It’s Time for Cook, Anderson and Broad to Prove It

My thesis today is a simple one. I’m not going to beat around the Australian bush. The time for understatement and pretty language has long since passed.

England are losing the Ashes 0-2. The series could be gone within the next three to five days. And a big reason for this is that our big names haven’t come to the party yet. In fact, the only party they’ve been to ended up with drinks being thrown everywhere.

Because of this, I’m a little exasperated with James Anderson, Stuart Broad, and Alastair Cook. I’ve got sand in my knickers as far as these three are concerned and the only thing that’s going to remove it are big performances at the WACA.

As supporters we’re constantly told that Cook, Broad and Anderson are great players – or, at the very least, England greats. But statistics don’t make players great; winning crucial games and performing in tough conditions is what makes players special.

Now I don’t want to point out the flamin’ obvious, but conditions are likely to be pretty tough at Perth; therefore it’s the perfect opportunity for our big guns to make career defining contributions. The team are 0-2 down, staring down the barrel of another whitewash, and they’re under pressure from their own board as well as Australia’s world class bowling attack.

Cometh the hour, cometh England’s main men. If Cook, Anderson, and Broad want to be remembered as great cricketers – not just cricketers who perform well at home or when conditions are benign – then they need to prove it right now.

If England sink without a trace and lose this test match, and our big three contribute sod all, then perhaps they should only be remembered as handy cricketers rather than champions. Would Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne be remembered as true greats if they’d hardly scored a run or taken a wicket in England?

In my humble opinion, Jimmy Anderson is the most skilful of our big three. His record overseas isn’t particularly good, but he’s a very good bowler with all the tricks. However, if he wants to be remembered as a true England great then he simply must improve his record down under and win us some games. He was very consistent in 2010/11 but didn’t actually take a five-fer. Now is the time for him to cement his legacy

Broad, obviously, is another good bowler. But is he much better than say, Angus Fraser or Andy Caddick? My instinct is to say ‘possibly but probably not’. He’s just played for longer. In fact, one could argue that Anderson and Broad are no more potent as an opening combination than Gough and Caddick – particularly overseas.

We all know what Broad did at Trent Bridge in 2015. But that was a green top. Darren Stevens might have picked up a few wickets that day. Now’s the time for Broad to ruffle some canary yellow feathers in their own back yard and demonstrate his world class credentials.  

Finally we come to Cook. I’m not sure if any ostensibly great player has divided opinion more. My personal view is that Cook has always been a very good but somewhat limited and overrated batsman – primarily because he rarely scores runs against good attacks or in testing conditions.

When it comes to exploiting a featherbed, or batting for two days straight against limited opponents, there’s nobody better than Alastair. It’s no coincidence that his only productive Ashes series came when Hilfenhaus and Siddle were opening the bowling (Ryan Harris was in and out of the side and half-fit in 2010/11). Other than his one big series seven years ago, Cook’s Ashes record is moderate to say the least. And you shouldn’t be remembered as a great England batsman unless you’ve got a good record in the series that matters most: the Ashes. 

It’s about time that Alastair proved he’s no flat track (or lifeless Asian dustbowl) Charlie. Although the experts are expecting the pitch at Perth to be very good for batting, a hundred against Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Lyon would do Cook’s legacy no harm at all. He once made a century against Dale Steyn in South Africa, but that was almost ten years ago. It’s time to turn it on again, and prove he can mix it with the best. Double hundreds against the West Indies count for little. 

Although England will need all XI players to do their bit at the WACA, I can’t help thinking that this is our most crucial test match for some time. It’s not just the fate of this tour on the line, but whole careers too.

With Mark Wood unlikely to be risked, the only tinkering England can do is moving Bairstow to No.6. And that’s not going to make much difference. What could turn the tide, however, is an Anderson five-fer, a devastating Broad spell, or a gutsy Cook hundred.

So come on fellas. Your country needs you.

James Morgan


  • I’d rank Anderson and Gough pretty equally as the best two English seam bowlers I have seen live, and I agree that Broad is roughly comparable to that second tier of English bowlers like Caddick/Fraser/Hoggard.

    Cook I think is flattered to be compared to Atherton, who has a worse statistical record, but regularly stood up to fast bowling of a quality that Cook has never really shown the aptitude for combatting. In many ways, their careers are similar. Gritty English openers who were particularly good against spin, both made excellent starts to their career and were quickly marked out as future captains. Atherton was by far the more imaginative and astute captain, but his batting, particularly against fast, bouncy, bowling, also went downhill in the second half of his career when his back went, limiting his mobility and hindering his technique, and McGrath repeatedly found him out as a result.

    • Atherton features twice in the top 3 of the “bunny list”, batsmen got out most often by specific bowlers. McGrath and Ambrose. Not sure how Cook would have done against those 2.

  • Broad is much better than Andy Caddick I will say that much….. Have you ever seen Caddick’s record against Australia, up until his last match he was averaging 43.5 and its only as got down to 40 because he took 10 wickets in the last match he played vs Aus. It was a running joke down under that England kept playing him.

    Anyway it wasn’t Anderson’s fault he wasted the new ball by not bowling at the stumps for 13 overs, the coaches made him do it.

    • Noice!!

      Anderson concerns me. Played well over 100 Tests, taken stacks of wickets, yet still routinely bowls the ‘wrong’ length – and now he’s trying to pass the buck onto the coaching staff.

      His behaviour, when India toured a few years ago, was questionable at best. He was implicated as being a part of the alleged bullying culture.

      And, while I appreciate this could be seen as coincidental nonsense, he was out with Stokes et al, on that fateful September night in Bristol, and he was at the centre of the shenanigans with Duckett.

      And he struggles to stay ‘on-message’ in front of the press, such that for two days running, Root has had to contradict him.

      What is his deal?

      • That’s a fair question.
        I noticed too that during the last debacle he called out England’s first innings batting… while conspicuously failing to put his hand up for a seriously underwhelming first innings bowling effort which helped,pile in the pressure.

        Less a team man than part of a coterie, IMO.

    • I’d agree that Broad is a better bowler than Caddick, but it’s worth remembering the relative batsmen they were up against:

      Caddick – S Waugh, Hayden, M Waugh, Slater, Langer, Ponting, Martyn, Taylor, Border, Gilchrist, Boon, Lehmann, Love, Elliott, Bevan, Blewett.

      Broad – Clarke, Smith, Warner, Rogers, Ponting, Watson, Bailey, North, Voges, Shaun Marsh, Katich, Khawaja, Handscomb, Bancroft, Hughes, Cowan.

      The batting strength-in-depth that Caddick had to play against was probably the greatest any team has had. There are players from Australians 2nd or even 3rd XI from Caddick’s era who would play in their Test team today (seriously – Stuart Law or Michael Di Venuto are better batsmen than Bancroft or Handscomb). He was usually bowling against an entire top seven with Test averages over 40 and half of them over 50.

      • Completely right, Simon. I remember the days when Australia A would destroy our full team!

        To be honest though, I’m just going on what my eyes tell me. I thought Caddick was a good bowler. He was tall, got good bounce, and was pretty aggressive too. That’s why I made the comparison to Broad. I think they’re pretty similar in ability. I might give Broad the slight edge though … if only because he supports England, and not New Zealand, when it comes to rugby ;-)

        • I’d very broadly agree, though consider Broad to be quite a bit better on the whole. Overton reminds me a lot of Caddick, though doesn’t quite do his lame giraffe impression in the field!

          As has been said the period when Caddick bowled was punctuated by some of the true greats of the game. Waqar and Curtley head and shoulders above the rest for my money but your mileage may differ.

          Brian Lara alone was enough to make many a perfectly good bowler weep. There may have been convicts who never got a sniff at the test side who were better than many we see before us today though it’s difficult to say other than that those they generally rejected were very good indeed.

      • No doubt caddick faced stronger batting. However the 40+ average wasn’t in Australia but against Australia. He was dire in all conditions. By comparison Gough and Fraser averaged around 30 against similar batsmen. The high Aus averages of the period may be in part because of Andy Caddick.

        I know Caddick did well against the WI who were still strong at the time, but in Aus he will forever be synonymous with the poor county trundlers we mostly faced during the 90s. The reason Darren Gough was very popular in Aus is because he was the only bowler you sent that seemed decent and wanted a fight. (Fraser always ended up injured it seemed).

        • Think you’ll find that Caddick may even have been above average for visiting seamers.

          Many or most get a good pummelling on Australian pitches and wouldn’t be surprised if 42-45 was the average per wicket for foreign seamers.

          Gough was uniquely suited to Oz to my mind. He did not give one toss how many runs her went for, t’was the batsmen’s job not to get them! He’d pitch it up, get driven, and pitch it up again and again.

          My sort of bowler but I think an aberration statistically.

    • Anderson vs Gough – Anderson wins for longevity and bowling average, but Gough wins for strike rate and quality of opposition, and his home and away splits are more even.

      Gough, 229 wickets at 28.3, sr 51 (the 3rd best strike-rate of all bowlers in the 1990s behind Donald and Waqar Younis)
      Anderson, 514 wickets at 27.3 sr 56 (significantly worse strike rate than Goughie)

      Caddick vs Broad – pretty much a toss up. strike rates identical, Broad has more wickets (because he was messed around less by idiotic management) and the slightly better average, albeit generally against weaker teams

      Caddick, 234 wickets at 29.8, sr 58
      Broad, 393 wickets at 28.9 , sr 58

  • Other than the first innings at Adelaide Broad and Anderson have bowled pretty well. Seems, as we suspected, that was a plan forced upon them too.

    Have a look at the stats for seamers visiting Australia rather than merely English ones, the majority average over 40 with the ball. There’s a massive difference too in getting top order wickets and tailenders, and the wickets thus far haven’t been conducive to seam up bowlers.

    Woakes hasn’t bowled badly either, he’s merely limited by what is possible in Australian conditions. Every now and again you find a bowler who can get something out of a pitch that the other bowlers can’t though the last allrounder we had with this ability was Bresnan. Woakes isn’t a Bresnan though he is a fine player.

    Our seam up isn’t the problem and if Jimmy and Broad can’t do it after sharing 900 Test wickets then expected 3rd or 4th picks to do so isn’t realistic unless they offer something completely different. If Moeen had taken 11 wickets at 22 and Lyon 2 at 98 we’d be 2-0 up, the convict batsmen’s techniques and application would be questioned.

    He took 5 top order wickets in the first test and 4 in the second. Ali has a single top order wicket to show, didn’t bowl much in the warm up matches and has been injured since taking that one wicket.

    Jimmy and Broad are blunted in Oz after the new ball goes soft, or by their coaches it seems. Unless we play two spinners I can’t see us winning.

    • “Woakes isn’t a Bresnan though”

      Gosh. That’s damming with faint praise. I’m a fan of the Pontefract Ponting, like all stout (non-Lancastrian) men of England, but I’d hope that the man who takes over from Broad and Anderson is a little better than Bressie.

      • As am I, though I can’t see him getting us a century or running through the top order in Australian conditions. Few better players to have in more helpful conditions but his batting on this tour has been pretty woeful.

        Closest thing we have to a spinning allrounder is probably Livingstone, who I can see getting us a century. He’s also a number 3.

    • Since when was a senior bowler ‘forced’ to bowl an entire innings like that by the coaching staff ??

  • It’s a team game. I don’t think 2 or 3 players should carry any side. Vince, Stoneman and Malan should exploit that they are still relatively new in international cricket. The Ashes is a tough assignment but they’ve been selected to bat. They should be thinking of ways of taking advantage on the Perth wicket. Cook and Bell in the past did well at Perth when they were young against Warne. They attacked him. Bell did well in the horrendous Tour last time. He had a good partnership with Stokes on a snaking crack filled pitch. Perth offers chances against spinners and to go on the attack. It might suit the team’s mindset and attacking batsmen like Ali who plays the same innings every time.

  • You are being a bit of a curmudgeon here James, picking on three of the best, while the team has eleven men. If the sand in your knickers keeps you awake at night, it will serve you right. So there! :-)

    • Obviously the other guys have to play their part too, but the senior players have to lead. It’s not fair to lean on guys with half a dozen caps.

    • True that there are 11 men but it’s the special players that make the difference. For example, Botham in 81, Aus without McGrath in 2005, NZ with McCullough, Atherton v Donald and many more

      No, I don’t think those 3 are great. If they play enough tests, a good player ought to have lots of runs or wickets. If you look at averages or strike rates, you get a slightly different picture.

  • I’m not sure I’d call any of them ‘great’. Top players when conditions suit but all flawed when it comes to overseas.

    • It’s a bit churlish to say a bowler is only great if he can perform in all conditions. If conditions don’t suit a certain type of bowling, the bowler wont be as effective. Would you say the likes of Tom Cartwright wasn’t a great medium pacer because sometimes he wasn’t even selected to go to abroad. His art was peerless in it’s prime. No bowler in the world was as skilled as him in exploiting English conditions. Away from those conditions, where he was not as effective, he had to play his ‘B’ game of containment, and leave it to others to take the wickets. I choose Cartwright, as he had a similar predicament to Anderson’s. Yet I’d still call them both great any day of the week.

      • The containment of a really good medium pacer combined with a proper wicket keeper is something I think is missing from the modern game. I’m rather surprised that they haven’t made a comeback with 2020. Would you rather have a Chris Read or Bari behind the stumps if their pants batting averages didn’t matter that much?

        As for greats like Cartwright it amazes me that people who presumably have club cricket experience don’t rate them higher. How often does the idiot whistling balls around your ears go for loads and the 50 year old dibbly dobbler pick up all the wickets? Seems you either bowl 55 or 85 with little in between which doesn’t make much sense to me. Medium paced spinners being my particular achilles heel.

        • Look at the success Derek Underwood had in test, county and towards the end of his career even limited overs cricket. If the conditions didn’t favour spin he was always difficult to get after. Yet no one has come on the scene since then to emulate his style in the professional game. A strange one.

          • It is, but I think it’s partly down to club players having no idea how fast they bowl.

            It’s easy to work out roughly, either with a stopwatch or merely by recording a few balls on your mobile phone, though I get the impression no-one does.

            Spinners either aren’t taught at all or certainly aren’t taught when and where to up their pace and bowl cutters and drifters instead. Christ even the arm ball is seen as some sort of mystery delivery at a lot of levels.

            Consistency is seen as a virtue, and it is to an extent. Most spinners though live in constant fear of being taken off after one over where they either bowl badly or the bat merely plays well. This is definitely an English thing, that your job is to bowl the same delivery 6 times an over and preferably go for no runs. Because that is clearly what our Test captains want, it’s what people see on TV with only foreigners seemingly given the licence to mix it up.

            With the supposed dominance of heavy bats I’d think wily mediums and quicker spinners were the answer. It doesn’t appear that anyone agrees though. :)

  • Very surprised by those denouncing Cook, Anderson and Broad. They had some great victories with better teams. England had a good run and played some marvellous cricket. There is a mood of continuous moaning which afflicted the cricket writers in 2013 when we beat Australia 3 – 0 after some thrilling Tests. Somehow the writers had become jaded and they always hunt in a pack. T20 was the new thrill and Test cricket old hat. A lot to answer for. Underneath the Test scene this was rumbling on and did a lot to create false prophets. And in the end an ECB in its image. What went wrong next was like a parting of the waves and we haven’t recovered. What’s needed is to rediscover a love of the game and less ego. Social media is fuelling the lack of partisanship. Attacking your best players is surely a sign of misanthropy.

    • Better than blindly following the ecb and media line all the time. There is no doubting broad and Anderson are great when the wickets move or swing but when it’s tough is when you see the real players

  • Anderson will always be remembered as a great bowler whatever happens in this series. Although not great pace probably the best all round bowler in the world today. Broad has lost pace quite frankly. England went into this series with 3 players not fully fit: Moen, Ball and Woakes and have paid the price. You have to be 100% in Aussie to even look like winning. We were not prepared because English cricket is prioritising T20 and plays hardly any 4 day cricket in the prime summer months to slow batsman and bowlers to develop. Stoneman, Vince and Malan are inexperienced, that’s not their fault. BUT even more crucial is that our two best batsman, Cook and Root have not performed. If they don’t we’re probably doomed because we will never get enough runs on the board for our depleted bowling attack to prosper. At least bat Bairstow at 5, but although I’d rather not admit it, we don’t really deserve to win. Shame.

  • The problem with England selection has been there for decades. On the one hand sticking with a small group of players for a long time, pretty much irrespective of their performances, which breeds complacency. On the other hand trying to plug the gaps with a plethora of mediocrity, who happen to put together a few decent championship performances. There has never been, as far as I can see method in this madness. Maybe what we need is a test match scouting strategy to identify those with the necessary mental and technical material from an early age. This becomes the core of the England Lions outfit, who not only tour together but play 4 day matches against other counties at home. They are kept away from over exposure to the white ball game and learn to channel their talents to the longer format. This way they can worked on and planned for with a purpose and not just left to develop ‘convenient’ habits according to the county’s coaching strategy. Versatility being the name of the game here.
    This is just one idea, but you only have to look a the dirth of opening batsmen, fast bowlers and spinners to see the present system needs urgent surgery. I know the slow wickets don’t help, but we can’t change the weather. The obvious problem is there are no youngsters putting there names forward with match winning performances.
    If anyone has any other ideas as to how we foster a more effective approach, please lay your ideas out.

    • We have lots of fast bowlers but it’s all subjective.

      Gawd knows how much Virgin paid Usain Bolt but I’m pretty sure they could be persuaded to cough up a similar amount for the fastest bowler in England.

      Course this would require us knowing who it is. I remember a test match at Edgbaston where a tinternet company sponsored the speed gun, think it was Freeserve.

      Gough, White and, I think, Ealham really bent their backs as there was money at stake for the fastest ball. All ticked up over 90, I think partly due to it.

      I doubt Durex would be interested but….

      Imagine if the prize for the fastest ball was £100,000. And the prize for the fastest spell was similar or a corporate sponsorship… This is chicken feed in corporate terms though the infrastructure would have to be in place for it to happen. Speed sells.

      One suspects the only speed those within the ECB care about is the wait at the bar for a pink gin.

      Another thing is someone has to get the FEC’s to shut their whingeing gobs about young players. To be fair Botham never does negatively. We all quite like a curmudgeonly old fart every now and again but some of them just take the piss. Any English leg spinner just gives Atherton and Hussein a chance to chunter about how they were better ( lol!) and past players who quite liked a bit of genuine hell raising commenting on the very professional modern types is just embarrassing.

      Take Vaughan whingeing in the latest inside ashes episode.. Starts off by bragging about going to various vineyards then sits next to a table full of alcohol whining incessantly about England players having a beer whilst also recounting how much they drank on the 06/07 tour. Difficult to take anything he says seriously.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he made a few bob off writing columns for newspapers at the expense of Duckett’s career though why do we need this? What benefit does the English game accrue by having some washed up twat trying to get into the game long after they’ve retired? Helping or hindering Michael?

      It’s not all of them, in fact many are noticeably circumspect in their observations, one presumes out of common decency. Call me old fashioned by I judge players by what they do in the middle.

    • Sure could although it has a hint of BS about it in that some of the stuff they claim they could do would require both teams to cooperate.

      • Not necessarily..

        Cricket’s roots are founded on it’s gambling appeal.

        Provided a target is within reasonable bounds I’d think it entirely likely that a single batsman, or world cup winning allrounder, could ensure the score was hit.

      • By fast bowlers I mean someone who can bowl consistently quick, not just the odd ball. Anderson, Broad and Woakes can all bowl 90mph deliveries, but you wouldn’t call any of them genuine quickies.
        Just a quick take on the Duckett saga. It’s the fact that it was done in public, on the back of the Stokes incident and Bairstow silliness that frustrates. If you’re representing your country and employer abroad it does matter how you behave in public, especially if you’re looking down the proverbial barrel. Let your hair down in the privacy of your hotel if you must, but all the issues that were there beforehand will still be there afterwards. Does it change the big picture, NO! The solution to precisely nothing is found at the bottom of a bottle, and before you take me to task for being a prude, I like a drink myself, but not as a knee jerk to problems. Keep away from the stuff when you need to think clearly. The Aussies must be thinking they’ve only got to turn up to breeze this one.

        • “It’s the fact that it was done in public, on the back of the Stokes incident and Bairstow silliness that frustrates.”

          I understand your frustration but it wasn’t hacks or social media that brought this out. It was the ECB, apparently via their players security minders.

          Quite an own goal.

          • Whoever brought it out it was an accident waiting to happen. There’s enough touring experience in and around this squad to know better and set an example of how to avoid embarrassment, especially in Oz, the home of tabloid Murdoch.

  • Looking like 3 fast bowlers to nil at the moment. Some of it scatter gun except for the bouncers which are decidedly vicious..

    • Bloody good one too.

      Nice of the convicts to forget how to catch. And of Smith for forgetting he had a 5th bowler. Starc looked to be struggling a bit to me late on.

  • How good was Stoneman’s innings? He deserves a hymn written about him for withstanding that barrage. I am seriously impressed.

    • You realise if smith could actually capt stoneman should háve been caught out at gully and bat pad several times but for some random reason didn’t bother.

      Fair play for standing up to it and actually showing heart though

      Assie catching was woeful which shows that they aren’t a good team, just like England are t a good team

      • Do you know I hadn’t thought about that though it’s difficult to disagree with you.

        To me though it doesn’t take from Stoneman’s innings. You play the bowler and the field as you find it and when the field changes you change how you play. Something tells me that Stoneman faced up to something unworldly difficult before he was sawed off. Is he good or lucky? I don’t care. :)

        I can’t think of a good side that was good enough not to take their catches. In some ways this series is a bit of a display of mediocrity in certain areas but it’s the Ashes so makes it more compelling.

  • A bit harsh on Anderson? Especially considering his last 6 months record and the last match in particular?

  • 380-6 and I’m starting to worry again.

    Marvellous innings from Malan and Bairstow is still going strong but I don’t have much faith in Woakes.

    I don’t think 450 would be a good score on this wicket. As ever our set batsmen was Lyoned and I don’t see anything in our attack that can do a similar job. Hopefully I’ll be proved wrong…


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