Whilst the Ashes so far, and particularly the second test, may have gone excellently for England, there is now something of an issue for the team to sort out. With Stuart Broad, a man expected to be at the forefront of England’s bowling attack, now unfortunately ruled out of the rest of the series with an injury, it is time to see what sort of depth England have available to them. Assuming that England don’t do an Australia and call up somebody nobody has ever heard of, there are three contenders for the place in the team: Chris Tremlett, Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad. None of them made it obvious with stunning performances in the recent tour match, so the question remains: Who deserves their shot at this crucial stage of the series?
The oldest of the three, Tremlett is best known for being the friendly giant. Standing at 6ft 7in, he is certainly an imposing figure and this height can give him tremendous bounce. On a traditional WACA pitch, he would be in his element, but the reports so far suggest the pitch in Perth is far less lively than it has been in previous years. In his 3 test matches so far, he has taken 13 wickets at an average of 29.69. Those three tests were back in the 2007 series against India and certainly are proof he is able to put in solid performances against big opposition. Since that series, though, he has suffered a spate of injuries which have hampered his international ambitions. Without those setbacks, it could be suggested he would now be a much bigger figure in England’s bowling options. His 2010 domestic season with new side Surrey saw him take 48 wickets as he certainly appears to be returning to the bowler people always hoped he would become. It may be thought, though, that he is too similar to Steven Finn to justify having both men in the same attack.
The Yorkshireman is easily the most experienced of the three bowlers under consideration, with 5 tests, 33 ODIs and 13 T20 internationals under his belt, his swing bowling has certainly shown a degree of consistency on the international stage. Proof of his ability to handle pressure comes from his role in England’s successful T20 World Cup campaign, where he regularly opened the bowling ably. His test match abilities are open to questioning, though, with his 5 appearances coming against Bangladesh and a lacklustre West Indies. Even against this opposition, he only has a return of 14 wickets at an average of 35.14, though that could be in part down to having to bowl on lifeless Bangladeshi pitches, where he was actually the leading wicket taker of the seamers. He definitely still has to disprove the notion that he is a limited overs specialist. He is a true allrounder, unlike his rivals, with a test match innings of 91 and a 27.44 batting average. Whilst this is unlikely to be the first concern, with the top order looking to be in such good form, it is certainly something unique which he offers.
The youngest and least experienced, Shahzad has only played one test in his career, which came against Bangladesh this summer, taking 4 wickets. He has 94 first-class wickets at an average of 33.34 and has apparently impressed the England setup with his control and pace. If he is able to get the ball to reverse-swing, he could present an enormous challenge to the Australian batsmen, especially in working with Perth’s famous Freemantle Doctor winds. He will come firing in all day with his enthusiasm, but if the ball stubbornly refuses to move of the straight then his efforts could be a waste of time. It would also be considered a risk to throw him into an Ashes test when it would be ten times bigger than any match he has ever played in.
Who is selected will depend on what England are looking for. If they think the Perth pitch will get lively as usual before the test starts then Tremlett would be the perfect option. If they want to look towards experience, Bresnan is the man who fits the bill. If they think someone with enthusiasm and something a bit different is what they want to bring to the table, then Shahzad is the only option. Personally, I think Finn’s place rules out Tremlett and that Bresnan doesn’t bring enough in the Test match environment. My pick would be to give Shazad his opportunity to shine.
Who do you think is the right man for the job?