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

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence