Sunday 25 February 2018 / 03:08 AM


The days before the first Test of this Ashes series saw a slew of basically stupid comments by Australian players, most notably – and unintentionally comically – by spin bowler Nathan Lyon suggesting the Australian team were going to end some more careers.

People scoffed at and criticised Lyon’s barbs. They were nothing more than pathetic, embarrassing schoolyard banter.

The Gabba Test started out with England batting first in a stubborn display that almost suggested they were here for a fight.

In the end, the only fight appeared to have taken place at the bar of a night club, with allegations that Jonny Bairstow delivered a headbutt to Australia debutant Cameron Bancroft in a Perth pub at the start of the tour. The manner in which both men played down the incident suggests that the headbutt was as meek as England’s performance in the opening Test of the series.

Alistair Cook spent a total of 29 minutes at the crease across both innings, scoring nine runs in total, while captain Joe Root failed in the first innings and arguably again in the second as he reached 51 before getting out, failing to kick on yet again.

However, it was England’s bowling attack that was largely useless. Australia didn’t bat too well in the first innings thanks to the tight bowling of veteran duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad, but openers David Warner and Bancroft reeled in the second-innings target of 170 with consummate ease all on their own to give Australia a win by 10 wickets with more than two sessions to play.

Chris Woakes and Jake Ball both looked like ineffective part-timers despite being anything but. They posed zero threat to Warner and Bancroft on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.

This is a huge problem for England as the series moves to Adelaide this week. They lack genuine aggression from their bowling line-up. Patient, consistent bowling, like they showed in the first innings, is reasonable when your opponents are in some scratchy form with the bat. But once those batsmen gain confidence, that style won’t be enough.

With both Australian openers closing out the run chase of 170 rather quickly, they will have their tails up, as will captain Steve Smith, who scored a stunning 141 not out in the first innings. And while the hosts’ middle-order woes haven’t yet been resolved, Pat Cummins’ stoic and crucial 42 coming in at No.9 signified that the Aussies’ tail will wag vigorously if England let it.

The English bowling attack has little variation, meaning the second Test at Adelaide could see Warner, Bancroft, Smith and co. score at will. And as we’ve seen since 1979, when England lose the first Test in Australia, they go on to lose the series.

England needs to either change their bowlers’ tactics for Adelaide, or replace Ball with another quick who has a license to be aggressive – one who should also open the bowling with Anderson, while Broad comes on as first change.

They need fire.

At present, the English bowling attack is just far too polite.

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About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

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