Delivering the Ashes
They're both raring to go - but which bowling unit will come out on top?
England's attack has a crucial role to play in defence of the urn. But how does it stack up to Australia's? We asked Bob Willis...
James Anderson: Experience of bowling in Australia is a definite plus - he got some under his belt in 2006/07 and has started this tour particularly well. His problems will begin, though, if the ball doesn't swing as he found out four years ago when his five wickets came at over 80 runs each. He's a much better, more complete bowler now though and has gained confidence from leading England's attack for a couple of years. He seems to have shaken off his injury worries too. THREAT FACTOR: 7/10
Stuart Broad: He doesn't have the experience of bowling in Australia that Anderson does, but his faster pace is potentially more effective. He will go for runs, that's a given, but he is also very capable of bowling a lot of wicket-taking deliveries - probably more than Anderson - and his batting down the order will be a major asset too. THREAT FACTOR: 7/10
Steven Finn: He's the youngster wet between the ears who has been thrown in at the deep end - much like myself 40 years ago, but he's a much more mature bowler than I was at the age of 21. He may not be an out-and-out tearaway quick but the brilliance of Glenn McGrath has shown us that you don't have to be express to be a top-class Test match bowler. Finn's height and action are well-suited to Australian conditions and he will grow into the job. He has the potential to be the strike force of England's bowling attack for many years to come. He'll have to work hard on his stamina because five Test matches in six weeks on usually pretty flat decks will be hard work but he does have that extra super ingredient. THREAT FACTOR: 8/10
Graeme Swann: Unlike the Aussies, who seem completely at a loss about who to pick as their No 1 spinner, Swann is England's trump card and that gives them a huge advantage going into the Ashes. I'm really looking forward to the likes of Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting trying to attack Swann by using their feet - that's the first instinct of the Aussie batsmen. Swann has been up to any challenge that has come his way so far - he's been able to contain and get out the best players going. He's a tremendous asset for Strauss to have. THREAT FACTOR: 9/10
Paul Collingwood: He seems to be more effective bowling his little cutters than genuine seam up; if England's front four bowl 80 overs between them in a day then I imagine Collingwood will be the first player Strauss will turn to for the other 10. He can bowl accurately but won't set any pulses racing. THREAT FACTOR: 4/10
Chris Tremlett: He got on the tour by catching the selectors' eye mid-to-late season, bowling on flat decks at the Oval. When he is fit and his mind is in the right place - as it was against Australia A - he is potentially a very strong candidate because of the extra bounce that he can get. Moving from Hampshire has done him the power of good and since he's shaken off his early-season injuries he seems able to take the physical side on board. If one of the front-liners got injured, he will be the first one England turn to. THREAT FACTOR: 7/10
Tim Bresnan: He out-bowled the others in Bangladesh but - a bit like when England took Robin Jackman in 1982/83 - you can't really see him being a particularly penetrative bowler in Aussie conditions. He's undoubtedly a hard-worker and his batting is a bit of a bonus down the order but I can't see him as a wicket-taking force in Australia. THREAT FACTOR: 6/10
Ajmal Shahzad: He's never let anybody down but doesn't quite have the variety of a Tremlett or Finn in terms of getting really high bounce from a good length; he tends to skid the ball on more. I'd have thought he's a little bit straight up and down for Aussie conditions with a Kookaburra ball. THREAT FACTOR: 6/10
Monty Panesar: I don't think England will have the courage to play two spinners on this tour because they'd have to leave a batsman out to do so. That said, Shane Warne told me at the back-end of our summer that Adelaide might spin late on as much as Sydney does, so that may be something for England to think about. If, God forbid, anything did happen to Swann, Panesar wouldn't let anybody down. He too has benefitted from a change of county, bowling on good batting tracks at Hove without all of the distractions of the shortest form of the game to worry about. He's still a pretty handy bowler. THREAT FACTOR: 7/10
Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen: Either could chip in with a few overs but I doubt we'll see 20 in the series between them. THREAT FACTOR: 4/10
THREAT FACTOR TOTAL: 65/100
Mitchell Johnson: The most dangerous of Australia's bowlers. He's like a fine red wine - he doesn't travel well and looks embarrassingly bad at times away from Australia's shores but his superb record at home is not to be trifled with. He loves the Kookaburra ball and the more resilient pitches. He's prepared to give away four runs an over in the quest of taking wickets and he bowls plenty of wicket-taking deliveries too. He also prepared to bounce batsmen for sustained periods of time if necessary. THREAT FACTOR: 8/10
Ben Hilfenhaus: He's a very hard worker who bowls few loose balls so if there is anything in the air for him his late swing will trouble the batsmen. But he'll have the same problems as Anderson if the ball doesn't move and he's not going to trouble anybody with pace. THREAT FACTOR: 7/10
Peter Siddle: Everybody seems to rate him apart from me! I see him as a 'I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down' type of bowler. He gives the impression that he is a quick bowler who will terrorise batsmen but I haven't seen anything to substantiate that feeling. He had a pretty good tour of England in 2009 but he can go for runs. I know the Aussies like him and may well throw him in before Bollinger or even Hilfenhaus but he's the weakest bowler in their quartet of quicks for me. THREAT FACTOR: 6/10
Doug Bollinger: Another left-armer who doesn't travel well - both he and Johnson looked very ordinary against Pakistan in England - but he does seem able to turn it on in Australia. He's lively and usually has good control but there's not a lot there pace-wise to worry top-order batsmen unduly. To me he's an honest trier - a good Shield or county bowler. It's between him and Siddle for 12th man at Brisbane, for me. THREAT FACTOR: 7/10
Nathan Hauritz: He's been off the boil for a while now but somehow is still the man in possession. The fact that Ponting and the selectors didn't pick him for the Oval Test on the biggest turner we've seen in England for some time shows what little faith they have in him. If they did have as much confidence in him as they say, why have the selectors named two other spinners in their squad for the first Test? They clearly have severe reservations about him and while they appear willing to give him a chance at the start of the series, he'll have to prove he is more than ordinary early on. THREAT FACTOR: 5/10
Shane Watson: He was the leading wicket-taker in Australia's two-Test series against Pakistan this summer, but in Australian conditions he's just a change bowler. He will bowl the odd wicket-taking delivery but there will be plenty of half-volleys too. England should cash in if he comes on to bowl. His priority will be opening the batting. THREAT FACTOR: 5/10
Marcus North: Ponting gave him the responsibility of bowling the last over in the Test match at Cardiff in 2009 for some reason but he's a steady rather than an exciting off-spinner. He's got more control than the likes of Pietersen and should get the nod ahead of Michael Clarke and Simon Katich, who hardly bowl at all now even though they have both taken Test wickets in the past. THREAT FACTOR: 5/10
Ryan Harris: If he can stay fit, he has the potential of going up a rung above the likes of Hilfenhaus, Bollinger and Siddle. He's not in the first flush of youth but he can be a very handy bowler and the selectors might just take a gamble on him and throw him in at some point. I rate him quite highly. THREAT FACTOR: 7/10
Xavier Doherty: At the moment he's more suited to a holding role in one-day cricket - a rich man's Nicky Boje, if you like. It's good to see Australia giving a young guy some encouragement, though. He fielded very well against Sri Lanka in the one-dayers even if his bowling wasn't anything special. THREAT FACTOR: 6/10
Steven Smith: I'd put him on a par with Adil Rashid at the moment. He's got plenty of potential but it takes a long time to learn the art of leg-breaks, googlies and top-spinners. He's only on the first rung of the ladder there. THREAT FACTOR: 6/10
THREAT FACTOR TOTAL: 62/100
So England's bowling edges the battle in Bob's view, but do you agree? Let us know by filling out the feedback form below...
Remember that you can follow the Ashes wherever you are - on skysports.com, Sky Sports HD1, Sky Player and Sky Mobile.
The first Test gets underway at 11pm on Wednesday November 24 on Sky Sports HD1. Before then you can watch England's four-day warm-up clash against Australia A on Tuesday November 16. Coverage begins on Sky Sports 1 from 11pm.
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Andy Hawthorn says...
Oh Bob. One day in to the series, and you've been shut down by a woodchopper who is all huff and puff. Seems that bowling with the Kookaburra is about working hard and hitting the pitch hard. Something the Aussies have always had over us.
Posted 08:53 25th November 2010
Andrew Cole says...
As usual Bob Willis shows that he has no idea about any other team than England. Siddle is a very good bowler in Australia, I hope soon that he can adapt to other conditions when Australia play away
Posted 08:08 25th November 2010
Mike W says...
Hey Bob, What is that about Siddle? Because from where I am sitting, he just took a hat-trick on day one!!!
Posted 06:20 25th November 2010
Kai Everill says...
Facts and Figures never lie....Kevin Pieterson should not be dropped!!against Australia he averages over 50 and his overall career average is 47.second best in the team behind Trott..Who do we replace him with??Who apart from Collingwood has won 2 ashes series and a world cup?Also it is believed that Pieterson hasnt scored the runs to keep his place in the team.So why is Ian Bell playing against Australia?hes never scored any runs of any meaning against Australia and again when it really matters Ian Bell will continue to fail...
Posted 01:51 23rd November 2010
Gopalakrishna N says...
We know the difference between the two teams is actually Swann and swann only! In fact even in India, Swann would give the edge for England. Wonderful bowler. Having said that, we also know that Jimmy is not a good traveller, we saw that in India in 2009 as well. I feel that Broad/Jimmy/Finn combo have not played anywhere in flat wickets. OZ land is no more what it once was, pretty much flat pitches now a days. And how will they counter the heat? All these are going to decide the ashes. And johnson has already got a fiver in his last shield match. May be he is peaking at the right time.. I would support you guys, the English though because I work for the oldest English bank in the world :)
Posted 01:20 23rd November 2010
Julio Bates says...
Just one small thing... I have head many say about Stuart Broad 'will go for runs, that's a given'. Yet the facts surely don;t back that up: whenever I see the bowler's sats, he is usually amnogst the lowest runs-per-over bowler, along with Anderson, just behind Swann. He will have a couple of magical moments over there too.
Posted 00:36 23rd November 2010
Kai Everill says...
????What possible evidence does anyone who believes Tim Bresnan and Ian Bell should be in the England team, have?!! This is my evidence,facts and figures, Ian Bell averages 25 against Australia and i read that Bell should be moved UP the batting order to bat at 5 above Collingwood who scored a double century the last time he was down under!!!!and he averages 36 against Australia.i am truely lost as to how this makes sense..Then there is Tim Bresnan who averages 35 with the ball and has no experience of playing Australia..compared to Finns 23!!!again i am truely lost..Also iv mentioned before previously on other topics that Abdul Rashid should be playing, to which i was told he would get hammered all over the park and that he has no confidence because he has no experience.Thankfully, had that opinon been the same for the likes of Swann,Broad,Pieterson,Stauss,Trott,Morgan!!!we would not of won 2 ashes series in recent times and for some of those players a world cup..
Posted 00:05 23rd November 2010
Danny Hornby says...
i can't believe how negative mike and rich are being on here. its fair enough to say that the aussie bowlers are used to the conditions in australia, that goes without saying but this is the best English attack since the 2005 series. we matcth the aussies man for man in the pace department and swann is the best spinner in the world by a long way. broad and finn will get the extra bounce at a good pace and anderson will exploit any movement that is on offer. if it isnt hooping around for anderson he has the experience to bowl a decent line and length. to say that he wasn't any good four years ago is not worth the paper it is written on, that's because it was FOUR YEARS ago, he has matured since then and is twice the bowler now than he was four years ago. so let's get behind the team and watch them bring the ashes home with a convincing 3-1 victory. come on england!!!
Posted 10:08 22nd November 2010
Mike Hill says...
I don't agree with the ratings either, Finn can't deserve an 8 yet and Johnson's record at home deserves a 9. Trott and Pietersen are 2 rather than 4 especially as he says he doubts they'll get 20 overs in between them! I think it's designed to give England the winning mark, isn't it. Remember, as good as England's bowlers have been at home, they have a bad record in Oz, I think they'll have to grind out the wins and draws myself, and yes I do definitely see England havng to use two spinners as it goes on.
Posted 09:00 22nd November 2010
Rich Cropper says...
An interesting article, but as with anything number based, a few things don't really add up for me. For example, is it really fair to give both Johnson, a force in Australia, and Finn, an international newcomer, the same mark? Finn may well be a hit during the Ashes, but if you had to pick one before it started... Also, if we look purely at the bowlers likely to play: Anderson, Broad, Finn and Swann Johnson, Siddle, Bollinger and Doherty You'll see that, if you take into account Siddle's slightly harsh mark, and Finn's slightly high mark, the only difference between the two teams is the spinners, which we all knew anyway really. Having said that, all of Australia's bowlers are tried and tested at home, some with impressive figures, while our only experienced bowler suffered greatly here last time, and our other two pace bowlers are an unknown quantity here really. So, really, it's still all completely unknown, and that's why this series could be so exciting...
Posted 14:08 21st November 2010
Steve Bradley says...
It has been a delight and pleasure watching the pre series build up in Australia. As an Englishman living in Victoria I have the added bonus of feeling the atmosphere build; and believe me there is no huge confidence eminating from many here who follow this most hallowed of sports. There is no question this is one of the most beatable Aussie teams in many many years, but they are Austalian, hurt, proud, and at home. Beware over confidence England. That being said I have not seen abetter build up since the late 70's early 80's. We look good, we're playing great cricket and our body language says "winners". All we need to do now is win the series. I believe we will, not from any partisan bias, but simply we are better prepared and the better squad. The GABBA is massive, we must win to set the standard and careful selection is the key. Heres my eleven just for interest. Strauss, Cook, Trott, Pieterson, Bell, Collingwood, Prior, Broad, Swann, Bresnan, Anderson. Steve(a Yorkshireman in Victoria)Bradley.
Posted 00:29 21st November 2010
Gwinyai Zhandire says...
I dont quite agree with u sir. Your rating of a bowler like Sidds totally disregards what his adaptability brings. Its like looking at Dizzy's game and saying he was ordinary. By no means! bowlers hunt as a team, what Sidds brings to th attack apart from just his overs, is the balance he brings to the attack. Cant have 4 out and out strike bowlers in one team... I think yu owe him a few (1.5) extra rating points.
Posted 21:34 20th November 2010
David Mckeown says...
Pretty accurate as ever Robert. I think our attack has the edge, particularly with Swann. Johnson is easily their best, the rest are average....and for their sake I hope they get no injuries as their ' A' bowlers were awful. Clint McKay- what a laugh! I'm surprised that Harris hasn't got a gig. He has an X factor and shocked us all with his pace over here in June. He'll get his go no doubt when they're 3 nil down ..... Hopefully!
Posted 16:28 20th November 2010
Chloe Lin says...
Pieterson hasn't done anything to deserve his batting spot, but he has the over-confidence of the inwardly under-confident. To drop him would hurt his pride, he'd probably do a flouncer and might be finished for Test cricket. I'd chance him this series but if he doesn't come up with a few runs he really might be out. Most people have to get back into form with their county, not the national team.
Posted 04:50 20th November 2010
James Smith-jones says...
Bob, this is seen through heavily "Rose-tinted" specs. I think you have over-rated ENgland and dismissed the Aussies too lightly.
Posted 22:39 19th November 2010
George Staples says...
Interesting facts and opinions from Bob as usual. However, he understates the fact that Finn is new, inexperienced and subject to injury. A better bet is Bresnan, his recent wickets prove he can handlke batting wickets. I'm more concerned with the temperament of both Anderson and Broad. If they don't take wickets they lapse into surly wayward bowling. I'm also concerned that Messrs Flower and Strauss appear to have guaranteed a batting spot for Pieterson. What has he done to deserve it? Come on selectors, treat them all the same, no favours and protected places, otherwise Ponting, Hussey etc. will relkish the weakness. George Staples
Posted 11:52 19th November 2010
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Bumble says a heavy schedule is damaging one-day cricket and calls for a limited-overs league.
England's post-Ashes dip is down to tired minds and problems with the batting order, says Bob Willis.
The Ashes Panel pay tribute to sky-high England and back the Ashes winners to fly further up the rankings.