Headley best by a length

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The Independent Online
Whatever the outcome of the match, Dean Headley's arrival in Test cricket has been significantly successful. He has been the best of the England seam bowlers from the first morning, when he bowled well enough to take four or five wickets.

He was the bowler who, more than any of the others, was prepared to pitch the ball up to the bat to bring the batsman on to the front foot, where he must always be more vulnerable against the moving ball.

There is nothing in the least complicated about the thinking behind this, but it is astonishing how many bowlers, even at this level of the game, appear not to realise its importance.

It is crucially important not to allow the batsman to leave the ball alone. The simple truth is that to get a batsman out the bowler must first make him play at the ball. Elementary, my dear Watson.

For all that, Darren Gough did not obey these first principles anything like as well as he had done in the First Test at Edgbaston. He bowled his best spell on Friday morning when he produced yorkers which bowled Paul Reiffel and Steve Waugh.

If he had bowled like that on Thursday morning, Australia would have been hard-pressed to reach 120. Gough's worst spell came in the last 14 overs after rain on Thursday evening when Reiffel and Steve Waugh added 51 to make sure that Australia finished with a competitive total on this pitch.

Andy Caddick was also guilty and for such a capable seam bowler he is still strangely unsure of himself. He does not seem to have the confidence to bowl to a full length and bring the batsman forward. It is as if he is frightened to death of being driven and the result is that although he may be economical he does not take the wickets a bowler of his ability should.

Another curious aspect of England's performance in the field in this series has been Mike Atherton's treatment of Mark Ealham, his medium-paced seamer. He is a good bowler with the ability to swing the ball away from the right-hander - always a formidable weapon.

On the first day he picked up the all-important wicket of Mark Waugh and later he dismissed Shane Warne who, as we saw at Edgbaston, is no mean batsman. Ealham always seemed likely to take a wicket and yet in the first innings he was allowed only 11 overs, in which he picked up 2 for 34.

Ealham's bowling does not appear to have a positive, clearly-defined role to play in England's attack. He is brought on when his captain cannot think of anyone or anything else. In fact, medium-paced seamers have historically had a constructive role to play in Test attacks.

One thinks back to Australia's Ken "Slasher" Mackay, shrewdly used as a wicket-taker by Richie Benaud, or Basil D'Oliveira under Ray Illingworth. Ealham needs to be given a more definite job to do and not to be used just as a filler. When all else failed he came on late yesterday afternoon and immediately bowled Mark Waugh. Point proved.

The other bowler, the off-spinner Robert Croft, may not have been altogether satisfied with his performance in the second innings but he was not given his best chance by Atherton. The captain's instinct is to revert to seam as soon as a spinner is hit for a couple of fours. This happened soon after Croft dismissed Greg Blewett when he was as likely as anyone to take a wicket. Croft needed a long bowl - and Phil Tufnell to partner him at the other end.

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