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The case for the Five-man Band

The case for the Five-man Band

So I’ve mostly been frustrated this week. And being English, it’s a successful England side that’s got me worried.

England’s reserve bowlers have gone up against an ordinary Victorian lineup that, outside of David “what-did-he-punch-out-Hilditch’s-wife-or-something” Hussey, has no real top drawer batsmen to give them much grief. It was never that likely to be a result in three days, but England ended up having to save the draw after an overall disappointing display.

Many will point to the top order failing on the third day as the most worrying point. I won’t. For one thing, the batting was bound to have a bad day at some point – better now than in a Test. For another, it was mainly reserve or out of position batsman trying to force a result against the clock. Annoying, yes. But worrying?

No, what I’m worried about is that England’s three backup seamers, who had dismissed Australia A without issue, only took one wicket between them the entire match. This was, I am told, thanks to a pitch so flat that if it were a cap, it would be halfway down a mine just outside Scarborough. Now this is what worries me.

All throughout this tour, there has been as much life in the Aussie wickets as there has been long-term promise in Xavier Doherty’s career. Australian bowlers have toiled to no avail. England have conceded to big partnerships against Mike Hussey, and for lengthy sessions at Brisbane and Adelaide have wilted. If it weren’t for the Australian’s new penchant for collapsing – and a couple of stunning new-ball efforts from Anderson – this series would still be all square. England’s bowling quartet have done well, but they’ve had their share of problems

So this brings us to Perth. We’ve been told that the WACA has its old bounce to it and it’s much less likely to be a draw than Adelaide. I remain unconvinced. The Aussies may have been playing with some greenery in shield cricket but we always get a belting wicket for Tests. Remember what they said last month about the Gabba greentop? 517-1. Over the last 10 years, wickets at the WACA have come just as expensive as those around the country.

Australia will not let go of the Ashes without a fight. They’ve hit rock bottom at Adelaide and will come back hard. They’ve rung the changes, brought some freshness to the batting, and while Michael Beer may be a – politely speaking – odd selection, the only way they can go from here is up. On these kinds of pitches merely competent batting could result in long, hard sessions in the field.

They’ve already lost Stuart Broad to injury, and much more of the heat and work could be too much for another. Imagine what it’d be like if they lose another of a four-man attack halfway through the innings. Imagine if it happens just when Finn, inconsistent bowler he is, loses his length and the ball isn’t moving for Jimmy. Who do they turn to? Collingwood and Trott? Ugh.

Tim Bresnan, meanwhile, has been a fixture of the limited-overs side for some time. To be honest, I’m not sure why. One-day bowling requires variety of length, changes of pace, and other facets Tim doesn’t really have. He is an old-fashioned Headingley seamer, sending down consistent line-and-length Hoggardly trundleswing. Is it any wonder that he can lose it when asked him to bowl at the death with leg-stump yorkers and slower-ball-bouncers?

Of course, you can see where this is going. I’m backing Bressie. He’s far from the most talented bowler in the world and I wouldn’t have him in a four-man attack either. But in a five-man attack Bresnan can do the hard yards. Too much he is described as “honest” or “hard-working” as euphamisms – he is a quality cricketer, and will bring useful batting and bowling to the table. With multiple first-class centuries despite only a few full seasons, he is worthy of the #7 position, just as Prior has shown his capabilitaty #6.

So our band has Jimmy, as the lead vocals and songwriter. The poster boy, the man who’s always been leading this thing.

Then we’ve Swanny on lead guitar. The fan’s favourite, does his bit most of the time but really swaggers around when it’s time for the solo.

Steven Finn has the bass. The band’s new member, he doesn’t attract as many plaudits, despite his vital role. Maybe he’ll have more input on the next album.

Chris Tremlett is on keyboards. Not everyone is convinced he should be there, but you never know, he could pull off something really special.

And finally, we have Tim Bresnan on the drums. Solid in the backghround, and keeping the rest of the band in time together.

So It’s my belief that England would do well to play all the men at their disposal and go in with the full five. I know, I know, it’ll never happen. But I really want to see the five-man band take the stage.

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