Are we seeing the Asification or possibly the McGrathization of Test bowling?
In analysing the factors that he thinks led to the ‘boring draw’ at Brisbane, here, Peter Roebuck, moves on from considering the effect of the pace of the Gabba pitch – ‘the slowest seen in 25years’ – to examine a view attributed to the ‘Ancients’ looking on from the boundary that ‘the standard of bowling in Test cricket has fallen to its lowest level in living memory’.
PMR believes that the England ‘think tank’ has concluded that contemporary Australian bowlers (and not exclusively Johnson) have depended on batsmen playing at deliveries that could be left alone. To help him make his point, Third Man offers an example Glenn McGrath pitch map with the caution; Beware Sideways Movement:
So, the team that Roebuck waspishly if accurately describes as ‘bearing the name England’ has disciplined itself to leave such temptations alone.
He then explains that Australia, ‘from Watson onwards’, knowing that England was relying on four bowlers, set out to wear them down. Turgid stuff, as the slow runs per over rates for all but Finn substantiate.
But are the Ancients right about the quality? There are some poor bowlers, but maybe they are missing how good the better ones really are.
The things that surprised Third Man about the English bowling at Brisbane and today in Adelaide were the length of the run-ups now employed by Anderson, Broad and Finn, and the speeds that they are bowling at.
The approaches may be carefully designed to preserve energy and optimize performance through a long hot day. They may also be the best at guaranteeing balance in the delivery. The speed of the bowling they permit may also be optimal for swing – that is for the very late swing that brings just sufficient movement immediately prior to pitching that produces the sideways movement that can ruin a batsman’s calculation of the contact point by precisely the width of half a bat.
It was not so long ago that the accepted wisdom was that Tests were won by 90mph bowlers with the ability to get the ball to ‘reverse’ as soon as possible, producing dramatic late swing.
We may therefore be seeing a significant and deliberate change in bowling tactics as a reaction to developments in batting and not a durth of Test class bowlers.
What have been the average speeds of England’s opening bowlers on Day One at Adelaide? Unscientifically, Third Man would guess 82mph for Anderson and 84 for Broad. At Brisbane, Siddle bowled at a similar pace. Hilfenhaus somewhat slower. And Johnson for whatever reason not much quicker.
It was only in the final over of today’s play that Sky’s radar came up red for a 90 mph delivery from Harris.
All this does not undermine the points made by Roebuck – they could add further explanation -but it does challenge the view of the ‘Ancients’.
Let’s face it, those same old buffers were the last to understand the recent change in spin bowling tactics. They could be wrong about what bowlers are trying to do these days.
Have these bowlers and their coaches registered the impact of Asif – who did well in Australia as well as in England – and altered the model they use? Were Ponting and Clark dismissed by very high quality balls that would have embarrassed many an old time batsman?
Have the bowlers had a long look at Glenn McGrath and Asif and said, ‘We should do that’?