Se­lec­tors need to plan ahead and break up An­der­son and Broad

➤ Eng­land have to bed in pair’s suc­ces­sors in time for Ashes ➤ Aus­tralia will be no place for vet­er­ans los­ing their pace

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Cricket - By Scyld Berry chief cricket writer

It is time to move on. With only 16 months un­til the first Test against Aus­tralia in Bris­bane – and the Ashes still the mea­sure by which English Test cricket is judged – Eng­land need a pair of open­ing bowlers far more pen­e­tra­tive than the James An­der­son and Stu­art Broad of re­cent years.

Their achieve­ments have been lu­mi­nous, his­toric, unique for Eng­land bowlers. Their records are amaz­ing – 1,069 Test wick­ets com­bined – but not in the past few years, when their strike rates have de­clined, al­though, as shrewd old pros, they have known how to dis­guise it.

Where will Eng­land be in the next Ashes se­ries if their open­ing bowlers take fewer than six wick­ets per Test be­tween them, as An­der­son and Broad have averaged in the past cou­ple of years? Eng­land will not take 20 wick­ets in a Test, that is what will hap­pen, and they will not win a match, which has been the case in three of their past four se­ries in Aus­tralia.

An­der­son re­tains his killer in­stinct and, un­less ill­ness struck overnight, his place for the open­ing Test to­day. His ex­pe­ri­ence is, of course, un­matched by any pace bowler in the an­nals of Test cricket, as he leads the all-time list with 584 wick­ets. And even though his pen­e­tra­tion – that ex­tra bit of nip – has de­clined, he has be­come even more ac­cu­rate, to the point where one would like to ask the data an­a­lyst in the sky (rather than the one at Sky) whether Eng­land have ever had a more ac­cu­rate pace bowler.

The rel­e­vant facts, how­ever, are th­ese. On day one of this first Test against West Indies, An­der­son will be 37 years and 344 days old, and by the Bris­bane Test he will be 39. He

has bro­ken down in two of his past three Tests – at Edg­bas­ton last sum­mer and Cape Town last win­ter. In his past eight Tests, since the au­tumn of 2018, he has taken 20 wick­ets – an av­er­age of 2½ per game – and his strike rate has been 63: one wicket ev­ery 10½ overs, which, if repli­cated through the team, means that Eng­land take more than 100 overs to dis­miss their op­po­nents.

Since Broad had the last of his magic spells in Jo­han­nes­burg at the start of 2016, he has of­ten said he has felt an­other is round the cor­ner. It was a sight that will en­dure in Eng­land’s folk-mem­ory: his heels kick­ing up high; the ball zip­ping through the de­fence of right-han­ders or, in lat­ter years, left-han­ders; right arm raised as he runs through to cel­e­brate the lbw with the slips and keeper with­out wait­ing for the um­pire to raise a fin­ger.

The rel­e­vant facts, how­ever, are th­ese. In his 47 Tests since Jo­han­nes­burg, Broad has taken 152 wick­ets – 3.2 wick­ets per game on av­er­age. If he and An­der­son take six

wick­ets per Test, that leaves 14 to be taken by other bowlers – with­out the ben­e­fit of a new ball – if Eng­land are to win. Yet both are such crafts­men, know­ing ex­actly when to bowl, that both have low­ered their Test av­er­ages dur­ing their de­cline, thus mask­ing it.

Se­lec­tors, like politi­cians, pre­fer short-term so­lu­tions to long-term gains: keep An­der­son to lead the at­tack, start this se­ries against West Indies with a win, set­tle into this sum­mer, then think about the Ashes. The trouble is that all the while the likely new-ball pair for the next Ashes is be­ing de­nied game time. They have not learnt the les­son of Jake Ball, who was re­garded as Eng­land’s best bowler at the start of their last Aus­tralian tour: but he was not given his Test de­but un­til it was too late, lost what con­fi­dence he had, and looks as though he will wither on the vine.

Jofra Archer will bowl the first ball of the next Ashes se­ries un­less some­thing goes se­ri­ously wrong. He should be bowl­ing the first ball of this se­ries, so he knows the role well enough not to bowl it to sec­ond slip in Bris­bane.

The two open­ing bowlers who bowled Eng­land Li­ons to their hand­some vic­tory over Aus­tralia A – a side with five Test bats­men – last win­ter in Mel­bourne were Ol­lie Robinson and Craig Over­ton. Robinson is Archer’s open­ing part­ner at Sus­sex; he has the height and tra­jec­tory to suc­ceed in Aus­tralia and bowled a fine sec­ond spell in Eng­land’s warm-up at Southamp­ton. Over­ton, who has cut down the leap he had at the end of his run-up, bowls faster, and is not over­awed by Aus­tralians – as too many are.

And you can see where it will head. An­der­son, ac­cu­rate as ever, will pick up a few eco­nom­i­cal wick­ets in Southamp­ton, then the sec­ond and third Tests are at Old Traf­ford, his home ground, so he has to play at least one there.

His to­tal of 584 wick­ets grad­u­ally be­comes 590… so he has to be given the chance to reach 600. No Eng­land bowler has reached that tar­get, no pace bowler from any coun­try. Thus it will drag on, de­priv­ing young bowlers of more game time.

It is a com­pletely le­git­i­mate as­pi­ra­tion for An­der­son and Broad to carry on bowl­ing. But se­lec­tors need to be states­men.

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