The best should always be under attack

IN the last three Test matches England's captain Nasser Hussain's comments ran along these lines. "It was a fine victory but we have many sore bodies in the dressing room. I thought we should have won this Test, but India did well to draw the match. Our boys are very tired and sore".

And finally after India's fine victory at Headingley, "we didn't play well and must improve our game. We have many sore bodies in the dressing room." This was after India bowled for practically all of the last three days and the English batsmen with a few exceptions seldom lasted a hour at the crease.

I ask you where is English cricket going and if they are sore why is it so?

I thought Andrew Caddick, the English fast bowler, summed it up pretty well when he said after bowling poorly in the Test: "I was surprised our coach Duncan Fletcher has asked me to play in the next county game for we normally get a rest".

Caddick has been out for most of the season with injury and a rest was the last thing he needed after his bowling in the Test showed he is well short of a gallop.

In fact I must question coach Duncan Fletcher's desire to limit the Test players, competing in county cricket.

The only way you can reach and maintain top efficiency and conditioning is to play in a competitive environment.

It is my belief bowlers in particular must play as much as possible if they hope to be successful and in the best possible condition.

I have been saying for some time, how disappointed I am with the accuracy of Test bowlers and this was never better illustrated than in the Headingley Test.

England had the opportunity to bowl first on a typical bowler friendly track but botched that advantage by bowling short and wide and allowing India to score over 600 runs.

This performance reminded me so much of Headingley 1989, the Test that set Australia on the way to the domination they now have over other cricketing nations.

David Gower won the toss and rightly chose to bat. Australia scored plenty as England wasted a superb bowling wicket.

On the second morning I took all our fast bowlers out to the wicket and pointed out the fact that most of the marks caused when the ball hit this very grassy but white wicket were too short and invariably wide and instructed them exactly where I expected them to bowl when they were called on.

They did it wonderfully well, easily won the Test and we went on to easily win the series, even though when we arrived the English press declared us the worst Australian team to reach their shores.

My mind was set wondering once again as I watched Australia thrash Pakistan in Nairobi.

Pakistan had bowled terrible the day before against Kenya on a pitch, totally against the batsman, but due to Kenya's ineptness got away with it.

It was still a very good bowling pitch as the Australian bowlers demonstrated when they bowled second dismissing Pakistan for 108 after their batsmen smashed 332 for five wickets. That is 6.64 runs per over and that is a disgrace.

I am a great admirer of this Australian team and Matt Hayden in particular, but to score 332 on a bowler friendly wicket is beyond belief and begs the question why?

The Australian bowlers answered it succinctly by bowling good old fashion line and length and let the batsmen and wicket do the rest.

In fact this performance outlined very clearly why they are the best team in the world.

Their tactics and skills are simple and always harnessed in a controlled fashion.

McGrath is the shining example of this. He is not lightning fast, doesn't swing the ball often, nor cut the ball all over the place.

What he does best and what batsmen hate the most is apply unrelenting accuracy with both line and length.

As a former opening batsman I know the only thing that is difficult about batting is judging the length of the ball.

If you do this badly, particularly if it swings or cuts you have no hope.

McGrath always does it in both forms of the game and that is why he and the other Australian bowlers have ruled the roost for so long. The current Australian batsmen are fine attackers of the ball and very quick to dispatch anything loose, as they did so successfully in Nairobi.

If they were confronted by the same unrelenting control of line and length as the Australian bowlers possess they wouldn't enjoy the same amount of success as they are enjoying now.

Make no mistake about it, this is a good Australian batting line. But the desire to over attack is their Achilles heel.

While they have plenty of attacking batsmen they seem to lack good solid correct batsmen in the middle.

They will get away with it against the inaccurate bowlers prevailing against them now, but against their own it might be a different thing.

As an Australian supporter it is pleasing to note no team has the accuracy to test this weakness.

But as a person worried about the future it is a great concern, for world cricket can only be strong and testing if the best are always under attack.