Cricket: Captain failed to make proper use of his bowlers

Henry Blofeld says that the Hollioakes should have been given more overs
Click to follow
The Independent Online
In the first four Test matches of this series, Mike Atherton made England's task harder by refusing to take seriously the bowling of Mark Ealham. The Kent bowler was allowed only 58.4 overs, in which took eight wickets with his medium paced outswingers, and he always looked as likely a bowler as anyone else to make a breakthrough.

Atherton was apparently only prepared to use Ealham when he had run out of all other ideas - and only then in very short spells. This was cruel luck on Ealham, who was then dropped because there is little point in having a fifth bowler in the side if the captain is so reluctant to use him.

The fifth bowler's job is now being shared by the Hollioake brothers, Ben and Adam. But once again Atherton is showing no confidence in either of them. Ben took an important wicket in both innings of this match, which will have done wonders for his confidence, and surely he would have been worth a brief try again on the fourth morning.

But the greatest surprise in Australia's second innings was Atherton's refusal for so long to turn to Adam. Like Ealham, he swings the ball away from right-handed batsmen, and he also has the ability to bring one back into the bat.

With Ian Healy batting so well, a more adventurous captain would surely have brought him on for a couple of overs, if only to test the water.

Adam was eventually given the ball after 69 overs had been bowled and Australia had reached 254-5. Immediately, he began to make the ball leave the right-hander in the air and, bowling with good control, he caused difficulties. In the space of eight overs, which cost only 17 runs, he found the edge of Healy's and Ricky Ponting's bats, but by then they had made 63 and 45 respectively and had done the job that Australia needed.

Atherton may not rate the bowling of the Hollioakes any more than he does that of Ealham. It is the captain's job though, to try to make the best of the resources at his disposal and not - by refusing to bowl one or two of his main options - to try and make it clear to the selectors that he does not agree with their original choice.

The way that Atherton has handled his bowlers has handicapped England.