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England's soft spots


It says a lot about how the tide has changed when you think about what this article ponders upon - what Australia can do to beat England, as against years and years of discussing what England (or anyone else) can do to stop the Achilles heel-less Australians from strolling away to easy wins.

After several false alarms in the past, now would perhaps be a good time to start getting used to an Australian team that has to look and sniff around for soft spots rather than stick to their usual strategy of "let's go steamroll them, yeah?" (which still doesn't mean Buchanan and his laptop would be any more useful now than in the past). In any case, here are a few observations with regards to what Australia can do to make all the pompous booing and hooting look out of place and really very foolish.

Flintoff's absence as a bowler may be something England can deal with - he's averaged 49 with the ball as against the English team bowling average of 45. It will, in fact, be a blessing in disguise should a better bowler replace him, which Harmisson is once every five games.

However, where Flintoff's absence will really hurt England is when they are batting. England average 43 runs per batsman, and Flintoff is the only batsman outside of Strauss in the English line up who matches up to that figure, with a series batting average of 43
(refer graph below for details). This suggests that it may have been a good move to play Flintoff even if he was semi-fit and could only play as a batsman.

Strauss has been averaging 63 in this series with the bat, and is clearly the only man keeping the English team batting average afloat now that both Flintoff and Pietersen are out. Cook and Bopara are pottering around at averages of 29 and 26 respectively, while Bell is only coming in from the wilderness now. Even as we write England h thave lost three more early wickets following Strauss and are at 42 for 4. It is too early to say "we told you so", of course...

All said, it is evident that investing vast chunks of their resources against Strauss would be a sound strategy for the Australians.

The lack of robustness in the batting puts a lot of pressure on the English bowling, which has been running broadly (pun entirely intended) only on the shoulders of Anderson and Onions so far.

As far as Australia's own batting is concerned, Marcus North has a pretty solid case for being promoted higher up in a middle order that is looking more unsure than Lara Bingle at a chess tournament. North averages 60 in a series where the Australian team batting average is 49 (the only batsman outside of Clarke to be so commandingly consistent), with Hussey (averaging 29) offering the option of a straight switch.

Leaving an allegedly fit Lee out for Clark isn't too surprising either given that Lee has had a fairly ordinary run up to this series, averaging 38 in his last ten tests (his career average is 31, while Australia's team bowling average is 38, and Clarke averages 23!).

All said, the road to victory for the Australians may be a lot shorter and less tedious than the flow of the series suggests so far. England's team in this test is a tale of three men – Strauss, Onions and Anderson – and they will need the rest of the team to chip in heavily if they are to win the Ashes.

The following graph lists the averages under relevant conditions of the players mentioned above


(Click here to know more about Jatin, and here to know more about Sreeram.)

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