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Geoffrey Boycott column: England rookies need to grow up fast

Australia’s fast bowling resources to make a difference

By Geoffrey Boycott
15:34 November 28, 2017
Mark Stoneman

England had opportunities to win this Test but, frankly, were not good enough to drive home their advantage. In the first innings, the three newcomers to Ashes cricket — James Vince, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan — played well and with great patience and concentration to score half-centuries, but did not have the experience or maturity to go on to score a hundred or more.
 They did not get out on purpose and the pressure was enormous, but scoring a half-century in the first innings — although it is a lovely milestone — does not win Tests. Somebody had to make a hundred, like Steve Smith did, with a match-winning innings. Stoneman and Malan probably relaxed a little and looked to play more shots. Trying to score quicker was their downfall as the slow pitch demanded the same careful, grafting, patient, over-my-dead-body batting, throughout the innings. Nobody scored fast on this surface, and Smith batted for eight hours.
 Unfortunately, Vince ran himself out. It happens. If one of those three had made a big hundred, 302 all out would have been 400, which would have been huge on this slow surface. When Australia were in trouble, Smith had the talent, experience and know-how to keep working.
 He never changed his game once. England could not get him out of his comfort zone. They tried bowling wide outside off stump but he was not tempted and he let every ball go. England tried bouncing him but he did not take on the challenge. He got back and across and stayed there and just wore the England bowlers down. England bowled too short and never made him drive off the front foot through extra cover. Not once. Wow. They should have teased him with full, wide, tempting, drivable balls. Better to go for a few extra runs but get him out.

On the third morning, while England waited for the new ball, they were excellent, with inventive and unusual field placings that stifled the Aussie run-rate. When James Anderson and Stuart Broad got hold of the new ball, as ever, they were superb and took a wicket each. 
 It carried on in the second innings. David Warner got himself out to short midwicket in the first innings trying to shovel a length ball. Yet in the second innings, we did not have a fielder in that position once. He actually got out twice like that in England in 2015.
 In nearly every Test I have seen, there have been opportunities for both teams to win. But you have to be clever enough to sense the moment and grasp it. Root missed that chance.
 It is obvious to any cricket lover that it is going to be very hard work for England to take 20 wickets with this attack. We have two top-class seamers but the three other bowlers look very ordinary.
 Our English-type seam attack functions well when there is swing and seam. We have no pace. The Kookaburra ball does not do much, and when it does, it does not do it for long because of the bare, grassless Aussie pitches.
 Ball and Woakes do not look at all threatening and Moeen Ali’s bowling has been a huge disappointment. There are not many revs on the ball, he is not getting any bounce, there is no guile or flight. There is no zip in his bowling. He is not creating any difficulties, even though there is rough, particularly against the left-handed batsmen.
 Perhaps it is a lack of bowling because of his side strain, which limited him in the warm-up games, or the cut to his spinning finger that developed in the first innings. Perhaps it was the pressure of the situation. Moeen, Ball and Woakes will have to up their games or England will have no chance. We cannot be totally dependent on two bowlers. Australia’s four-man attack looks far more potent that England’s.
 I would also like to see Jonny Bairstow bat at six. When Ben Stokes is in the team Bairstow bats at seven, ahead of Moeen. How come when Stokes is not playing, it is the other way round? It does not make sense. They say he bats well with the tail but it is a waste of a top player.
 England will have to accept that, because Australia have Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, each batsman will face their fair share of short stuff.
 I do not care whether you duck or hook. But you cannot afford to hook upwards because you will be out, so you have to hook down or get out of the way. If you keep hooking, you will get more short balls because it gets wickets. Bowling bouncers is hard work. If you duck and weave and evade the ball, it saps their strength.
 There will be quicker pitches than this, so hooking will become even more dangerous. The tail-enders are going to get plenty and, if they are going to make any runs at all, they are going to have to be better at evading the short ball and defending it. They are not good enough to score off it. It is hard enough for batsmen, let alone tail-enders, to do that.
 It is the difference between their attack and England’s. When the Kookaburra loses its initial shine, it becomes soft and that is where pace comes in. With fast-medium bowlers, we do not have the pace to fight a bouncer war. It is why Australia have that extra dimension.

— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2017