Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting expects England’s batsmen to continue to face a bouncer barrage for the remainder of the Magellan Ashes after the tactic proved to be emphatically effective for Australia’s quicks at the Gabba.
And it’s not just England’s tailenders who Ponting suspects will receive more short-pitched bowling this summer, with No.7 wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow set to encounter some chin music after his “ego” led to his dismissal on day four.
In a 20-over burst late on day three, Australia’s fast bowlers peppered England’s top order with a series of hostile bouncers before returning to that strategy on Sunday to bowl the tourists out for 195 and a lead of 169.
Australia’s pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins targeted the head and body of England’s lower order, a game plan that led to the dismissals of allrounder Chris Woakes (caught fending to second slip), Jake Ball (caught fending to fly slip) and Bairstow, who picked out third man with an upper-cut.
Having seen the way England’s tail poorly handles the short ball – along with specialist batsmen like skipper Joe Root, who was hit flush by a searing Starc bouncer on day three – Ponting predicts more of the same for the rest of the Ashes.
“I don’t think a lot of their top order players play it (short ball) particularly well either,” Ponting told cricket.com.au when asked if England’s tail can expect more bouncers.
“And that’s been on a really slow Brisbane pitch. When we get to Perth and places like that where there’s some really good pace and bounce it could be really interesting. Adelaide the last couple of years has a little bit (of pace) in it.
“There are some definite cracks there the Australian quicks have been able to open up already in this series. The tail especially.
“Even Chris Woakes, who’s a noted allrounder, he didn’t look comfortable against the short ball today either.
“(Australia) can take a lot from that. There was a lot spoken about that at the start of the game and with the way the pitch was on day one it was almost impossible to scare anyone with how slow the wicket was.
“But as it’s got quicker and the game’s gone on the quicks have enjoyed the challenge of bowling to the England fast bowlers, that’s for sure.”
Bairstow was one batsman who handled the short ball relatively comfortably – not an easy task when Australia’s quicks regularly hit speeds of 145kph.
While his dismissal raised eyebrows considering Australia captain Steve Smith deliberately put a fielder at third man for the lofted cut he got out to, Ponting sympathised with the right-hander who at that point was batting with an under-siege lower order.
“You have to take calculated risks and try to find a way to the boundary because, as it happened again today, when a batsman is in batting with the tail-end the captain generally puts the field out and makes it difficult for boundaries to be scored,” Ponting said.
“Especially when they’re setting up a lead like that in the third innings of the game.”
But Ponting, a master of the pull and hook shots in his glittering 17-year international career, saw the England ‘keeper’s downfall coming.
He said Bairstow bats with an ego, one that has him searching for bat on ball and unable to resist playing horizontal bat stokes, like the one he got out to today.
“We were actually commenting on air about how he’s got a bit of an ego, Bairstow, and he doesn’t like to stand there and let the balls go,” he said.
“He likes bat on ball, he likes playing the big cross-bat shots and it was only a matter of time, I thought, that he actually did play one of those shots.
“And as it turned out the second one he went for – he missed the first one – he hit it straight to the man at third man.
“I think even he might get some more short stuff as this series goes on.”