Monthly Archives: January 2011

Today I met a Princess

So, I met Princess Anne today.  She was nice, but not really interested in talking about the cricket.  I thought she might after the result this morning.  A match where this time, Shane Watson couldn’t rescue us.  This season’s AB medallist batted selfishly and slowly when the opposite was called for.  His batting was costly, but to be fair, the loss wasn’t totally his fault.  However, I digress, the Princess didn’t want to discuss the merits (or lack) of Shane Watson, nor that of the Australian captaincy, and she certainly wasn’t interested in discussing why Tremblett has missed World Cup selection.  And well, I don’t know anything about equestrian, so we really didn’t have anything to talk about.  She moved on quickly, and I thought naughty republican thoughts, and that was that.

So why did Australia lose today?  Was it that we couldn’t bowl on or outside off to Trott?  Yep, that was part of it.  Was it that Lee was smashed?  Yep, that was part of it.  Was it the lame shot offered by Marsh when forced to bat where the skipper should be batting?  Not so much.  Was it the disastrous, inept tactical display shown by the skipper followed by yet another failure with the bat?  Most likely.

Regardless, of this match, does it really matter that Australia is likely to win the one-day series?  Not at all.  Will it atone for the test series and give us some revenge?  Hell no.  Do I even care?  Not that much.

I did meet the Princess today, and she was nice.  But I didn’t ask her about the cricket, the Special Branch guy told me not to.  And when those blokes say something, it stays said.  So I said “good afternoon” and she said “hi” and moved on.  But secretly she wanted to tell me that Michael Clarke should be dropped by Royal decree.

Happy Australia day!

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Not much to say … well a little bit

There probably isn’t much to say about this test that hasn’t already been said, so I am just going to make a couple of points that stick in my craw:

  • Australia managed to lose 7 top order wickets clawing back the runs scored by the last 3 in the English innings – there is something concerning about that.  If it was a one-off, then you could put it down to pressure, it being a “dead rubber”, the players having “checked out”, being tired from fielding too long.  But it isn’t, it is a regular occurrence over the past year or so, and the majority of wickets fell to rubbish shots on a friendly pitch rather than spectacular bowling.
  • Shane Watson can’t run.  I have often criticised Watson for not running the first one quickly, which therefore often takes out the option of a second.  In Australia you are taught from the very beginning to run the first quickly.  He usually doesn’t.  Today he did.  Depending on who you listen to, Hughes was guilty of ball watching or Watson was guilty of not wanting to be on strike.  Regardless, there was always an easy single, and possibly a very hard run two in that shot.  Hughes didn’t think there was two in it.  If Watson knew how to call, he would have shouted something like “two in it, push” immediately – giving Hughes the opportunity to push or reject the call.  That clearly didn’t happen.  When Watson realised Hughes wasn’t coming, he could have turned and put some pressure on the fielding side, perhaps cause a fumble and get back in.  He didn’t.  He instead chose to keep running, hoping that Hughes would be pressured to leave his crease and sacrifice himself.  It was disgustingly selfish.  Or possibly he had had enough and just wanted out.  Whichever way, it was typical Watson, exemplifying why he is so unpopular with the Australian public, despite actually doing pretty well overall in the side.
  • Clarke, in an attempt to stamp himself onto the match and show why he should keep the captaincy when/if Ponting returns, simply showed how confused his captaincy is, and that he really lacks an awareness of cricket logic, thought and strategy.   Seven changes of bowling in the first 14 overs with a new ball?  Unimaginative fielding positions, no real wicket taking strategies and a dropped head all combined to show how ridiculous the decision to give him the armband was.  That said, he has shown nothing in this game that wasn’t completely obvious to anyone who had ever watched his performances in T20 or ODIs.  To give a bloke who shouldn’t even be in the side the captaincy when he has continuously proved that he is not very good at it is hard to fathom.
  • Watching the Australians give up in the field, apart from a couple of exceptions, was very hard to take – and something I can’t remember ever happening before, even during the dark days of the 80s.
  • Is this the worst Australian side ever?  Probably not, but the results say otherwise.  To lose three matches in a five match series by an innings (assuming there is no miracle today) has never happened before in Ashes cricket, and only Bangladesh have managed to lose 3 games by an innings in one series previously.  Regardless of whether it is the worst side ever, it is a pretty bad one, and not a lot of fun to watch – I have previously mentioned my admiration for the way the English supporters stuck with their side during similar slumps – I will certainly stick with the Aussies, albeit I am very disappointed and a little angry about this performance. 
  • The selectors and CA have got to get serious about rebuilding this side, from Shield level up.  The international cricketers should be playing much more Shield cricket, and selectors should be held accountable for their decisions – Xavier Doherty, Michael Beer, the Mitchell Johnson debacle, Marcus North, Michael Clarke, Steve Smith, Doug Bollinger especially.  Also the non-selection of a number of players needs to be addressed – Nathan Hauritz in particular, but Andrew McDonald, David Hussey and Cam White (among others) need to be questioned.
  • Phil Hughes is not a cheat.  He clearly didn’t know whether he took the catch or not, and it was perfectly reasonable it to be referred to the umpires.  People like Ian Botham should take a long hard look at themselves for trying to ruin the reputation and questioning the integrity of young players.  There is certainly an element of pot/kettle/black when the Strauss catch at Lords in 2009 is brought into the discussion. 
  • There was no such questioning of Ian Bell when he subsequently referred a decision that looks to have been incorrectly reversed.  Any suggestion that he is a cheat is wrong too.  Clearly he thought he didn’t hit it, why would a batsman refer something which confirmed that he was wrong? 
  • What was Billy doing referring a no-ball off an off-spinner.  If he is not able to see that the off-spinner is bowling a no-ball, then what is he doing umpiring at test level?  Some accounts have Beer consistently bowling no-balls for a couple of overs before that.  If that was the case, and Billy was worried about them, why didn’t he tell the bowler he was close and let him adjust rather than wait for a wicket to refer?  The answer is that he is Billy and wants to be part of the game, part of the action.  He often imposes himself on matches rather than just being the arbiter.  This is one of the reasons he is often the lowest ranked international umpire.  This situation stinks, and I feel a little sorry for the young guy, as it robbed him of the opportunity of taking his first test wicket, and effectively cost Australia 140-odd runs.  That said, off-spinners have ABSOLUTELY no right bowling no-balls.  None.  End of story.
  • England completely deserve to win this series 3-1.  In three and a half matches they have completely dominated Australia in every sense.  Australia have been ahead for the other one and a half games. 
  • Anderson has been very impressive, as has Tremlett and Bresnan – and at times Finn, although he was gifted a lot of his wickets.
  • Trott, Strauss, Prior, Bell, Pieterson have all performed extremely well at times throughout the series, certainly better than any of their counterparts (other than Mike Hussey).
  • Cook – well what can you say about his performance.  It has been extremely boring to watch, his technique isn’t at all exciting, and he looks awkward, he kind of resembles a lizard.  But he has scored a lot of runs.  And deserves the player of the series  award he will no doubt win.  I am a little sick of hearing the comparison to Tendulkar though – yes he has scored a lot of runs at a young age – but Cook, although it is possible he will end up as England’s highest ever run scorer, is definitely not in the same league as Tendulkar.  Nor is he even close to Ponting, S Waugh, Lara, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag or Dravid among others.  So perhaps the tone down the hyperbole.
  • I have not been looking forward to 7 one-day internationals between these two sides.  It is at least 2 (and probably 4) matches too many.  I’ll still watch them though.

I am going keep writing about things after this series, but it is unlikely to be dominated by cricket for the time being.  Sports will be a major theme, but I will also write about other issues that pop up that I am interested in.

Interested in any topics you would like covered – thanks for reading!

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England consolidate, Australia try

After two days of this final test, I’m not entirely sure whether it is the Australian batsmen who are making England look good, or the bowlers making the attack look bad.

Hilfy batted extremely well, as did Johnson, but they are at 10 and 8 in the order for a reason.  Strauss’ tactic of allowing Johnson the single was puzzling.  It’s not like Hilfy was batting with Hussey for example. 

It is arguable that if England were offered 280 all out when they were asked to bowl they would have taken it, and they certainly would have taken it at 1/105, but at 8/189, not so much.

For the fourth time this series, Hilfy didn’t look like taking a wicket early doors.  I understand why Clarke opened up with Johnson – he scored runs, so clearly he was going to be dangerous early and take wickets. 

Actually I don’t buy that at all.  It is another example of something being “evident” because it is repeated so often.  Johnson is an opening bowler who can’t bowl with the new ball when he is in form.  That said, he looked the more dangerous of the two in their first spell.

Strauss and Cook, mostly Strauss, made Australia look ordinary early.  Before tea, the ball was consistently too short or too full, and I don’t recall seeing one play-and-miss.  I went to bed at tea, so I didn’t see the final session.  From what I have read, the wicket balls seemed to be good, and apparently Beer bowled solidly without success.

To return to my initial question, I think our bowling attack is OK.  Not great, but ok.  More of a McDermott/Hughes level.  Mostly serviceable, at times exciting, but overall they are never going to be Warne/McGrath special.

Our batting however is atrocious.  I have been writing since the Brisbane test that Clarke shouldn’t be in the XI.  He was very lucky to get away with his first shot at the crease, and nothing else he showed in his very brief stay did anything to change my mind as to his position in the side.  But he is captain now – go figure.  Yet, this is just one of the many confused and bemusing calls by Cricket Australia and the selectors this series. 

On a positive, I quite enjoyed Khawaja’s first, hopefully of many, test innings.  He was solid, he stood up straight, at times he played gorgeous shots and was technically reasonably sound.  He also managed, with his first hit, to raise the question as to why it has taken four tests for him to get his chance this series.

I’m really looking forward to watching him going forward.  One thing that we do need to be careful of is the habit of pouring on false praise.  At the time of writing, his 37 is fast becoming one of the most impressive and celebrated 37s in the history of the game!  Perhaps it was seeing a young fella come into the side and play with confidence, perhaps it is as a result of the rest of the batting line up playing like a club side all series, I don’t know. 

But I would like to see him find his feet.  There are others in this line up who have had phenomenal starts to their test career – better than a solid 37 (Ponting an unlucky 96, Clarke a big ton, for example) who have subsequently been “found out” and have been dropped before fighting their way back into the side.  Obviously I don’t want to see this happen to “Ussi”, but let’s give him a chance rather that writing the over-the-top plaudits for what was a good start to his career.

I’m not sure about him batting at 3.  There aren’t a lot of people who have come straight into 3 at test level and flourished.  Most learn their trade further down the order and work their way up (and in some cases back down again as well – S Waugh, perhaps Ponting?).  It goes to show the state of the side when they chuck a young gun in at 3 because no one else can do it!

Ussi also put paid to the rubbish being spouted by the selectors that Smith was one of the top 6 batsmen in the country.  As did the fact that he has been dropped down the order.  He is still batting a spot to high.

The selectors have really upset me so far this series.  Not only have they continued to make random and incorrect decisions on the make up of the side, but they have continuously spouted absolute rubbish to the public.  About the only thing that has been said by a selector that was accurate was that Clarke is not up to being skipper – not that it changed anything. 

The selectors (and CA, but that is a different matter) have been treating the Australian public with absolute disdain and a great deal of disrespect.  These are the people that pay their money into the gate (hell, even I am paying into the CA coffers while living overseas by keeping up various memberships), that attend games, that live and breath the ups and downs of the national team, that make it worthwhile for sponsors to invest.  I think we would all be a little happier if they were a little more honest, and a lot less ridiculous.

At the end of the day, it was a great effort by Johnson and Hilfy to get us up to 280.  It would be interesting to know whether England truly would have bowled first.  It was a big call to bat first, very tough early conditions that were dealt with extremely well by Watson and Hughes, right up until lunch.  We shall see how it plays out.

A couple of early wickets on day 3 could see a fairly exciting match, and also see Australia in a position close to even, which is not what has looked like happening at all.  Strange game this.

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Sydney – hey, ho ..

Going into tonight’s game, I am less excited than I can remember ever having been in a match involving Australia.  I’m not sure whether it is because the best possible result would only see Australia tie the series, whether it is the team that has been selected, or whether it is the bloke that will be leading them out.

I am excited for Usman Khawaja  – I hope he smashes them around and that he is a mainstay in the side for years to come.  He looks a relaxed, technically correct, and exciting young cricketer – and has done since he first played for NSW.  I am a little surprised as to how much has been made of his background and religion.  I am one who doesn’t think it of importance at all, but headlines are headlines I guess.

I am still confounded by the selection of Michael Beer, who has done nothing to indicate that he will be a top class spinner.  I will wait to make my judgement, as better players than I obviously rate him, however, I am still struggling to grasp how 7 games with 16 wickets at 43.3 warrants selection and a baggy green.  He has done much less than the bloke he is replacing – Doherty, and significantly less than the bloke that should be in the side – Hauritz.

The scheduled rain has made a draw more likely – if Australia can avoid yet another collapse – and this would leave the result as 2-1 to England, the third time in four Ashes series.  A 3-1 result to England would probably be a fair one, one that shows the true differences in the way the two sides have played this series.  But fair and Ashes series don’t always go hand in hand.  Both the 2005 and 2009 series could or should have been 2-2, so it would be rather ironic if that was the result this time around.

I am not confident going into this match that it will last the full 5 days, or that Australia will be able to take the match, but I am hopeful.  I am hopeful that a young boy from NSW can do well (take your pick as to whom – there are plenty of options) and that an inexperienced Victorian can turn it.

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