Chris Rogers looks set to take part in the third Ashes Test following health concerns in the aftermath of being struck on the helmet by a James Anderson bouncer. The Aussie opener scored 222 runs in his two innings but had to retire hurt in the second innings following a blow on the head that resulted in dizzy spells.
Since then, doubts have been raised about his participation in the Edgbaston Test, but he looks likely to start for the Baggy Greens as they look to take a lead in the series. Despite the concerns, four time Ashes winner, Kevin Pietersen has spoken up in defence of the bouncer. In conversation with the Paddy Power Blog, Pietersen recognised the dangers posed, but urged cricket authorities not to ban fast bowlers from pitching it short and in line with the body.
“What happened to Phil Hughes is a shadow that will hang over cricket forever. It was a tragedy. Seeing what happened to Chris Rogers in the second Test and the subsequent problems he had with dizzy spells brought back some uncomfortable memories for us all, especially for the Australians.It’s a sensitive topic, but you can’t take the bouncer out of cricket. It’s part of the game. If you take it away from bowlers, the game becomes too weighted in favour of batsmen and it’s already in favour of the batsmen.”
Pietersen amassed an average of 45 in 27 Ashes Tests against some of the quickest bowlers in world cricket, but has sympathy for the pacemen.
“Bowlers have it tough as it is thanks to some of the wickets around the world and you just cannot take the bouncer away. What happened was tragic and I never want to see any player at any level get hurt, but the game becomes too one-sided in the batsman’s favour without it.”
KP also had some advice for Rogers, imploring him to avoid any unnecessary risks, despite the importance of the Ashes urn being on the line.
“Chris knows his own body and even though it’s the Ashes, he shouldn’t take any risks. He’ll hopefully have a long life after cricket and he shouldn’t jeopardise that by pushing himself beyond what is reasonable.”
10 years on from Edgbaston playing host to arguably the greatest Ashes Test of all time, Pietersen reckons the Birmingham venue could be just the tonic for England who may not benefit from the Lord’s environs as much as their visiting opponents.
“The Lord’s Test is always a bit strange. The opposition players tend to really get themselves really up for it because they don’t get the opportunity to play there very often. They’ll have very few chances to get on that honours board compared to the England players and they grab that opportunity with both hands. Because it happens regularly enough, I would say the opposition certainly raise their game there and perhaps catch us out a bit.”
The victorious 2005 side that Pietersen was a part of had also suffered a heavy Lord’s defeat to the Aussies, but the former England player doesn’t see many other similarities between the two generations.
We went into that match after being soundly beaten in the Lord’s Test, but that’s where the similarity ends. We had a very different team – obviously in terms of personnel, but more crucially, in terms of attitude. Back then we had Andrew Strauss and Marcus Trescothick who could go out there and take the attack to the Australians. We had a lot of very positive players at the top of the order in comparison to the current England side.
Johnny Bairstow is set to return to the team for Wednesday’s third Test, but KP doesn’t feel there’s a huge need to overhaul the team as yet.
“Some people may have liked more sweeping changes from the selectors, but it’s up to the players to deliver. If everyone can be a bit more grounded and return to the positive brand of cricket they played at Cardiff and against New Zealand. If they don’t do that, the series will be gone.”
Pietersen also played down talk of the benign Lord’s pitch impacting England’s chances of victory.
“Australia made it look easy while England struggled, but I put that down to ‘scoreboard pressure’. When you walk out to bat after fielding for a day and a half, two days and a couple of early wickets go down, then you’re immediately on the back foot. 450 or 500 suddenly starts to look like a very big score. It’s why teams can never chase big scores in the fourth innings. 400-odd isn’t a huge score generally, but batting last, under scoreboard pressure, lots of teams collapse. It’s the fear of losing. England capitulated to scoreboard pressure at Lord’s, just as the Aussies did in Cardiff. It’s not specific to England, it happens to every team at some point.”