We’ll be talking about England’s “supreme accuracy” a lot when the wheels come off during the Ashes

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He couldn’t leave it at mere “accuracy,” could he? Chris Silverwood had to talk up the England bowling attack’s “supreme accuracy” when announcing the 2021-22 Ashes squad. “Here you go, everyone. Each of you take a stick. You’ll need these to beat us with in a couple of months’ time.”

It’s not that accuracy is a bad thing. Unless you’re Shaun Tait, accuracy is important. The issue is that for one reason or another, England are hanging an awful lot off it. They have a thousand coats on a single hook. A shower of plaster and rawl plugs feels inevitable.

With injuries ruling out Jofra Archer and Olly Stone, Silverwood didn’t have much room for manoeuvre in how to shape his team to bowl out Australia with a Kookaburra ball. Given those parameters, he resolved to avoid even the slightest manoeuvring whatsoever.

We can all get overly creative from the comfort of our armchairs, but Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson weren’t insanely unlikely inclusions. These bowlers would have been more dynamic alternatives to a line-up that is otherwise a bit samey and fast-medium.

You certainly can win in Australia with supreme accuracy and a dash of finger spin. England’s two most effective bowlers in the second half of the 2010-11 Ashes were Tim Bresnan and Chris Tremlett after all. They were up against a team that had already been batted into catatonia by England’s top order though – which promises to be a more difficult part of the equation to recreate. (Who knows though. It’s definitely easier to bat in Australia than it is in England. Maybe someone will unexpectedly come good.)

These feel like dutiful nods to optimism though. The third Test of the last away Ashes saw Australia make 662-9 against an attack comprising James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Craig Overton, plus Moeen Ali. They also made 442-8 against the same bowlers in the second Test.

This time around, those same four bowlers are supplemented by Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood. This is more encouraging, but it is also easy to envisage Wood either injured or worn down to the same bowling speed as everyone else after the first couple of visits to what seems to be England’s sole Plan B.

The spinners are Jack Leach and Dom Bess who probably wouldn’t win England the Ashes even if Joe Root were happier using them.

“Every plan has got to be adaptable,” said Silverwood before basically conceding the incredibly narrow scope for adaptability he has engineered. “We have got one 90mph bowler in there in Woody. But I think the one thing that we have got in the bowling attack is supreme accuracy. You look at the bowlers that are there and the one thing they are very good at is hitting the stumps and bringing the stumps into play time and time again.”

It’s a plan that could work. But if we had to weigh the likelihood of it doing so against the likelihood that people will end up making “supreme accuracy” jokes as tired seamers bowl five wides with the score reading 300-1, we know which way we’re leaning.

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  1. I’m just going to pretend the Ashes are cancelled (assuming they aren’t anyway). I have even less hope than usual. Doesn’t seem worth having any emotional investment in it, I will be astounded if Glenn McGrath’s inevitable prediction isn’t correct (assuming they’re allowed to go to Perth).

  2. Which is better, Australia’s “elite”, or England’s “supreme”?

    It’s your classic irresistible force and immovable object conundrum.

    1. I think I prefer the quest for supremacy – surely that is the essence of competitive sport? – over the assertion of elitism. The latter term is inherently pompous or even snobbish.

      The Aussies think they get away with the excessive use of the word “elite” because they disguise their pomposity and snobbishness behind blokeism…or do I mean “elite mateship”?

      England will need more than its fair share of luck to win or even compete to an entertaining level this winter, due to the absences and weaknesses discussed previously. But Aussie dominance is not an inevitability this time around – the Aussie squad is not THAT good at the moment.

  3. Given the amount of gibberish that goes by the name of ‘IPL commentary’ and the pretentious snobbery that is Australia management (as Ged correctly states above), it would be cruel to target Silverwood for the ‘supreme accuracy’ comment. It seems a genuine effort from the man to speak up the team – he should be allowed to do so (regardless of how the team does).

    1. We’re not targeting him. Just highlighting how he unavoidably will be whenever things go wrong.

      This is why you should never say interesting things.

      1. I think coaches are duty-bound to be quotable, because media attention on them is media attention turned away from the player, while still better than the sport ducking the attention of the public eye altogether. Mouthslippages which are both quotable and “brave” are particularly valuable in this regard. I’d agree that players should try to avoid being too “interesting” unless, at those moments when the pressure they’re paid to cope with is turned on, they have an elitely supreme skill-set for blocking out the inevitable, irrelevant, extraneous and partly self-inflicted media-related pressure. Which at critical moments the crowd is wont to remind them of. Not a terribly pleasant deal for the coaches, but they partly get paid to cop the flak so the players don’t have to.

      2. Not sure this achieves that. He’s setting the bowlers high standards to live up to and they’ll be the ones who are judged.

      3. Very fair yer maj. Better to make your “interesting” opinions more about your good self. On this basis, The Universe Boss might be an excellent coach.

  4. I have no fears as Chris Woakes is a far better bowler now than 4 years ago. I expect him to get 25 wickets in this series – if selected, as England normally find a way to omit him.

  5. My only disappointment about this Ashes is the absence of a potential ginger triumvirate in the middle order for England, henceforth referred to collectively as Johnny Stokepopes.

    1. Another year without a middle order of Stokes, Woakes, Foakes. Why does the Lord continue to punish us?

    2. I feel like one thing that’s been missed is that Hazlewood alone trumps all the England bowlers in terms of accuracy.

      So they don’t even have supreme accuracy

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