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.