England are in need of a miracle to take the urn back home following back-to-back defeats, with former Ashes winner Ian Bell admitting he’s ‘worried’ for Joe Root’s side going into the vital Melbourne Test.
England have lost by nine wickets and 275 runs in the opening two Tests, and Bell and Ryan Harris questioned the selection decisions so far.
“I’m not sure it’s the right way of doing it, but the amount of left handers Australia have, is Dom Bess a better option? I’m not a big fan of picking your spinner off the back of him being a slightly better batter,” said Bell.
“I think Leach is the better, more consistent spinner so I’d play him all the time.
“England made the same mistake in India last year thinking under the lights it’s going to go all over the place and we didn’t even get to seam, it was all about spin.
“We’ve been going round in circles with the spinner for the last 18 months – Leach plays a game, then gets dropped for a game, Bess comes in for a game, then he gets dropped, then we don’t play a spinner and Root becomes the spinner. This is Test match cricket and you need a spinner at some point.
“Momentum is so in Australia’s favour and whatever England decide to do is just not good enough at the moment. There’s been a lot of talk about bowlers and the Gabba and Broad and Anderson now playing, but what it really comes down to is just not scoring enough runs that can put Australia under any kind of pressure.
Marnus Labuschagne, the newly-crowned world number one, faced nearly 300 balls on the first day before eventually raising his bat on day two, with Harris full of praise for the batter’s performance.
“Marnus is in unbelievable form at the moment, he’s seeing it like a beach ball, but he’s able to leave lots of balls as well,” said Harris.
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“And even when he’s not scoring, that first day there wasn’t a lot of swing but still Marnus was able to let a lot go as well. And although people might say if you’re not scoring you’re digging a hole for yourself, but if he absorbs that pressure early they tire quickly and you can cash in later on.”
The tourists have only taken 29 wickets across two Tests, but Bell and Harris are both reluctant to blame the bowlers
“The bowlers have created a few chances, but we’ve dropped a lot in these two Test matches and you have to take all the chances that come your way,” said Bell.
“That’s a really good point,” said Harris. “I think England have dropped nine or 10 chances. Hearing that the lengths have been too short – the lengths haven’t been that bad. If you take 10 chances that changes the game. The famous saying for us was taking 20 wickets in a Test match is hard enough, let alone taking 23, 24.”
England head to the MCG, where they’ve won four of the last 10 Tests in need of a win, but Bell is struggling to see where the runs will come from.
“I think it’ll be a pretty flat wicket,” said Bell. “So if there’s an opportunity to score runs, this is the one England have to go big. I’m worried right now. Unless Joe Root peels out a massive hundred or double hundred I just can’t see how we can win this Test match at the moment.
“Cummins is going to come back in then Hazlewood will be ready for the SCG, so I’m a little bit concerned. A hope I’m wrong but I can’t see anything other than an Australia win, with the best case scenario for me being a draw.”
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