Plenty to cheer about: Australia celebrate exposing yet another England weakness during the summer
Australia face England in the fifth and final Test match of the summer at the Oval next week hoping to end their miserable tour on a high, and the tourists will look to carry on exposing certain weaknesses in the home side from the series so far.
Australia skipper Michael Clarke and head coach Darren Lehmann will be keen to emphasize to their team the huge importance of continuing to win their mini head-to-head contests with certain opponents, with both sets of players starting to turn their focus towards the return series Down Under later this year.
And so these are the five main England weaknesses that Australia will be seeking to exploit at the Oval, starting on Wednesday.
Double act: England's so-far stuttering opening partnership of Root and Cook
England’s new-look opening partnership of skipper Alastair Cook and Joe Root have produced scores of just 27, 11, 18, 22, 47, 0, 34 and 17, which amounts to 176 runs at a paltry average of only 22.
Sure, it is still early days with this duo, but the Aussie bowlers must now be starting each England innings in the belief that the first home wicket is just around the corner.
You can be sure that Clarke will be desperate to ensure that this trend continues in the final Test, so that at least the tourists will have something to hold on to as they look ahead to another five contests back home starting in November.
The King is dead, long live the King: but is it too early to start writing off Anderson?
James Anderson, the much-talked about “leader of the England bowling attack,” may have highly-respectable figures for the series of 17 wickets at 31, while two five-wicket hauls in the narrow first-Test win at Trent Bridge gave the Lancashire seamer 10 in the match.
However, remove that man-of-the-match performance from his overall stats for the summer and then suddenly things start to look very different, with the 31-year-old having taken just seven wickets at a rather expensive 53.
What is more, of those seven scalps, only one was a top-order batsman.
So Australia will be keen to carry on their post-Nottingham dominance of England’s most important bowler as they look ahead to this winter.
And the pitch at the Oval is likely to greatly aid them with this.
Jeepers keepers: Aussie stumper Brad Haddin leaps to catch Trott yet again down the leg side at Durham
Before the series started, many experts had been advocating the use of more short-pitched bowling to England run-machine Jonathan Trott, with the No. 3 batsman having the most unusual habit in international cricket of advancing down the pitch as the opposition fast bowler is about to deliver the ball.
No international side has ever really attempted to prevent the 32-year-old from doing this by simply counteracting this premeditated forward movement with a bouncer.
That is until Australia arrived for the start of the Ashes last month, and even more so since paceman Ryan Harris came into the side at Lord’s, with the result being that the South Africa-born batter has now been dismissed cheaply twice in the past two Tests.
Both time he was caught down the leg side off short, rising balls from Harris.
And with the next Test being at the Oval, the liveliest pitch in England and the one surface that resembles the tennis-ball bounce of the WACA in Perth, you can expect more of this strategy in an attempt to further expose Trott’s obvious weakness against the short ball.
Fair maidens: no bowler on either side has produced more maiden overs in the series than the always economical Watson
If you look at the respective scoring rates of the two teams so far, you may be surprised to see that the tourists are consistently scoring at a faster rate per innings than their hosts.
And that has been the result of some clever plans from the Australia think tank that have resulted in a number of quirky field settings for England's top seven, with the visitors’ bowlers then proving skillful enough to implement those plans.
Much of this strategy has simply been an extension of what England’s bowlers have been doing for the past few years on the team’s rise to the top—disciplined bowling outside off stump to a set field in what is in effect a game of patience with the opposition batsmen.
It is based on the theory that all batters like to score.
This policy of drying up England’s top order, often by using the accurate Shane Watson to bowl maiden after maiden, has worked brilliantly against the home team’s star-studded batting lineup.
It will be interesting to see how effective this ploy will be on the best pitch in England at the Oval, and then again on the hard bouncy surfaces Down Under later this winter.
Smiles better: Siddle celebrates dismissing his "bunny" Prior yet again in the first innings at Durham
Eighty-six runs at 14 with a highest score of 31 at Trent Bridge in the first Test says it all really for England’s Player of the Year for 2012. Matt Prior's glove work behind the stumps has hardly been faultless either, perhaps affected by his many failures with the bat.
Australia fast bowler Peter Siddle has also continued his dominance over the England wicketkeeper, dismissing Prior on four occasions in the series and 10 times in his career.
The stumper’s main weakness is against the ball darting back at him at pace to trap him leg before on the crease, as has happened on more than one occasion this summer.
You can be sure Siddle will be looking to continue his hold over Prior at the Oval next week.