Bob Willis: Colly wobbles but only change should be Bell moving on up
Sunday 19 December 2010
While Australia fret over the finger injury to Ricky Ponting, England fans can launch into a long debate over what changes, if any, should be made for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne now that the Baggy Greens have bounced back in such a spectacular way.
The heat is on Paul Collingwood once again, but I suspect he will neither lose his place nor be eased down the order to No 6. Everything we know about the England hierarchy tells us they are sold on a particular format, and I doubt whether events in Perth will lead to a change of approach.
I believe England should at least make the decision to move Ian Bell above Collingwood in the batting line-up. Yes, Bell has been getting runs at No 6 but too often he has found himself left with only the tail for company and ended up giving his wicket away through having to take chances. That is a waste of a batsman in prime form. Our selectors are consistent, which is a good thing generally speaking, but in other ways they are just stubborn.
What I am almost certain will not happen is Collingwood losing his spot to Eoin Morgan, who has had very little cricket on this tour. And while I remain an advocate of a five-man bowling attack, I'm equally convinced England are not about to change scripts and bring in Tim Bresnan for Collingwood.
I reckon the only real hope of the selectors picking an extra bowler in this series disappeared whenStuart Broad was injured. With him in the side the lower order had more depth to it from a batting point of view, but the fact remains that three pace bowlers are being asked to do a mountain of work – and if Jimmy Anderson and Steven Finn play in all five Tests, they will be on their knees by 7 January.
The pair of them looked worn out on the first day of the Perth match, and Finn is haemorrhaging runs. In fairness, though, both of them came back well yesterday to limit Australia's lead and support Chris Tremlett, who was the one big plus for England.
This was a big match for a big lad, and how well Tremlett responded. Since overcoming an early-season injury at Surrey, his career has been on a very steep upward curve. He made himself the next cab off the rank and then took his chance when it came because of Broad's injury. Now, if he can stay fit, he can be a very importantarrow in England's quiver.
The bottom line, though, is that those England fans who were counting chickens before Perth are now biting their nails with the series seemingly wide open again.
More by luck than judgement, Australia have solved a couple of their big problems with Mitchell Johnson returning to form and Ben Hilfenhaus – unlucky to be dropped for Adelaide – returning to give Ponting the control that was missing during the Second Test.
Johnson had to be jettisoned after Brisbane, not just as a result of his performance there but also because he had been equally bad in India before that and not much better in England against Pakistan last summer.
It was difficult to understand Johnson's total demise. Just 18 months earlier he had been the Test Player of the Year, then at Brisbane it didn't look as though he could get into a pub team. Now, having worked with Australia's bowling and fitness coaches, rather than playing state cricket – and with confidence boosted, no doubt, by making a half-century – he has reignited this series with a first-innings spell that ripped the guts out of England.
If you were being hypercritical you could say that Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Collingwood should have been looking to play back down the pitch, rather than aiming to straight midwicket, but that is nitpicking. They were excellent deliveries and if you talk to any top-class batsman they will tell you that a ball swinging in late from a left-arm bowler makes for a lethal cocktail.
Perth is now Johnson's home ground and it was significant that the game's outstanding bowler (Johnson) and batsman (Mike Hussey) are both hometown boys who know all about the Waca ground.
Remember, there were plenty of good judges calling for Hussey's head before the series began. And who would have thought after Alastair Cook's exploits in the opening two Tests that someone was going to breeze past his aggregate of runs by midway through the series? But Hussey has concentrated for hour upon hour and been head and shoulders above the rest in the Third Test.
The "missing man" in Perth was Graeme Swann. Just about every spinner has struggled there, though – it was Shane Warne's least successful Test arena – so I'm not too concerned about Swann with the rest of the seriesin mind. He bowled beautifully at times in Adelaide and the spin department is the one area where England can still claim a big advantage.
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