pestering the players for autographs as they walked (note!) the short distance between the ground and the Oval tube station.

    So! With those genuine old fart qualifications, I offer a few "matters arising," apocryphal or not. You decide!

    1. It was said that Laurie Fishlock could strike the ball towards the Pavilion boundary with sufficient precision to shout to his partner, "Come five."

    2. It may not be a swing bowler's wicket now, but Alec Bedser (who never seems to warrant a mention alongside Laker & Lock) took a few in his day.

    3. If the ground is packed and you don't have a ticket, the caretaker at Archbishop Tennyson's Grammar School might accept a small bribe. - Make for the Art Room.

    4. Ray Lindwall, running in from the Pavilion end was as fearsome a sight as Michael Holding.

    5. Frank Chester (maybe the most famous umpire of his day) once gave Frank Lowson (Yorks) "out with impunity."

    I could go on. Most old farts can. But I won't. - I'll be listening to every ball of this Test, provided my old fart of a computer doesn't conk out.

  • Comment number 21.

    Two spinners- for me Panesar should not play as he has been out of form for a good year now. What about James Treadwell or Rashid? Huge gamble but...

  • Comment number 22.

    The inclusion of flintoff brings with it a problem that we have not commented upon i.e the recent way in which the umpires intervened when broard left the field. clearly the umpires have been told to prevent a substitute on the field except for injuries in the current game.

    Flintoff would not be allowed to be substituted because his is a pre-existing condition. we could spend a significant part of the game with only 10 fieldsmen.

  • Comment number 23.

    #22 This is exactly the reason Flintoff should not play unless he can last 5 days. I know how he lifts the team and that the Aussies fear him, but his reputation won't be enough he needs to deliver the goods.

  • Comment number 24.

    Panesar's clearly gone to pieces. He was completely outbowled by team-mate Nicky Boje on a spinners' paradise of a wicket at Northampton, with Kent's James Tredwell taking 5-35 in the second innings to win the match for overall figures of 10-100. Panesar's match figures? 2-127. England should probably have two spinners in the squad, but Panesar - I'm afraid to say - does not deserve a berth.

  • Comment number 25.

    " England should probably have two spinners in the squad, but Panesar - I'm afraid to say - does not deserve a berth." O.Brett.

    I fully concur!

  • Comment number 26.

    Agree with 2 spinners, it's not going to swing! Here's my team:

    Strauss
    Cook
    Key
    Bell
    Bopara (he's a talent and one for the future)
    Prior
    Flintoff
    Broad
    Rashid (just hit 100 and took 5 wickets)
    Swann
    Harmison

    So no Collingwood

    NO Onions and Anderson

    High Risk as if Fred breaks down or Harmison loses his radar, we're in trouble. Plenty of batting!

  • Comment number 27.

    I like your overall logic oldloads, but one step too risky for me - id go with a fourth quick, with Onions or Anderson missing out. Id also go with Collingwood vice Bell as I think he can make bigger scores when he gets going.

    Nice thread to this article, Oliver, and good insight in to whats required to win at the Oval. So much better than the endless discussions on who should come in for Bopara/Bell.

  • Comment number 28.

    the only reason panesar is out form is because we have put much pressure on him, we was saying he could be the next shane warne. well i think that is putting to much pressure on anyone, he's clearly talented but to come out and say hes the next shane warne is going to far. we need to stop putting tons of pressure on our stars if were to ever win anything.

  • Comment number 29.

    Panesar was part of England's problem; not the solution. Any selector who considers this limpet is in the wrong profession. Sad! But true!

  • Comment number 30.

    We simply have to win this game and therefore take 20 wickets with a moderate batting lineup (whoever comes in) and a lower order that has performed well all series.

    Given the facts, this should be our team:

    1. Strauss
    2. Cook
    3. Key
    4. Collingwood
    5. Prior
    6. Flintoff
    7. Broad
    8. Swann
    9. Rashid
    10. Harmison
    11. Anderson

    The Oval requires bowlers with pace/bounce and spinning options. This side gives 6 bowlers, with 3 who can bang it in at pace, two spinners and Jimmy to swing the new cherry.

    Not only that, Rashid has just taken a 5-for and scored a ton and he'd be coming in at 9(!), after Swanny who's averaging over 30 this series.

    Given we have to win this game, the benefits of the extra bowling options far outweigh any loss in runs - with our batting options, it's actually arguable if there'd be any loss in runs anyway.

    Of course, this selection is far too outrageous for Dusty "Steady as She Goes" Miller, who will probably think he can re-select Bell off the back of a county ton and therefore not look stupid for having brought him back. The bloke has never once played a match-influencing innings in approaching 100 innings - eventually the stats do tell the truth. However nice his cover drive is to a wide full-pitched ball, he'll never produce when it matters. Lord, why am I even having to waste words on Bell...

  • Comment number 31.

    Strauss
    Cook
    Key
    Bell
    Collingwood
    Prior
    Flintoff
    Rashid/Broad
    Swann
    Harmison
    Onions
    Begging England not to bring in ramprakash the man has had his chance!
    Keys level headed attitude beats boparas unfounded arrogance and i would rather have bell in mainy because of his stellar fielding ability and i feel good about him possibly finally delivering the goods under pressure!
    If we are to play two spinners the second has to be rashid as he bats and is far more of a wicket taking threat than panesar
    Onions in over Anderson as if forecasted and it doesnt swing Anderson is useless and onions has picked up ponting twice so far

  • Comment number 32.

    Can Ramprakash make a difference? Is he a better batsman than when he last suited up for England? Is he a better battter than Bopara?

    If you had to choose between the two, who would you settle for?

    It's a no-brainer!

    I'd give Ramps a go, for sure! He can't do any worse than the latter!

    If Ramps can produce optimally for his country for two more years, why not?

    Alas, we shall soon find out what the men whose opinion mattter decide!

  • Comment number 33.

    I would opt for

    Strauss
    Cook
    Ramprakash
    Bell
    Collingwood
    Prior
    Flintoff
    Rashid
    Swann
    Harmison
    Onions

    If weather is likely to be humid or overcast i would swap Rahid for Sidebottom or Anderson. Id keep Bell for one last chance - another hundred yesterday so no excuses if he fails again.

    Ramprakash has earnt a one-off recall. It would greatly enhance the spectacle and fascination if he was to get this. As a cricket follower, it would make for a brilliant end to the series. Surely he could muster at least as many runs in this final test as the whole middle order did in the last, and i would be betting he could make a hundred to cap off the remarkable swansong to his career of the last four years (except i dont bet). Its not the moment to think of building a team with longevity - we will have that to worry about after Freds finished.

  • Comment number 34.

    Based on what groundsmen and so-called experts have told us before matches in this series thus far, I would take any pitch predictions with a huge dose of salt.

    We were told Cardiff would favour spinners. England's two twirlers took one wicket between them. Lords was meant to favour Steve Harmison, yet England won perfectly well without him. Edgbaston, the groundsman produced the most gloomy prognosis for any Test match that I can remember, saying that bowlers would feel like they'd bowled 35 overs after they'd bowled 20 - yet the bowlers got good reward if they put the ball in the right place. And Headingley, we were told, was not the bowling paradise of old, but would favour the batsmen. I don't think I need to comment further on that one.

    So ignore it if we are told the Oval will favour batsmen. Just pick a team to win the match, regardless of conditions. And I tend to agree with previous posters - if we have to take 20 wickets to win the game, it would be better if we fielded first. That's how we beat South Africa at the Oval in 2008 and 2003, after all.

  • Comment number 35.

    start_of_an_era:

    I follow your thinking but think it would be complete folly to ignore the groundsman, the one person who knows the wicket best. I don't think we have a squad that can win in all conditions so the team choice has to make allowances for conditions. That's the only half-decent reason I can find for including Harmison and dropping (probably) Onions for Freddie.

  • Comment number 36.

    So basically, if Australia win the toss England are doomed. Think back to the Oval Test against India two years ago - this is the exact same scenario.

  • Comment number 37.

    It's got to be Harmison and Flintoff. 90mph + at both ends. Pace is the only chance a team has of winning at the Oval - and THAT'S if the weather stays good. Onions, Broad and Swann to make up the rest of the attack. I know we're all frustrated with Harmison, but this will be the first time he and Flintoff have played together in England against Australia since 2005 - even Harmy might respond to that. Like Bell, Bopara and Panesar, James Anderson is another one who looks good, but cannot step up to the plate when it really matters. Stuart Broad may just have made the breakthrough, and saved his immediate test career, with his performance in the last match...but the question is: can he now build upon it....or will he be as frustrating and inconsistent as those just mentioned? When it's really counted in this series, he hasn't been reliable.
    Whatever happens, England will end this summer with as many problems to address as when it began. Neither side are as strong as the ones who played four years ago, but with Australia, you sense they are again on the verge of becoming a potent force again. England remain as brittle as ever.

  • Comment number 38.

    Reports from BBC suggest they are bringing in Trott to replace Bopara.
    I think his batting speaks for itself, but what a baptism of fire for him, ashes decider, immense pressure, hope he can rise to the occasion.
    The thinking is putting him at 4 and putting Bell at 3, which, if an early wicket falls puts more pressure on Bell.
    Still I think changes had to be made, Bopara will get his chance later, hopefully lower down the order, he is clearly not a number 3 batsmen.

  • Comment number 39.

    Freddie will definitely be playing....I asked him yesterday in the swimming pool at David Lloyd Trafford Centre. "i`ll be alright" were his actual words and when I stated the obvious with "You`ve got to win, you`ve got too win!", he replied "Tell me about it!"

    So there`s no pressure, clearly.

  • Comment number 40.

    #39 - is the David Lloyd Trafford Centre a Bumble-owned venture, rather than the ex-tennis player? Probably not, but would be somehow better if it was!

  • Comment number 41.

    'James Anderson is another one who looks good, but cannot step up to the plate when it really matters'

    Erm.. did you miss the Lord's test then? Or his 5-13 in 38 balls at Edgbaston? Oh and in this series he has more wickets than Flintoff, at a lower cost and a higher strike rate. But I'm sure you're right, facts just complicate things don't they ;-)

  • Comment number 42.

    Alas, we'll never know how Ramps, a man in masterful, supreme form at the moment, could have performed for England! The selectors have made their decision and it's fait accompli?

    Goodbye Ashes!

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    Interesting article. I was pleased you noted the received wisdom among commentators before the Headingley test was that the ball would not swing there as it once did. Nearly all of them therefore called for Harmison. It was of course totally wrong and their opinion seduced me against my instinct that Sidebottom was a natural choice.
    I just wonder if the same mistake is being made ahead of this Oval test? Of course it has historically swung more at Headingley. But I was watching the highlights of the 2005 Ashes Test at The Oval and swing was a key factor, albeit with persistent cloud cover. Are we again wrongly overlooking the in-form and dangerous Sidebottom? I'm not convinced our current attack can take 20 wickets - regardless of Broad's belated wickets - less so that Monty is the man.

  • Comment number 45.

    Well. Squad is picked. Days are numbered. Like others I am left wondering, "Why Panesar?" I guess it's over to that reticent goundman at the Oval. It is really going to 'turn square,' as I've heard rumoured?

  • Comment number 46.

    ...And where was he (Anderson) at HEADINGLEY, telnolies....in CONDITIONS THAT WERE HELPING BOWLERS.....WHEN IT REALLY MATTERED? And come to that, in the second innings at Lord's? Sorry, but the head of a test attack has got to be more consistent than that.

  • Comment number 47.

    My overwhelming impression of the squad is one of an opportunity missed. Don't have an issue with Trott in for Bopara but shudder at the thought of Bell at 3. Would have preferred Key to open with Strauss, Cook at 3 and then Trott.
    Any why Panesar ? On a wicket where Tredwell takes 10-100 in the match (and is now leading wicket taker with 57 @ under 20), Monty takes 2 for 127. Would have been far happier if the selectors had been bold and brought in Rashid (on the back of a five for and a ton). Together, Swann and Monty have taken 7 wickets in the series at close to 75 ! Even if the Oval wicket does "turn square" will they be able to put it in the right place often enough ?

  • Comment number 48.

    shivers:why did"it really matter" at Headingley and not at the other three tests, was that one more important then? Or does that fit in with you because he failed in that one, then you perceive it was the one that mattered most.Surely they all matter?

    In Cardiff he got more wickets than any other English bowler, runs in both innings and batted out of his skin with Monty to help save that game, then he got a 4 fer in first innings at Lords, plus runs, oh but you only remember he didnt get any wickets in the second innings.....then he got a 5 fer third test and another wicket in the second innings.And yes, he didnt play well at Headingley, who did?
    I totally refute your claim that he doesnt step up, everyone's entitled to have a poor match now and again arent they?

  • Comment number 49.

    Jimmyandersonfan: ...and where did I say that any of the other tests 'didn't really matter'??? Headingley 'really mattered' because it's the one we lost, simple as. Anderson IS a good bowler...but in (what should have been a) low-scoring match IN BOWLER-FRIENDLY CONDITIONS, a 'world-class' seam-bowler should have at least posed a threat. It's that reliability that makes the difference between a win and a loss in a test series.
    As stated, Anderson IS a good bowler...but until he can hold it together for a whole series, he will not be a GREAT bowler - and England's track record will not be any better.... just as was the case in the era of Gough, Caddick et al. I'd like to see an England side that is a real power...not just one that can beat sides 'on it's day'.

  • Comment number 50.

    Shivers;again I repeat, you said "when it really mattered" Whatever you are now trying to imply the meaning of your post was, it certainly doesnt read like that to me!
    And typing in capitals wont get your point across any clearer, yes, they were bowler friendly conditions, cetainly for the Oz bowlers, but not for us. All the bowlers had a poor match really, save Broad perhaps, and the batsmen certainly did.And Anderson clearly had some sort of hamstring injury as he went for a scan on the Monday.
    I think he's been one of the more consistent players actually, you obviously dont and are looking for a five fer every match or he fails, so we will agree to disagree!

  • Comment number 51.

    Jimmyandersonfan: I repeat: "a world-class bowler should at least have posed a threat"...nothing about five wickets. 'Bowler-friendly conditions, certainly for the oz bowlers, but not for us'? BOTH (please excuse the capitals) bowling sides should be able to use seamer-friendly conditions. Dennis Lillee said of Gough: 'he has good matches rather than good series'... and I've seen nothing yet from James Anderson to indicate that he is any different. If his injury had something to do with his lacklustre performance, okay: but he still has not yet gone through a major series looking the part from start to finish. When he does, I'll be convinced. Okay??

  • Comment number 52.

    Re jimdannat....

    "I personaly think that the selectors should stick to the same side that was thrashed at Headingley,(with the addiion of Flintoff)it would be all too easy to dismantle the side for the likes of Ramprakash,key,Trott etc,the players who lost the 4th test should be held to account.Bell,Bopara,Collingwood and Cook"....

    Not sure where you've been for the last few days mate but Bopara's definitely out and Trott is definitely in!

  • Comment number 53.

    shivers; if you read my post again that's exactly what I was trying to point out to you about the conditions. Yes, aparrantly they were bowler friendly conditions, but I repeat, not for our bowlers. ALL had a poor match, not just Jimmy.
    What Lillee said of Gough is totally irrelevant.

    Dont agree with you there either, he was pretty good against W.I at home, leading wicket taker again I beleive....but you will probably say that's only the West Indies.....

  • Comment number 54.

    Hello again, Jimmyandersonfan. I'm not trying to get into a slanging match, so this will be my last post on the subject; nor do I have a 'downer' on Jimmy Anderson.
    Please tell me this, though: how can conditions be bowler-friendly to one side and not the other, unless a) they change dramatically during the course of an innings, and I don't believe these did; or b) there's some diabolical influence at work? All the England seamers let us down at Headingley, and unfortunately, Anderson was one of their number, and the leader of the attack at that. The fact that he has the best figures of the England bowlers in the series does not say much, as our bowling attack is not that strong at present.
    My main point is that for a side to have aspirations to beat, or to become, the best in the world, it has to have seamers who can be relied upon to deliver, day in, day out. I'm quite prepared to accept that Anderson may become this consistent one day, (he certainly seems to have the ability); but what I'm saying is, he needs to hold it together over the course of a series, not just to fire here or there, as he has up to now. What Lillee said about Gough IS relevant, because that's where Anderson is at the moment (and some TMS commentators have described him as a 'one-trick pony'). I want to see an England side that can be the best in the world...not just one that can turn in the odd prestigious victory 'on their day' (look at their record over the last four years). So let's start being honest with ourselves: give praise where it's due certainly - but also demand the very best from our players.

  • Comment number 55.

    I'm not getting into a slanging match with anyone. But goodness me why dont you understand what I am saying about the conditions. I am saying that our bowlers bowled poorly,they didnt exploit the conditions as well as OZ bowlers, they had a poor match.Of course the conditions werent different for them and for us, I'm not daft!!
    We bowled poorly and didnt/couldnt use the conditions. I dont know why we didnt use them but we didnt.CLEAR?
    This leader of the attack mullarky is rubbish.All it is is the Sky commentators calling him that. And so then when he has a bad match, everyone jumps on the bandwagon and quotes what;s been rammed down their throats by the commentators"oh he's the leader and he's rubbish type of thing".
    He has never referred to himself as that and seems quite reluctant to be called so. Whenever he is interviewed and they refer to it, he always says we help eachother, its not about one bowler, I help them, they help me, we are a team.
    I am entitled to my opinion as are you, and I happen to think he's a bit bettter than "holding it together here or there"
    And he hasnt got the best figures of our bowlers, Broad has...just!
    Lets just end this on a positive note and hope that they ALL come out firing and ready to win on Thursday.

  • Comment number 56.

    Thanks, Oliver, for a blog that's not all doom and gloom about England's chances. Headingley apart, I'm fairly happy with England and don't believe in the current buzzword. I suspect Bradman would have said "Momentum - does that mean that whoever first wins a match will win the series, or vice versa?" However, I do think the Oval is the match to play both spinners. A lot has been said about Monty's confidence, but he loves the big occasion and can bowl for ever. These Australian batsmen like to score quickly and play a lot of lofted shots. England's fielding is good. Accurate but tempting slow bowling, so they have to hit it hard, and good field placing on the huge expanse of the Oval, is bound to pay dividends.

  • Comment number 57.

    Yeah we need good pace bowling not swing. What's the betting on the England selectors dropping Harmisson and retaining Anderson / Onions ?Trott should do ok being as he is South African !

  • Comment number 58.

    The weather forecast for Thursday and Friday is light rain showers. So bowling first and hoping for some interruptions to patch Fred up might be the best option.

  • Comment number 59.

    If you are bored with the Ashes Essex Surrey is a good game. I know which match I will listen to tommorrow its not the Oval.

  • Comment number 60.

    Here's a cheery thought. We've already beaten the Aussies at the Oval this season. On June 19, Claire Taylor and Beth Morgan put on an unbeaten 122 runs to register one of the most measured, applaudable run chases of the season and dash Australia's hopes of proceeding to the World 20 Cup Final (women).

    Our men can match that, can't they? Eyes down! We'll know the answer soon enough.

  • Comment number 61.


    England bowlers have demonstrated remarkable consistency with the bat and the ball in the ongoing series.

    A score of plus 300 runs on Day One is a solid platform on that sporting wicket. Broad in the company of fellow allrounders could deepen the foundations on Day Two.

    Anderson, Swann, Harmison, Freddie, Broad and Collingwood will have the privilege of bowling in the last innings. These supremely talented bowlers are capable of taking twenty wickets.




    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 62.

    England have failed to put on that 450 tally that was necessary to set up a result. All the talk about the wicket being poor is pure speculation, and only based on a few balls going thru the top on day 1.

    I have seen this on many occasions and the wicket settles into a flat pitch. None of the England batsmen got out due to any odd behaviour of the pitch. The ball flies to the boundary here and hence why 450 is a moderate total. England were in their shell for much of the day and yet still scored at over 3 runs per over. When the Aussies bat you can expect more like 4 per over, and the pitch on days 2/3 will be a paradise as it has always been.
    England batted poorly, mostly all playing poor shots in moments of poor concentration. The pitch was fine, and one would be grasping at straws to conclude otherwise. Once again Englands failure to capitalise on ideal conditions and a winning toss have cost them, and when Australia score heavily in their first innings all these facts will come to light for those currently grasping at straws.

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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