Top voices on the Ashes

Geoffrey Boy­cott, Paul Hayward and Michael Vaughan

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - GEOFFREY BOY­COTT

There is plenty of tal­ent in the Eng­land dress­ing room, but abil­ity on its own will not be enough to beat Aus­tralia. Eng­land need to har­ness that tal­ent with pa­tience and dis­ci­pline. There should be no more talk of at­tack­ing bat­ting. No­body says be a bor­ing team of de­fen­sive bats­men, but play­ing smart cricket is im­per­a­tive.

We nearly lost the Head­in­g­ley Test be­cause of stupid, ir­re­spon­si­ble at­tack­ing strokes in the first in­nings, when Eng­land were all out for 67. In the sec­ond in­nings, Eng­land gave them­selves a chance of win­ning thanks to a care­ful, pa­tient part­ner­ship be­tween Joe Root and Joe Denly that al­lowed Ben Stokes to win it with Jack Leach’s as­sis­tance.

In this se­ries, the most suc­cess­ful bats­men on both teams have been those who have oc­cu­pied the crease and been pre­pared to bat for long pe­ri­ods.

Steve Smith won the Edg­bas­ton Test with 144 and 142, but the im­por­tant bit is he bat­ted for 11 hours and two min­utes, wear­ing out the Eng­land bowlers.

In the same Test, Rory Burns gave Eng­land a chance with 133 in seven hours and 53 min­utes. Smith again made 92 at Lord’s in four hours and 24 min­utes. Even the new boy, Mar­nus Labuschagn­e, did

fan­tas­ti­cally well at Head­in­g­ley, hold­ing the Aus­tralian in­nings to­gether with 74 in three hours and 35 min­utes and 80 in four hours and 55 min­utes.

It is star­ing Eng­land in the face. With so many coaches and back­room staff, you would think some­one could work it out. Pa­tience, dis­ci­pline and con­cen­tra­tion. Eng­land are des­per­ate for bats­men up front to nul­lify the new ball and give the in­nings a sound start and tire out the bowlers. They must stop play­ing ir­re­spon­si­ble shots.

Take a leaf out of the books of the most suc­cess­ful bats­men by not play­ing at any balls you do not have to. If you leave balls out­side off

You will make it dif­fi­cult to win Test matches if you gift your wick­ets to the op­po­si­tion

stump, then the bowlers will get ir­ri­tated and bowl a bit straighter. Then you pick them off on the leg side, which is the safe side. Ac­cept that scor­ing runs in an Ashes Test is harder than county cricket be­cause you are fac­ing bet­ter bowlers and, there­fore, it may take you longer to score your runs.

Shot selec­tion is para­mount and you make it dif­fi­cult to win matches if you gift your wick­ets to the op­po­si­tion.

The strength of both teams is the seam bowl­ing. Each set of bowlers have made early in­roads into the op­po­si­tion, but when Eng­land’s bowlers meet some re­sis­tance, we keep on try­ing to force wick­ets.

When that hap­pens, we give away easy runs and lose con­trol. We do not seem will­ing or able to change and bowl tight, dry­ing up the runs and wait­ing for a bats­man to get him­self out.

One of the great­est seam bowlers, Glenn Mcgrath, wrote on the BBC Sport web­site that the most im­por­tant les­son for him was to “build pres­sure. Squeeze the runs. Give the bats­men noth­ing. Put the ball where they have to play it and just let it nib­ble around off the track or in the air”.

Keep­ing con­trol is para­mount. Once the game gets away from you, it is hard to get it back. Root should take note: in the first in­nings at Head­in­g­ley, Eng­land had Aus­tralia 25 for two, but, in striv­ing to take wick­ets with magic balls, the score­board was soon whizzing round at over four an over. Joe kept at­tack­ing fields and you could sense how frus­trated he was.

Luck­ily, Jofra Archer came on and got David Warner out with the score on 136 and cre­ated a col­lapse. In the sec­ond in­nings, when Stokes started play­ing shots, the Aus­tralians spread their field­ers on the bound­ary, ced­ing con­trol and fin­ished up in dis­ar­ray. Mcgrath says “don’t go searching for wick­ets – let them come to you”.

The most an­tic­i­pated mo­ment of the Old Traf­ford Test will be Smith fac­ing Archer. No­body will want to miss it. Smith knows Eng­land will test him out with short balls to see if he can han­dle them bet­ter, and he also knows Archer will crank up his pace. No­body should wish to see Smith or any bats­man get hurt but, in cricket terms, Archer has to go af­ter him. The key ques­tion is, has that smack on the head af­fected Smith’s nerve?

Will he hook or duck? Will Archer hit him again? It will be the contest within a contest. For Eng­land, it will be cru­cial to get Archer to bowl at Smith when he has some “oomph” and en­ergy in his tank. If Root over-bowls him be­fore­hand and Archer is tired when Smith comes in, then it will take away his ef­fec­tive­ness.

Who­ever wins the duel can have a psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fect that lifts their team.

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