Australia is determined to ramp up the pressure on England’s inexperienced batsmen, wanting to expose an apparent reliance on Joe Root and Alastair Cook.
An unsettled batting order has been a concern for England coach Trevor Bayliss throughout the year. It is a problem that will be amplified if Ben Stokes is barred from touring Australia.
Mark Stoneman, Gary Ballance, Dawid Malan and James Vince could potentially all feature in England’s top six for the Ashes opener if Stokes doesn’t run out on November 23 onto the Gabba.
Ballance is the only one of the quartet to have played a Test in Australia, or reached three figures for England. Stoneman, Malan and Vince have combined for three half-centuries from 15 Tests – all of which were played at home.
They loom as weak links compared to fresh-faced skipper Root – one of the world’s best batsmen – and Cook, England’s leading run-scorer and man of the series in its 2010-11 Ashes triumph in Australia.
“It’s pretty well documented there’s a couple of gaps there, so they’re obviously going to rely pretty heavily on Alastair Cook, Joe Root and those sort of guys,” Josh Hazlewood said.
“If we can keep those inexperienced guys under the pump, hopefully more pressure will fall on the senior guys and that leads to their downfall.”
England ‘s ‘big two’ are huge targets
Offspinner Nathan Lyon, who watched England’s batsmen consistently crumble throughout a 5-0 series thumping in 2013-14, expressed similar sentiments.
“We know who the big players are for England. There’s no point in hiding behind it – they’re Alastair Cook and Joe Root,” Lyon said.
“It’s massive (if Australia can dismiss Cook and Root cheaply).
“Especially for the guys new to international cricket, if we can get them in early and under pressure, then hopefully we can get a couple of mistakes and errors.
“They’re a talented line-up. Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on Cook and Root but then you’ve got Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes down the order.”
Lyon, who missed NSW’s recent one-day cup clash because of a sore shoulder, confirmed he would take part in next week’s Sheffield Shield opener.
“It’s all good. There’s absolutely no dramas with my shoulder,” he said.
National selectors are leaning towards picking a batsman at No.6 for the first Ashes Test, a ploy that would leave Lyon, Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins with a greater workload in the absence of an allrounder.
“You always want that fifth guy to bowl six or eight overs but, if we’re doing our job properly, then he’s not usually required,” Hazlewood said.
“The way Lyno is bowling, we can really rely on him for 30 overs a day.”