Rising from the Ashes: England must fight fire with fire

Emerging England batsman Dawid Malan has urged his side to adopt ‘s aggressive ethos when they seek to earn respect in the dead-rubber Tests of Melbourne and Sydney.
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Malan has been one of the stand-out men for England in an otherwise miserable summer. He has two centuries through the tour, including a 140 in Perth last week, and has shown he is a figure England can build around heading into the Ashes rematch of 2019.

The Middlesex left-hander is a keen observer of technique and tactics, and has quickly come to understand fast bowlers have more options to attack on n shores than in England where they are predominantly encouraged to pitch the ball up.

What he has also witnessed in his maiden Ashes series is the manner in which Steve Smith’s men have tackled the task at hand – and he wants England to embrace the same style, beginning in next week’s Boxing Day Test.

“I personally believe we need to be aggressive with these [n] guys as they are with us. If you ever take your foot off the gas with these blokes, they seem to really, really dominate,” Malan said.

“It showed at Adelaide when we were aggressive to them under lights in their second innings. We attacked them and they fell away just as we did at certain times when they attacked us.”

In an interview with The Telegraph of London, Malan added “that whether you’re batting or bowling or fielding you have to be aggressive”.

“It doesn’t mean you have to chirp, it doesn’t mean you have to get in people’s faces, but when you bat you have to look to score runs, when you bowl, look to take wickets, be positive in everything and don’t take your foot off and let them get into the game,” he said.

The two teams will have their first training sessions at the MCG on Saturday since the ns took possession of cricket’s most famous prize in Perth.

The pressure remains intense on England skipper Joe Root, who has struggled for form with the bat (176 runs at 29) and has wider selection and injury issues to deal with.

Stuart Broad (knee and form), Moeen Ali (finger and form) and Craig Overton (ribs) are all under the spotlight.

n batsman Peter Handscomb, overlooked for the Perth Test when Mitch Marsh was recalled, expressed sympathy for Root, a teammate with Yorkshire.

“I feel for Joe, but on the flip side we want to win these Ashes 5-0 and we’ve said that from the start,” Handscomb said.

“We’re on the right track and it is tough for Joe, his second or third series as captain of his country and I daresay he’d be feeling the pressure at the moment. But he’s a smart cricketer, got a good head on his shoulders and he’ll bounce back.”

The bulk of the n squad flew into Melbourne on Friday, with the focus over the next few days set to be on injured spearhead Mitchell Starc.

He has been instrumental in ‘s aggressive approach but is in extreme doubt for the fourth Test because of a sore heel and has been on crutches.

“I am in Melbourne so I am a small chance (to play),” Starc said on Friday upon landing in Melbourne on crutches.

Jackson Bird is set to return to the side as Starc’s replacement, and has been performing well in the nets.

Handscomb said Bird was ready to maintain the standard set by speedsters Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Starc.

“In the nets he was bowling really well over in Perth, swinging it, seaming and hitting his line and length so, if he does come in for this Test, I’ve got no issues there, knowing he’ll come in and do what’s required,” Handscomb said.

“He’s just relentless on his mark. He’ll hit the top of off and he’s still got a very good bouncer in him as well. So if we comes in his skills are right up there and he’s shown that in Shield cricket.”

Bird has not played a Test since last year’s Boxing Day clash against Pakistan when he took 3-114 in the first innings while shredding the tourists’ middle order and 1-46 in the second.