Former Australian fast bowler Damien Fleming has given Aussie fans a boost in confidence ahead of a blockbuster summer of cricket against the old enemy, blasting England’s batsmen following their series against South Africa.
England may have beaten South Africa 3-1 at home, however,, Fleming says their top order produced some truly horrendous displays with the bat.
Fleming in particular singled out the side’s three newest batsmen, in Keaton Jennings, David Malan and Tom Westley.
“England needs three decent batsman in their top six,” Fleming said on RSN radio.
“Watching the South African series, they’re some of the worst batsmen I’ve ever seen play Test cricket.
“Young Jennings and the debate is, ‘Does he get another opportunity?’ He scored 127 runs at an average of 15. I used to bat nine in Test matches and I would just be happy with that, averaging 15. Just be happy. He’s opening the batting.
“I don’t like his technique, closed grip, he’s going to nick people that can angle the ball across him and for bowlers that can actually get the ball to shape back in, that gap between bat and front pad (is a target). This is an opening batsman.
“Westley has a similar technique (to Jennings).
“He is squared up, he has hands that are a long way in front of his body with a closed grip. How does he hit the ball through the off side? He’s going to nick off or get in trouble with the ball that comes in.
“Where are 80 per cent of the deliveries going to be to Jennings and Westley? Outside off stump, maybe shaping away. They don’t have a technique to cope with that.
“Young Malan, 35 runs at an average of eight — there’s real opportunities for Australia to run through the top order.”
Fleming also questioned the inclusion of Gary Ballance in the side.
“How did Gary Ballance play Test cricket again after that last series two years ago there?” Fleming said.
“He goes back in the crease, he blocks half-volleys so he doesn’t hurt you.
“If you’re getting your half-volleys blocked you know it’s only a matter of time before he nicks one or gets caught on the crease and (is trapped) LBW.”
However, Fleming, who took 75 wickets in 20 Tests for Australia, said England’s middle order will prove difficult to remove.
“Where I will give England a tick, their middle order all-rounders and their wicketkeeper Bairstow, they’re stars. They’re fantastic players,” he said.
“Stokes is a matchwinner with bat and ball and he’s a very good fieldsman as well. Bairstow’s probably the best wicketkeeper batsman at the moment.”
The first Test of this year’s Ashes series begins on November 23 at the Gabba.
However, before Australia host England, they face a two-test series against Bangladesh away from home, which kicks off on August 27 in Mirpur.