James Anderson believes England will need “a 90mph bowler” and “big hundreds” from their batsmen if they are to win the next Ashes series in Australia.
Anderson said he felt the relative lack of pace in England’s attack and their failure to post imposing first-innings totals has contributed to their defeat this time around. And while he conceded – tongue in cheek – that his own pace had dropped off towards the end of the Melbourne Test, he admitted that, had Mitchell Starc not been forced to miss the game through a heel injury, Australia might have had the firepower to trouble England despite the deathly slow pitch.
While only 24 wickets fell in the game, Anderson felt Starc’s pace combined with his ability to bowl full and gain reverse swing might have offered Australia a weapon with which England could not compete.
“I know my speed dropped off into my 58th and 59th overs,” Anderson said. “I was bowling the ball, looking up at the board to see what speed it was and then looking at Steve Smith hitting it. I tried a fair bit. The pitch was so unresponsive. It’s quite demoralising when it gets to that point.
“There was a guy shouting at me: ‘You can’t bowl with a Kookaburra.’ I said ‘You might have a point there.’
“But if you put Starc on that pitch – or someone who bowls above 90 mph – they kind of take the pitch out of the equation. It would be great if we could get someone who could bowl 90mph-plus, just to have that sort of X-factor.
“I know it’s a bit late [in my career], but if I can add another 5kph onto my bowling, that would be great.”
But England’s major problem, Anderson suggested, was their failure to make match-defining first-innings totals. Australia took first-innings leads in the first three Tests, in excess of 200 in both Perth and Adelaide. And, echoing Trevor Bayliss’ pre-series assertion that “it is 160s not 60s” that England required, Anderson said the ability of individual batsmen to turn promising starts into substantial scores was crucial. Tellingly, Smith has three centuries in the series, which is as many as all the England batsmen combined.
“We’ve got to score more runs,” Anderson said. “We need big hundreds. We’ve seen in all the Test matches, the team that has won or got on top has been the one with people scoring big scores, big hundreds. In this game in Melbourne it was us because of Alastair Cook, but it’s one area we need to improve.
“Smith is a world-class player in the form of his life. It’s going to take something special to get him out. On pitches like Melbourne, it is very difficult. In the first innings, it was a chop-on [that dismissed him]. You’ve got to hope for something like that sometimes.
“I’d feel disappointed for this group if we didn’t get a win on this trip because we’ve worked so hard. We have played well at times in all four Tests. It would be nice if we can carry that on and have one last push at Sydney and try to get a win.”
Anderson, who took 55 Test wicket in 2017 (Kagiso Rabada, with 57, was the only seamer to claim more), also dismissed the ball-tampering claims that overshadowed the fourth day of the match as “ridiculous”.
“I was getting dirt off the ball,” he said. “They had watered the square so the footholes on old wickets were muddy. I went to the umpires to make sure they were happy with what I was doing. They [Australia] were doing it as well. And yes, it was the shiny side of the ball.
“It was ridiculous and it escalated quickly, but it’s what we’ve come to expect. It doesn’t get any less each time we come here. It’s just something that we’ve got to put up with. It does get boring at times.
“You have to have a thick skin. You can’t worry what ex-players are saying in the media, whether they are opposition ex-players or English ex-player. There are many opinions about our players at the moment and you’ve got to try to block them out.
“I don’t really care what people think of me.”