Bumble believes England can bowl Aussies over in The Ashes
As England fly out to Australia today to defend The Ashes, Sky TV commentator David Lloyd spoke to PHILIP BANYARD about their chances of success – and his own forthcoming appearance in Norwich
He suffered Ashes defeats in Australia both as a player and a coach, but David Lloyd is confident that this winter he will be commentating on English success Down Under.
Lloyd's Lancashire burr will once again feature heavily on Sky Sports when England begin the defence of the little urn in Brisbane on November 25 – and the mere mention of it provokes a typically enthusiastic response from the 63-year-old commonly known as 'Bumble': 'I think it'll go pretty well for England, they've got a great chance,' he said.
'They've got an excellent team – a better team than Australia, so it just depends whether they can perform in Australia.
'The big difference now is that Australia are in transition, they don't have any match-winning bowlers. They've got a decent attack, but nothing like McGrath, Fleming, Gillespie, Warne – and that will be significant as far as I can see.'
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Shane Warne will be alongside Lloyd in the commentary box instead of wreaking havoc in the English batting line-up – and that factor alone is enough to raise hopes that there will be no repetition of the last Ashes series in Australia, when the hosts won 5-0: 'We don't mention that,' said Lloyd. 'We keep telling Warney that's just something that never happened.
'He's in touch pretty regularly – he's gone fairly critical of Australia after they were beaten out in India and he's now saying it's going to be real close, whereas if you listen in the past, people like Glenn McGrath would just say 5-0 Australia.'
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It is the dismantling of the great Australian bowling attack and the emergence of an exciting English quartet that Lloyd believes will give the tourists their first successful Ashes defence since Mike Gatting's side triumphed in 1986-87.
'I just think we have a better attack,' said Lloyd. 'The make-up of the teams will be very similar – six batters, a wicketkeeper and four bowlers and I just think England's four bowlers are better than Australia's.
'The batters set it up and the bowlers win it, and there's no reason to think that England can't score runs against that attack. There's nothing really that's going to frighten them. In the past you'd lay awake for weeks on end thinking about Shane Warne – but you can't replace someone like that.'
While the bowling appears to be slotting into place nicely, it is the batting – and in particular the form of Kevin Pietersen – that gives England most concern.
Pietersen has not scored a Test century since March 2009 and was dropped from the England one-day side towards the end of last summer and sent back to county cricket to rediscover some form. That ploy was not entirely successful – neither was a subsequent trip to play first class cricket in South Africa – but Lloyd expects the flamboyant star to play a key role this winter: 'I wouldn't have thought he's in danger of losing his place – they are desperate for Pietersen to do well,' he said. 'He's a wonderful player who's just had a real bad run of form.
'But having been involved at that level, I'm absolutely convinced it's to do with the bad Achilles injury he had. It took a long time for him to get over that – I still think he's playing catch up. But his record against Australia is fantastic and they would rather he was not in the team.'
Another injury scare for England revolves around pace bowler Jimmy Anderson after he cracked a rib while boxing during a preparation camp in Germany. The manner in which that injury was sustained had many traditionalists questioning what boxing has to do with cricket, but Lloyd – who was England coach between 1996 and 1999 – is not concerned about unconventional training methods: 'I used to do it myself,' he said, 'People get injured and that's how it is. Getting fit for cricket is not that simple. You're out there for seven or eight hours and you need body strength and stamina.
'I've no problem with what they do – I used to march my teams over mountains to get some mileage in their legs. To stand in 37 or 40 degree heat is pretty demanding and you've got to be fit and strong.
'Jimmy took a whack and it's a nice story, but he'll be fit for the first Test match.'
Lloyd himself will be heading to Australia on the back of a busy month appearing at the UK's theatres – including two performances at the Norwich Playhouse – on his Start The Car tour, alongside Mail on Sunday cricket writer Peter Hayter.
As anyone familiar with Bumble's commentary style might expect, it will be far from a monologue of ex-cricketer's anecdotes. When asked for a taster of what audiences can expect, he replied: 'We're talking about all sorts – and we'll be outing cricketers who wear wigs! We're really excited about it. We've done the running order as much as we can and there's going to be some flipping great stuff in there. It's going to be an almighty laugh. There'll be a bit of serious stuff in it, but not much!'
It will not be Lloyd's first appearance in Norfolk, as he played for Cumberland at Lakenham in the Minor Counties Championship in 1985: 'I retired at Lancashire and I went up to play in Cumberland – the attraction there was the Lake District which I love to bits so I thought I'd play a bit of cricket and stay up there.
'I remember playing at Lakenham – Norfolk had a really good cricketer called Stephen Plumb. He was a good player him – he could be a nasty piece of work on the field, but he was a very good player.'
When his 23 tour dates are completed, it's straight on the plane to Australia: 'We finish the theatre tours on the 19th and I'm off on the 20th, so it's a quick turnaround,' he said. 'I like the excitement of planning what I'm going to be doing.
'I'm slightly alternative as a lot of people know – most people go down to Sydney Harbour Bridge for the festive season and everybody clamours to get on a boat – I don't do that, I just go on a wander.'
But it is the cricket action that Lloyd, England's Barmy Army of followers and the Sky TV audience will be relishing most. There is now less than a month to wait and as Bumble himself would no doubt put it: 'Start the car.'
• David Lloyd will be appearing at Norwich Playhouse on Monday, November 8. Tickets, priced �15, are available for the matinee show, starting at 3.30pm. The evening show has sold out, but if there are any returns, tickets will be priced at �18 (concessions �16).
To book, call the box office on 01603 598598.
• ASHES ITINERARY
(all start times GMT)
5-7: v Western Australia, Perth (2.30am)
11-13: v South Australia, Adelaide (11.30pm, December 10-12)
17-20: v Australia A, Hobart (11.30pm, December 16-19)
25-29: 1st Test, Brisbane (midnight)
3-7: 2nd Test, Adelaide (midnight)
10-12: v Victoria, Melbourne (midnight)
16-20: 3rd Test, Perth (2.30am)
26-30: 4th Test, Melbourne (11.30pm, December 25-29)
3-7: 5th Test, Sydney (11.30pm, January 2-6)
10: v Prime Minister's XI, Canberra (11.45pm, January 9)
12: 1st Twenty20 international, Adelaide (d/n, 8.35am)
14: 2nd Twenty20 international, Melbourne (d/n, 8.35am)
16: 1st ODI, Melbourne (d/n, 3.20am)
21: 2nd ODI, Hobart (d/n, 3.20am)
23: 3rd ODI, Sydney (d/n, 3.20am)
26: 4th ODI, Adelaide (d/n, 3.20am)
30: 5th ODI, Brisbane (d/n, 3.20am)
2: 6th ODI, Sydney (d/n, 3.20am)
6: 7th ODI, Perth (3.20am)
• ENGLAND SQUAD
Andrew Strauss (captain, Middlesex), Alastair Cook (vice-captain, Essex), James Anderson (Lancashire), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Paul Collingwood (Durham), Steven Davies (wk, Surrey), Steven Finn (Middlesex), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex), Monty Panesar (Sussex), Kevin Pietersen (unattached), Matt Prior (wk, Sussex), Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire), Chris Tremlett (Surrey), Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire).