A couple of pre-Perth thoughts…
You can’t remove a side’s most economical bowler without it having an impact. Stuart Broad may have only taken two wickets @80 in the series but his loss is significant – he went at 2.30 an over in those first two games – lower than any other bowler in the series. An example of Broad’s importance was the second innings at Adelaide, when Katich and Watson set on Jimmy Anderson in the pre-lunch session, taking him for 35 off five overs. Broad was at the other end bowling a spell of 8-3-11-0, ensuring that Australia’s flier remained within reason.
If Chris Tremlett replaces him, it will be a long overdue recall for a man who really troubled India when he helped lead the attack in 2007. He must get his length right, and bowl full enough to make the batsmen troubled by his bounce while on the front foot. Observers of Surrey’s games last season have mentioned Tremlett’s tendency to struggle with line to the left-handers.
If Tremlett doesn’t, then will he ever get another England chance? Tim Bresnan may be the more admirable character and all round cricketer, but there is no way that he is a more threatening bowler on this surface, however many hours he can run into the Freemantle Doctor for.
Australia’s treatment of Nathan Hauritz just gets odder and odder. Given Hauritz’s Australia performances last home summer and his excellent recent form, it must come down to an issue of personality. Looking back to the Oval Test of 2009 when Hauritz mysteriously failed to feature on a turning pitch, the evidence is there that the Australian selectors and Ricky Ponting feel that Hauritz can’t be relied on in an Ashes battle.
Why not Shaun Tait? Australia will line up with seven potential bowlers tomorrow – Watson, Clarke (injury permitting), Smith, Hilfenhaus, Harris and two of Johnson, Siddle and Beer. If ever there was a time to use Shaun Tait it is now, when they could get away with him bowling 10 overs a day maximum, exploiting his breakneck speed with the new ball and at times when a wicket was really needed.
How will the WAGS affect things? Jimmy Anderson has a right to be knackered after all that flying, but KP may now be on even better form now that his ‘little man’ is in town. It is interesting to imagine how families interfere with team dynamics – Pietersen has tweeted regularly counting down the arrival of his family, and was tweeting pictures of the rain from his Adelaide hotel room at the time when Paul Collingwood was being cheered by team-mates as he dived on a soaked Adelaide Oval in the hours following victory.
Australia have a chance here. It goes beyond not having lost to England here since time began. England were so good in Adelaide, so clinical, that it was unbelievable. You have to be an exceptional team to perform like that twice in a row, and maybe England aren’t quite at that level yet. Add in the little factors – Jimmy’s flight home, Broady’s abdominal muscle, the WAGS, the distraction of the Melbourne warm-up – and it might just take the 20% off England’s game that will enable Australia to get up near them if they can make a big first innings score. That’s a big if.