Have England left the induction of the next generation of fast bowlers too late?

The signs are there that James Anderson and Stuart Broad are beginning to toil when it comes to taking wickets in the Test arena. Their usual menacing zip off the wicket seems to have deserted the pair and, in many ways, the iconic duo is making fast bowling look like extraordinarily hard work. It’s hardly a surprise that this is the case given that Anderson is going to turn 39 in July, while Broad will turn 35 a month earlier in June. The fact that they have been so prolific up until an age when most bowlers would have been retired for a good number of years already is testament to the ECB’s management of them but, most importantly, the immaculate way in which they have looked after themselves over their careers.

A duo of Three Lions long in the tooth

The inescapable truth nowadays is that they are looking less and less effective with every passing Test match. You only have to cast your eye over the scorecard from the first Test at Lord’s against New Zealand to see how much they battled as the pair bowled a collective 83 overs and only managed to take 3 wickets between them. Remarkably, Broad’s wicket of Tom Latham in the second innings at Lord’s was his first in an astonishing 81.2 overs, with his last coming in January against Sri Lanka.

There would have been less cause for concern that the old-timers looked to be slowing down given Ollie Robinson’s outstanding debut where the 27-year-old managed to take 7 wickets. But by the time the match petered out to a disappointing draw, it was anyone’s guess if the Sussex quick would ever play for England again, which left growing concerns about where the next generation of fast bowlers would come from.

Indeed, could the ECB have relied too heavily on Anderson and Broad and ended up not doing enough to ensure that the next generation was ready and waiting to be called upon? It does feel like England is up the proverbial creek without a paddle, given that they have an Ashes series fast approaching Down Under. It’s worth remembering that those notoriously fast pitches in Australia respond to express pace and bounce, and will not offer much to bowlers who rely on swinging it as Anderson and Broad do. Indeed, if the duo is battling to take wickets on green seamer-friendly pitches in England, you can only imagine that they’ll trundle in and get precious little reward in the sweltering Australian summer heat. 

Can England beat Australia with their current bowling attack?

The fallout from a heavy beating in the Ashes has the potential to destabilise English cricket given how fierce the competition is and how far back the bad blood goes between both countries. Indeed, the first official Test match took place in March 1877, when Australia defeated England by 45 runs in a fixture that would later become known as the Ashes. Since then it has become the most fiercely contested Test series in world cricket.

So what will the likely outcome be during the 2021/2022 Ashes series as things stand?

The ominous news for England though, irrespective of the fact that their main strike bowlers are tiring, is that they haven’t had any luck in Australia for a number of years now and history is against them. If you want to get involved, it’s best to study cricket statistics before placing bets in order to both find out if one team has dominated the fixture in recent years. In this case, the Aussies haven’t lost an Ashes series at home since 2011 and, with England heading there with a depleted bowling line-up, that doesn’t look like it’s changing anytime soon. You can suddenly see why it’s important to do your homework before you bet on a cricket match. Indeed, when considering the above information, it’s easy to see why the odds are heavily attacked against England for the end of the year contest.

With this being the case, do the Three Lions have any options available to them to help freshen up their attack?

The need for fresh blood 

Mark Wood and Chris Woakes are the obvious options but, at 31 and 32-years-old respectively, they aren’t necessarily the long-term solutions England so desperately needs. Instead, Craig Overton and Olly Stone are both 27 and in the prime of their careers, but because Anderson and Broad have been so prolific over the years, neither bowler has been afforded an extended run in the international Test Arena. Overton has played in 4 Test matches, whilst Stone has only been involved in 2. It could well end up being the proverbial baptism of fire in Australia but England may not have a choice. At least, that may be a better option than serving up Anderson and Broad to a belligerent Australian top order.

With this in mind, the time may have come to bed in Saqib Mahmood who has shown an ability to bowl at an express pace. At just 24, the Lancashire quick has the much-needed attributes of aggression and speed to help fight fire with fire in Australia in order to make sure England does not get bullied.  

Now, providing all goes well with Jofra Archer’s troublesome elbows, the 26-year-old should be fit to face the Australians at the end of the year. The Barbados-born speedster, who has been compared to a West Indian great, is undoubtedly the key to England’s hopes of winning the Ashes and is the bowler most likely to effectively utilise the conditions Down Under. 

On this evidence, England has the firepower to succeed in Australia but realistically, not long left to successfully integrate the newcomers into the side. It may have to be a summer of sacrifices and ultimately goodbyes if the ECB is going to blood their new stars over the course of the series with India. But if not now, then when will it ever happen?

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