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Lessons to learn

Dave Fulton insists England's batsmen need to shoulder the burden going into the second Test

David Fulton Posted 15th July 2009 view comments

Had England lost the first Test at Cardiff there would have been plenty of vultures ready to pick over the bones of defeat.

It was the same four years ago as England were dismantled at Lord's: Ashley Giles, who was later to prove himself an invaluable cog in Michael Vaughan's machine, was portrayed as a journeyman spinner who couldn't get it off the straight in a team that had flattered to deceive once more; and we all know how that series ended.

Ponting and Katich: Showed England how it was done

Ponting and Katich: Showed England how it was done

Yes, there are lessons to be learned from the Cardiff experience, but there is no need for wholesale personnel change or vastly different tactics.

It is true that at Lord's in 2005 England put down a marker. The bowlers were quick and hostile and proved they could take 20 wickets, which gave cause for optimism whereas in Cardiff, while they bowled quickly, they took just six. But the surfaces could not have been more different: Lord's was spicy with more pace and bounce than anyone could have expected; Cardiff conventionally slow and low with little to offer anyone.

Broad and Anderson have not become bad bowlers overnight. The ball didn't swing much for Anderson, while Broad is more used to operating as a fourth seamer. They will be better at Lord's. Broad bowled too short but was, I believe, distracted by Philip Hughes' quirky style at the start of Australia's innings and never fully recovered his rhythm or composure.

Quality

England saw how Hughes was worked over and out by Steve Harmison on a benign Worcester pitch in the England Lions match and understandably sought similar methods of attack, but they forgot all about Simon Katich, who was quietly playing himself in at the other end. Determined batsmen, entrenched on a slow surface, can be difficult to dislodge in any contest let alone in the Ashes when the batsmen are of the quality of Ponting, Katich, North and Haddin.

On a pitch with more pace and bounce, even one as notoriously flat as Lord's, England's bowling attack should have more of a cutting edge with each frontline seamer able to bowl in excess of 90mph. Graham Onions is likely to play, whilst Harmison's stock is on the rise again. I hope they operate in tandem and that Andrew Flintoff is rested.

He has announced his decision to retire from Test cricket at the end of the season and for his and England's sake he needs to play at Edgbaston, Headingley and the Oval. Risk him at Lord's, so often a fast bowlers graveyard, and that retirement could be cruelly brought forward.

If the fault lies anywhere for England coming off second best at Cardiff it is with the batsmen, Paul Collingwood apart. Four years ago 435 would have been a terrific total given the bowling power of the two sides. England's highest first innings total in the series was 477 at Trent Bridge, which preceded an Australian follow on.

At Cardiff, however, 435 was 150 below par as Australia demonstrated. At the second time of asking England found batting a trickier business as a combination of scoreboard pressure and a wearing pitch took effect.

As lessons go, the one offered by Australia's centurions, should have hit home hard. It's one that needs to be learned quickly.

You still have time to enter our competition to win a signed copy of Dave Fulton's 'The Captain's Tales' - but don't delay!

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