Just like a particularly canny pride of hungry lions, England’s bowlers hunted as a pack during the series and were utterly ruthless in executing the consummate planning of Australian bowling coach David Saker.
In the process, they comprehensively overcame question marks about their ability to be effective with the kookaburra and their suitability on Australian pitches. Especially pack leader James Anderson, who by the series end had emerged as one of the top three seamers in the world along with Dale Steyn and Zaheer Khan.
As well as executing specific plans for certain batsmen, England stuck admirably to their strategy of containment. This frustrated the Australian batsmen and induced a catalogue of needless fatal strokes outside off stump. By Sydney, this choking of Australia’s batsmen reached such an extent that the home side had struggled to only 171/6 by the time that the second new ball was taken.
All of England’s frontline bowlers impressed even Stuart Broad, who may have only taken two wickets before he went home injured, but was so miserly that others – notably Steve Finn – got the wickets Broad probably deserved.
The rest of the seamers got the wickets that their hard work and brilliance merited. Anderson took 24 wickets – the most by an England fast bowler down under in a five match series since Frank Tyson in 1954/55 whilst Chris Tremlett was a revelation after coming in at Perth and snared 17 victims at 23 and consistently troubled all of Australia’s batsmen.
England even had the luxury of dropping Finn after Perth, despite him being the leading wicket-taker in the series to that point. He may have had 14 wickets, but they had come at the price of an economy rate of 4.3 runs per over. England’s plan was not to be as expensive as Prada, so out went Finn and in came Tim Bresnan.
We’ve written about our doubts about Bresnan’s credentials as a test bowler before, but the big lad was nearly as much of a revelation as Tremlett, taking 11 wickets at 20, and most importantly doing so at an economy rate of just 2.6.
Then there was Graeme Swann. Only the pitch in Adelaide helped him, but other than a poor match at the Gabba, Swann was content to play the support role for once whilst still managing 15 wickets. Doubters will highlight that Swann’s wickets cost almost 40 runs a piece. But when you consider that collectively Australia’s spinners took just five wickets for a beastly 666 runs in the series, Swann actually did very well.
The biggest compliment you can give England’s bowlers is that on the same pitches where England passed 500 four times and made Australia’s attack look horribly toothless, England’s bowlers looked like they were bowling on different surfaces. They found movement where it seemed there was none, they got reverse swing much earlier and unlike their Australian counterparts, were relentlessly accurate.
Their batsmen may have broken the records, but England’s bowlers were equally as crucial. They took 91 out of a possible 100 wickets in the series (to Australia’s 56) and that tells you everything you need to know.
Check out all our Reverse Sweep heroes and zeroes including amongst others James Anderson, Graeme Swann, Graham Gooch, Dennis Lillee and Mitchell Johnson
Follow us on Twitter @thereversesweep