I believe there is general agreement that the fortunes of the BD team rest
on the batsmen. I do not think we can expect our bowling attack to get England
out twice in the test matches. Consequently the onus is upon our batsmen to
ensure that we put up a respectable show. It is time we begin to objectively
consider the appropriate tactics that our batsmen should adopt against the bowlers
we are likely to face.
The England bowling line-up is likely to consist of the following - Harmison
and Hoggard to open, Simon Jones or James Anderson first change and Giles as
the tweaker. Flintoff is not playing.
Firstly - our batsmen should be able to play Giles. If they cannot, on pitches
that are not conducive to spin, then we really shouldn't be playing at this
level. I would hope that Giles should not pose a problem.
This leaves the pacers. Harmison relies on speed and takes wickets in bursts.
He said so in a recent interview with the Independent. In the same interview
he said that the South Africans had figured him out, left most of his deliveries
alone and that he did not expect the Australians to do so given their attacking
tendencies! This statement is quite telling for the following reasons:
- It exposes Harmison's mental frailty. If he does not get wickets early his
frustration gets the better of him and he loses his effectiveness as a bowler.
- He seems unable to adapt his bowling to the circumstances. This is what
makes Glen McGrath outstanding. McGrath has an uncanny ability to vary his
line, length and pace to "think" batsmen out. Harmison is not of
So, in order to tackle Harmison, our batsmen primarily have to leave anything
that is outside of offstump or going down the legside alone. Our batsmen are
short and one of the most difficult things for a tall fast bowler to do is to
figure out the appropriate length to bowl at a shorter batsman. Anything pitched
at or short of "conventional" good length (i.e. for batsmen of average
height) can be ducked under. Harmison will then be forced to bowl a fuller length
which will reduce his pace and lead to half-volleys that could be put away.
Frustration will set in and his potency would be neutralized. Once again, Harmison
is no Mcgrath.
Jones/Anderson can be dealt with similarly. These two bowlers seem to have
lost a bit of the "zip" that characterized the early part of their
careers. If Harmison and Hoggard can be seen off I would not be surprised if
Ashraful or Saleh actually have a go at them.
Which brings us to Matthew Hoggard. He is in the best form of his life and
I have to admit at this point that I am not sure how best to deal with him.
As a swinging bowler Hoggard pitches at a much fuller length which, given our
batsmen's tendency to prod and poke, could prove to be fatal. All I can think
of is to send in a right-left opening combination to upset his rythm.
I believe that if our batsmen think long and hard about the bowling they are
going to face and apply themselves very very diligently, they should be able
to post scores that will give our attack something to bowl at. They should use
their height disadvantage to their favour by ducking. Most importantly, they
must learn the art of leaving balls alone. Honestly, I do not think that anyone
in the current England attack is capable of bowling deliveries which "follow"
the batsmen - and are thus the most difficult to defend - at an appreciable
pace. If our batsmen do their homework properly and bat TO A PLAN then the English
pace attack should not hold any devils for us.