A measure of how this tour has unravelled was the sight of Chris Tremlett jogging on to the field. Three years ago he was the surprise call-up for the Perth Test, and took eight wickets.
But yesterday he was clad in an orange bib bringing on refreshments. He must be one of the most physically imposing drinks waiters in the world.
Tremlett was selected on this tour as one of three fast-bowling giants to expose the Australians’ vulnerability to short-pitched bowling. But, on the pitch that ought to have been
tailor-made for them, none was deemed suitable for selection. A combined total of almost 20ft of fast bowler was left in the dressing room. With Stuart Broad manfully shouldering the burden of singeing Australian eyebrows, England were left short of firepower when the ball went soft in the afternoon.
What has happened to Steve Finn, Boyd Rankin and Tremlett? Why wasn’t one of them in the starting line-up? It is a lot of baggage to be carting around and not using.
The problems are varied. Ever since Finn remodelled his run-up to avoid kicking down the stumps in delivery his bowling has been affected. He is now charging in almost faster than he bowls. His timing is all wrong. His body is arriving at the wicket before it is ready to unleash, like a galloping steeplechaser that keeps mistiming its jumps. The result is a lot of unchallenging short deliveries. Generally he looks as if he is trying too hard. In time he will realise this, relax more and regain his invaluable knack of taking wickets.
Rankin is raw. He is a huge unit with genuine pace but a slightly ungainly action and no real concept of how to get good players out. He is naive as a bowler and has not advanced as quickly as was hoped.
Tremlett is the most reliable of the three but now lacks the pace to be penetrative. He put in a decent shift at the Gabba, but always looked to be bowling in slow motion. All of which meant that the seam attack for the Waca picked itself by default. Tim Bresnan took the last spot almost by virtue of lack of match exposure. He was the least unreliable bowler available. He is the Holiday Inn of bowlers; unfancy, unremarkable, but you know what you are going to get.
He toiled honourably in the Perth oven, bowling more overs than anyone else (21), but was roasted alive.
Jimmy Anderson was, as usual, England’s most consistent bowler. Ben Stokes was the most dangerous. Stuart Broad the most imaginative. They all lacked one basic ingredient: movement. The ball did nothing. It refused to swing, never seamed and the bounce remained trustworthy. Two balls passed the edge all day and there was not a single lbw shout. After the madness of the first 35 overs, the ball had a four-hour love affair with the middle of the bat.
Before the game everyone from bowling coaches to Uncle Tom Cobley was imploring England to pitch the ball up. The protagonists were willing early on. But when you have bowled fullish seeking lateral movement, found none and been driven, you start dragging your length back. Fast bowlers hate being driven. It insults their ego.
Late swing camouflages lack of control, offering the bowler a blanket of reassurance. Lack of swing makes him feel naked. Yes there were too many short balls, but it was because there was nothing happening when they pitched it further up. The bowling and the ball softened as the day wore on.
As in Adelaide, what England lacked in the end was pace. Ben Stokes, Broad and Anderson all touched 87mph occasionally, but if there is no deviation, it can be comfortably handled. An extra five miles an hour makes a considerable difference, even on a pitch as flat as this. How much will be revealed when Australia bowl.
The Daily Telegraph