Angus Fraser: Monty for Giles, Sajid for Jimmy, prayers for Fred
Flintoff has a problem. His body language suggested so
Sunday 10 December 2006
Sixty wickets. Sixty bloody wickets. That is what England need in the remaining three Test matches if they are to retain the Ashes. They have to get them cheaper than Messrs Warne, McGrath, Lee and Clark too. Sounds tricky, does it not? It is, especially when you analyse what has taken place in Brisbane and Adelaide.
England showed loyalty and selected the same bowling attack for the opening Tests, and after watching them dismiss just 23 Australian batsmen (one was a run-out) for the cost of 1,485 runs, it would be fair to say changes are required. But who is going to transform England's popguns into top guns?
Monty Panesar is being portrayed as the man who will solve all England's woes. Some seem to believe the visitors would be winning this series had he been picked. What tosh. Panesar is an exciting and talented young bowler. He is probably the best spinner England has produced since Derek Underwood. But he is no Shane Warne. He is not even a Stuart MacGill yet.
But Panesar must play at the Waca, even if it is the only major venue here where Warne has failed to take a five-wicket haul. In his 10-Test career Panesar has shown he can get good players out. He has also proved he can keep good players quiet, which can create wickets for others.
His batting may be limited, but so what? England have been resoundingly beaten here with their strongest batting line-up on show, so give him a go. Ashley Giles should make way for Panesar. Perth is not a ground for two spinners, especially when one of your seamers is carrying an injury and another is as reliable as Del Boy's Robin Reliant.
I am worried about Andrew Flintoff. The England medical team appear to be quite relaxed about the condition of his left ankle, but I believe he has a problem. His body language on the final day at Adelaide suggested so. Flintoff tried his socks off, as he always does, but he looked angry, and it was not just at the state of the game. At times he limped, and he could bowl no more than five-over spells. To me, he was just as enraged by the state of his ankle as England's plight. Flintoff will play in Perth. He has to. But he cannot bat at seven and be one of only three seamers. He needs support.
Stephen Harmison continues to be a huge disappointment. He has taken 1 for 288 in the series but he, too, has to play in Perth. If England do not play him they may as well send him home.
Are Harmison's problems technical or mental? It's a chicken-and-egg argument. Television analysis has shown that he falls away as his right arm comes over. But is it a result of what is taking place between his ears?
Fitness is yet to be used as an explanation. Harmison's golden spell followed a period of time training with Newcastle United. He worked hard, got himself fit and strong, and became the No 1 bowler in the world. The 28-year-old has been back to Newcastle since, but has he worked as hard as he did before establishing himself in the Test side? England do not have enough time to change him here, and they can only hope that everything clicks into place on Thursday.
James Anderson has given it his all - and did well for his three wickets yesterday - but selecting him was a mistake. The poor boy had hardly played a game in seven months yet he was thrown into the lion's den with a remodelled action. Who do these people think England are playing here, Bangladesh? His two Test wickets have cost him 303 runs and he ought to make way for Sajid Mahmood.
Mahmood is raw and inconsistent. He is tall, quick and athletic too. It may not always be for the good, but he makes things happen. The 24-year-old could bat at eight, but don't expect too much. It was pace and bounce that unsettled Australia in 2005, and this fellow has both.
Then there is Matthew Hoggard. Good old Hoggy, where would England be without him? He was magnificent in Adelaide but he is not the sort of bowler who consistently wins Tests here. He can create the openings, but needs the likes of Harmison or Flintoff to knock down the door.
So there we have it. Good luck Hoggard, Harmison, Flintoff, Mahmood and Panesar. You may well need it.
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