Despite Australia being in the driving seat in the fifth and final Ashes Test , England bowling coach David Saker is confident Alastair Cook’s side, who have already won the series, can battle back.
“We’re a bit behind at the minute but there’s still a long way to go, (it is) a very good batting wicket so we hope we can push forward from here.” he said.
Chris Woakes and Simon Kerrigan made their debuts at The Oval and have had a torrid time of it with spinner Kerrigan finishing with 0-53 from just eight overs while Woakes’s 24 overs returned 1-96.
But Saker believes it is too early to judge the duo just yet, feeling conditions were not receptive for Kerrigan in particular over the first two days.
“It’s pretty hard to judge the spinner probably on day one and (yesterday) with the ball getting so wet he probably wasn’t able to be used (yesterday),” he said.
“I thought Woaksey tried really hard and he bowled some really good overs in there so I think it’s pretty harsh to just judge someone, first of all on that wicket and only two days into the Test match.”
Saker was also quick to defend the selectors’ decision to go with two spinners in Kerrigan and Swann while also handing Woakes a call-up ahead of Chris Tremlett.
“We had a good look at the wicket and to us it really looked like it was going to spin as a group so we just probably decided to go down that track,” he said. “It’s quite easy to stand there now and judge it after two days of cricket but I’d like to judge it after five days and see where we are.”
Australia’s Steve Smith conceded that he was under pressure to perform before going on to make his maiden century yesterday.
A number of Australia’s players had been warned their places in the side were not nailed down, with the use of 17 players throughout the series proving such a point.
But both Smith and Shane Watson have taken the opportunity to stake their own personal claims for starting berths when the next Ashes series begins in the winter.
Watson was the star on the opening day but Smith took the lead on day two, which was affected by rain with no play possible until 2.30pm.
The 24-year-old played some classy shots as the ball swung more than it had on day one, with Smith – who finished unbeaten on 138 – admitting he was pleased to score his first 100 at the right time.
“I probably was under a bit of pressure,” he said.
“But I was trying to put it in the back of my mind and play the way I always play.
“I didn’t think too much about it and just tried to go out and get runs and it was nice to form a partnership with Watto [Watson] (on Wednesday); he batted superbly and was able to put us in a good position.”
Smith reached three figures by smashing a six off the bowling of Jonathan Trott, who had been given the ball by England captain Cook despite the fact his side boasted a five-strong bowling attack.
Australia coach Darren Lehmann’s controversial comments about England bowler Stuart Broad have cost him 20 per cent of his match fee for the fifth Ashes Test.
Lehmann gave a colourful radio interview on the eve of the game, during which he described Broad’s refusal to walk after an edge in the series opener as “blatant cheating”.
Lehmann also called on the Australian public to “get stuck into him” when England tour this winter, adding that he hoped the seamer “cries and goes home”.
England were not moved to report the incident to the International Cricket Council, but International Cricket Council chief executive Dave Richardson laid a charge himself and Lehmann pleaded guilty.