Ashes 2013: ‘We will win comfortably’ predicts England bowling coach David Saker

Saker insists England will knock over his fellow Australians if they do not become complacent

David Saker does not do caution. Despite the growing pressure on the England cricket team to ice a British sporting cake baked by a combination of the Lions, yellow jersey-wearing Chris Froome and history-making Andy Murray, the England bowling coach thinks the Ashes will be won “comfortably”. And he should know; after all, he is an Australian.

“I think psychologically we’re in a much better place, the only danger is that we’ll be too laid-back,” says Saker with disarming confidence. He is Victorian Bushranger through and through and so admits, with typical disdain for propriety, that “the Aussies will fight their rings off, there’s no doubt about that”, but “if we score the runs we’re capable of then we’ll win comfortably.

“The players are really up for it. You just have to be around them and you pick up on that excitement, and I’ve got a little added incentive because it’s the Australian group and I know quite a lot about them.”

The 47-year-old, now into his fourth year in the job, also knows quite a lot about cricket in general. Of that his old Victorian mucker Shane Warne can vouchsafe. “He understands bowling very well. He can be a little in-your-face at times and pretty aggressive, but he’s absolutely spot on,” Warne said.

So it proved during Saker’s first involvement against the nation of his birth. During the 2010-11 series England’s bowlers dominated on the way to a 3-1 victory, their first on Australian soil for 24 years. “I was first involved for the 2010-11 Ashes and I know what a good time it was for all of us, so you just want to taste that again,” Saker said. “We’re obviously in a good position but we’re not going to underestimate the opposition.”

That said, the straight-talking Australian who had a knack for bowling swing cannot resist another positive pronouncement: “If we can get 10 Tests out of Jimmy [Anderson] and Stuart [Broad], we’ll be going a long way to winning the series.”

Surprisingly, Saker underestimates his own influence on the England bowling attack: “Most of the time they would be running ideas off each other and I’m there just to push them in the right direction.” That attitude can be traced back to his playing days in the unforgiving surroundings of Australian state cricket in the 1990s where “there was no such thing as a bowling coach and we just worked it out for ourselves or, occasionally, learnt off each other”.

This England attack have proved adept students of Saker, and of each other. “Jimmy and Stuart” are the only England fast bowlers whose Test careers significantly pre-date the Saker era. To the extent that statistics are instructive, it is worth examining their figures to provide what could be termed a yardstick by which to gauge Saker’s influence.

When Saker was appointed in April 2010, Anderson had played 46 Tests and had 156 wickets to his name at an average of 35. Since then, the Lancastrian has claimed 151 victims in only 36 Tests and has dragged his average down to 30.14. In Broad’s case, Saker came along at the halfway point of his career. By April 2010, the all-rounder had taken 83 wickets in 28 Tests at an average of 36.15. Under Saker he has played a further 29 Tests and added 112 more wickets to his name at an average of just 27.07.

But, back in the late spring of 2010, Saker’s appointment came as a surprise. At the time he was assistant coach at Victoria and had had a stint coaching in the Indian Premier League with the Delhi Daredevils. His credentials were impressive but his name was merely whispered as the candidacies of Test stars Allan Donald, Jason Gillespie and Craig McDermott were shouted from the rooftops.

“Not having playing experience at international level I always thought I might be a little bit behind,” Saker confesses. Andy Flower, the England coach, thought otherwise. So did three-times Ashes winner Paul Collingwood, who played under Saker in Delhi. “Paul rang me up and made sure I applied. I was going to apply anyway but he leant on me pretty strongly.”

He then decided to go the extra mile, which no doubt impressed the fastidious Flower. “I was going to do a Skype interview but I paid my way to have an interview in front of [England managing director] Hugh Morris and Andy. That went better than I thought because I got the job.”

On his way to 247 first-class wickets in state cricket, Saker earned a reputation as a bowler who could create swing both ways, with balls old and new. In just 20 minutes at The Oval’s indoor school, he turned this leggie into a new-ball bowler with a “decent sway swinger” (Saker’s words, not mine). After such a transformation, it is easy to see why England’s ability to swing the ball at pace has provoked envy, not to mention accusations of unnatural assistance. Saker insists his role of turning England into masters of swing is all down to the “talent” at his disposal.

“They’re great to work with because they’ve got a lot of talent,” he says. “We’ve got swing, bounce, pace and a great spinner so we’ve got enough variation to call on different things. A left-arm quick would tip it off but that’s being greedy!”

Greedy indeed. As Saker talks of the England attack, he sounds like a gourmand at a Tudor banquet. “The way Jimmy leads our attack is exciting; Stuart on his day is as good a bowler as anyone, [Steven] Finn’s so exciting because he’s got that pace and bounce.”

If that sounds like a clue to the identities of England’s pace attack for tomorrow’s first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, Saker will say no more. However, he cannot disguise his own excitement – or the glint in his eye –whenever he talks of Finn, who is under pressure from Graeme Onions and Tim Bresnan for the third seamer’s slot. Saker is less effusive about Australia’s attack: “As a bowling group they’ve got some good pace, they’ve got variation, but they’re not that experienced in English conditions.”

That is not to say Saker is one-eyed, as his thoughts on Shane Watson make clear. “I’d rather Watson not be in the team but we have to bowl to him wherever he bats. Look, he’s a very good player but we know that if we bowl well at the top we can get any batter out.” See, Saker just does not do caution and if England’s bowlers’ walk can match their coach’s talk, we’re in for one hell of summer.

NatWest current account customers can win a training session with the England team. Sign up and enter at cricket.natwest.com

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high