So that’s where you’ve been hiding Australia!

I very nearly didn’t get up early this morning.  It’s Christmas function season, it’s back to being crazy cold out, and it’s pretty dam warm and cosy under the doona.  When the alarm went off at 3, I thought about turning over and going back to sleep – I’ve really seen enough of Cook for this year.  I thought about going back to sleep for all of 3 seconds, then I rolled out of bed.  And aren’t I glad I did that!

So it turns out that the best way to find your form is plenty of sub-fielding and a few net sessions.  Unorthodox I guess, but generation Y dance to the beat of a different drum.  Perhaps the well monitored training programmes, weights, running and the limits placed on the amount of balls to be bowled in a session by these youngsters does make sense.  Or maybe he just got some confidence (runs), lifted his arm a tad, and remembered how to make the ball sing.  Or maybe Anderson just upset him enough yesterday to release the beast … I don’t know what it was, but what ever it was, someone do it to him again before the second dig!

Today was, without a doubt, Australia’s day.  The first day they have clearly won since the Hussey/Haddin partnership in Brisbane.  But it is only one day – so far.  Although I would much prefer to be 200 runs to the good with 7 wickets in hand, this WACA pitch has consistently given up huge scores in the 4th innings over the past several years and England have shown this series that they definitely can bat.  There is plenty to play for yet.

The big question that arose today, as far as I am concerned, was whether Australia found their mojo, or whether we have all discounted the England team’s fear of success?

It is a bit of both.

It was nice to see the real Johnson back, I have missed him.  But how long will he stay this time?  Does he have to shampoo his hair tomorrow?  Will be miss the bus?  Is he/this just a big tease?

Not everything went the way of the antipodeans.  Bell again batted well, I am thinking of re-naming him, because it is simply lazy for me to continue to label him “un-Bell-like” – but that is exactly what he has been – perhaps he has finally made it in test cricket?  Interestingly, he has still not scored a century against Australia in tests – he has scored eleven 50’s (out if his total of 25), but not a single century.  If he keeps batting like this, that may be rectified by the time the Sydney test concludes. 

There certainly has been a lot of discussion about his position in the batting line up.  The English boys on Sky are adamant that he cannot score a century while he is “wasted” at 6 because he doesn’t get the chance to bat for long enough, and he has to bat with the tail.  Absolute rubbish.  I can’t be bothered listing the number of test batsmen batting at 6 (and below) who have scored tons, but there are more than a few, and Bell certainly didn’t do any better than he is now when he batted higher up the order.

Speaking of him batting up the order, general consensus seems to be that he is a number 3 batsman.  Firstly this would be grossly unfair on Mr Trott, who has been very good in that position for England of late.  Secondly, Bell has batted at number 3 plenty of times, and apart from against Bangladesh, he has seldom been a success there.  I can go with Bell and Collingwood swapping positions, and at a stretch to Pieterson dropping to 5, with Bell at 4, although personally, I certainly wouldn’t drop Pieterson to 5, but number 3?  Seriously?

Obviously, Ponting, Hughes and Clarke are problems for Australia.  The Hughes issue is of great concern.  He really has to be given the opportunity in the two remaining tests, as what was the point of selecting him otherwise.  The real issue is whether he should have been selected at all.  I was wrong yesterday, I was too generous.  Apparently he is actually averaging little more than 20 this year in Shield cricket.  How do you get in the Australian side averaging 20?  Not only is this a kick in the teeth to every block running around in Shield cricket actually consistently making runs, but it also means that Ponting is likely to continue to be under huge amounts of pressure every time he comes to the crease (regardless of his personal form line) with Australia often one-for-not many.

Ponting has been out three times in the slips (twice to blinders of catches from Collingwood – but they were still edges) and twice getting a tickle down leg-side to the keeper – always an unlucky way to go, but twice in 5 innings is concerning.  The question is really whether this is just a form slump, from which he will burst out and smash a double ton in Melbourne, or whether he truly is in rapid decline.  I don’t know the answer to that, I suspect the latter – but I don’t want that to be the case.  He seemed to bat well in India, but lost concentration in the seventies – a sign of age?  Regardless, he has not looked great this series at all – apart from his “momentum” innings in Brisbane.  Time will tell, he is fitter than I remember ever seeing him, and that he even got a nick on that first ball from Anderson in Adelaide was a great effort.  Unfortunately, the Ponting of 2010/11 doesn’t seem to be able to walk the walk at the moment – particularly after promising all week to lead from the front.

If Clarke is still injured then he needs to rest and recuperate.  If he is just playing that poorly, then he should be dropped.

So, the Aussies are on top, and a few bookmakers are getting nervous – for paying out on an Ashes victory already, nothing suspicious.  But there is a long way to go.  Watson has a history of being out between 50 and 70, and soon after a break.  He resumes tomorrow with both hurdles to jump.  Smith is still batting too high, and Haddin and the bowlers cannot be relied upon every innings.  I feel that if Australia bat for another two sessions, then that should be enough and they should win the test from there, but England are capable of chasing huge.  This is going to be interesting.

This type of pitch and play is why I love test cricket (curators take note).

Bring on tomorrow morning!

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