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
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
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

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?