In the build-up to the first of the five (pointless) ODI’s crammed into this English ‘summer’, a lot had been made of the blistering pace of newbies Pat Cummins and James Pattinson who, allied with the wilyness of Brett Lee, would tear through England’s middle order and into what was perceived to be a long English tail. In the event, Pattinson didn’t make the cut, the Australian selectors deciding that one raw talent was enough to bestow on Lords at a time, and instead we were treated to the inauspicious mid-paced dobbers of the inauspicious mid-paced dobber Clint McKay, whose figures ended up being the most enviable amongst the Antipodean line-up.
It is quite something to out-garish the yellow of the traditional Australian limited overs kit, but the jersey worn by this current side somehow manages to be more stand-out and garish than ever before. The consistently admirable sight of Brett Lee steaming in from his pointlessly long yet fantastically theatrical run-up was initially of the vintage we’ve come to expect over the last 15 years, and, from the other end, Pat Cummin’s bowling was most closely scrutinised by the Three Lions adorning the helmet of Ravi Bopara. Indeed, at 123-3 and again at 189-4 with just 10 overs remaining, Australia were twice within a squeeze of limiting England to a more than manageable target, but the death bowling of Lee, Watson and Cummins wasn’t enough to halt Eoin Morgan’s welcome charge, and despite McKay’s figures, the rest of his colleagues went for more than 5 an over.
Whether Pattinson will be recalled on this basis is uncertain. The Australian selectors won’t drop Lee; at 35 he is still considered the spearhead of the attack, whilst Cummins for Pattinson is a bit of a like-for-like. Watson would be assumed undroppable due to the worthiness with willow he brings at the top of the Australian order. McKay recorded the best figures. The simple answer for me would involve bringing in Ben Hilfenhaus for Brett Lee or for Cummins. The control he added to Australia’s attack against India in January complimented perfectly the pace and aggression of the younger charges, pitching on a good full length with a fraction of movement either way, and would emulate what Broad has learnt to do for England over the last two years
The simple fact is that England’s pace battery is considerably stronger than Australia’s. When you tie in the fact that Graeme Swann is a better bowler than the admittedly competitive Xavier Doherty, any small margins that you can draw between the batting line ups becomes much less relevant. Perhaps it could be argued that knocks like Morgan’s will decide the series. It is certainly true that freak knocks like 90 from 60 balls will give a side a huge advantage. In the assumed absence of more of these rare super-human efforts materialising, though, is the more-likely scenario that the depth and strength of England’s bowling unit will bear out the difference.