The Ashes 2010: England’s beanpole bowlers have a big advantage

Friday, November 19, 2010

LONDON - Tall bowlers have the best averages, and according to England bowling coach David Saker, Steve Finn, Chris Tremlett and Stuart Broad, who are the tallest group to represent England, will not be an exception to that rule when the Ashes series gets underway from November 25.

“History shows that taller bowlers are usually the better ones, especially in Australian conditions,” The Guardian quoted Saker, as saying.

Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett are both six feet eight inches tall. Stuart Broad is six feet five inches tall.

No taller group has represented England. No Australian can top that and it is a factor that has not gone unnoticed in Australia.

“It is England’s beanpole bowlers versus Australia’s pygmy slingers” opined Tasmania’s Mercury newspaper on Tuesday, “and it’s advantage England”, it added.

There are not many who know more about the trials and tribulations of facing the giants than Mike Atherton. In his career as an opening batsman, he faced McGrath and Ambrose in a total of 43 matches, and succumbed to them on 19 and 17 occasions respectively. He was also out 17 times to the six feet six inch Courtney Walsh.

“Bounce troubles everyone. The bowlers with the outstanding averages are, with a few exceptions, tall. The skiddier ones go for more runs so that although their strike rates might be the same, the averages are higher. It is the tall bowlers who have a greater margin for error and a difficult trajectory,” recalls Atherton.

“I would prepare by elevating a bowling machine to try and get used to a trajectory that is steeper and, as [the former Australia and Lancashire coach] Bob Simpson used to say, loopier. They are continually hitting the splice. So in this regard my weight distribution was important because although I wanted to play mainly off the back foot, I still wanted to be able to get forward even though it is hard to set yourself to do that,” he added.

Tall men create the illusion of bowling shorter than they really do.

“Generally,” Atherton says, “they have a good yorker as a counterpoint and on a wearing pitch, where there might be uneven bounce, the variations are so much more exaggerated if the ball is banged in from a height. From my perspective I would much rather have faced a rapid skiddy bowler such as Brett Lee or Allan Donald than a tall bowler. I never felt uneasy against them.”

“Australian pitches tend to be fast, but some are not that different to the English pitches. All told, though, if we try and hit the top of off-stump as much as possible, you put yourself in the game,” said Saker.

What England have to guard against is the excitement that can overtake bowlers who see the ball smack head high into the keeper’s gloves so that they pitch too short. Australian batsmen are good leavers of the ball, not only on line but equally important on some of the pitches, on length. Go short and Australia will capitalise. (ANI)

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