Starting with the obvious, it was a very good result for the Australians, coming back well after an absolute thrashing in Adelaide. Who would have thought that there would be such a turnaround? Well, I did for one: https://rustyintheuk.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/prophesies-flowers-and-the-english-rose/, tipping Australia to win comfortably. But enough of the self-aggrandising gloat, what these two results indicate to me is that England and Australia are much closer in form and ability than has previously been acknowledged and the whole “momentum” garbage that everyone seems to have bought into over the past few years is absolute rot.
Just say it like it is …
There are a large number of claims that seem to have become “mutually agreed facts” over the course of this series (following on from the 2009 series). To me, these “facts” are merely assertions which have simply been repeated time and again in the press, on the TV and radio, and on blogs such as this. There are a few in particular that keep popping up that I am finding to be a little annoying.
The first “fact” is that momentum will necessarily carry over to the next test match. This would mean that Australia are dead certainties for Melbourne.
Well, they are clearly not.
Each session, each over, each ball in cricket, is a new beast that needs to be attacked, defended or even just survived, but no matter what, each moment needs to be won on merit on each occasion – let alone some magical force that carries automatically into a new day or week or test match.
If Johnson starts spraying it, bowling short and wide, and Strauss and Cook get off to a flyer on Boxing Day, the inevitable headlines will include that “England wrests momentum”.
In this imaginary situation, Johnson bowled poorly, and the openers took advantage as quality test players should.
If the “momentum” is all it is cracked up to be, how on earth did Australia win in Perth? Or England at the Oval in 2009? Or England in Sydney the year that Gough took his hat-trick?
Obviously it is better to have won convincingly rather than to have lost, however the next match is the next match, and “momentum” will need to be established then.
Another issue that I am finding rather tiresome is the discussion about Ian Bell, in that apparently, he absolutely has to be moved up the order. Now, I don’t have a problem with that per say, it is the argument surrounding the assertion – that he be moved up the order because he is not getting the chance to score big hundreds batting at number six – that irritates me.
What a load of rubbish.
The only time that Ian Bell has not been able to score a big hundred due to his batting position this series was when Strauss declared in Adelaide, because England had scored a 500 plus runs beforehand.
It never bothered Steve Waugh batting at six – he managed to score a few tons batting there, as have countless others.
I think Tom Fordyce of the BBC best sums up the oft-repeated Bell mantra thus: “[he] has been undone by the prospect of running out of partners more than anything else.” This opinion has been repeated over and over and over by the English boys commentating on Sky, and in the press over here.
I for one have had enough.
Move him up the order if he is the best for the job at that position. Move him to 5 if you think that he will do a better job there than Collingwood. Move him to 4 if you think that he is better suited to “blunting the newer ball” than Pieterson, who can thus be protected.
Don’t continually talk and publish that he needs to bat at 5 so he can score centuries. He has batted higher than his current position against Australia many times before, and is yet to achieve a three figure score.
On another note, I need to thank Bell for batting like the guy I know and loath, rather than that other Bell who has been around the rest of this series that I have started to quite like.
The short ball
The final one (for today) is that Phil Hughes is suspect against the short ball. This has been written about and commented on ad nauseam and has now somehow become established fact.
The fact is that Hughes is in career worst Shield form, and that NSW were considering dropping him when he was selected for Australia. Instead of discussing this bizarre selection, we are constantly told that he struggles against the short ball. Tell that to Steyn – who was smashed all over the park in South Africa while trying to bounce him out!
Hughes was out twice this match to full balls, his technique is such that he will struggle against quick, swinging (or seaming) full balls. The vast majority of his outs in test cricket are from fast full balls. He has been out to a short ball maybe three times in his test career. But no matter, it has been written so often, that serious and sage former top players insist on telling us frequently about his frailties against short pitched bowling.
It is more important, in my mind, for a commentator (be it TV, radio or written commentary) to think independently and rationally, rather than to merely agree and give credence to the most popular/common theory or comment. It is somewhat worrying to me that the above three stories are so popular, so common, so often written/spoken about, as to now constitute an accepted truth within the official cricketing press. And thus, the circle will go on, where these myths will continue to promulgate.
This is what I consider to be the media’s circle of mistrust – something most media commentators (in all fields) perpetrate at one time or another.
Back to the cricket
I don’t know what I found more amusing about the final days play in Perth, it was either Michael Clarke’s serious captain face or the English media’s reaction to the loss.
Michael Clarke gallantly led the boys out, he stood at second slip, because that’s where skippers stand (well that’s where Ponting stands), and he put on his very serious captain’s face, didn’t tell any jokes, didn’t laugh, looked around the field thoughtfully, pointed meaningfully, chewed his fingernails, contorted his face to show that he cares and was concentrating, he chewed his gum furiously and threw the ball to the two bowlers who had taken all the wickets earlier in the game. Pretty simple stuff this test captaincy.
There will be chat all week about whether Clarke should lead the team in Melbourne if Ponting is out. It’s pretty clear where I stand on this, but for the record (again) no, no he should not. In fact, he really shouldn’t be playing in Melbourne. There will be discussion about who else (inevitably Hussey will be mentioned extensively) could fill the role.
This chat will be a complete waste of everybody’s time, because Ponting will play.
There is no chance, none whatsoever, that Ponting will miss the Melbourne match.
The English commentary boys were pretty wild in their negative attitudes towards their team, but that is not the amusing thing, which is to be expected of the English media (and unfortunately is becoming more common in Australia as well). No, the amusing, almost laugh out loud, part of the end of test wrap up was the whiff of conspiracy that David Gower pounced upon like a dog with a meaty bone, and wouldn’t let go of. Soon you had David Lloyd, Ian Botham, and a very keen Mike Atherton spouting off about this conspiracy.
What was it? Australia was calling in Finch to ensure the ball moves in Melbourne as well? Hayden and Warne were coming out of retirement?
No, Sky has been asked to move their camera’s across, because they have set up in Melbourne for the wrong pitch. So obviously, with Melbourne being a drop-in pitch, they are replacing the pitch, and putting in a WACA style pitch at the MCG, because that is the only way they can beat the English. They then insinuated, if not blatantly outright said, that Australia was effectively cheating.
Atherton asked Ponting if he would be having a chat to the MCG curator about getting another pitch like this one, and whether he thought he could get his old mate to prepare a pitch suitable for Australia – Ponting, somewhat bemusedly, replied that he didn’t know the MCG curator, but the coach of Victoria was his old coach, so he would have a chat to him and the Victorian players about what conditions to expect at the ground.
In almost a hushed, secret handshake type situation, he asked Strauss whether he considered it fair that the Australians had organised to change wickets for Melbourne. Strauss did something he had failed to do in this match, he let it sail through to the keeper.
It was perhaps only right, that Andy Flower was the man to bring some sense to it all. When asked whether there was a body of evidence to suggest that England crumbled on hard, fast, pitches – he replied honestly – “yeah, I can see how those conclusions could be made, and it is something we need to work on.” There was a lot of chat about Ian Bell going up the order and that kind of rubbish, then Atherton landed what he considered to be the big one about the “change of pitches”. Flower’s response – “no, not a problem, they were preparing two when we played Victoria last week, and they are obviously trying to pick the best pitch for a fair game.”
In fact, both Flower and Strauss were very impressive after the match – both sounded eerily similar to the interviews they gave after the Headingly debacle last year – possibly ominous signs?
Flower wasn’t able to stop the conspiracy theorists, and I had to turn it off, I was laughing so much I thought I would wake up the entire street.
The only guy who didn’t buy into the conspiracy theory, and also didn’t buy into sledging England was Nassar Hussein – he launched into a very strong verbal tirade about how much better England was than Australia and how they were still, man-to-man, a far superior side and that they would beat them up in the coming weeks.
It sounds a little off, but he was kind of right.
Australia won convincingly, however they had a guy bat at 6 who should be at 8, the skipper and vc both failed twice, they have an opener who is now averaging about 3 in all forms of the game right now, and the bowlers were a big reason we hit 268 in the first dig. You can’t rely on the bowlers to do that all the time (see the second innings), and Watson and Hussey can’t keep dominating the scoring. And let’s be honest – Mitch doesn’t turn up and bowl like that very often.
I will write about this in detail in the coming week, it was a great win, but still a heap to work on for the Aussie boys.
At the end of the day, it is 1-1 going into Boxing Day – James Sutherland will be a very grateful man!