Cricket Expert & Columnist
No need to panic
Defeat in Perth was more about the pitch than England falling off their Ashes pedestal, says Nasser Hussain.
Last Updated: 20/12/10 12:00pm
I wouldn't read too much into England's third Test defeat and certainly as Andrew Strauss has come out and said, it's no cause for panic.
I don't think it was a question of any great change in the Australian side, or any real deficiencies in the England side - it was just a wicket Australia needed.
I've said all along that Australia need a pitch to get 20 wickets on and they provided just the pitch for that; they have got seamers that are going to hit England, the conditions took Graeme Swann out of the equation and they know historically, England have struggled on pitches like Perth.
They haven't done well at Johannesburg, Headingley a few times and it was a clear plan from the Australians. But they can't do that everywhere, so I wouldn't be too fearful as an Englishman.
I would though, be a little bit worried that they continue to struggle on pitches that do a bit - that is something Andy Flower and Strauss need to address. If they are to become the best side in the world they can't just be a one-dimensional batting line-up.
I just think England have played a lot against sides that haven't moved the ball around recently and they came unstuck against Pakistan when it did. They're still a very good batting line-up, they just need to be more disciplined.
They just seem to go big or when it does a bit, they seem to chase wide balls or play across straight ones when really what they need to do is get ugly runs.
They have a batting coach in Graham Gooch who all those years ago got a magnificent 150 at Headingley and he will tell them it's not all about getting runs when conditions suit you. International batsmen have to be able to get runs when conditions don't suit.
I've said it all along, I still believe England will win the series because they have more players in form, but what we had to account for in Perth was Mitchell Johnson.
There's no doubt this guy has the X-Factor and if he delivers again like he did the other day, Australia have got a wicket-taking bowler and everything falls into place for them. Before that if Johnson wasn't particularly good, Australia weren't particularly good.
They needed a leader and they got a leader, but Johnson doesn't turn up all the time and I'm not even sure if he knows what's coming! He needs those conditions, he needs the WACA; I don't think he'll be able to produce that sort of performance all the time.
Having said that, that is the one worry for England going into the rest of the series - that Australia do have someone who can do something special and if he turns up for the next two Tests and bowl the way he did, we could struggle.
But there were still positives to come out of defeat for England. I thought Chris Tremlett was magnificent, I thought the standard of catching and fielding and Matt Prior's wicket-keeping was exceptional, I thought Ian Bell looked a fine player - even if he is batting too low down.
I thought the England attack did well; to bowl them out for 260 and 300 is a pretty good effort, so there were a lot of good things to take; it's just that the batting line-up let them down and continues to do so on pitches like that, which needs to be addressed.
We talked on Sky Sports after the game about maybe changing the batting order to freshen things up and move Bell ahead of Paul Collingwood to five, but I don't think Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss will do that.
I don't think they are prone to changing things mid-series although I don't agree with the captain saying we don't want to panic as such, because I didn't see that change as a sign of panic.
There are good cricketing reasons to make the switch; Bell is a better player than Collingwood right now and is the future to be honest. I am not saying for a moment leave Collingwood out, like some are suggesting; I think he should play the series but right now when it's level with two games to go, you need scrappers like him in there. Also historically, when people have knocked him, Collingwood has responded and I would move him down to number six to get that response.
The other change being mooted surrounds Steven Finn, but I am not so sure it's needed. People outside the team all of a sudden become better bowlers; is Ajmal Shahzad a better bowler than him, is Tim Bresnan? I'm not so sure.
Finn is one of our leading wicket-takers that has bowled on two flat pitches. He didn't bowl particularly well in Perth and he looked a little short of fitness in as much as he's a young lad that still needs strengthening and fitness work, but he's like Stuart Broad was two years ago - erratic. He'll bowl four poor balls but will take wickets.
Only the England set-up will know if Finn is exhausted or not and remember, Swann will come into it far more in Melbourne, so he will get more rest after having being asked to bowl every day in Perth because the batting wasn't good enough.
As a captain I always liked to have a wicket-taker in my side and I wouldn't change the attack. In that respect Strauss is right, it's not time to panic, because until three days ago England were by far the better side in this series.
Looking ahead to Melbourne, no-one knows what to expect until we turn up there. They have changed the pitch but the rumour is it was getting a little dry and they were looking at doing that anyway, but obviously having seen what's happened here there are two things to take into account.
One, they have seen what happens on a green, quick pitch and two, as a groundsman, having seen all the plaudits handed out here in Perth, the last thing he wants to do is prepare a slow, low one when the likes of Beefy have been going on about what a great pitch this was. He will get vilified.
Historically though, Melbourne is a very slow, low, dull pitch - it was in the three-day game - but who knows? I would very be very surprised if England got there to be greeted by an absolute shirt-front, a white pitch with no grass on it; but in the same way I would be very surprised if it flies through and is an absolute minefield.
I do think in preparing that pitch that suits their type of cricket, Australia have papered over the cracks a little bit because there are still some serious issues in their side, certainly in comparison to England.
They've got an opener with a dodgy technique in Phillip Hughes, the captain and vice-captain are short of runs - Ricky Ponting has that broken finger and to be honest Michael Clarke looks shot. Steve Smith is not a number six, and if Michael Beer is their spinner, I would take Swann every time.
They have got issues but they biggest one for them is still Johnson. If he runs in and bowls like that, all the cracks will be papered over again.