England may have blown their chances of retaining the Ashes by picking the wrong team for the third Test, their bowling coach, David Saker, admitted on Friday.
Australia, who lead the series 2-0, will reclaim the urn with a win here at The Waca and they made a strong start yesterday. Steve Smith’s unbeaten 103 held their innings together, carrying them from a rocky 143 for 5 to a dominating 326 for 6.
Even though the Perth wicket is known for its pace and bounce, England chose to leave out tall fast bowlers Chris Tremlett, Boyd Rankin and Steve Finn, opting instead to make only one change from the side beaten in Adelaide, Tim Bresnan coming in for Monty Panesar.
The Ashes Podcast: Stephen Brenkley and Tom Collomosse review day one of the Third Test in Perth. Listen below...
Australian Saker, who is in charge of the England quicks, accepted that may have been the wrong call.
“Like everyone, we make mistakes, like cricketers make mistakes. We could have made a mistake in this game but I’m sure if our bowlers bowled to their capabilities we wouldn’t have got it wrong,” he said.
Saker’s frankness is admirable but it may not endear him to England’s coach, Andy Flower, nor to captain, Alastair Cook. On tour, Cook and Flower will take soundings from Saker and batting coach Graham Gooch, but the final decision on the XI is theirs alone.
Neither Bresnan nor Jimmy Anderson took a wicket on the first day, with Stuart Broad and off-spinner Graeme Swann collecting two apiece and all-rounder Ben Stokes one.
Regarding Saker’s opinions, it would be interesting to know the views of the fast bowlers, who toiled in temperatures that sometimes went above 38C.
England players and coaches do not often criticise one another in public but Saker decided against sugar-coating his words.
“There is no doubt we let it slip today,” he continued. “They are a disappointed group of bowlers and I’m a disappointed bowling coach, but I know they will bounce back.
“It’s probably not the first time we’ve had them on the ropes and not finished the job. Credit to the Australians, but we didn’t deliver what we should have delivered today.
“We pride ourselves on holding lengths, bowling good areas, bringing batsmen forward and making it hard for them. It’s always harder in Perth, as it’s a fast track, but we found it really hard to do what we normally do.
“It’s disappointing when you plan for these things but we just didn’t get it right today.
“In the heat it’s tough but you prepare yourself to play all round the world. We’ve played in conditions like these before, if not worse, and acquitted ourselves well. We can’t blame the weather. It will be hot every day.
“It’s disappointing we can’t finish teams off but I don’t think, other than today, we’ve done too much wrong.
“We mixed our lengths and went to the short ball too much. But if we can get them out for less than 400, it’s still game on.”