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Bob Willis
Cricket Expert & Columnist

Bob Willis calls for Steven Finn to play in third Ashes Test

Bob Willis: Calling for selection of Steven Finn

Bob Willis believes under-fire England should turn to the natural pace of Steven Finn for the third Ashes Test in Perth.

Alastair Cook's tourists suffered another crushing defeat in Adelaide to fall 2-0 behind and, with the likes of Jimmy Anderson completely eclipsed by the top speed bowling of Australia's comeback kid Mitchell Johnson, Willis says England must fight fire with fire.

"The odds are long stacked against them but don't write England off just yet."

Bob Willis

He told Sky Sports: "I'm not in favour of throwing guys who haven't played Test cricket straight into an Ashes Test, so I'd leave out Boyd Rankin and go with Steven Finn.

"Finn is capable of bowling the ball at 90mph. Admittedly, he goes for a lot of runs but England are going to need 20 wickets to get back in this series.

"It may be a toss-up between two spinners because Monty Panesar out-bowled Graeme Swann in Adelaide and against this Australian pace attack, Swann has got nothing to offer with the bat.

"Never underestimate Alastair Cook and Andy Flower. They're a very resilient pair and if any two can inspire this bunch, it's those two. People will say it's about time England did perform and win a Test in Perth.

"The odds are long stacked against them but don't write England off just yet."

While England's bowlers have struggled to impose themselves on the determined home batsmen, it is the manner in which England have surrendered their wickets which irks Willis the most.

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He added "I was extremely disappointed by the way England approached the final day. There was some excuse for Matt Prior - trying to find himself some form and playing some shots - but I thought the performances of Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann were absolutely pathetic.

"Broad and Swann should have been there trying to defend and trying to stay in with Prior and bat for as long as possible. England were going to lose whatever happened but they had to give the side a springboard of confidence going into the next Test.

"There was some excuse for losing at Brisbane. A bouncy wicket and Mitchell Johnson on fiery form but really the Adelaide pitch is as flat as a pancake and to be bounced out there really was a scandal. The batting performance was woeful."

Improvement

Former Australia seamer Jason Gillespie was quick to highlight the vast improvement made by the hosts, who have been ruthless in the field and shown a generally clinical attitude throughout.

Gillespie said: "I've been blown away and I think England have been blown away by the way Australia have approached their cricket. I think Mitchell Johnson has really surprised the English batsmen but there are some serious technical issues there with the England players.

"The England batsmen are sinking into their front feet, their hands are very low at the point of release from the bowler's hand. That might be okay on slower wickets against medium pace but when you've got a guy bowling 90mph and above, that's going to test you.

"Joe Root showed England how to play. He learned from his mistakes. In the first innings, he got out playing square of the wicket to Nathan Lyon, who was getting some over-spin on the ball. That means more bounce and he was caught in the deep.

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"In the second innings, he put that shot away and looked for other areas to score in. That was a really pleasing thing for England, to see Root adapting his game to the circumstances. He adapted very well.

"There's a really good feel around the Australian camp at the moment. It started with the selections. The last Ashes tour, before the Brisbane Test, they had a squad of 17. There was a lot of indecision.

"This time they said 'here is the squad of 12 and this is the way we're going.' It gives the squad a lot of confidence. It lets everyone know that we're very clear as to who our best players are. We are going to keep it as simple as possible and nail our skills."

"If I was in the England camp and a selector, I'd focus on picking the best six batsmen. It's key. A couple of Yorkshire lads in Gary Ballance and Jonny Bairstow may come into the reckoning.

"You also want to take into account your bowling attack. You definitely won't play two spinners in Perth. You may not even need one and could use Root in a holding role with his spin. Then you'd be fighting fire with fire."

Contrast

Willis then stressed the contrast between the surfaces in England and Australia, and suggested England were ill-prepared for the height of the bounce in the southern hemisphere.

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He said: "Australia were stranded without Johnson in England. The pitches in our summer were specifically designed for Graeme Swann or bowlers using reverse swing. They've had a real wake-up call on these faster pitches (especially in Brisbane.)

"Against Jeff Thompson and Dennis Lillee in the 70s and 80s, batsmen had to decide whether they were going to take on the fast, short ball. Not many are capable of taking it on and succeeding.

"England would be far better swaying out of the way, ducking and letting the bowlers tire themselves out. If there's two men back on the leg side, there's no way you should be playing the pull shot or the hook shot. England have to get that clear in their mind.

"We don't quite know what the Perth pitch is going to be like. It's got the reputation of being fast and bouncy. It hasn't been quite that in recent years but it'll still be plenty quick enough. If England can get bounced out at Adelaide, they can certainly get bounced out at Perth as well."