England's pace aces to struggle Down Under? That's a load of balls

Whether trio of quicks are using the Duke or Kookaburra, bowling coach Saker backs them to take wickets if they put it in the right place

The answer will become apparent soon enough. But while the rest of us are free to speculate and pontificate about how England's fast-bowling attack may fare in Australia this winter, the three men at the sharp end can do no more than fill their boots against Pakistan.

It is, perhaps, a typically British habit to find a negative or two when we might be seeing only positive signs. Thus Jimmy Anderson's career-best 11-wicket haul at Trent Bridge a week or so ago was accompanied by warnings from just about all and sundry that it will be a different ball game – literally – in Brisbane this November. And when Pakistan were rolled over again at Edgbaston on Friday, routed for 72 by Messrs Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn, some observers wondered whether this was altogether good for Test cricket.

To take the second point first, one cannot recall either West Indies (during much of the Seventies and Eighties) or the Australians (in the Nineties and a bit beyond) wringing their hands in dismay over the failure of opponents to get the better of them from time to time. But win one Test and dominate the early stages of another and suddenly it is not so much "glory, glory England" as "woe, woe Pakistan" – at least in some quarters.

Fair enough, maybe, because, as a nation, we have generally felt sympathy for the underdog. But when it comes to the Ashes, Andrew Strauss's team will be second favourites themselves before a ball is bowled in Brisbane – even though they hold the urn – for the simple reason that the Aussies still take a hell of a lot of beating on their own turf. And it may need an Australian to convince some of us that an away victory is possible.

Assuming injuries do not cloud the issue and form remains much as it is, Anderson, Broad and Finn will lead England's attack this winter, and hope to make significant inroads which Graeme Swann – the player of the year and currently almost redundant off-spinner – can exploit. But that aforementioned pace trio has little in the way of achievement Down Under to write home about.

Neither Broad nor Finn has played a Test in Australia. And as for Anderson, the leader of the gang in terms of appearances and experience, his away form in general (52 wickets at a shade under 44 runs apiece) and track record in Australia in particular (five at a sky-high average of 82.60) is more the stuff of nightmares than dreams.

All of which brings us back to the ball. It is fine and dandy for England's pacemen to make our good old Duke ball swing around corners or jag left and right off the pitch, but when they get an Aussie Kookaburra – with its less-pronounced seam and reluctance to swing for anything like as long – in their hands, then the fun swiftly stops. And it has been stopping pretty much ever since Mike Gatting's team won the Ashes series of 1986-87.

Balls. Well, yes and no, according to England's still new bowling coach, David Saker, who replaced Ottis Gibson earlier this year. "Because England haven't had much success in Australia in recent times, questions are always being asked about what the problem is," said Saker during an interview aired on BBC Radio's Test Match Special.

"It's definitely not the cricket ball, I can assure you of that. It goes way deeper. No matter what sort of ball, if you bowl it in the right area, you are still going to get the right results. Yes, the Dukes may swing a bit more, but I think that's more the [overhead] conditions in England. At the end of the day it [the Kookaburra] is just a cricket ball. Bowl it in the perfect area and then see what happens from there."

The Melbourne-born Saker should know. He represented Victoria and Tasmania as a fast bowler and also coached both states with considerable success before being recruited by England four months ago. And, having been well-served by technique specialists such as Troy Cooley and Gibson in recent times, Anderson and Co may find Saker's somewhat different approach is just what they need as they prepare for the huge challenge of trying to win an Ashes series in Australia.

Saker, 43, believes his biggest asset as a coach is an ability to "read" batsmen, work out their strengths and weaknesses and then put the information across to bowlers in a way that will help them achieve success. And it seems to be working with Anderson, Broad and Finn so far this summer, even though conditions have clearly made life easier for pacemen.

Yes, the ball has swung and seamed. But, as happened on Friday when at least some of Pakistan's top order attempted to dig in, England's fast bowlers have been prepared to show patience when, in the past, they might have strived too hard to send down a "magic" delivery and, instead, released the pressure with a leg-stump half-volley or a long-hop outside off stump.

"We don't assume the ball will swing when we start an innings," said Anderson after his terrific work at Trent Bridge. "If it does, we can attack accordingly, but we do not rely on it happening."

Being prepared to nag away for over after over, and hour after hour, if necessary – without wilting – has proved to be a challenge too tough for many an England attack overseas. And it is a challenge which Anderson and Co will need to meet this winter. But don't begrudge them a bit of confidence-boosting glory this summer if it is there to be had.

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

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor