My paper today is very simple. I won’t beat around the bush in Australia. The days of understatement and beautiful language are long gone.
England lost 0-2 to the Ashes. The series may disappear within the next three to five days. A big reason is that our big names haven’t come to the party yet. In fact, the only party they attended ended up spilling wine all over the place.
So I’m a little bit off on James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Alastair Cook. As for the three, I have sand in my panties and the only thing that can clear it is the main show at WACA.
As fans, we’re constantly told that Cook, Broad and Anderson are great players – or at least great players in England. But statistics don’t make a player great; winning key games and surviving difficult conditions is what makes a player special.
Now I don’t want to say the obvious, but conditions in Perth can be very tough; so this is a fantastic opportunity for our big names to make career-defining contributions. Trailing 2-0, the side were staring at another whitewashed game and under pressure from their own board and Australia’s world-class bowling attack.
When the time comes, the captains of England will come. If Cook, Anderson and Broad are remembered as great cricketers – and not just cricketers who excelled at home or under favorable conditions – then they now have to prove it.
If England went down without warning and lost this friendly, with our big three throwing everything into the balance, then perhaps they should be remembered as handy cricketers rather than champions. Will Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne be remembered if they barely score or win a wicket in England?
In my opinion, Jimmy Anderson is the most skilled of our Big Three. He hasn’t had a great track record overseas, but he’s a very good all-around bowler. However, if he is to be remembered as a true England star, all he needs to do is improve his record in Australia and win us a few games. He was very consistent in 2010/11 but didn’t score a fifth. Now is the time to solidify his legacy
Broad is clearly another good bowler. But is he much better than Angus Fraser or Andy Kadic? My gut feeling is to say “maybe, but probably not”. He just played longer. In fact, one could argue that Anderson and Broad aren’t much better starting duos than Gauff and Katic — especially abroad.
We all know what Broad did at Bridge to Trent in 2015. But that’s a green top. Darren Stevens probably picked up a couple of wickets that day. Now is the time for Broad to stir up some canary feathers in his own backyard and show off his world-class credentials.
Finally we come to Cook. I’m not sure any player considered great would be more divisive. My personal take is that Cook has been a very good but somewhat limited and overrated hitter — mostly because he rarely scores in good offense or Test conditions.
When it comes to exploiting a featherbed or beating limited opponents two days in a row, no one does it better than Alastair. It was no coincidence that his only prolific Ashes streak came when Hilfenhaus and Siddle turned on bowling (Ryan Harris was in and out in 2010/11 and was semi-fit). Aside from his lone big winning streak seven years ago, Cook’s Ashes record has been mediocre to say the least. You shouldn’t be remembered as a big British hitter unless you have a solid record in the most important series: the Ashes.
It’s time for Alastair to prove he’s not Flat Track (or dead Asian trash can) Charlie. While pundits expect the Perth Stadium to be a very good batting ground, 100 games against Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Lyon will not damage Cook’s legacy. He once scored a century against Dale Steyn in South Africa, but that was almost a decade ago. Time to reopen it and prove he can mix it up with the best. A double hundred against the West Indies was nothing.
While England need all XI players to play their part at WACA, I can’t help but think this is our most important Test match in a while. Not only was the fate of the tour at stake, but her entire career was at stake.
With Mark Wood unlikely to take a risk, England can only mend by moving Bairstow to sixth. It won’t make a huge difference. However, what can turn the tide is Anderson’s five mana, a devastating Brod spell, or a brave Cook hundred.
So come on guys your country needs you.