Ashes 2019: Indifferent Dukes balls a bigger concern for England

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Did you know – England ordered special Dukes balls for the 2019 Ashes in order to give its veteran seam attack the best possible chance against Australia’s experienced batting line-up?

A new batch of Dukes with a bigger seam was provided to help James Anderson and Stuart Broad the necessary ammunition to test Australian techniques, even if it exposed their own batsmen to the visitors’ potent attack.

It is a strategy employed brilliantly by England over the past few years, especially the India series last year. Then, the Dukes swung and seamed even after 60 overs with a change of ball barely a necessity. The result was that out of 19 innings, 400 was breached just once and 300 seven times. It was the best battle between bat and ball seen in a long time. Here, Australia scored nearly 300 and 500 in the first two innings.

According to The Telegraph, not enough balls of the 2018 vintage were made to last the Ashes in 2019. Hence, a new batch was prepared and looking at how the opening Test in Birmingham unfolded, they are not what England want.

While the focus was on Steve Smith’s remarkable pair of 140s and the injury to Anderson during the opening Test, the state of the balls escaped greater scrutiny.

What happened, especially in the second innings, was that despite a first-innings lead of 90, Broad, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes couldn’t get wickets in a bunch. Smith, Mathew Wade and even pacer James Pattinson worked the ball around for the best part of Day Four as the Aussies batted at 4.3 runs per over in the second innings, something that would not have happened with the 2018 batch of Dukes.

While England have a lot of thinking to do, the bottomline is that if the pitches continue to remain good – without being too spicy – and the Dukes stay the way they are, Australia will be at home in England.

Australia’s bowlers play on tough pitches back home where the Kookaburra hardly does anything after the first 15 overs. It’s all backbreaking work thereafter. They will relish conditions like the one in Edgbaston, especially with Anderson now a doubt for not only the next match but also the series.

Let’s go back to the pivotal fourth Ashes Test in 2015 with England leading 2-1. Everything rode on the opening session of that Nottingham Test. England won the toss and bowled first on a green carpet. Stuart Broad took 8-15 and… you know what happened.

Just like England have a very specific formula in ODI cricket – pile on the runs on good batting pitches – they have a similar strategy in home Tests; have conditions where even if their own batsmen struggle, the opposition will be blown away for fewer runs.

However, the first Test has not followed that template. And the state of the Dukes is a major impediment. Maybe it was a bad bunch of balls. Hopefully, the Lord’s Test will see a batch similar to the 2018 ones. But if that isn’t the case, the red cherry will end up giving the hosts the blues.

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England pacer James Anderson to miss second Ashes Test due to calf injury

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James Anderson has been ruled out of the second Ashes Test, with England not certain when he will be fit to return from his calf injury.

England’s record wicket-taker broke down after just four overs in the series opener at Edgbaston and did not bowl again as Australia romped to a 251-run victory.

Scans have now confirmed he has no chance of taking part in next week’s game at Lord’s, with assessment taking place “on an ongoing basis” regarding his comeback.

Anderson, 37, was not expected to be on duty in the second Test after his bit-part role in Birmingham. The veteran had not played competitive cricket for a month leading into the match after injuring the same calf on duty for Lancashire and was restricted to two batting cameos at number 11 after pulling up on the first morning.

An England and Wales Cricket Board revealed an MRI scan had settled the matter.

“The MRI confirmed that Anderson has suffered a calf injury,” read a statement.

“As a result of the injury, he will commence a rehabilitation programme working with the England and Lancashire medical teams.

“Anderson will miss the second Test match, which starts at Lord’s on Wednesday August 14. He will be reassessed on an ongoing basis regarding his availability for the rest of Specsavers Ashes series.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan does not expect to see Anderson on duty again until the fourth Test at the earliest and warned his absence could have a big impact in both dressing rooms.

“I can’t see him playing too much of a role in this series,” he said on BBC 5 Live’s Tuffers and Vaughan Show.

“I can’t see how they’ll allow him to come back without playing at least a a couple of games first. You’re looking at, if everything goes rosey, Old Trafford, but that would probably be a risk.

“My concern is you don’t underestimate the psychological effect of Jimmy Anderson has on the England team, but also the positive effect it sends through the Australia team.

“For them to arrive next week and the week after to know they won’t be facing Jimmy…that is monstrous.”

A debut for Jofra Archer, one of the stars of England’s World Cup-winning campaign, could lessen the blow but he must first prove his own fitness for the rigours of Test cricket.

He was carrying a side strain throughout the tournament and has been sent to play for Sussex 2nd XI over the next three days to get long spells with the red ball under his belt.

England captain Joe Root denied England has gambled on Anderson’s fitness in the first place and is confident Archer will not represent a gamble if he gets through the required workload this week.

“Jimmy passed every medical testing. He was fit to play. It’s one of those freak scenarios where he pulled up,” said Root.

“It’s an easy thing to look back on and say we’d have done things differently. It was a unanimous decision for him to play.

“With Jofra, we’re in a slightly different situation where he’ll have played a lot of cricket in between and we’ll have a clearer idea of where he’s at. We’ll turn up to Lord’s and make sure in the next few days we don’t make any shotgun decisions.”

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Watch as Joe Root is frustrated by England's first Test Ashes defeat, but praises Australia

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Joe Root admitted frustration at England losing the first Ashes Test, but praised Australia for the way they played after they dismantled the hosts’ batting order in the second innings on Monday.

Australia took a 1-0 lead in the opening Ashes Test with a thumping 251-run victory over England at Edgbaston.

The hosts, 13 without loss overnight, were hoping to bat through the day to salvage a draw, having been set a mountainous fourth innings target of 398 to win.

However, England slumped to 85 for 4 by the lunch break and were all out for 146 half an hour before tea, Aussie spinner Nathan Lyon doing most of the damage with 6 for 49.


“Look, it’s frustrating to have finished the way it is has. I think credit has to go to Australia, we were bowled out today, I don’t think it was gifted to them,” said the England skipper.








“But ultimately, I think we’re got to look further back in the game and they fought extremely hard to get into that position. There’s things that we can take from the game, absolutely, from both sides of it.


“I thought for three days we were brilliant. To get into that position of a 90 (run) lead was a strong one. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite get it right yesterday.”



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