Cricket Expert & Columnist
The Ashes: England team changes were odd, says Nasser Hussain
Nasser Hussain says England's bemusing team selection backfired on day one of the fifth Ashes Test.
Last Updated: 21/08/13 7:52pm
That's the view of Sky Sports pundit Nasser Hussain after Australia reached 307-4 at stumps on Wednesday against an England side featuring five-day debutants Simon Kerrigan and Chris Woakes.
Lancashire spinner Kerrigan went wicketless and for 53 runs off his eight overs in London, while Warwickshire' Woakes also failed to snare an Australia wicket during his 15 overs of right-arm seam.
"You can never judge a team selection until both sides have batted on it, and England could have won the toss, batted and been 300-4 themselves," said Hussain, after seeing Alastair Cook's side select Kerrigan and Woakes in place of Jonny Bairstow and the injured Tim Bresnan.
"But was it the pitch on which to completely rip up the rulebook of playing four bowlers with the one spinner which has, of course, taken England 3-0 up in this series? I didn't see it and it was left-field.
"Perhaps Bresnan is doubtful for the first Test in Brisbane this winter [after suffering a stress fracture of the back] and England were looking for a like-for-like in Woakes.
"But I think they needed to find out about Chris Tremlett, who bowled brilliantly Down Under a couple of years ago, to see if his injuries had taken their toll and he was still the same bowler.
"Plus, Kerrigan's selection was a real anomaly.
"If you look at the new batsmen, like Joe Root and Bairstow, they have been around the set-up and been training with the team, but Kerrigan just popped in after the Monty Panesar situation.
"It looked like the occasion got to him because he bowled poorly and the moment he and Woakes came on to replace some star performers, England fell off a cliff."
Sky Sports analyst Mikey Holding doubts that all-rounder Woakes, who has a first-class batting average of 36.67 and a bowling one of 25.48, is capable of being a frontline Test match quick.
Hussain, though, feels the 24-year-old - who has figured in 13 ODIs and fourT20Is for his country - could develop into a bowler of merit, but only if he begins to generate more deviation with the ball.
"At Woakes' pace he can't be short and he was at times today [Wednesday], while you also need to move the ball - and he bowled gun-barrel straight and the Aussies picked him off," said the former England skipper.
"Another problem is that I don't know whether he thinks he is a bowling or batting all-rounder; he could grow into that role, like Bresnan has done, but we don't want to go back to bits-and-pieces cricketers and he doesn't do enough with the ball."
Australia's innings, meanwhile, was built around Shane Watson's 176, the Queensland-born stroke-maker forgetting his toils from earlier in the series to record his third Test ton.
And Hussain believes Watson, who had passed fifty just once in the 2013 Ashes prior to his century at The Oval, has now secured his spot in the return series with England this winter after repaying his nation's faith in him.
"For a man of Watson's ability, getting two Test match hundreds is ridiculous and he has owed Australia that big score after they stuck with him," added Hussain.
"I think he liked the fact Bresnan was out as he has exposed that issue of not getting his front foot out of the way, but he was under real pressure and might not have made Brisbane with a bad score. He will now.
"The longer he batted and the more it became a case of 'see ball, hit ball', he got all these doubts out of his mind - and I am really happy for him because he copped a lot of stick."