Ricky Ponting says that the conversation around Ollie Robinson has been blown out of all proportion, but reiterated the England seamer has not looked particularly dangerous so far in the series, even after a three-wicket haul at Lord’s.
The former Australian captain was one of a number of ex-players to respond to some lively quotes from Ollie Robinson during the first Test of the Ashes series, which Australia went on to win by two wickets.
Former opening batter Matthew Hayden was particularly outspoken, saying Robinson bowled harmless “124kph nude nuts”, before the England seamer returned figures of 3/100 in the first innings at Lord’s.
Those three wickets leave Robinson with the most wickets of any pace bowler in the series so far, with a lower average and economy than any of Australia’s pace attack.
But speaking to Sanjana Ganesan on the ICC Review, Ponting says that the stats are skewed by Robinson picking up lower-order wickets, and that Robinson, although skilful, has lacked threat.
“I don’t think he’s looked dangerous in the series at all,” Ponting said.
“I mean, if you look at the wickets, he’s got the tailenders out in each game. Yes he got Marnus (Labuschagne) in this innings here. But then he got (Nathan) Lyon and then he got (Josh) Hazlewood. So if he didn’t get the 10 and 11 out, then he finishes his innings with one wicket at over four runs an over.
“He’s a very skilful bowler, no doubt about that, and no one would’ve said a word about Ollie Robinson if he hadn’t have sort of instigated this whole tit-for-tat that’s been happening over the last couple of weeks.
“And to be honest, I think the whole thing’s been blown completely out of proportion.
“It’s something that’s everyone’s enjoyed talking about, and some of the ex-players have enjoyed hopping in and having a bit of a crack, but at the end of the day he’s a skilled bowler and, as you say, his numbers so far in the series are actually okay.”
Robinson was one of four front-line quick bowlers named by England in their side for Lord’s, with Josh Tongue replacing Moeen Ali after the spinner picked up a finger injury in the first Test.
And Ponting says he understands why England opted for the unusual all-seam approach with their bowling attack selection.
“As it turned out, Joe Root got two wickets in the first innings anyway, and to be honest I think that the obvious reason that they haven’t (picked a spinner) is they think they haven’t got one good enough to come in and play Test cricket.
“They would rather back another seam bowler over playing another spinner. And that actually makes sense to me.
“When you think about most of their attack, with conditions here at Lord’s, they would’ve definitely wanted Robinson, Anderson and Broad to all play. But if you play all three of those guys, and a spinner, then there’s a lot of sameness to the attack. So they wanted to bring in someone with a little bit of extra pace.
“Ideally, I’m sure they would’ve wanted Mark Wood to play. He wasn’t quite right, so they went with Tongue, who looked actually quite good. He’s got a slightly different action, a front-on chest action that gets the ball to swing away from the right-hander.
“We’ll judge the selections at the end of the game, but right now everything’s sort of going okay for England, considering what they’re doing with the bat in the game right now.”
James Anderson’s tough start to the series continued, with the 40-year-old picking up 1/53 in the first innings to take his series tally to two wickets.
The veteran swing bowler said after the first Test that conditions at Edgbaston did him no favours, and Ponting also believes that Anderson is short of best.
“I think he said in Birmingham, in the first game, that he felt he probably wasn’t at his best. He was lacking a little bit of rhythm. The ball wasn’t coming out exactly the way that he wanted it to.
“And in pre-game this morning I got asked who I would’ve started the innings with this morning, and I actually went away from Anderson.”
But the Australian also feels there’s every chance of Anderson finding his mojo again before the series is out.
“You never write off champions. That’s one thing I know about the game. James Anderson has been a champion of the game and will continue to be until he wants to pull up stumps.
“Skill wise, it still looks like it’s all there. But I think he, within himself, feels like he’s probably not quite at his best right now.”
Australia also sprung a surprise with their selection for Lord’s, opting against another appearance for Scott Boland, with Mitchell Starc coming in to add a point of difference.
Ponting believes the pitch for this Test suits Boland’s style more, just as the first Test wicket could have played into Starc’s hands.
“I was a little bit surprised.
“When I turned up here and looked at this Lord’s wicket with the overcast conditions that were expected for the first couple of days, I thought that those conditions would suit Boland down to the ground as well. So, I don’t if there’s any sort of little niggle with Scott.
“To be honest with you, with Starc in this game so far, he has got the ball to swing a little bit, which is what they want to see from him. But all I’ll say is I was surprised that they made the change.”