Stop Hussey, stay together: what England must do to regain the series initiative
All is not lost. Andrew Strauss's side were badly beaten in Perth but they can still dream of Ashes victory, writes Stephen Brenkley
Monday 20 December 2010
Repel Mitchell Johnson
Either repel him or hope that he does not find the swing he did in Perth which makes him irresistible. England had not seen its like before and Ricky Ponting was barely wide of the mark when he said it was one of the great Ashes spells. If he continues in this vein, England's goose may be cooked in Melbourne and Sydney. But he is a capricious commodity. England have reason to believe that the Mitchell in Melbourne will not be the Mitchell of Perth and that will affect the whole Australian psyche.
Find a way to get Hussey out
Mike Hussey was almost dropped before this series. A last-ditch century in his last possible Sheffield Shield innings saved him. Since then he has scored 517 runs at an average above 100 and his authority looks complete. Importantly, Hussey looks to have worked out how to play Graeme Swann and although England's best bowler has dismissed him twice in the series, the worry is that Hussey is prepared to come at him. England bowled too short at him in Perth and he carved them delightedly.
Score first innings runs
It is a truism that runs in the first innings of a Test match frequently settle its course. Although the figures for England's batsmen in the series are still fairly fancy it is also the case that they have failed in two of the three first innings. In Brisbane they made 260, in Perth 187. They need much more of the 620 for five of Adelaide. If that was a false dawn, they are in trouble. The chances are that they will not see another bouncy surface like Perth, so there is reason to keep believing.
Be ruthless in selection
For most of his career, Paul Collingwood has been playing for his place in the England side. His doughty character has usually him seen him through. He is the only one of the top six without a 50 in the series and he looked hapless at the Waca, a rabbit in the headlights turned on by Johnson. The chances are that England will keep him – they tend to drop bowlers when the batsmen are to blame – because of other splendid attributes. But the feeling grows that this is his last Test series.
Maintain team spirit
One of the most attractive components of the side forged under Andrew Strauss as captain and Andy Flower as coach has been resilience. Steve Waugh mentioned it before the Perth Test, alluding to three Test matches in the previous 18 months in which England had held on by a wicket. They never looked like doing so yesterday and somehow with impetus so brusquely grabbed away, they have to rediscover it. The Ashes now depend on it. But team spirit alone will not be enough. They have no Stuart Broad, they need Swann more than ever and the pitches on which he can operate.
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