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Three reasons why Australia will more than likely collapse at the Waca

Shaun Marsh thinks about what he owes (BT Sport)

Australia do like to collapse. Amid all the talk of conditions, bowling attacks and Steve Smith’s runsome proclivities, this is the one thing in favour of the tourists.

England like to collapse too, of course. They just have to hope that they do it less frequently – or at least less comprehensively – than their hosts.

Is there any reason to assume that this will be the case? Let’s take a look at some selective facts/prejudices.

It happens

Speaking earlier this year, Smith said that his team was collapsing something like four times in every five innings.

Okay, we can’t remember the exact frequency (unlike larger, more profitable websites, you have to do your own research for these articles). It was often though. Take our word for that.

Steve Smith is rattled

This is obvious because he said that England’s sledging only inspired him and made him more focused. When it was put to him that his wasn’t exactly an impartial view on the matter, he replied: “Oh no – even from an unbiased point of view.”

If someone says that being sledged really helped them, it seems safe to assume that it did the exact opposite. Particularly when they made an unbeaten hundred unsledged and 40 and six when sledged.

Shaun Marsh needs to repay his duck tax

Marsh was always going to make a hundred. That’s the upside of the pact you make when you select him. The downside is that you must then endure the protracted “oh wait, maybe he hasn’t cracked it” as the world rights itself again.

In summary

Look, England haven’t actually lost the Ashes yet, so we might as well wring what we can out of this series while it’s still technically live.

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Hope can hibernate

Jimmy Anderson (via BT Sport)

Hope never truly dies. It can however recede to the extent that it entirely loses consciousness. It’s safe to say that at around the point Australia emerged for their second innings, hope was in deep hibernation. A little while later it re-emerged after faint rays of Jimmy Anderson had warmed the metaphorical earth.

It’s amazing what you can achieve when you don’t let opposition batsmen pass 20. Anderson managed the unthinkable and all but forced several of England’s specialist batsmen to perform semi-competently. He also persuaded people to talk more about Steve Smith’s non-enforcement of the follow-on than Joe Root’s insertion of Australia on day one (it’s odd how often the cricket itself is seen as somehow secondary to the captains’ decision-making).

Anderson finished with five wickets, but encouraged the umpire to raise his finger on about eight occasions. His brilliance is not that he can make use of more helpful conditions; it is that he invariably does.

England’s second innings scorecard currently sports the prefix “If…”

If they can have a good partnership early on day five, their target of 354 will actually start to seem attainable.

If Joe Root is out early on, hope might start to feel a little dozy again.

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Video: The Barmy Army goad Steve Smith about his use of DRS

Like most wild animals, The Barmy Army are generally best viewed from afar – ideally on television or at the very least with some sort of robust barrier between you and them.

They can also be very funny.

Australians sometimes struggle to comprehend that the same bounce that can make life difficult for visiting batsmen also means that a lot of deliveries will go over the stumps.

Steve Smith frittered his reviews away, failing to learn this lesson. When Australia next appealed for LBW, the Barmy Army did this at him.

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Commence the straw-clutching

Craig Overton showing intent or something (BT Sport)

Grasp at them. Clutch them. Savour the delightful sensation of straws against palms.

England are methodically addressing each of their shortcomings in turn. For some reason the first one they turned their attention to was ‘tail getting blown away by short-pitched bowling’.

England’s tail is supposed to be ‘fragile’ compared to Australia’s. This was expected to be something that would haunt them throughout the Magellan Ashes (movement rate of all ships is increased by two).

No-one seemed to acknowledge that Australia had only ever exposed one tail-end batsman at a time in the first Test, the other end being clogged up by Steve Smith. That wasn’t the story. The story was England tail-enders terrified by Australia’s short-pitched bowling.

In the second Test, England’s run-scoring finally clicked in at about the moment Australia renounced the stumps following the dismissal of Jonny Bairstow. Chris Woakes and Craig Overton plopped a few into the air, but also accumulated a few runs.

Just think how handy a couple of 30s from eight and nine would be if they actually got to play alongside a specialist batsman for once. Maybe that could be next on England’s list of things to urgently address – runs from the batsmen.

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When more of the same fails, try even more of the same – England’s bowling masterplan

Chris Woakes (BT Sport)

It’s not so much that England’s attack lacks pace, so much as that it lacks variety. It also has no left-armer, while the stinging open wound on Moeen Ali’s spinning finger means the team can’t rely on spectacular returns from their tweaker to make up the shortfall.

But pace is the most obvious missing ingredient. Accurate right-arm seam is doing away with most of Australia’s batsmen, but there always seems to come a point when the tourists need something different, at which point they start to look a bit fast-medium.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad are not past it. They are doing their thing. What England could really do with is support bowlers who do a different thing. If the original artists don’t bring the house down, you’re hardly likely to be calling for an encore from Proxy Music, Oasish, the Faux Fighters or whoever.

Despite what Antipodean headlines might have you believe, pace isn’t necessarily about blowing the opposition away. Quite often it’s just one more thing to throw at a batsman who’s thus far dealt with things comfortably. Two batsmen who can cope with anything but searing pace would be major obstacles to this England team. However, they might come and go in the blinking of one eye* when confronted with a bowler who could gently encourage them into wide-eyed open-mouthed back foot play.

Even if it proves to be the solution to just one of your ten problems, that can be vital because you can’t jump ahead to the next question in a Test match. Every hurdle has to be cleared in order.

England do not have such a bowler. Nor have they been looking for one. When Steven Finn was injured, they called up Tom Curran. When they had an opportunity to give a bowler a Test debut last summer, they went with Toby Roland-Jones.

There are quicker bowlers out there. Perhaps their worth has become harder to appreciate amid all the springtime County Championship cricket that’s played these days.

The simple fact is that even though it only comprises four men, Australia’s attack covers more bases than England’s. It has the edge in speed and spin. It has height, it has accuracy and if you think they can’t swing the ball, Mitchell Starc’s stump-splaying habit must have somehow passed you by.

England can bat well and stay in this Test, but it’s hard to see an area where they have a meaningful advantage over Australia’s bowlers. As such, it’s hard to foresee circumstances in which the home team will be bowled out more cheaply than the tourists. That is not really a recipe for winning Test matches.

*Boris Becker’s wording – and ideally read in his slightly camp Rainier Wolfcastle voice.

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Craig Overton: first look in Test cricket

Craig Overton dismisses Steve Smith (via BT Sport)

We don’t believe you can draw meaningful conclusions from players’ debuts – but we report on them anyway.

Craig Overton looks like a big fast bowler. Then he humphs in and dobbles it like a good ‘un.

Dobblery is not a craft that is highly regarded in Test cricket, but when allied to height – Overton is 6ft5in – you can certainly build a career on it. Plenty of tall seamers have dobbled their way through a sizeable proportion of their careers.

Shaun Pollock dobbled for many a year. Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh purveyed bouncy dobble for longer than anyone cares to acknowledge. Glenn McGrath was pretty much King of Dobble.

Craig Overton is a good few hundred wickets away from the Pantheon of Dobblery, but in failing to get absolutely murdered by every single batsman who faced him, he encouraged the notion that he might yet play a few more matches. He also does the Alan Mullally thing of giving it a bit more oomph whenever he jams in a bouncer.

His first wicket wasn’t bad either: Steve Smith dirtily bowled off pad and then bat.

It was a pure dobbler’s dismissal, leaving the batsman with an infuriated sense that he hasn’t properly been beaten, even as he looks back at the splayed stumped evidence to the contrary.

More of this kind of thing.

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England have (apparently) been lacking motivation

Joe Root (via Channel 5)

The Ashes, you know, it’s hard to really get up for. Hard to get up at 5am or whatever and hard to get up in the ‘come on, let’s give it everything’ sense too.

Or at least that’s the way England have been painting things.

James Anderson said the tourists could take “extra fire” from having got into good positions during the first Test only to let them slip.

More fire? It was the first Ashes Test? Why on earth weren’t you already deploying your full complement of fire? What were you saving it for? Some scented candles? An alien queen’s egg chamber? The one-dayers that no-one gives a flying full toss about?

Referring to that Bairstow-Bancroft bollocks, Anderson added: “We don’t need an extra incentive, but if we did it will give us that.”

This kind of comment is all very ‘going to give it 110 per cent’. He’s essentially implying that they’re already doing their best but from now on will do better than their best.

Joe Root agrees. He believes that Steve Smith’s recent press conference appearance in which he guffawed like a child dosed up to the eyeballs with Sunset Yellow will work “massively in our favour”.

“To see a reaction like that in a press conference is- I mean if that can’t get you up for the next game then I don’t know what can. If that’s not motivation to the players, I don’t know what is.

“Hopefully that will work massively in our favour. I know it’s an Ashes series, there is a lot on the line and naturally you are going to be motivated for every game but knowing the characters in our dressing-room that will really give them a bit of something else to make sure we put things right this week.”

So England fans, rest assured that England will be bringing extra fire and extra motivation to the second Test. If they lose that one too, you can be sure that they’ll then bring EVEN MORE to the third Test.

Not less. Losing Test matches definitely can’t eat away at fire and motivation. This is why the worst sides are always the most fiery and motivated.

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Chris Tremlett’s shirt and Jonathan Trott’s listening face

The latest instalment of ‘seemingly random screengrabs from ECB videos’ brings us Chris Tremlett busting out of a black shirt and Jonathan Trott either fed up with his cold, pondering his own mortality or drifting off into a coma or something.

Just look at the strain on those poor buttons. Chris Tremlett is no longer suited to human clothing.

We’ve no idea if this is the kind of thing the ECB are hoping to get out of their social media ‘presence’.

It’s from a nice little thing about the 2010/11 Ashes that also involves Mike Atherton and Matt Prior.

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Bringing you the one major highlight from England’s latest gym session

The latest video from the ECB in which a load of people (most of whom you don’t really recognise) mill around a gym is a real thrill-a-minute ride.

Sadly, the video is only 44 seconds long so it’s mostly just a bunch of people idly chatting to each other while a banal corporate rock instrumental soundtrack churns away dispiritingly.

There is one highlight though.

You might think that it’s James Anderson on a Swiss ball…

Guess again!

It’s a grim-faced Alastair Cook popping up unexpectedly in the foreground midway through the Jimmy-on-a-Swiss-ball shot.

You’ll have to watch the video for the full effect.

Cook also delivers a slightly comical guilty look immediately after realising what he’s done.

Don’t look guilty, Alastair. You’re not the one filming a bunch of blokes in the gym and publishing the footage on the internet.

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The very obvious way in which England can add variety to their bowling, lengthen their batting and improve their fielding

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Paul Collingwood!

When a bowling attack’s a bit fast-medium, people always hanker after “genuine pace” – but what about genuine medium-pace? That brings variety too.

If Paul Collingwood were to play instead of Jake Ball say, they’d not only benefit from some devastating dibbly dobbly military medium, they could also bat Jonny Bairstow at seven, Moeen Ali at eight and Chris Woakes at nine.

You’re pretty much guaranteed a run-out with Colly as well and as that seems to be the only real way to dismiss Steve Smith, they could probably justify picking him for that alone.

More on the campaign to get Paul Collingwood into England’s Ashes squad here. There’s a petition and everything.

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