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England coach hints at selection blunder

ESPNcricinfo staff
December 13, 2013 « Froome recovers from four-year parasitic illness | Chartbeat test »
England's failure to maintain steady pressure attacking the Perth wicket on the opening day of the third Ashes Test hasn't impressed bowling coach David Saker

England bowling coach David Saker insists the visitors "let it slip" on the opening day of the third Ashes Test at the Waca, making little effort to reject the notion their selection might have been mistaken.

England brought three giant fast bowlers to Australia with the pace and bounce available in Perth very much in mind, but Boyd Rankin, Steve Finn and Chris Tremlett have all failed to press their claims for selection during the tour and all sat out the game as Australia amassed 6 for 326.

"We assess things all the time and try to make sure we get selection right," Saker said. "Like everything, we make mistakes, like cricketers make mistakes.

"We could have made a mistake this game, but I'm sure if our bowlers bowled to their capabilities we wouldn't have got it wrong. We picked the side we thought would get 20 wickets and I still think we can."

Australia had slipped to 5 for 143 on an excellent batting surface before Steve Smith and Brad Haddin took the game away from England with a sixth-wicket stand of 124. It left England's Ashes hopes hanging by a thread. Two-nil down with three games to play, England are going to have to produce their best batting performance for many months if they are to avoid defeat.

While Smith and Haddin deserve credit for their batting, the cause of Saker's "disappointment" - a word he repeated seven times in his post-play media conference - was the self-inflicted nature of England's injuries.

Saker advises Anderson: 'Don't panic'

  • David Saker admitted James Anderson's record since the Trent Bridge Test in July had been "disappointing" but backed the bowler to rediscover his wicket-taking form soon.
  • Anderson has claimed only 17 wickets at an average of 45.94 in the subsequent six-and-a-half Tests since the middle of July, with Saker urging him to "just do what you do really well."
  • England's bowling coach said: "He bowled some fantastic spells this series and he bowled some good spells after Trent Bridge as well. He just needs to get some wickets. For all our bowlers it's just about doing what they do really well. Don't go searching for wickets, don't panic, just do what you do really well.
  • "Jimmy's a really skilful bowler. The ball hasn't swung as much to be fair over here than I thought it would. But I still think he's bowling some good spells."

"We let it slip," Saker admitted. "And probably not for the first time this series. We had them on the ropes and we didn't finish the job. It's partly down to the way they played with the bat, but we also didn't deliver what we should have delivered today.

"We pride ourselves on being able to hold lengths and hold good areas, bringing the batsmen forward and always making it hard for the opposition to score. It's always hard in Perth to stop teams scoring because it's a fast outfield and a good place to play your shots. We found it really hard to do that. It can be disappointing when you plan these things, but we didn't do it right.

"It's disappointing we can't finish teams off. We've usually good a good record that way and, other than today, I don't think we've done too much wrong at that stage.

"But today we mixed our lengths and went to the short ball too much. We didn't hold our lengths for long enough to put pressure on them. We know that. We're not going to shy away from that. There are some disappointed bowlers in there and a disappointed bowling coach."

England's bowlers have, by and large, performed admirably this series. They reduced Australia to 6 for 132 in the first innings in Brisbane and, had Michael Carberrry taken a simple catch to dismiss Brad Haddin, would have had Australia 6 for 266 in Adelaide.

Any weakness has tended to come in the second innings when they have been forced back into action without adequate rest and with Australia's batsmen enjoying the freedom of an enviable match situation to play aggressively. But here, perhaps as a result of England's desperate position in the series, the cracks began to show.

"The disappointing thing today is we did chase wickets," Saker said. "And that's probably one of the first times we've done that as a group for as long as I've been in charge. That was a little bit disappointing.

"We didn't bowl the areas we would have liked, but we had a chance to put some really good pressure on and we didn't take that. To be fair we probably bowled a little too short. We drilled into the group not to do that but we probably got a bit excited and that's not good enough."

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