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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