The absence of Ben Stokes and a rash of injuries have made for an inauspicious buildup to England’s Ashes 2017 campaign. But former Australia quick Ryan Harris believes it’s not all doom and gloom for the tourists. Reason being he considers their main strike bowlers are firing.
Harris bowled in three Ashes series including the 5-0 whitewash in the last series Down Under. And also he coached a Cricket Australia XI to a heavy defeat in a tour match over the weekend. Following which he saw enough quality in England to paper over the cracks.
All-rounder Stokes may yet end up playing a part in the series once a police investigation wraps up into his alleged assault in Bristol, while the injuries, unwelcome as they are, have been confined mostly to the squad’s fringe bowlers.
Most importantly, front-line seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad are on their feet and so long as they stay that way, England can still threaten in the Ashes 2017 series that gets underway in Brisbane on 23rd November, according to Harris.
“If there were injuries to Broad and Anderson you’d definitely go along with that line that they probably would struggle,” Harris told Reuters in a phone interview from Brisbane. “But the bottom line is their two main bowlers that lead their attack are fit and firing.
“The third quick, who I think is going to be (Chris) Woakes, is pretty handy as well. We saw that the other night, especially under lights.” You can’t write off teams just because of injuries. It can actually make you stronger because as a group, you come together.
“I know there’s a lot of talks out there in the media and in the public but I don’t think they’re going to be easy to beat. “I think we’ll win, but I don’t think it will be an easy win for some people are saying.”
Anderson grabbed five wickets in the tour match under the lights at Adelaide Oval, where England’s players will return for the first day-night Ashes 2017 test next month. Woakes improved as the match went on and helped skittle the modest CA XI for 75 with his four wickets in their second innings.
Rested Broad after bowling “like a drain” in the Perth tour match, will get another chance to find form. Especially when the final warm-up match is ahead in Townsville on Wednesday.
All-rounder Moeen Ali will play in Townsville after missing the tour matches with a side strain. England’s batting problems appear acuter, with James Vince, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan boasting only 15 tests between them.
Captain Joe Root’s form has been patchy and opener Alastair Cook is in the midst of a lean run. Harris, however, said batting would not decide the series. “Both bowling attacks are world class,” said the 38-year-old, now a high-performance coach at Australia’s National Cricket Centre academy in Brisbane.
“But I just like us in our conditions. I think our bowling line-up in our conditions is very dangerous. Bowling will dictate the series.” Harris battled a problem knee throughout a late-blooming career. And he overcame a string of other injuries to play 27 tests for Australia. He also captured 113 wickets at an average of 23.52.
Renowned for his grit and lion-hearted performances, he formed a formidable pace attack with left-arm Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle. That too during the 2013/14 whitewash, when the three managed to stay fit and firing through all five test matches.
He rates Australia’s current trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, and Pat Cummins even higher. But he also admits all will embrace a challenge by the length of the series. Particularly considering England’s batsmen & their habit of getting on top for sustained periods.
“I guess, last time, we were never really spending multiple days or 100-plus overs in the field,” he said. “If you’re out there for hour after hour for two or three days, that’s the stuff that really takes it out of you.
“Especially as a bowler, knowing that you’ve got to do it all again the next day and you’ve only got three or four wickets in the shed, mentally it does play on your mind.”