How can England get on top of Warner and Smith?
The return of David Warner and Steve Smith to Australia’s batting line-up is a massive boost. Without any doubt, the duo was picked for the Ashes campaign as Australia look to win the series in England for the first time in 18 years.
The conditions in English summer are slightly suited to the bowlers and now, the England and Wales Cricket Board have opted to use the 2018 version of Dukes ball which offers more lateral movement for the bowlers.
In 2017-18 Ashes, England were completely outplayed. Their batsmen failed to put up big scores and bowling looked extremely ineffective. Steve Smith was invincible in that series. England tried every tactic against Smith but probably lacked extra pace on those batting friendly wickets.
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The case is different in England though as the ball keeps on doing tricks all day long which brings the bowlers into play.
So what should be the plan to keep Warner and Smith quiet?
Warner is not your classical opening Test match batsman. He likes to take the game on and if you err slightly as a bowler, he will take the game away from the opposition in one session. Like most of the batsmen, he likes to free his arms and hit through the off-side.
He doesn’t move his feet significantly and relies a lot on getting any sort of width so that he can free his arms easily.
England bowlers should look to start from the middle and leg stump line and finish on or just around top of off-stump. At times, subconsciously, his back foot slides outside leg-stump which was picked up in the commentary box during the World Cup.
Warner's back foot slides outside leg-stump
As a left-hander facing bowling from over the wicket, you want your feet, hips and shoulders all facing back towards the bowler. The moment that back foot slides, it can cause a few issues with the alignment.
It closes off your front shoulder which can lead to your vision being blocked off. Anything which pitches on middle and leg stump line is in his blind spot, and if the ball finds any sort of movement, that can be even more dangerous.
Steve Smith’s progress as a batsman is remarkable. He started off as a leg-spinner and batted way down the order but took his batting to the next level in following years. Earlier in his career, Smith batted on leg-stump and pushed his hands away from the body which left him vulnerable to the corridor of uncertainty.
His remodeled technique includes a shuffle across the stumps which gets him into the line a bit more backed up with a much better awareness of his off-stump.
His stance is very open but turns his front shoulder into his shots extremely well which gives him a lot of control and power. Think about a two-handed backhand in tennis and how a tennis player turns his front side to hit the ball.
Smith turning his front shoulder into the ball
There has been a lot of chat about how Smith picks his bat up and where does the bat starts its journey from, but the point is how he manages to hit the middle of the bat most of the times.
So what should be the exact plan to Smith?
Because he moves his back foot across to off-stump, he can line up balls just around that area and turn them to leg-side for runs. If England come up with a plan to nick him off, the line has to be slightly wider from a fuller length.
The other option which could cut down his movements across the crease would be to have a few catchers on the leg-side. That can play on his mind as he might think of reducing his movements with the risk of getting caught in that region. That can again bring in the outside edge into play.
England have to be very clear in their plans and executions as Smith and Warner hold the key to Australia’s batting line-up.