If England are to have any chance of winning at Lord’s they need to find a way to get Steve Smith out.
Smith is laughing at the England bowlers and Joe Root’s captaincy tactics. He was quoted after Edgbaston saying “it’s like Christmas every day batting against England”.
He is right but a comment like that should be embarrassing for the England players and should really hurt them.
Bodyline was devised by Douglas Jardine for the Ashes series in Australia in 1932/33 to cut Don Bradman down to mortal size.
The guy kept making huge centuries and sometimes double and triple hundreds that made it easier for batsmen at the other end. Bradman played 37 Tests against England. Of these Australia won 17 and Bradman averaged 111.57 with 13 hundreds.
England beat Australia 11 times and in those matches Bradman averaged 45.45 with only two centuries. Jardine cut Bradman’s run scoring in half and won the series 4-1.
England have to do the same to Smith otherwise forget any talk of winning the Ashes.
Australia were able to make totals that demoralised the England bowlers and put the batsmen under scoreboard pressure. This is exactly what Smith did to England in Australia two years ago and in the first Test at Edgbaston.
It’s staring us in the face. Smith is an unconventional batsman, he may look odd and different but is a fantastic run-scorer. Nobody bats like him. Just before the bowler delivers the ball his back foot goes way across and outside off stump. His weight is on the back foot which should make him a candidate for LBW to a ball well pitched up.
But no, he plays it in the most amazing way ‘chest on ‘ in front of his pads absolutely the opposite to how we are taught to defend sideways on.
Bowling at an imaginary 4th or 5th stump in the corridor of uncertainty works against most batsmen but he is a good judge of what to leave. When he does occasionally play at a ball and misses he gets so far across that it’s difficult to bowl him out and if it hits him on the pads he can’t be out LBW because he is outside the line off stump playing a stroke.
Why not try bowling at the stumps with plenty of protection on the onside? If he misses then leg before and bowled come back into play.
Our seamers have yet to try bowling around the wicket to him. They are quick to go around the wicket to left handers and in fact prefer that mode of attack but not to Smith.
Graham Thorpe was a fine left handed bat for England. A sound technical player with an excellent record. Not a crash-bang-wallop type of batsman.
Yet when England had to bat all day at Edgbaston to save the match he is quoted as telling our guys to ‘play your normal game. Be positive. Keep the intent to score runs.’
That last day was about saving the match, not runs. I expected some common sense guidance from an ex-player who is now the England batting coach. The advice the players were given was rubbish.
He also said it was important to rotate the strike. Why? What about just staying in and occupying the crease? That would have saved the match.
It makes me angry and at the same time sad to hear he is giving our batsmen such advice. It’s as if the coaching staff and players have been sucked into believing there is only one way to bat. They say it’s the modern way. Us ex-players are old fashioned and the game has changed. We are out of date. Attack. Attack. Attack seems to be their idea. Kamikaze-style like the suicide fighters in the war.
Just because that way of batting lifted our one day team out of the doldrums to World Cup winners doesn’t mean it works in Test cricket.
Every batting team in the world tries to score quickly in white ball cricket so we have not come up with a different method. It just took England a long time to catch on, change and become the best at it.
The best three Test batsmen in the world are Smith, Kane Williamson and Virat Kohli. They have a sound defence, occupy the crease and don’t worry about scoring rates.
Rory Burns did it in the first innings at Edgbaston so what about more of our batsmen trying to bat like him for long periods? Make big hundreds that hurt the opposition. A Test match is over five days - it’s not a sprint.
Thorpe can start by telling our players to play to the situation of the game and bat long periods like Smith. If England keep batting like lemmings falling over a cliff then we are all in for a dreadful Ashes series. If it ain’t working then it’s time to change or some of the batsmen and some of the coaches need to go.