Posted by: tootingtrumpet | December 29, 2013

Fourth Ashes Test – The Report Cards

Chris Rogers - happy with his work

Chris Rogers – happy with his work

Alastair Cook (27 and 51) – Once an experienced opener has got through the first hour, the hardest work of one of cricket’s hardest jobs is done: but that didn’t save Cook from nicking off to be dismissed for a fifth disappointing score from seven innings. Second time round, the captain played plenty of shots, before, as so often in this series, Mitchell Johnson found the right ball at the right time. His captaincy copped plenty of stick for its approach to parting Australia’s last pair, but we’ve all seen slogging stands of 40 or so for the tenth wicket and we always will. Batsman Cook may have had his best match of as difficult a tour as he has endured, but Captain Cook has a few questions to answer about his use of bowling options and his field placings. Perhaps if he had been able to spend more time preparing last week and less time answering questions about backsides, his plans may have been more considered. He  certainly has plenty to think about before Sydney and, longer term, before England’s battered Test XI face up again in May.

Michael Carberry (38 and 12) – The opener occupied the crease again, seeing off the new ball before inexplicably allowing an in-ducking delivery from Shane Watson to clatter into his stumps. Watson has only four wickets in the series – three of them Carberry’s. Come the second dig, Siddle plugged away round the wicket as Carberry left well, but perhaps just a little too often, before being (alas predictably) LBW. Four and a half hours batting for 50 runs either points to admirable self-restraint amongst his hit-and-hope team-mates or to a player too limited to seize the initiative. Nick Compton, with twice as many centuries on the last tour as the entire team have managed this time, must be wryly amused at how things turn out.

Joe Root (24 and 15, 0-8) – Endured another first innings failure, getting a good one from Ryan Harris after fighting through almost two hours of batting during which he never looked in. Threw it away in the second innings, driving the ball to Mitchell Johnson, one of the best left-handed fielders in world cricket, and was run out for another nothing score. Started summer 2013 like a train for Yorkshire, and might have that as a first objective for summer 2014 too.

Kevin Pietersen (71 and 49) – England’s gun batsman did not so much ride his luck as use it to construct a patient, important, responsible first day innings over two sessions of tough cricket. Then two overs of soft cricket saw him dismissed to a risible shot on the second morning – but his many detractors should consider where England would have been without his earlier skill and application. Tried to hold the second innings together, as all around him disappeared in an epic failure of batsmanship and appeared, at times understandably, fed up with it all. The IPL will be looking very attractive indeed right now.

Ian Bell (27 and 0) – The man of the last Ashes series looked a top class Test bat well versed in the art of constructing an innings before Ryan Harris, a top class Test bowler, sent him back with a McGrath like ball that landed exactly where Bell didn’t want it to land and then moved exactly where Bell didn’t want it to move. There was none of that in the second dig, as he chipped his first ball straight to mid-off – something he has done before, equally inexplicably.

Ben Stokes (14 and 19, 1-46 and 1-50) – In the first innings, the all-rounder picked up where he left off, timing boundaries before getting a rude awakening that Test cricket is a hard school from an about to be rampaging Mitchell Johnson. Exactly the same description could be used for his second dig, with the bizarre variation that the man about to rampage was Nathan Lyon. Enjoys the confidence of his captain with ball in hand, though that may say more about his colleagues in the bowling unit than it does about him.

Jonny Bairstow (10 and 21, 6ct) – Until the wheels were coming off badly in the Australian second innings, he looked much more a wicketkeeper-batsman than batsman-wicketkeeper, tidy behind the stumps but unconvincing in front. His first innings dismissal, bowled through a yawning gate, was the stuff of nightmares; his edge to Haddin in the second innings was equally bad. Does not look to have the building blocks of a Test batsman’s technique in his game right now and simply cannot be the best wicketkeeper in England – another long-term selection issue looms.

Tim Bresnan (1 and 0, 2-24 and 0-48) – He was welcomed to the crease on Day Two with a brute of a ball from Mitchell Johnson that would have seen off any Number 8 in Test history. His first innings bowling showed the benefit of his overs in Perth, hitting a line and length to build the pressure England so craves. Just when his captain needed a classic Number 8 knock of about 30 while KP made 50 at the other end to re-establish the second innings, he slogged a bottom edge on to his stumps. Like his captain, he has not been able to summon the magic of three years ago.

Stuart Broad (11 and 0, 3-45 and 0-58) – His once highly regarded batting appears to be good only for a few biffs around the outer, but not for occupation of the crease – a view with which KP appears to concur, given his reaction to Broad’s arrival. Like many England batsmen, he appears to have forgotten that a handful of basic shots played in orthodox style can go a long way, even against very good bowling. With ball in hand, he was hostile and consistent, continuing to pick up wickets regularly – as he has done all year – perhaps even winning the respect of the Australian crowds, if not their affection.

Jimmy Anderson (11* and 1*, 4-67 and 0-26) – The mojo, if not the swing, appeared to be returning to England’s attack leader as he took three wickets in an innings for the first time on tour. But, with demoralisation setting in all round, he was as powerless as his opening partner once Rogers and Watson dug in for victory in the second innings.

Monty Panesar (2 and 0, 0-18 and 1-41) – Now England’s Number One spinner again, Monty showed more ticker with the bat than plenty of his colleagues before – inevitably somewhat farcically – leaving a straight one. Did not have a great deal to do in the first Aussie dig, but kept it tight and allowed England’s overworked seamers a break. Curiously underbowled as Australia raced to their target, he must fear the fate of Steven Finn if his captain is losing confidence in his work.

David Warner (9 and 25) – He played a Big Bash League game between the Perth Test and this one and appeared not to have readjusted to the five day game after the five minute game, thrashing about before giving Jonny Bairstow a dolly to get his wicketkeeping dismissals tally ticking. Out to another aggressive stroke in the second innings, but it already felt like it didn’t matter by then.

Chris Rogers (61 and 116) – He was bopped on the head by Stuart Broad to bring back memories of Ricky Ponting shedding blood for the cause at Lord’s in 2005, but little bothers an old pro like Rogers, and he just carried on punching the ball to the fence when he could and if he couldn’t – well, he just faced up and got on with the next ball. He passed 50 for the fifth time in seven Tests, then backed it up with a ton to anchor (indeed to drive) his team to the win. Not bad for a man many saw as a desperate pick amidst the chaos towards the end of Mickey Arthur’s reign – those 120 first class matches in county cricket benefiting his batting rather more than such experience benefited England’s.

Shane Watson (10 and 83*, 1-11 and 0-13) – The old problems returned for Shane Watson, hobbling off the field injured and unable to bowl and then playing loosely to give his wicket away when there were hard yards ahead of him. Later on, he looked like a man of twice his age while turning his arm over in England’s second innings. Though he saw Australia through to a target that was not a foregone conclusion when he arrived at the crease, his position in the side may come into question. James Faulkner may offer an alternative, as Darren Lehmann and Michael Clarke look to lower the side’s average age, but swapping a batting all-rounder for a bowling all-rounder would nudge everyone in a still fragile middle-order up a notch.  Steve Smith at 4 anyone?

Michael Clarke (10 and 6*) – His first strange decision was to insert England in a departure from his “win the toss and bat” formula that has delivered The Urn. His second was to leave a straightish one from Jimmy Anderson and lose a stump. But his team gave him an easy ride and Australia’s best player was hardly needed beyond his prosecution of a typically aggressive, typically Australian, typically successful cricket strategy.

Steve Smith (19) – He was well held by Ian Bell, taking Graeme Swann’s old slot at second slip, off a flying edge having battled to 19. Though it was a very good one, Smith has just one innings of real substance in the series to date and may not be bailed out team-mates as often in the future. For now he has a seat on the Aussie juggernaut and, with momentum seen as so important in Test cricket, he is unlikely to be displaced any time soon.

George Bailey (0) – The Donner and Blitzen of Perth seemed a long time ago, as he spent 36 minutes looking for a ball to hit before the faintest connection – and real-time Snicko – saw him off for a duck. He’ll need to do more from Number 6 in the future, but for now, he can bask in Ashes glory.

Brad Haddin (65, 3ct) – If Mitchell Johnson has bent the series to his will with the ball, Brad Haddin has done the same with the bat. Appeared to be playing on a different strip to all 21 others who had attempted to time the ball fluently, before having a thrash with just Nathan Lyon left. What an Indian summer for this most Australian of Australian cricketers.

Mitchell Johnson (2, 5-63 and 3-25) – Supremely fit, supremely confident and supremely athletic, he was – again – too much for an England late middle order and tail, who just could not cope with his succession of lifters and yorkers. If the figures are impressive, even more impressive is the grip he has over so many England batsmen. Will he still be around for the Ashes defence in 2015? If he is, expect some very docile tracks in England.

Peter Siddle (0, 1-50 and 1-46) – The third seamer kept it tight and snared both England’s openers with smart bowling planned and pursued to perfection. He won’t get the plaudits that his fellow seamers will attract when the series is written up, but his role has been vital and its execution admirable.

Ryan Harris (6, 2-47 and 0-34) – As long as you’re not 20 yards away, simply a wonderful bowler to watch – ever probing, ever reliable, ever threatening. The creaking limbs have held up just long enough to get him to the crease and propel the ball to the other end, hammering a tattoo on what can only be described as er… good areas. The old man looked tired in the second innings, but, as usual, a team-mate stepped up. How has he played just 20 Tests? And will he play a 21st in Sydney?

Nathan Lyon (18, 1-67 and 5-50) – He had to wait until his opposite number donated his wicket to get on the scoresheet in England’s first innings, but did a decent job of holding up an end, especially in the light of Shane Watson’s injury. Batted somewhat eccentrically, but has the talent to play at Number 9 and showed it in getting Day Three off to a very positive start for his team. Thanks largely to him, it just got better and better for the Aussies, as he took a five-fer without ever ripping it – though nobody would begrudge this fine cricketer his day in the sun, after his treatment at the hands of selectors who, repeatedly, could not see the long term replacement for SK Warne right in front of their eyes. 100 Test wickets now for the unassuming off spinner with, at 26 years of age, power to add.

You can tweet me at @garynaylor999

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Responses

  1. Haddin has had an “Indian summer” indeed, and furthermore the differences in performance of the players in their thirties has been crucial. Swann is coming up for 35, Prior is 31 as is Anderson, all of whom have tailed off alarmingly and had us wondering if they were in need of a rest, or (as Swann decided for himself) over the hill.

    Whereas Rogers and Haddin are 36, Harris 34, and Johnson finding the form of his life at 32 (incidentally, I’d forgotten until checking back that it was he that Strauss and Cook carted all around Lords in 2009).

    That’s a huge difference in the way that experience can be brought to bear on the game, including the support of younger players. Yet England are meant to be the ones benefitting from a tailored dietary and fitness regime, and protected from the hazards of county cricket.

    Rambling off the point a bit now, I have a theory that the life of an England cricketer has been inadvertently designed to promote stress and burnout. They’re either playing high-intensity Test cricket, training, or not working (and boredom is just as stressful as over-work). I think a bit more county cricket and a decent warm-up schedule would help – not increasing the amount of cricket for it’s own sake, but to promote the enjoyment of the game, and to be more a part of the cricketing world.

    Anyway, thanks for these summaries, well-chosen words as always.

    • I think the pacemen and the captain need resting from county cricket, but the other players should – more often than not – play.

    • If there is one thing I hope England (and Australian selectors!) take a note of it is the life cycle of Australia’s ageing match winners.
      Once upon a time in Australia, if you worked 10 years for a company, you qualified for something known as Long Service Leave. It was an extra 8 weeks off to be used in that year on top of your normal 4 weeks. It’s pretty much been written out of existence in the general workforce, but it might be something they need to add into future central cricket contracts.

      • There’s something in that, although England players – in non-Ashes tour years, usually have a stretch off.

  2. I meant to say – I had in mind there your point about Joe Root, Started summer 2013 like a train for Yorkshire, and might have that as a first objective for summer 2014 too… and that exactly the same applies to Jonny Bairstow. Their double century partnership against Derbyshire in April (236 for Root and 186 for Bairstow), and their sunny Saturday at the Headingley Test in May, that inspired this appreciation from Ian Chappell, seem a long time ago.

    • I think there’s a few England players need to rediscover the joy of the game.

  3. Mitch Johnson the athlete. Doesn’t get mentioned much. But he doesn’t often get the types of injuries that set back other Australian bowlers so much. His all round athletic qualities which would likely make him successful in whatever sport he cared to choose.

    • Live he is quite a sight. Not effortless, but very powerful and immensely strong. Would have been a helluva cruiserweight.

  4. “His captaincy copped plenty of stick for its approach to parting Australia’s last pair, but we’ve all seen slogging stands of 40 or so for the tenth wicket and we always will”

    Agreed…but why did the bowlers stop aiming at the stumps and start bowling bouncers outside off-stump to a guy who was retreating to square leg? why no yorkers? why did Cook start the day with everyone on the boundary for Haddin?

    I just hope that DB Close was not watching – he might have blown a gasket. The bowling was brainless and the captaincy was brainless – bouncer followed by toe-crusher will get 101% of tail-enders out but it never happened. I once saw Sobers get Underwood out first ball at the Oval with an inswinging- leg-stump yorker that made Trevor Bailey on YTMS applaud on air. Far better than a string of innocuous “bouncers”.

  5. Not just the English cricket team that appeared broken by the end of day 4. I think the same fate has befallen the Bothameter. You could be churlish and say the England team performance on day 3 broke the Bothameter, but for me the culprit was that smiley young bloke, Nathan Lyon. I mean the Bothameter isn’t designed to withstand such changes in atmosphere as occurred from the close of play on Thursday to the close of play on Friday.

    • You can only imagine what he’s saying in private when reminded of 10-0!


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