Category Archives: The Ashes

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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Water your garden

Right then, good work England. 

I have already said all I need to about this match over the past couple of days.

Although, I must give a special shout out to Siddle and Haddin for making England wait slightly longer than they expected to, for showing some grit and some fight and for making the hour and a half quite entertaining.

I was not at all impressed with the English team’s en mass sprinkler dance after the match.  There was an element of Shane Warne doing that weird “we won the Ashes – ner-ne-ner-ner” gyrating boogie with a stump on the balcony at Trent Bridge in 1997 about the sprinkler dance.  At the time, Warne was quite rightly, condemned by media from England and Australia alike.  I doubt that will happen to this English team.  We are too annoyed at our team, and they are too busy gloating. 

The sprinkler dance is a silly team bonding type thing that Swann has been making a YouTube video diary about (and admittedly the original video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnvevEUzWvs) was amusing, but that was more down to the music, to the old fella and Finn confusing the sprinkler with the “giddy up”).  Here, it was an unnecessary arrogance, that rubbed salt into the open wound that is Australian cricket. 

Don’t those prima donnas know that Victoria is in the middle of a drought?  Such mindless sprinkler usage is a breach of the water restrictions – they should all be fined.

Although I could just be bitter about seeing Australia go down by an innings-plus two out of the last three tests. 

Sydney

It seems pretty clear that the selectors won’t change the team for Sydney – well much.  Hughes will retain his place – to be honest after Watson tried to ruin his career, I am tempted to give him another shot, but I won’t.  The selectors will probably stick with Siddle, Hilfy and Johnson and bring in Beer.  They may swap Haddin and Smith in the batting order and will only include Khawaja if Ponting is unfit.  Clarke will be the captain if Ponting doesn’t play.

That is what I think the selectors will do – because they are mindless, and boring.

This is what I would do:

If Ponting is fit:

  • Shane Watson
  • Phil Hughes *
  • Ricky Ponting (c)
  • Usman Khawaja
  • Michael Hussey
  • Shaun Marsh
  • Brad Haddin
  • Nathan Hauritz
  • Peter Siddle
  • Luke Butterworth
  • Chris Swan
  • Smith (12th)

* I am only selecting Hughes because I feel bad for him that Watson ran him out – I know this is ridiculous and almost as stupid as the behaviour of selectors, but hey, if they can do it …

If Ponting is not fit, I would either move everyone up one slot and put Smith in at 7, or pick someone else to replace him directly, I don’t know – maybe Cosgrove, because it is nice to think a tubby lad can still play the ultimate form of the game. 

I would also give the captaincy to Haddin or Hussey as a one-off.

To quickly explain the quicks/medium-fasts – Johnson is just killing me with his turn up one week, don’t for the next three months thing that he is doing at the moment, so he is gone.  Hilfy, who I quite like, is just not looking like taking top order wickets.  Butterworth and Swan have been doing well in Shield cricket, and one is a Tasmanian to keep Boonie and Punter happy.

The batting speaks for itself.  Personally, I would probably drop Punter down to number 4 or 5, but he just won’t do that, so he gets to stay at 3 in my make-believe team.

What do you think?

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Temper temper …

Ricky lost the plot and Ian Botham doesn’t like strong aggressive Australian captains – take your pick, Chappelli or Punter. 

That’s pretty much it for day 2 at the MCG.

A lot has been made of the Pieterson non-dismissal and Ponting’s response to it.  While the response was over the top, and rightly he was fined for dissent (or an overly long conversation with the umpire on the field), this matter raises another issue.  One which FIFA has arguably gotten right over the years.  The ACB in an attempt to show transparency and keep the fans at the ground “in the loop”, have decided to show on the big screens what viewers at home, and the third umpire see when deciding on a referral.  It was this that caused such consternation with the Australian team, and the captain in particular.  In the comfort of my own home, it was pretty clear that Pieterson was not out, but on the ground, all that they would have seen was the “hot spot” at the base of his bat.   Assuming this was caused by the ball, the Australian team was shocked that he was (rightly) given not out.  I am not excusing the behaviour at all, but perhaps this is as good an example as any as to why such replays should not be shown live at the ground.

Despite being unimpressed with the skippers behaviour, I must admit the hysteria surrounding the incident is somewhat ridiculous.  I have found the incredulous reaction by most sections of the media to be over the top, which is probably why I am not as disappointed as I could or perhaps should be with Punter.  There was no real aggression and nothing that was completely out of order – other than whinging for too long and speaking to both umpires.  Once it was over, nothing more was made of it by the skipper or the team for the rest of the day.  Ian Botham and David Gower’s “holier than thou” approach was a little hard to swallow – particularly from those blokes.  The press response was predictable and over the top.

In reality, Ponting was showing the strain of the game.  The strain of his failure to produce runs, of the likelihood that this match, and with it the Ashes, is gone and probably his disenchantment with the team he is charged with leading. 

The English side are better overall in most aspects than this Australian side.  It is how it is.  It is sad that Ricky will be remembered for being the only Australian captain to lead 3 Ashes losing Australian teams (although with a bit of luck in Sydney, it might only be 2 loses and a drawn series).   No one will worry about it in the years to come, but he was 2 runs (or a referral system) away from winning in 2005, and a wicket away from retaining the Ashes in 2009.  History can be harsh sometimes.

The selectors, and the players charged with the responsibility of representing Australia must also take some of the responsibility.  Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor wouldn’t have been able to do any more with this side, and it is about time that people started to recognise that.

However, despite this one ugly incident, the response by the Australian team to the bizarre (although again correct) situation where Aleem Dar first gave Prior out, then decided to check upstairs for a no-ball, which reversed the decision, was first rate – but no one apart from Mike Atherton recognised that.

It does raise the question as to whether every wicket taking ball will or should be checked for the legitimacy of the front stride.  Umpire Dar was spot on when something triggered him to check Johnson’s front foot – but what happens next time when he (or another) doesn’t?  Something to ponder perhaps.

The Australians didn’t have much luck throughout the second day, but they didn’t really deserve it.  Siddle was used too sparingly, and Clarke looking like he was trying to cause injuries  to the beer swilling folk in the Ponsford stand.  Hilfy didn’t really look like taking a wicket, and Harris was below his best.  At least the fielding was better than it has been!

And yes, Trott batted well – albeit annoyingly.  I don’t really like watching him bat, he is a grafter who does not look pretty, but his Ashes record is one to be proud of, and at the end of the day, it’s how many, not how you got them.

Can Australia bat for the best part of 3 days to retain the chance to win back the Ashes?  In the unforgettable words from the Castle – “[3 days?]  Tell them they’re dreaming!”

Ricky lost the plot and Ian Botham doesn’t like strong aggressive Australian captains – take your pick, Chappelli or Punter. 

That’s pretty much it for day 2 at the MCG.

A lot has been made of the Pieterson non-dismissal and Ponting’s response to it.  While the response was over the top, and rightly he was fined for dissent (or an overly long conversation with the umpire on the field), this matter raises another issue.  One which FIFA has arguably gotten right over the years.  The ACB in an attempt to show transparency and keep the fans at the ground “in the loop”, have decided to show on the big screens what viewers at home, and the third umpire see when deciding on a referral.  It was this that caused such consternation with the Australian team, and the captain in particular.  In the comfort of my own home, it was pretty clear that Pieterson was not out, but on the ground, all that they would have seen was the “hot spot” at the base of his bat.   Assuming this was caused by the ball, the Australian team was shocked that he was (rightly) given not out.  I am not excusing the behaviour at all, but perhaps this is as good an example as any as to why such replays should not be shown live at the ground.

Despite being unimpressed with the skippers behaviour, I must admit the hysteria surrounding the incident is somewhat ridiculous.  I have found the incredulous reaction by most sections of the media to be over the top, which is probably why I am not as disappointed as I could or perhaps should be with Punter.  There was no real aggression and nothing that was completely out of order – other than whinging for too long and speaking to both umpires.  Once it was over, nothing more was made of it by the skipper or the team for the rest of the day.  Ian Botham and David Gower’s “holier than thou” approach was a little hard to swallow – particularly from those blokes.  The press response was predictable and over the top.

In reality, Ponting was showing the strain of the game.  The strain of his failure to produce runs, of the likelihood that this match, and with it the Ashes, is gone and probably his disenchantment with the team he is charged with leading. 

The English side are better overall in most aspects than this Australian side.  It is how it is.  It is sad that Ricky will be remembered for being the only Australian captain to lead 3 Ashes losing Australian teams (although with a bit of luck in Sydney, it might only be 2 loses and a drawn series).   No one will worry about it in the years to come, but he was 2 runs (or a referral system) away from winning in 2005, and a wicket away from retaining the Ashes in 2009.  History can be harsh sometimes.

The selectors, and the players charged with the responsibility of representing Australia must also take some of the responsibility.  Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor wouldn’t have been able to do any more with this side, and it is about time that people started to recognise that.

However, despite this one ugly incident, the response by the Australian team to the bizarre (although again correct) situation where Aleem Dar first gave Prior out, then decided to check upstairs for a no-ball, which reversed the decision, was first rate – but no one apart from Mike Atherton recognised that.

It does raise the question as to whether every wicket taking ball will or should be checked for the legitimacy of the front stride.  Umpire Dar was spot on when something triggered him to check Johnson’s front foot – but what happens next time when he (or another) doesn’t?  Something to ponder perhaps.

The Australians didn’t have much luck throughout the second day, but they didn’t really deserve it.  Siddle was used too sparingly, and Clarke looking like he was trying to cause injuries  to the beer swilling folk in the Ponsford stand.  Hilfy didn’t really look like taking a wicket, and Harris was below his best.  At least the fielding was better than it has been!

And yes, Trott batted well – albeit annoyingly.  I don’t really like watching him bat, he is a grafter who does not look pretty, but his Ashes record is one to be proud of, and at the end of the day, it’s how many, not how you got them.

Can Australia bat for the best part of 3 days to retain the chance to win back the Ashes?  In the unforgettable words from the Castle – “[3 days?]  Tell them they’re dreaming!”

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The Oval?

I’m glad that Australia had all the momentum today, otherwise it could have gotten messy!

I thought of quite a few witty comments to make while watching the match last night, but I was drinking whisky, so I can’t remember them now, and they probably weren’t that funny anyway.

There was anticipation, excitement, plenty of talk – most of it redundant, and then there was the play.  Today was as disappointing for Australian fan as it was exhilarating for the English.

It would be very easy to concentrate on the obvious deficiencies in the Australian team (a lot caused by selection), but that would take away from the wonderful performance of this English team.

Anderson bowled extremely well, no signs of any problem with his side, although Australia didn’t require him to bowl enough to really test it. After three innings, it is hard to fathom whey Tremlett wasn’t in the side from the beginning.  Apart from seemingly trying to get Ponting out down leg-side for a couple of overs, he was hostile, quick and aggressive.  He is also a giant.  That helps.

If anyone believes in omens and luck going one way or another, then the first three overs would have dispelled that. 

Hughes looked fiery and Watson had been dropped twice. 

Then the usual first innings business resumed.

Watson was lucky to get to 5, and Hughes played a very loose shot after working hard for an hour.  Ponting again got a good ball which moved just enough. 

Ponting looked determined, and seemingly begun to take control with two cracking pulls to the fence off his series nemesis Anderson.  As with much of Ponting’s batting this series, those shots provided false hope.  Throughout his innings, his balance was off, he was falling to the off-side when the ball was going down leg, he was lunging rather than stepping down the wicket and mostly (if I am honest) he looked a shadow of his former self. 

Admittedly I am being somewhat biased, but seeing the great one (Tendulkar) streak away from the Tasmanian is biting a little.  I had always thought that, although Tendulkar slightly edged him, Ponting was up there with him.  Tendulkar is making me feel a little foolish right now.

The ease with which Kallis is making runs is also starting to grate on me.  I don’t like Kallis, never have.  Before Watson, he was the bloke I most despised in world cricket.  Begrudgingly, I am coming to the conclusion, that he is also one of the all-time greats of world cricket.  This hasn’t been a good day for me!

I don’t think Ponting is finished, I think he does still have some good runs at international level left in him.  In fact, on the whole, I’ve thought that a big score was literally just around the corner this series.  He can still bat, he showed that recently in India, which is statistically his worst performed area of the world.  My fear, is that he may not get the chance to pull himself out of this slump.  It will be surprising if he survives this summer as skipper (although I do not agree with that decision, as I can’t see anyone good enough to replace him), and it is not the Australian way to keep playing for long (or usually at all) once the captaincy has been taken away.

Whether you are an English, Australian, or just a cricket fan in general, I think you will have to agree, it is a sad sight seeing him struggle so much at the moment.

Although England bowled very well and suitably for the conditions, the Australians gifted a lot of wickets – Hughes, Clarke, Smith, Haddin especially.  Some of the bowlers did as well, but they aren’t there to bat.  Arguably Hussey played an ill-timed and somewhat loose shot to go out, but his performances this series do give him a bit of leyway in that regard – as it is the first time that he has failed to make at least 50 this series, I think we should give him a break.  Especially when you consider that he has been at the crease very very early – before the 15th over three times this series out of six innings (and twice before 10 had been bowled)!  This is likely to continue with the way the men ahead of him are batting.

I went to bed when Johnson bowled it to fine-leg, so I can’t really talk much about the English openers, other than it looks like a long day in the field today if Australia can’t get back some of that Perth magic.

I feel like I am repeating myself on this, but the selections for this entire series, and especially this match are ludicrous. Unless Hauritz has been stealing the other players wallets, it is simply unfathomable that he is not in this side.  Smith, at his current stage, cannot bat at number 6 – simple as that.  Hughes is not worthy of his place and Clarke should have been dropped.  Siddle, and to an extent Hilfy, are lucky to be playing.  Blokes like Hauritz, D Hussey, McDonald, White, and various others carving up the Shield must be wondering what is going on, and more importantly – what the have to do.  It almost, only almost, makes you feel a little sorry for Hodge!

But when all is said and done, well played England – a thoroughly professional display.

It will be interesting to see whether Katich gets a run in Sydney now that he has indicated that he thinks he is fit.  I would have thought if Australia somehow pull a “centenary test” out of the bag he may, but if the Ashes are lost it may be a chance to play a few new kids.

I would love to see Australia show a little fight today, pull their fingers out and get stuck into the English line up and show some metal with the bat late in the day.  I would like to see that – not only because I am an Aussie, but because I would like to see a contest, a scrap, a good hard match.  The see-saw of this series is giving me indigestion!

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The day before Boxing Day …

The presents have been opened, the hearty dinner is in the over, the first glass of Christmas cheer has been drunk (just a tipple you see), and everyone is waiting. 

Huss is waiting for some short stuff from Swan, Watson wants to drive.  Punter wants to get off the mark, and Clarke is hoping that he can remember how to bat.  Hughes is cowering under that table, while Siddle is trying to lock Beer in his room.  Haddin is working on moving to his left, Hilfy is eating apples, Johnson is stretching and Hauritz is waiting at Sydney airport, just in case.

Strauss is chewing his gum, and practicing looking hard done by.  Cook is writing columns about how happy he is while Peiterson is working on his strut.  Anderson is working on his pout and getting a massage, Finn’s playing video games and Bell is looking in the mirror.  Collingwood is eating a post dinner snack of raw concrete, and Trott is doing his hair.

90,000+ Melbournians are sleeping off a large festive celebration in preparation of a big day out.

Everyone is on tender hooks.  Who will bat first?  Who will score runs?  Who’s taking the new ball?  Will the weather hold up?  Can Australia do it again, will England come back?

Waiting, waiting … hurry the hell up! 

Me, I am happy, watching a film, waiting for the Queen’s speech (I’ve never seen one before), a big roast dinner on the way, playing in the snow, Doctor Who coming up, playing with my new toys but mostly watching the clock. 

Tick-tock, tick-tock … only 9 hours to go … tick-tock, tick-tock.

Merry Christmas to all … C’mon Aussie, C’mon

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Watson is a genius

Well, well, now it gets interesting.  England find themselves defending themselves against a hostile press – whether it be over the WAGs, over their double batting failure, over Finn leaking runs, over Bell’s position in the line up, over Anderson’s trip home – and subsequent “tired” performance and ensuing side strain, Strauss’s captaincy.  You name it, and you will find that it is probably being thrown at the English cricket team by someone somewhere.

The MCG curator is getting blasted over favourable ground preparations for the home side.  Two things strike me about this – first that Cook confirmed a long-held Australian belief that the English requested that the Oval pitch be doctored in 2009, and that it was (this doesn’t change the fact that Australia went into that match with the wrong line up, a mistake that they seem to be repeating in Melbourne).  Secondly, the pitch is five days away from being played on.  Perhaps it might be wise to wait, at least until a little closer to the match, before casting aspersions on the MCG ground staff?  It would also be wise to just play the dam conditions as they are when you play them.  Does anyone go to India and complain that the pitch is too dusty and takes too much spin?

So, with an English team that may be worried about the wicket (although Flower doesn’t seem to be that fazed), their top bowler looking unlikely, Finn looking tired, the possibility of three Ashes debutants (the two new bowlers and Morgan for Collingwood), basically a team with a few difficulties and potentially facing some low morale coming into Christmas … what happens? 

Shane Watson happens.

http://www.theage.com.au/sport/cricket/watson-denounces-anderson-for-not-helping-out-his-teammate-20101221-194ey.html

Watson decides to be Watson, opens his mouth, and confirms he is a fool and gives the English team a kick up the backside and some inspiration to stick on the MCG dressing rooms.

Anyone who saw the final two balls of the third day knows what happened.  They know that Anderson stuffed up in his role as night-watchman.  Anyone who watched the first day knows that Anderson tried to be the tough guy and failed, and that Mitchell Johnson took exception (who can really say if this is what fired him up though, that is something that no one will ever know for sure).

But that wasn’t enough for Watson.  When Australia need to win the last two tests (or one and a draw), he decides to gloat, to rub salt into an open wound, to mock.  I hope Ponting belts him.  Kattich would have.

Watson carries himself like a man who considers himself to be a gift to the world, a man without peers, a FIGJAM if you will, and he can’t leave well enough alone.

Chris Gayle was right about Watson last year – “I didn’t expect anything better … that’s typically Shane Watson.”  I can’t say it better than the great laid-back one.

Enjoy the win, focus on the next match, and try to score a dam hundred you tool (OK I tried).

This is why I will never like or respect Shane Watson.

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Media Malarkey

Good win

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.

Momentum

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”. 

No. 

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.

Ian Bell

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.

Final gripe

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.”

Cop that!

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!

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