Kolkata: It’s turning out to be a bitter Christmas for England, down 2-0 in the ongoing Ashes series, as they face a Herculean task of rallying back in the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne.
James Anderson, England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker and Test captain Joe Root were clearly not the same page on the reasons behind their defeat in the second Test in Adelaide with the captain saying his bowlers must be braver with their lengths in the third Test while Anderson blamed the batsmen for not doing enough so far. Root said after the loss at Adelaide Oval that his seamers should have bowled fuller lengths, but Anderson said in his column that their batters did not do well enough on one of the ‘’flattest’’ surfaces the venue has ever produced.
“It’s not about singling players out, or trying to put the blame on one group, collectively we weren’t good enough,” Root said at the customary press conference on Friday at the MCG.
“I was asked some direct questions after the game and I answered them. If you’d asked me about our batting, I’d have said something very similar. That’s just where we are at, as a team.” The England captain, however, stood his ground on the subject of bowling for the upcoming Melbourne Test. “(We need) to be able to create pressure by keeping the scoreboard quiet, but also be brave enough to hit the lengths that are going to take you wickets and create chances,” he said.
The pressure is clearly mounting on England to buck the trend Down Under in their contest with the arch rivals - as they would only be the third England team in 42 years to win an Ashes series in Australia. Incidentally, only Anderson and Stuart Broad from the squad that won 3-1 Down Under in the winter of 2010-11. Before that, it was Mike Gatting’s team, who in the famous words of the late great Martin Johnson “can’t bat, can’t bowl and can’t field”, defied the predictions to emerge victorious in 1986-87.
We have to be better at assessing it during a game. We can’t just go after the game, ‘we should have bowled fuller’... We have to be a bit more proactive at that too as a whole group
Root said there was no problem in the squad as a result of his comments and that he was looking for improvement from the whole team in Melbourne. “Every now and again you have an off week and as a team you are not quite there,” he said.
Anderson, in his column, said the side had to improve with the bat after being bowled out for 236 and 192 at Adelaide Oval. The tourists did not fare much better in the opener, bowled out for 147 and 297 at the Gabba.
“We did not bat well enough on a pitch where the data said it was one of the flattest Adelaide surfaces ever produced and the pink ball did the least it has ever done in a day-night game,” the 39-year-old wrote in his column for The Telegraph.
“From a bowlers’ point of view you want to be hitting the right lengths all the time. We did our best on the first two days to do that ... Maybe we could have gone a touch fuller at times but we still created quite a few chances that were not taken.
“We have to be better at assessing it during a game. We can’t just go after the game, ‘we should have bowled fuller’... We have to be a bit more proactive at that too as a whole group,” said Anderson.
The heat is certainly on England - and it’s not going to get any easier for them in the cavernous MCG in two days’ time.
- With inputs from agencies