Hayter: Six questions for six England Ashes veterans
Peter Hayter continues our in-depth analysis of cricket’s most enduring contest
With Joe Root’s England squad arriving Down Under this weekend at the start of their campaign to retain the Urn, Peter Hayter assembled a distinguished half-dozen to form The Cricket Paper’s Ashes panel, two of whom took part in England’s 2005 victory over Australia, a series rated one of the best of all time. Six Ashes veterans, six questions. And Mark Butcher, Dominic Cork, Ashley Giles, Steve Harmison, David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd and Jack Russell came up with some fascinating answers, too. Question 1: Where should Joe Root bat?
MARK BUTCHER: His productivity is so vital in this line up that him batting somewhere for the sake of everyone else is not going to be as much use as him batting where he is comfortable. If he wants to bat No.4 so be it.
DOMINIC CORK: Where he feels is right for him because he’s the best player. A lot of people are saying he should bat at three, but if he’s happier at four he should stay there.
ASHLEY GILES: No.4 in all forms. From very early in his career that was the position to which he was best suited because of his aggressive and positive approach. He takes the game to the opposition and four is the best place to do that from.
STEVE HARMISON: I would love to see him bat at No.3 and think he should bat there for the team. But for the benefit of his frame of mind he should have the final say.
DAVID LLOYD: He wants to bat at No.4 so that will do for me.
JACK RUSSELL: When you come off the field and your captaincy head is spinning and you are getting your pads and you lose a wicket in the first over… He’s our best player and going in at No.4 just gives him a bit of breathing space. Question 2: In batting order, what is your starting XI for the first Test in Brisbane (without Ben Stokes)?
MB: I’ve gone for the extra batter in this line-up: 1 Alastair Cook; 2 Mark Stoneman; 3 James Vince; 4 Joe Root; 5 Dawid Malan; 6 Gary Ballance; 7 Jonny Bairstow; 8 Moeen Ali; 9 Chris Woakes; 10 Stuart Broad; 11 James Anderson.
DC: I’ve picked four seamers including Jake Ball.You can’t chuck in Craig Overton with no international experience on the first day of an Ashes series. 1 Cook; 2 Stoneman; 3 Vince; 4 Root; 5 Malan; 6 Bairstow; 7 Moeen; 8 Woakes; 9 Broad; 10 Ball; 11 Anderson. AG: The batting is light without Stokes. If he had been available, I’d bat Bairstow at five and play an extra seamer to take the pressure off his bowling. In the batting line-up Ballance gets the nod ahead of Malan. 1 Stoneman; 2 Cook; 3 Vince; 4 Root; 5 Ballance; 6 Bairstow; 7 Moeen; 8 Woakes; 9 Ball; 10 Broad; 11 Anderson. SH: No point in playing the extra seamer for the sake of it so I’d push Bairstow up to No.3 and play Ben Foakes, who is a decent bat, at No.8 with the option of giving him the gloves. 1 Cook; 2 Stoneman; 3 Bairstow; 4 Root; 5 Ballance; 6 Malan; 7 Moeen; 8 Foakes; 9 Woakes; 10 Broad; 11 Anderson. DL: Without Stokes, this is a golden opportunity for a young gun like Craig Overton, expected to carry the drinks, to be catapulted right into the fray. He’s a good kid and a strapping lad who doesn’t overthink things and I like that. Picking him would mean England bat down to nine. 1 Cook; 2 Stoneman; 3 Vince; 4 Root; 5 Malan; 6 Bairstow; 7 Moeen; 8 Woakes; 9 Overton; 10 Broad; 11 Anderson. JR: People might think this is a bit offthe-wall but I’m used to that! Without a third opener, I would ask Moeen to go in at No.3 on the understanding that he plays his natural aggressive game; let him smash it and try to give us some momentum up top. And I’d promote Bairstow to No.5 with Foakes at No.7 to allow an extra seamer – Steve Finn.
1 Cook; 2 Stoneman; 3 Moeen; 4 Root; 5 Bairstow; 6 Malan; 7 Foakes; 8 Woakes; 9 Broad; 10 Finn; 11 Anderson. Question 3: Is there anyone not in the squad who should be there?
MB: I would have taken Tom Westley ahead of James Vince. On the one occasion this summer when England played on a pitch resembling what they will find Down Under, on his debut against South Africa at the Oval, Westley showed enough technique and aptitude to show he has more of a game for playing in Australia than Vince. I’d also have picked Liam Plunkett ahead of Steve Finn.
DC: People will argue that Jack Leach should be there but the reason they’ve taken Mason Crane is that the Aussies rate him. They don’t let Poms play in the Sheffield Shield, as he did for New South Wales last winter, if they don’t. I like his aggression. AG: No disrespect to Crane, because he has a lot of potential, but I would have taken Leach ahead of him. He spins it, is consistent and takes wickets. This is a massive series for Moeen Ali, but what do England do if the Aussies succeed in battering him out of the attack and England need a second spinner? Without Stokes, I would have gone for Liam Livingstone to take the game to the Aussie bowlers down the order. He did struggle on his T20 debut but I like the way he plays and picking him would have allowed Bairstow to go up the order. SH: Mark Wood, on fitness grounds, although I still think he will play a Test match this winter.
Without Stokes, this is a golden opportunity for a young gun like Craig Overton to be catapulted right into the fray David Lloyd
The key is to be mentally bombproof. Prepare for the bombardment but be oblivious to it Jack Russell
No third opener worries me. Everyone knows how close I am to my former Durham teammate “Rocky” Stoneman but it’s a big ask for someone who hasn’t played a lot of Test cricket to open and play ten innings on the spin. With Root adamant about batting at No.4, I’d have liked the other option of playing all three openers and, although no one is kicking the door down, Keaton Jennings might have been worth a place.
DL: I would definitely have gone for Adil Rashid as the second spinner. He had a poor summer but he’s 29 years of age and took 30 wickets last winter. They’ve put a lot of time and effort into him and now they’ve biffed him. Disappointing.
JR: We could really have done with a third opener and I would have played him, too. But the fact that I can’t name one who should have been picked says it all. Tell Andrew Strauss to make sure
he takes his kit with him when he goes out to visit the troops. Question 4: How do you react to David Warner‘s talk of going to war and needing to feel hatred for England players?
MB: Clumsy choice of words but I understand what he’s saying. Warner is so used to playing alongside England players in franchise cricket so he was probably saying I know these blokes and I know they are not bad blokes. But I’m going to have to turn them into bad blokes because it’s the Ashes.
DC: How do you react to David Warner? You don’t. Maybe he’s a bit worried about England and he’s trying to put pressure on them, but it’s the Ashes so no-one needs to do that and definitely no-one needs to talk about going to war. Be proud and feel
privileged to be playing for England or Australia and just get on with the game. Just say Cork tells Warner to stick a cork in it.
AG: The Aussies have always done “ruthless” better than us. They play better like that. They don’t play well friendly. But if you play good consistent cricket, like we did in 2005 and throw as many blows (figuratively speaking) as they do, they’re only human and you can push them back. But no matter how they like to build it up, it’s not war.
SH: Sticks and stones. I love it. We’re going to get this and we’re going to get that. If Warner wants to go to war let him, and let it put him off his game.
DL: In 1974-75 I played against a fantastic team, containing Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson and brilliantly led by Ian Chappell. They won 4-1 and they were a great set of blokes. These lads must remember that, at the moment, they
are the custodians of the Ashes. These matches have to be played hard but in a great spirit.
JR: Brainless. If he has to do that then there is something wrong with him. The Ashes gets you up anyway.You fight hard and you give it your best but there’s no need to hate anyone. Question 5: What are the keys to England’s chances?
MB: On the last tour the potency of Broad and Anderson was not enough to bowl out Australia twice. If that is the case this time, it’s over. But if they do bowl brilliantly, with Woakes and Moeen Ali in support, England’s engine room in the middle order could win the battle.
DC: First innings runs. If England can get big totals they have a very good chance. Then get Warner and Steve Smith out cheaply. Simple!
AG: Either side could win this series easily, that’s how close it is. Neither has a massive advantage in terms of form or confidence. Australia will try and bully England but England must keep coming at them. Root has his bankers but the key could be how the new guys perform.
SH: England need to stay in every session and every game as long as possible. That means not losing wickets in clusters and, when we are not taking wickets ourselves, making sure we are not flying out of the park. If we do that the pressure on the Aussies will grow because, in their own back yard, they are expected to win.
DL: Togetherness. We can’t have factions within camp. And do not fear Australia because they are not that good. They have two batsmen; a wicketkeeper who can’t catch; and five bowlers who can’t stand up for longer than a fortnight.
JR: The key is to be mentally bombproof. Prepare for the bombardment but be oblivious to it. Being underdogs is no bad thing but the times we have done worst are when we are disjointed. When they smell blood they will dive in. Don’t give them any encouragement. Question 6: What is your prediction for the series? MB: I can’t see any draws from these two batting sides, so 4-1 to Australia. DC: My heart says England win, my head says Australia win, 2-1. AG: Given the issues going into the series, if England win it will be one of our finest ever victories. Australia win 3-1. SH: No draws. Australia win 3-2. DL: No draws. England win 3-2. JR: I’m not staying up all night thinking England will lose. It would do my head in. England win 3-2.
Warring faction: Australia’s opener David Warner
Happy at No.4: England captain Joe Root
Rated by the Aussies: England leg-spinner Mason Crane