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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

David Saker agrees to be England’s bowling coach for this summer’s Ashes series

David Saker crosses the Ashes divide again as the Australian agrees to serve as England’s bowling coach for this summer’s series after Ben Stokes approach

  • David Saker has worked with both Australia and England in recent Ashes series
  • Saker has signed a contract be England’s bowling coach for this summer’s series
  • The Australian said it was an ‘easy decision’ after an approach from Ben Stokes 

David Saker has crossed the Ashes divide once more by signing a contract to be England’s bowling coach for this summer’s five Tests against Australia.

Australian Saker, 56, has been in the winning dressing rooms of both countries in recent instalments of world cricket’s fiercest and most deep-rooted rivalry, but took up the challenge of returning to England’s following an approach from Test captain Ben Stokes last November.

The agreement also includes the World Cup in India this October-November, but he remains on temporary terms due to an existing contractual obligation with Big Bash League franchise Melbourne Renegades.

‘I said yes straight away because of the magnitude of the occasion. I’ve been involved in Ashes with both parties and the cricket is as exciting as it gets,’ Saker said.

‘It’s the biggest Test event you can get and the way the two teams are playing made it pretty easy to make the decision. I was at the World Cup and Ben Stokes said “I’d like to get you involved in the Ashes”. Rob Key had already floated it a little bit, but being so busy I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to do it. Once Stokesy pushed it, though, it made it an easy decision.’

David Saker has signed a contract to be England’s bowling coach for this summer’s Ashes

Saker first joined England’s backroom staff ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup in 2010, when Ottis Gibson quit for the head coach job with West Indies, a period in which the team embarked on the most successful period in its history.

A maiden global trophy win in the Caribbean was soon followed by a first Ashes series victory down win down under for 24 years, and a surge to number one in the Test rankings.

But, after being involved in a home win over the Australians in 2013, things began to deteriorate and he left immediately after a disastrous 2015 World Cup amid suggestions that he had failed to unearth a new generation of seam-bowling talent.

Instead, he was involved in the development of Australia’s current crop of fast bowlers, spearheaded by Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc; his three-year spell as assistant coach included a 4-0 win over England in 2017-18, but he resigned nine months into Justin Langer’s tenure, having initially stayed on in the aftermath of the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

England white-ball coach Matthew Mott, his ex-Victoria teammate, then recruited Saker on a consultancy for last September’s Twenty20 tour of Pakistan, extending it for the successful World Cup campaign that followed and further work here in Bangladesh.

After this tour concludes tomorrow, he will spend eight weeks back in Melbourne before hooking up with Brendon McCullum and the rest of the coaching staff for a Test against Ireland at Lord’s, starting on June 1 that precedes five Ashes clashes in seven weeks.

Saker has good relationships with the core of England’s Test bowling group, having previously worked with James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes, but is clearly enthused about Ollie Robinson – ‘he looks like a hell of a hard work to face in English conditions’ – and appears most excited about the ‘outliers’ Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, and their ability to consistently break the 90-mile-per-hour barrier.

Over the weekend, Archer said simply featuring against Australia this summer would represent a success, following a 22-month lay-off with stress fractures of the elbow and back.

But, after he ‘cranked it up and bowled some seriously fast balls on a slow wicket’ in defeat to Bangladesh on Sunday, Saker responded: ‘I’m sure he’ll play more than one Test, if he’s fit.

‘That’s the thing that those sorts of bowlers can do, they can bowl a spell that can crack a game open. I’m not saying Jimmy or Stuart can’t but guys that can bowl at that pace can really change a game quickly and they’re also enormously effective to get the tail out.

‘It was probably the start of him climbing up to the Ashes. The exciting thing in the dressing room is Jofra’s back to that really seriously quick, aggressive (bowler).’

For that reason, plus one significant other, Saker believes he is in the right camp after his latest to-ing and fro-ing, as he explained: ‘Playing in English conditions I think it puts their bowling group in front of the Australians without a doubt.’

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