Australia were sniffing a Test match win which would have sealed the Ashes in their favour at Perth. With tailenders left to fend for themselves in front of a menacing seam attack, Australian bowlers banged in short balls into the body, into their face and unluckily for James Anderson, the last-man in, one struck him on the helmet at Perth and left him with a “slightly sore jaw for a couple of days”. The physio quickly came out to tend to the England seamer who was clearly jarred for a good five minutes before play could resume once again on the fifth and final day of third Test. However, Anderson opting to play on didn’t change the eventual result – a loss for England by an innings and 41 runs. It did raise question marks over England’s ability, or lack of, in facing bouncers.
“I have actually chatted to the umpires about it during this series and they say at Test level you should be able to handle short balls. That is a clear message to get in the nets and practice against bouncers,” Anderson wrote in a column for UK newspaper The Telegraph. “I was not quizzing the umpires or asking them to stop it happening. I was just interested in their opinion. I guess we just need to get better at playing them. I have no problem with that. It is part and parcel of the game. When I was hit on the side of the head it was the first ball of my innings and I just did not get into a great position to play the shot.”
England won’t have to face the menacing bowling of Mitchell Starc who has been ruled out of the fourth Test, to start on Boxing Day, with a foot injury. The left-arm seamer said there won’t be any let up in Australia’s tactics while former England captain Mike Atherton called on umpires to better enforce the laws on intimidatory bowling during the Ashes.
“It’s Test match cricket, isn’t it?” Starc said in response to Atherton’s column. “I’m pretty sure our guys have copped enough bouncers and we haven’t whinged about it yet. As far as I know, our bowlers will keep bouncing their batters. The plan to the tail has always been the same: be very aggressive, bowl fast, get up in their nose and have them jumping around. We’re pretty happy with how our plans are going … and hopefully by the end of the week it’s four-nil.”
Fellow quick Pat Cummins, who struck Anderson with the lethal delivery, agreed with his seam partner. “We think that’s our best chance of getting them out,” Cummins said. “They’re all pretty competent batters. Stuart Broad’s got a Test match hundred and Anderson’s got an 80-odd. We know we’re going to cop it as well so we spend lots of time in the nets working on it. I’ve copped about 50 so far this series so we get back as much as we dish out.”
Anderson believes that England have delivered their fair share of bouncers to Australian tailenders and to other teams also. Though, he called for umpires to step in only when the batsman is incapable of coping with them. “We have bounced tailenders in this series and at other teams,” he wrote in the column. “The only time I think umpires should step in is if it is clear that a player cannot cope with them. Then the umpires should step in more. We know it will not stop in this series and playing the short ball better is one challenge for the final two Tests when we need to show some pride and prove to people we are not a walkover as a team.”
With the series done and dusted, England only have pride at stake with the Aussies already reclaiming the Ashes. The next target would be to avoid a series whitewash – for which, Anderson believes, changes are not the way to go. “The series has been closer than the scoreline looks. We feel like we have played some good cricket at times and want to give a fair reflection of ourselves by producing that form across a whole match,” Anderson wrote.
“It is also important we start trying to build towards the next Ashes series in 18 months, correct the things that have gone wrong this series so far and improve on what we have done well. I don’t see trying to blood a few players in the next few weeks and potentially losing 5-0 is the way to go. We want to restore pride and dignity and you do that by playing our strongest XI,” he concluded.
The fourth Test will begin on December 26 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) with the fifth and final Test at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) from January 4.+