Fletcher: Injuries are biggest threat
Duncan Fletcher believes only injuries will prevent his fearsome battery of fast bowlers dominating world cricket for years to come following their stunning Ashes series performances.
England’s fearsome four - comprising Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones - have claimed all but 10 of the Australian wickets to fall this summer with the mixture of their different attributes causing panic among the tourists’ highly-rated top order.
Their domination of some of the great batsmen in world cricket has lifted self-confidence within the squad that they now have the resources to replace Australia as the number one side in world cricket.
England coach Fletcher, who has admitted to being surprised himself at the speed of his side’s development, is among those who believe the future will be bright - providing his four fast bowlers remain fit.
He said: “It’s difficult to say how long they can stay together because it depends on the amount of cricket they’re going to play.
“We keep saying there’s a lot of cricket around and that’s why they have to be rested on numerous occasions.
“We hope the bowlers stay together because they are very important to this side at the moment.
“They’re hunting as a pack very well, we’ve covered most bases with our bowling attack and who can say with injuries how long they are going to be around?
“Hopefully they should be around for a good five years because they’re reaching their peak now and they should be able to maintain it for a good few years.”
Only opener Justin Langer, captain Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke average more than 35 so far in this thrilling Ashes series while major players like Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist are not even averaging 30.
Their records this summer are a testament to the hard work put in by England into developing bowlers’ gameplans for each batsman - and the accuracy and discipline demonstrated by the attack.
“We’re very happy with the plans we’ve had in place and we’ve done that before, but just haven’t had the bowling attack to carry it out because there are a lot of variations,” explained Fletcher.
“It’s not simply that a batsman has a weakness there and if you bowl one or two balls there you will get him out.
“It takes discipline and this bowling attack has shown that and the skill to put it into the areas we ask them to do over a long period of time - we put the pressure on the batters and we think our plans are working well.”
England know that if they maintain that discipline and form for five more days in the final npower Test at The Brit Oval next week and avoid defeat, the Ashes will be theirs for the first time since 1986-87.
But they may have to face the Ashes decider without Glamorgan seamer Simon Jones, who faces a week of treatment in an oxygen chamber designed to accelerate the recovery of his right ankle problem he sustained during this week’s fourth Test win at Trent Bridge.
Jones believes the 10-day break between the two Tests gives him a chance of recovery and although Fletcher has conceded he is “not confident” of him playing, he conceded: “He’s become very valuable to our attack.
“Previously we’ve only had two bowlers in our attack and we didn’t have back-up for them, but Simon is that back-up with Flintoff.
“Suddenly with those two you have a lot more depth and you can maintain the pressure on them for longer periods of time, which is crucial in Test match cricket.
“They’ve probably been a bit surprised that we’ve been able to come at them with pace.
“It’s something I’ve always believed in. At this level you have to have pace, you have to bowl at 85mph or quicker and we fortunately have individuals who bowl at that pace and not straight up and down either, they manage to swing the ball.
“A couple of years ago I saw something exciting in England’s cricket and it’s probably come a little bit earlier than when I thought.
“There are some good young cricketers around and I think England’s future for the next five years or so should be pretty exciting.”