Handbags at ten paces

I’m a little confused about all the talk about the sledging at the moment.  Personally, I have never been a fan of the outright abuse as part of sledging – although it never really bothered me when on the receiving end while batting.  Being continuously called a “fat c&^%” kind of loses its effect after the two or three hundredth time. 

I also don’t like send-offs – they are unnecessary.  As anyone who has played the game at any level knows, you really don’t need any reminding when you go out – it doesn’t matter if you have scored a ton or a first ball duck, those moments (which last quite a bit longer for some) from the second you are dismissed are pretty bad.  There are a plethora of emotions flowing at that point, there is disappointment, anger, remorse and in most cases, some more anger.  The “victorious” bowler/fielding team can celebrate without rubbing this in.  It’s bad form, and says a lot about your character – a lot that I don’t like.  So that’s why I wasn’t very impressed with Anderson on day one – or Siddle on day two.

That said, these guys are all grown (professional sporting) men, well paid and are playing for the Ashes – what’s the problem?  So long as they stay away from the racial vilification, sexual discrimination and that sort of thing, what’s the problem and why all the flap?  Bit of a nothing issue to me. 

I have always been a fan of the amusing sledge, something clever that makes you laugh in the field, and hopefully draws the batsman in, gets him talking, laughing, losing concentration.  In my teams, the best sledges of this type were always rewarded with a cold one at the end of the day. 

So what have we got here?  Pieterson asked for Johnson’s phone number and wants to be friends after the series – gee whiz, great banter that – really funny, distracting stuff!  I don’t know whether I would be more flattered or insulted if big Kev asked for my number.  I certainly wouldn’t be telling the press that I thought he was a little bit cheeky!

My impression of Johnson generally is that he really struggles to get the nastiness usually associated with Australian fast bowlers.  He just doesn’t have the natural mean streak of greats of the past.  He is more laid back, more monotonal, more like a stoned surfer than a bile spitting venomous aggressive snarling beast.  Jimmy is trying to get some more of that (and I am actually enjoying watching him try), Broad has it – but it is often misplaced, and usually comes across as a spoilt rich kid throwing his toys out of the pram when he doesn’t get the newest, flashiest game for his Play Station.  Siddle and Harris have it, Johnson does not.  Steyn has it the most.

It would seem that whether it was Jimmy’s words on day one, his general lack of being able to produce quality bowling, or maybe just having to hang out in Perth for a week, Mitchell has decided to release the beast within.  And so he did – apparently.  At least he thought he did.  There’s no question that he did that with his actual bowling (although why would you tell the press that the swing was an accident?  If that is the truth, shut up.  If you are trying to play mind games, don’t bother – it’s lame, arrogant, and won’t work).  But what about his on-field bristle?  Mitch felt he was pretty fiery, getting in the face of the Englishmen, and basically sledging them out. 

Well, so he would have thought. 

I am really struggling to write the next sentence. 

For as long has he has been playing I have kind of despised Ian Bell.  He was just so dam annoying.  He had all the natural talent in the world, it was all so easy for him, and he just couldn’t do it.  He seemed to be more impressed with a mirror than with scoring runs.  He was a flat track bully who was happy to smash the kids from Bangladesh all over the shop, but when he started playing against the men, he didn’t show up.  Well he did, and his ridiculously good talent did, but hard work seemed to be one step too much.  If he wasn’t getting a couple of “four” balls an over which he could slap around with his eyes closed, then it was too hard.  He was a cricketer who had got there too easily, and was lazy.  Of course there is an element of jealousy there, who didn’t want to pull on a (in my case) baggy green with that little actual work and effort?  And he seemed like a bit of a posh, pretty-boy, silver-spooned tosser. 

Well, now, I am actually starting to like him.  I am enjoying watching him bat, a little too much for an Australian to be honest.  Give me hours of Bell, the Bell of this series obviously, instead of Cook, Strauss or Trott any day of … well, ever really.

And then in response to Johnson’s posturing he comes out with this: “I didn’t realise it was all kicking off like that … we thought there was a bit of banter going on, but I didn’t realise Johnson was quite in our faces as probably what he thinks he was.

Now that is a sledge.

Despite my every impulse, I’m really am starting to like Ian Bell.

In terms of the match, it was very solid batting by Watson and Hussey.  A shame for Watson that he (inevitably) went out to a straight one in the 90s (again).  He probably deserved a ton today, but that is what he does.  He scores fifties.  Alan Border went through a period of about 4 years without a ton, but still averaged 50-odd.  Watson is no Alan Border, but he is averaging 50 as an opener.

Huss is playing a blinder of a series.

Despite a much better total score, Australia still did what Australia has been doing of late, and didn’t really bat that well.  There were some indescribably bad, and inexplicable shots played.  As well as some get out shots that were just poor.  Australia is in a good position, a very good position, but they still have a fair bit of work to do.

Strauss and England did what they do when they are under pressure, and dropped their heads in the field.  They even started to drop some catches.  Field positions were questionable, and they hardly used their best bowler.  Strauss hasn’t really shone as skipper when it comes to tactics and whatnot, but has gotten away with it because the team have been good (and Australia have been that bad).  It would be interesting to honestly compare Ponting and Strauss in this regard … perhaps I will over Christmas.

Surely the best moment of the day, for an Australian, was watching the night-watchman refuse a single off the penultimate ball, only to watch the recognised batsman go out on the final delivery.  Classic stuff, gold in fact.

Some good bowling and indifferent batting has left Australia in a very strong position going into day 4.  The English tail is a little longer than it was a week ago, and all things being equal, Boxing Day is going to have one hell of a good crowd and an atmosphere more like an AFL Grand Final.  All things being equal.

Final thoughts …

I will be interested to see the general press position on the fact that this big turn-around in form etc., for England coincides with the arrival of the WAGS and families. 

It was interesting to see Michael Clarke holed up with one Greg Chappell for an hour or so this morning.  The body language was pretty bad from Clarke, and extremely supportive from Chappell.  If looks are anything to go by, Clarke will be playing in Melbourne.  Mistake.

Has anyone else been following the India/South Africa series?  I watched the highlights from the first session this morning.  Wow – South Africa look pretty good, and India are struggling.  AB de Villiers was absolutely sensational.  They actually didn’t have to show a highlights reel – his entire innings was a dam highlight. A ton (and counting) off about 70 balls.  Kallis was Kallis.  India will struggle to save the match or make SA bat again –  a strong start in top of the table clash.

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