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The TWC interview: Darren Gough

May 20th, 2009 by Sam Collins in England, Interview, Test cricket


Darren Gough led England’s attack for close to a decade. He took 229 wickets in 58 Tests and 235 in 159 ODIs and captained Yorkshire before his retirement in 2008. Since then he has appeared on the cult BBC show Hole in the Wall, while doing media work for Setanta and TalkSport. He was talking to Sam Collins

Were you faster than Fred Trueman?
Without a doubt. I think everyone gets faster as days go on. But, it’s not all about pace. Fred Trueman was a tremendous bowler.

How did you teach yourself reverse swing?
By watching Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and practising hard. I was still trying to master it at my peak, but you never do. You always think you’ve got it, but then the batsman learns a new technique to face it so you have to learn something else.

Is the Yorker underused in the modern game?
You have to be good to do it. There are three bowlers who use it a lot now – Dale Steyn, Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar – and they all take wickets with it. Flintoff doesn’t do so badly with it either. He doesn’t take so many wickets because he moves the ball in, and batsmen can get across their stumps to him. He’s a quality bowler, and when he doesn’t play England miss him big time, but the angle he bowls from he’s going to find it very hard to take it away from the bat. Most of his wickets are bowled or LBW and there aren’t many seaming away and caught at slip, apart from to left-handers. That’s one thing in his game he could develop and if he could just learn to hold the ball up a bit, he’d be so much better. But he’s not a natural bowler is he; we all consider him a batsman who bowls a bit.

Are conditions now too far in favour of the batsmen in international cricket?
I honestly believe that the pitches now are the same as when I played but there are not as many good bowlers around as in the past. There are lots more decent batsmen but if you are a good bowler in this day and age then you still take wickets. Take Dale Steyn, he keeps it simple, he runs in and bowls it as fast as he can and keeps the seam upright and he averages about 20 or something silly. If you are a good bowler you take wickets on any pitch.

Why are there so few top-quality bowlers around today?
No idea. I think it goes in spells, in another two or three years you might get a few youngsters coming on to the scene, there are so many of them, who become world-class performers. It can just happen, it might just be a bad year. Each team now has one good bowler. Australia have Mitchell Johnson, South Africa have Steyn, India have Zaheer Khan, so each country have one good bowler and not four like they used to.

Where is England’s next strike bowler coming from?
I would like to think Steve Harmison still has a lot to offer England. He’s had a disappointing time, but when he’s confident and bowling well he’s their best bowler after Flintoff. The one guy who’s had potential but tended to spray it a bit is Saj Mahmood. I really hope he gets it right, because if he does he can be a handful.

Which country had the best opening bowling attack when you were playing?
South Africa. They had everything. Shaun Pollock had bounce, variation of pace, a good bouncer and a deceptive slower ball. Allan Donald was just a pure athlete, who had amazing speed, and could go on forever. A great performer.

Why has the North traditionally produced so many good quick bowlers?
The league pitches probably suit the bowlers better, although Headingley is now very, very flat. It cost us so many times last year. This year I think you’ll find Yorkshire will try and produce result pitches, because it’s the only way a side can win the Championship now. Yorkshire’s problem in the last two years is that they didn’t get enough results at Headingley, and teams that have won the County Championship have always got results at home.

Can England win the Ashes?
Absolutely. I think they’ll do it. I can’t see where Australia are going to get 20 wickets from.

Have England got it right with Andy Flower?
Of the candidates that went for the job, I’m pleased Andy Flower got it. All I’m concerned about is the discipline side. Andy is a great guy, I played with him at Essex, a very good coach, a great talker and I don’t think that was going to be an issue. The issue is how he handles the big-time players, and those with strong personalities. If he can handle them, he will be the right man for the job, but I’d like to see him as a coach rather than a manager.

What are your memories of Duncan Fletcher’s arrival as coach?
You didn’t really see anything for the first four months. He just watched and observed, worked out the characters of the individuals and how to approach them. His approach worked for a long time.

Will you be doing another series of the BBC’s Hole in the Wall?
I don’t know. I think the first series went really well. It’s one of those shows that, when you first watch it you think “what is this”, how long can watching people fall in the water make me laugh for? But as you found it became more and more popular and they ended up having to repeat it. When I watched it I wasn’t at my fittest, sometimes I squirm at it a bit but it was good fun. I’d have another go at it if I was asked, but I haven’t heard anything.

Darren Gough is representing the MARS Balls Get Britain Playing 200,000 ball giveaway. As part of the campaign Darren will be playing against sporting greats Pat Cash, John Barnes and Austin Healey in the Bounce Off – a tournament where he’ll captain a team that takes on these other legends in their respective sports. See for details on how to win a ball and get involved.

Sam Collins is website editor of

Posted in England, Interview, Test cricket | No Comments »

The TWC Summit: So children, what have we learnt?

May 20th, 2009 by TWC in England, Test cricket, The Ashes

We asked for an England win against West Indies, and we got one. A 2-0 win in fact, as comfortable as you like, by margins of 10 wickets and an innings and 83 runs. But, with just 50 days until the Ashes, did thrashing a team lacking in preparation, desire to be playing cricket and handwarmers actually tell us anything about England’s chances in the main event?

Our panel have their say below. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in England, Test cricket, The Ashes | 12 Comments »

Lawrence Booth: England don't need turn to burn Aussies

May 20th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in England, The Ashes

It’s funny, isn’t it, how a pitch on the Glamorgan square that turned too early in a Friends Provident Trophy match can engender mischievous optimism about a Test series that is still seven weeks away. “Excessive turn?” goes the cry. “Bring on Swann and Monty!” Now the Ashes has seen some fairly dubious pitch-doctoring in its time from both sides, but this – nearly two months in advance of the first Test at Cardiff on July 8 – would be something else. England should resist the temptation – but for reasons other than ethical rectitude.

Ever since it became clear that Cardiff, with the weight of the Welsh National Assembly behind it, had outbid Old Trafford, English cricket has slowly got used to the idea that a Panesar’s Ashes DVD was probably not going to be one of this year’s stocking fillers. This was sad, but the world has moved on. And it has moved on because Graeme Swann has shown that he does not need a bunsen to work his chemistry.

It used to be said that Shane Warne could turn it on concrete, which is why teams hosting Australia were generally on to a loser even if they prepared a seaming track, and on to an innings defeat if they produced one that turned. This is not to say that Swann is anywhere near that category – he clearly isn’t – but that the evidence of his brief Test career so far is that he has nous and guile, two qualities which have helped him leapfrog his former county colleague Panesar. He is also smart enough not to get carried away with tales of turn from Wales. As he told Cricinfo: “I’m sure they’ll be desperate for the game to go five days down there.”

So far, on pitches that have been either spin-neutral (even at Chennai, Harbhajan Singh could only manage match figures of four for 187) or seamer-friendly, he has prised out 34 wickets in seven Tests at 26. These are heady figures for any slow bowler, let alone the most derided of the breed, the English offie. And he can count some big names among his embryonic bunnies: Devon Smith (five dismissals), Shiv Chanderpaul, Brendan Nash, Gautam Gambhir (all three), Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Rahul Dravid (all two). This is a bloke who knows his own game – especially against left-handers, of which there could be five in Australia’s top eight this summer.

Besides, it could just be that England’s greatest bowling strength now is the swing, both ways, of Jimmy Anderson. The way he toyed with West Indies on Monday morning – uninterested or not, they just couldn’t pick him – was a reminder that England’s best way of beating Australia is to expose Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey early to the new ball. Even with Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clark and Peter Siddle in the Australian attack, England’s best hope is for the ball to swing in the air and dart off the seam.

England last won an Ashes series with spin back in 1956, when Australians will tell you the pitches at Headingley and Old Trafford were tailored to suit the purposes of Jim Laker and the hounded Lancashire groundsman Bert Flack declared himself thankful that Nasser had “taken over the Suez Canal. Otherwise, I’d be plastered over every front page like Marilyn Monroe”. There is, quite simply, no tradition of turning pitches here. England had better get used to it. Because, actually, it may not be such a bad thing after all.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for The Guardian

Posted in England, The Ashes | No Comments »

Paul Coupar: Ponting confident as Australia offer no shocks

May 20th, 2009 by TWC in The Ashes


The story was in the numbers. Fifty days till the Ashes, only four Australian survivors from 2005, and at least one big question: who exactly is Graham Manou?

That wasn’t the only mystery as Australia’s squad was announced at a drizzly SCG. When did Australia last set out for England with such an unblooded squad – nine with 15 caps or fewer? (No one could remember, but at least 25 years ago.) How did the volatile Andrew Symonds react to being left out? (No one was saying.) Would six specialist batsmen be enough? (Ponting’s confident smile suggested that three might do the job.)

In fact Ponting’s smile – like that of a card-player not showing his hand but confident he held the aces – was the best barometer of Australia’s true feelings. It was never bigger than when the captain made his view of England’s recent revival clear. “They’ve obviously done everything very well these last two Test matches,” said Ponting, “but I can guarantee they’ll facing stiffer opposition than the West Indies when we arrive in England.”

Several important pointers emerged for England. The absence of Symonds removed a man who drilled 232 demoralising runs at 58 in the 2006-07 green-and-gold wash. The presence of three left-handers in the likely top six is good news for Graeme Swann, who can bowl his offspin into the rough outside off stump. The selection of Nathan Hauritz as the only spinner means that, as the chief selector Andrew Hilditch said, “Our key weapons will be our pace attack”.

Only one position in his squad was genuinely up for grabs: the second allrounder’s slot, behind the lively but often-injured Shane Watson. It went to Andrew McDonald, a flame-haired 27-year-old fast-medium merchant, used mainly to block up an end in the recent series win in South Africa. Symonds, haunted by off-field problems, and Brad Hodge (Test average 55) missed out.

If this kind of selectorial consistency makes for stronger teams, it also leads to duller squad announcements. For example, chief selector Hilditch did not, as far as we were informed, make a case for including a promising club legspinner, as Peter May did in England in 1984. Nor did he leave out the best batsman for being over-fond of Champagne, a la David Gower in 1992.

However, some traditions were maintained. The announcement was prefaced with a typically modest Aussie-centric highlights package: “What a wonderful performance from this brilliant Australian team!” We also had exemplary English haughtiness. Earlier in the week a leading British journalist rang Cricket Australia: would they mind awfully rescheduling their announcement, only it didn’t suit his newspaper’s deadlines? He was politely told to get lost.

Manou – the 30-year-old back-up wicketkeeper from South Australia – and McDonald were not the only unfamiliar names. Only four squad members have played a Test in England – Ricky Ponting, his vice-captain Michael Clarke, Simon Katich and the recovering Brett Lee. On average each squad member has just 26 Test caps each.

Among the batsmen never to have faced England, Phillip Hughes is currently excelling for Middlesex (four hundreds and counting) despite a homespun technique which majors on slashes through and over point. Ponting admitted that Hughes is currently enjoying a glorified net in English conditions, a fact which brought perhaps his biggest smile of all. Twenty-nine-year-old Marcus North is also a face English bowlers have already seen too much of, after heavy-scoring stints with five counties.

As for the bowlers, Hauritz (“Not always a frontrunner” said Hilditch) is the latest of several spinners tried since Shane Warne left the stage. Either Hauritz will play every Test (unlikely) or Australia will rely on part-time spin.

Leading the pace attack are likely to be Mitchell Johnson, a thrillingly quick left-armer who recently removed five of the South African top order in Durban, including Graeme Smith with a broken hand and Jacques Kallis with a gashed chin, and that familiar foe Brett Lee. Alongside them could be Peter Siddle, a swing-bowling former wood chopper, whose first ball in Test cricket hit Gautam Gambhir on the head. He now has 29 wickets in seven Tests, and is likely to face a shoot out with Stuart Clark and Ben Hilfenhaus for the remaining bowling slots.

Ponting dead-batted suggestions England may prepare turning pitches to accentuate an advantage in spin bowling. However, it is clearly on Australian minds. Yesterday their coach, Tim Nielsen, said it would be “poor” of Glamorgan not to improve a square that recently led to a points-deduction for turning too much. “They have gone to great lengths to get the first Test in Cardiff … so I’m sure they wouldn’t want a shoddy pitch to ruin it,” Nielsen said. Somehow one suspected it was not the fortunes of the paying spectators in Wales that were uppermost in his mind.

Squad: Ricky Ponting (c) (TAS) Michael Clarke (vc), Stuart Clark, Brad Haddin, Nathan Hauritz, Phillip Hughes, Simon Katich, Brett Lee ( all NSW), Ben Hilfenhaus (TAS), Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Marcus North (all WA), Graham Manou (SA), Andrew McDonald, Peter Siddle (Vic), Shane Watson (QLD)

Paul Coupar is a freelance journalist based in Australia and a former features editor of TWC

Posted in The Ashes | 5 Comments »

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