The mess and maths of Anderson and Broad

When England ran out of bad players to drop, they have moved on to the good ones.

When Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad were left out for England, the easy thing to do was to get upset, or better yet, make jokes.

But there is more going on here than just England ballsing up another big moment. I mean they did do that, it seems like it was a last-minute decision between a bunch of interim employees who then released it with a comment to the press two hours later.


So it's easy to write this off as just another England blunder, I mean at this point they have the best average and strike rate with those in modern cricket, that's quite a big effort. And in PR terms, that's what happened here.

But why did they do it, well Andrew Strauss said it was three things.

"The Test team hasn't been performing well enough for 12-18 months and in particular the batting unit has misfired consistently."

Strauss is right on this, since August 2020 England has won five of it's 15 Tests. But we knew they were an up and down team before that. Going back four years, they really beat the teams better than them, and lose to the wins they aren't. There's no mad science to it. Since the start of 2019, they've played 38 and tests and won 14. They are not very good.

"Secondly, if we want to be the best team in the world we need to win away from home more often."

This isn't even a home and away thing. They lost to NZ, India (sort of) and drew 2-2 with Australia. WE know what this England is. They need to win, everywhere, a lot more.

"And thirdly, this is the start of a new cycle. It's an opportunity for us to get some new faces in the team and maybe to ask some players already in the team to play more significant leadership roles."

Actually, the new cycle started at the end of the world championship, this is mid-cycle. The ashes no longer define the period for them. Or at the least, they shouldn't. England should be planning to beat everyone.

But we also know that is not the case. Former England player and Middlesex head honcho Angus Fraser said the quiet bit out loud again recently.

So many people in English cricket don't care that much about anything that doesn't involve Australia. Perhaps making sure you win at home and away is a better strategy for winning in Australia to begin with. Imagine a situation where you set up your team to win home and away first, and then worry about individual challenges. Just a thought.

So now let's talk about the Broad Anderson part of all this. It angered Martin Samuels so much that he stopped ranting about football to grant about cricket, outside of cricket season. That's some effort.

And the gist of his piece is that England has a lot of bigger problems than Anderson and Broad. And that is unquestionably true. England can't bat, Joe Root aside they're a collection of decent all rounders, and interchangeable failed openers. But remember, they have dropped all them before—so many times. You can't drop your way to success, the underlying problem is deeper than that.

So of course you have to let your coach and director of cricket go. Well they did that already. You can argue Silverwood wasn't a good coach, but they weren't good before him, and I am not sure how you are supposed to coach when your two opening batters both average 31 in first class cricket.

Ashley Giles obviously had more to do with this, but England's batting and spin didn't drop off a cliff when he took over, they were free-falling when he got the job, and maybe he could have done more to turn it around. But again I think they were already pretty much dead when he got the gig. And again. He is gone.

Spin bowling is also a bigger problem than seamers, but England know that too. There is an excellent chance that for all their worry about Matt Parkinson being too slow, he's going to get a Test in the West Indies. Because they have tried most of the rest of the tweakers.

And so once you have done all that, other than relieve Joe Root of the captaincy and give it to a player who is already physically overworked and had mental health injuries recently. I'd say most of what you need to do has been tried.

So then the easy thing to do would be to keep Broad and Anderson ticking, while they can both physically tick. Job done.

There is no problem with Jimmy Anderson or Stuart Broad; there is an issue with Broaderson as a combo.

The first is how similar they are. In England that is not a problem at all. But having to medium-fast right-arm seam bowlers outside of England is always a worry. We've seen them in Asia, Australia, South Africa, and the West Indies just look like there are too many of them on one side.

And then when you leave them out, they will rumble. Themselves, or friends in the media. They let it known that they think they should be in the team. Which is fair, right.

I mean Jimmy Anderson and Start Broad have bowled a lot of deliveries for their country. They have a lot of wickets to show for that. And they rightfully feel like that means they should play every Test. England on the other hand don't always think that.

And that leads us to the second reason, which is probably related to the fact they are so similar. They don't take a lot of wickets away from home.

Last five years away from home, Anderson and Broad average just under six wickets per game when travelling. Even accounting for the fact that many of their attacks have five or even six bowling attacks, it's a small number of wickets.

Look at them compared to all the bowlers with 50 wickets on the road in the last five years.

Only Shannon Gabriel is between them. All the bowlers on this list are fantastic, taking 50 touring wickets is an incredible effort in five years.

Here is the fun bit, their averages aren't that bad. Stuart Broad is under 30, and Anderson is at 23.5.

But they don't take wickets, they contain, and are respected.

When you two major frontlines are averaging six wickets a game, it means the support cast has to be amazing. And you can see just how bad they are doing, And at times it has been Swann, Flintoff, Tremlett, Moeen, Bresnan, Wood, Finn, Leach, Sidebottom and Stokes. They are not all great bowlers but at times, in certain places, they were. But none as good as Broad or Anderson. Nor have their longevity.

But this weakness in the last five years, it's not new. If you look at all the England bowlers since the war England has had some very good travelling bowlers.

And many of them are quicks, like the Fred's Trueman and Tyson, the poet Jon Snow and Dazzling Darren Gough. There's a few spinners here too. But also Angus Fraser, Matthew Hoggard, Andy Caddick, Ian Botham and Alec Bedser. They are all England style seamers, and all of them take more wickets per match than Anderson and Broad. Considering how incredible they have been, who are far more down than the list than you'd think.

Oh, and if you are thinking, well, maybe they just got less innings to bowl in, I did wickets by innings too.

They're still way too low.

And if you just want it in average, they both have a record of over 30.

That doesn't mean that Broaderson only takes wickets at home, because they both have low averages in certain countries. Anderson averages under 25 in UAE, England and the West Indies. Two of the places don't have many clouds. Broad is good in in South Africa and UAE. Also 25 in England and 28 in New Zealand. They don't have a consistent threat between them when they travel.

But they are both brilliant when they are at home. That is a normal thing, and the same for most bowlers in the world. But if you compare them to other post-war England bowlers with 50 wickets home and away, they aren't as effective when they travel.

Bowlers like Flintoff and Gough didn't have the bodies to play away as much, but they were set up to succeed far more away from English wickets.

But taking a lot of wickets at home matters because that's when most people are watching. Home series are for casual fans, away series for the hardcore. And so taking the weight of wickets that these two at home means that you would find it hard to question them. But even when they keep their averages low, they just don't take many wickets per match.

And those numbers hold up in Australia as well.

In fact, Broad is slightly better in Australia, but still only takes 3.2 wickets per match. Meaning that for England to win the Ashes recently if both bowled they would have needed three of Jack Leach, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood and Ben Stokes to combine for around 14 wickets per match. Leach wasn't ever going to take more than two wickets a Test, Stokes the same. That means that Robinson and Wood would have combined for eight wickets every match, essentially outperforming England's greatest wicket-taking pairing. Oh, and if both of them played, that means Leach wouldn't anyway. The maths never really worked out.

Also, the other problem is that Robinson is so similar to Broad, and Anderson. He's probably like a combo of the both of them. Although obviously more like Broad. But he is also less fit than both of them. He looked spent after a day at the Gabba.

Mark Wood is obviously a fantastic bowler, and something very different. But he is a quick, and probably should be rested more than Broad, but if he is a better striker, you will want to bowl him more, which probably limits how much he can be rested.

Some of this would be fixed by Jofra Archer being fit, but who knows if he will be able to bowl series after series in Tests, and he also quite rightly may not want to. Tymal Mills decided not to, and looking at his injury history even with a reduced schedule, he was probably right to do that.

The ideal situation for England really when the tour outside Asia is really for two of Archer, Wood and maybe someone like Olly Stone to be fit, and then for two of Broad, Anderson and Robinson to be vailable. But more often the better options will be the two faster bowlers, one fast-medium, one spinner and Stokes. That means England has to pick between Anderson, Broad and Robinson for one spot.

Oh, and we haven't even mentioned Sam Curran or Chris Woakes. This needs to be mentioned for two reasons. Woakes was supposed to be the replacement for Anderson, except Anderson never left. And both need to be in squads because almost every other bowler I have mentioned so far can't bat. You can put Craig Overton in that list, too if you need.

This is a giant mess. One that Jofra Archer could make slightly better, but if Stokes can't continue to bowl as often as he once did,  causes problems.

Also, Stokes isn't as fast as he once was. Injuries have slowed him down a touch, when he was swift, having Broad and Anderson together was less of a problem, you always had a quick bowler automatically.

So the actual ideal bowling attack for England would be Anderson in odd Tests, Broad in even ones, Jofra in most, Robinson or Wood by conditions, an unknown spinner, and then Stokes fulfilling whatever role required. That lineup has no number eight.

So even the ideal is less so. Who does Woakes come in for there, Broad or Robinson? Curran the same. Overton could cover Robinson, but clearly isn't as good a bowler. And Overton averages 21 in First Class cricket, and 18 in his few Tests.

He's handy at nine, but hardly strengthening anything at eight.

This is messy, if you move on Anderson, you are getting rid of your greatest ever wicket-taker, who has won you series at home and away, who has taken 173 wickets in the last five years at 21.41 at a hair worse than Pat Cummins.

So, obviously you keep him. Broad has 169 wickets at 26 in that time by the way. That's also hard to discard.

But they're losing. And why, because the entire team around them, batting, bowling, fielding and spinning is not as strong as it once was. Anderson and Broad are in basically their best form in terms of average, but they don't produce the wickets. But they're also not getting the support they need. Woakes not being an overseas bowler hurts, Archer's injuries are a problem, Robinson's fitness, Overton and Curran's limitations all play a part.

They need the support cast to play more overseas, but they need to drop two all-time England greats to do that. Which is hard because the press, former players and fans rightfully go, well, um, they're great, and they are not the problem.

And they are not the problem, but they are part of it. And England has dropped everyone else at one stage or another. So they are left with the option of dropping a nuclear bomb on their strongest foot and resting them for the West Indies.

And we need to talk about this tour, because it is either the absolute best or worst place to do this. The problem with the West Indies is that if England's bowlers do well, we won't know if it is real. Since the pace playing pandemic it's been the worst place to bat.

Seam wickets are costing barely 21 runs. Even if England lost a series here, their bowlers would still have good records.

The other fun bit is that they will be using the Dukes ball. So again we learn even less. This is the best place to move on from your stars, or the worst, depending on how you look at things. They will get confidence, but they also won't really learn that much. They know how to bowl on friendly tracks with a Dukes already, right. That's why they are here.

That won't mean their backups are ready to take over. It won't mean they've developed much. It won't mean they can cancel Anderson and Broad. It won't mean England can win more.

And like most of the English cricket problems, this doesn't have a neat fix. Keeping Anderson and Broad doesn't work, because England already isn't a great side. Turfing them when the replacements aren't better is not helping either.

Chris Woakes has spent an entire career not taking wickets overseas. It is weird, and I don't really understand why it happened.

But he's 33, his average of 52 away from home obviously has some misfortune attached to it. But chances are he's not going to suddenly start taking wickets at 25 from here on in either.

Ollie Robinson isn't about to get fitter because he bowls some long spells in the Caribbean. Though, it can't hurt, right. But he's not about to become a Neil Wagner long spell machine either. I can't see how it would help Mark Wood much either, in fact, having two bowling geniuses around is huge for him. Overton and Robinson can't play together, so if Robinson plays, Overton probably doesn't.

Plus, all those guys have played overseas before.

So that leaves Saqib Mahmood, who needs more first class games; that is not something Broaderson are keeping him away from. And realistically, I think he could bowl well with them more than Overton or Robinson. And there is Matthew Fisher, who I don't think will play anyway.

Many think that Strauss did in sidelining Broad and Anderson to allow the next coach of director of cricket to move on from them easier. This is like when a politician leaks something ahead of doing it, to soften the blow.

But there is no easy from this. The maths of Broad and Anderson involves more than 1000 wickets.

But also means 6.2 a game when they take a flight. There is a maths problem. And it won't be salvaged with a hasty five-minute conversation and interim committee.

When Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad were left out for England, the easy thing to do was to get upset. Almost everything else to do with this is very hard.

Thank you for reading Jarrod Kimber's Sports Almanac.