At Cardiff, despite all signs to the contrary, England grew a backbone, but did little else to convince that five fair-weather days at Lord’s will produce a thumping defeat. In years gone by, there would be little time for introspection. (In 1981, after England had drawn the Second Ashes Test to remain one down with three to play, England’s hero-to-be, Ian Botham, went straight to a Benson and Hedges 55 over match the next day, had a couple of days off, then played a County Championship match spread over four days to allow the middle Sunday to accommodate a John Player Cup 40 over thrash, before enjoying a whole day off, if you don’t count the pre-match dinner, before his date with destiny at Headingley).
We’re much more enlightened now (at least I think we are), so we can expect Straussy and the boys to be gathered round the laptops as performances are dissected in microscopic detail. To save them all that bother and make more time available for the all-important kickarounds that do so much to er… whatever they do so much for, The Trumpet provides a crib sheet for each player.
Andrew Strauss – When the fourteen-year-old Trumpet played his first game with the big boys, he hit a lovely four soaring over extra cover off the non-turning spin of some ancient fat bloke who may have been as old as thirty. Next ball, he essayed the same shot, but the ball was quicker and the death rattle followed. “Never play the same shot to the next ball if you’ve just hit a spinner for four, because the delivery won’t be the same”, intoned the non-striker as we walked off, all out. At 14, The Trumpet knew something that England’s captain apparently didn’t at 32. Well, he does now. Captaincy is about making things happen, not waiting for things to happen. Every field should do one of two things, better still, both: (i) build pressure; (ii) put thoughts into a batsman’s head that he would rather not have, be it the temptation of hitting against the spin or the wondering of why that man is placed in that spot. If the field is doing neither, change it.
Alastair Cook – Opening batsmen should play straight and not flash outside off stump. Not until they have 150+ anyway.
Ravi – All the good shots in the world count for nothing if you’re sitting in the Pavilion. Show the batmaker’s name until you have at least a ton, or change your name to Viv Richards.
KP – Well, if you don’t know now…
Colly – Move the feet more and remember that Adelaide will only happen once in a generation as Cardiff, just, proved. Don’t listen to any voices other than the one in your head that says, “Play your natural game”. And pester the captain until he lets you bowl a lot more of those cutters to an in-out field.
Matt Prior – There’s a reason why they call it the textbook and not the fad book. In the textbook it says, “never cut an off-spinner”. Except in the 19th over of a T20 match when you’ve five wickets in hand – it’s all right then.
Andrew Flintoff- The way to the physio’s room is down the corridor and first left.
Stuart Broad – What are you? If you’re a 90mph bowler, you need to push the batsman back by bowling a very tight line short of a length, giving as few scoring options as possible. Then the fuller ball induces a momentary hesitation in getting on the front foot and provokes the edge. If you’re an 83mph bowler, you need to get right into the stumps and bowl the tightest possible line, holding the seam upright. Watch Curtly on youtube, or Hilfy now, and you’ll see what’s meant.
Swanny – Keep blocking the good ones and hitting the bad ones and make sure Siddle and MJ are still thinking about you and not how to get you out as they run up. Bowling to the top seven requires flight and dip through revolutions, because their feet are too fast for you to beat them off the wicket. Have plenty of cover on both sides of the wicket and never give them anything that they can slog on the full or pull from waist high. Remember that your margin for error will not be this tight again until you come up against Viru and Sachin once more. Play back those tapes that show you dismissing Gambhir, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman. If you can snare those, you can snare anyone.
Jimmy – Give the ball every chance to swing by concentrating on your wrist position, release and length. If the ball isn’t swinging, hit the seam every delivery and develop an off-cutter, slower ball and bouncer as variations.
Monty – Three balls: (i) the flighted hard spun ball; (ii) the arm ball; (iii) the quicker ball. The flighted orthodox delivery is so good that the variations don’t need to be great, but they do need to be there. And if you don’t believe you’re going to get him out, the batsman won’t either.
Graeme Onions – Get in close to the stumps, bowl every ball at the top of the off stump except skidding the bouncer in as the variation.
Harmy – Do what Siddle does from a foot higher release and at 5mph quicker. And remember that fast bowling is hard work – if it wasn’t, everyone would do it.