Posted by: nestaquin | March 7, 2009

Australian Cricket’s Fulgent Future

Shane WatsonFor the first time since the triumphant departure of Justin Langer in early 2007 the top order of Australia appears to have the stability and depth required to ensure a plethora of solid foundations for seasons to come.

The unorthodox Katich and Hughes’ immediate success, emphasized by their twin tons on the first day at Kingsmead, will ensure that they have the selector’s favour for the time being. However, with Phil Jaques returning from injury, Chris Rogers continuing to score important runs and Michael Klinger fulfilling his potential, there will be no shortage of alternatives if either of Australia’s new dynamic duo begin to fail regularly.

Remarkably, it is the middle order that may need renewing sooner than anticipated. Michael Clarke’s chronic back complaint and Michael Hussey’s form are a concern but rest assured the tough and ever faithful Australian system has a band of ready replacements chomping at the bit for an opportunity to test their skills against the world’s best.

The most illustrious middle-order replacement would have to be Brad Hodge who continues to dominate the Sheffield Shield with ridiculous ease. Unfortunately, Hodge is an abrasive character and apparently not welcome in Ricky Ponting’s dressing-room and that is a shame for he is a batsman of enormous talent who in his abbreviated Test career averages over 55. Plenty have questioned his technique but 50 first class tons including a magnificent double century against a quality attack deserve the utmost respect.

Even with Hodge’s minimal chances of selection Australia’s middle-order reserves are still plentiful as evidenced by Marcus North’s wonderfully composed start to his international career. His ton in the Johannesburg Test was potentially match-winning yet his short innings in the last session yesterday was just as important as he quietly steered the team to safety after appearing shaky due to Ponting and then Clarke falling cheaply.

On the domestic front, Tasmania’s vice-captain George Bailey continues to impress especially when his State is in trouble. Several times this season the 26 year old has pulled Tasmania out of a deep hole and his outstanding rearguard century in Adelaide yesterday could conceivably allow Tasmania a shot at the Shield in Melbourne next weekend.

Named after his great-great-grandfather George Herbert Bailey who played in the unofficial Test against WG Grace’s MCC at Lord’s on the Australian 1878 tour of England, George the younger has been marked for a BaggyGreen since he was a babe and there is little doubt that if he continues his form and improvement he will get the honour of an official cap that was denied his legendary Tasmanian ancestor by the cruel spirited administrators of the time.

At 24, Callum Ferguson is another young batsman with the required technique and temperament to shine on the international stage and his introduction to the pyjama teams proved an instant success as his average of 102 at a strike rate of 136 suggest. Originally chosen as a leg-spinner in junior representative teams he has forgone that art and worked hard on his batting and it has proven a profitable decision. He continues to improve and hopefully his exposure to the world’s best bowlers in the next 18 months in limited overs cricket will give him the foundation required to become a Test batsman of note in the ensuing years.

Another player with a rich pedigree that is applying pressure to Australia’s middle order is Western Australian Shaun Marsh. Although he is still to dominate in the Shield, he has shown during his intermittent stints with the ODI team that he has the class to succeed internationally and that’s hardly unexpected when you consider he was facing Shane Warne in the backyard at age seven.

Shane Watson has returned to cricket this weekend as a batsman and of all the players mentioned he is the most likely to get the nod if a place opens up in the middle-order. He has returned with a bang, scoring an aggressive 145 in Queensland’s current match and hopefully he, his captains and the selectors will allow him to just bat and field at first slip. Too many times has the extra duty as a bowler interrupted his fitness and it’s time that all parties concerned recognize his value with the willow and allow him to concentrate solely on the most superior part of his game.

I’ve heard whispers that he will be selected in Australia’s squad for Dubai to limit his IPL exposure and while that may not please Shane Warne it appears a wise decision going forward for Australian cricket.

There is one other player on the horizon but at 22 he is still a few years away from a BaggyGreen. Sydneysider, Usman Khawaja has impressed everyone with his mature approach to his initial First-Class season and it is no secret that the selectors have him marked as a player with a long international career in front of him. The competition will be stiff but the young lad from my former Grade club has the game, upbringing and attitude to fulfil the expectations placed upon him.

If Australia can win the current Test in Durban it is likely that the suffering Michael Clarke will be rested for the next at Cape Town and it will be interesting indeed to see who the selectors opt to call up and fly over for the job. Shane Watson is the obvious candidate but for Tasmania’s hopes of a second Sheffield Shield, I’m hoping Brad Hodge gets the recognition he thoroughly deserves.



  1. l really like the look of Ferguson and reckon they have him as next cab off the rank ahead of the unfortunate Hodge. Like Bracken it is somehow strangely over for him. l have a nagging sense the selectors are right on both of them too, but perhaps this is outweighed by the feeling that it is also unjust.

    Don’t forgot Dussey as well as a depth player while Khawaja, Bailey, Marsh build their careers.

    Bowling remains the key – making sure we can take 20 wickets. We are seeing the pace depth tested now and going well. Wait and see. But short of the promising Jon Holland and assuming McGain has 18 months (all going well) in him only? Bailey and Cullen? Krezja?

    • Hodge just out for 261. Cmon Vics!

      • Not a big fan of David Hussey. It’s not that he isn’t a good bat but I’ve lost count at the number of times he has found ways to get out when his team needs him most. I think he’s a good fit for T20 team but I’d rather the selectors went for a younger guy. Still, you are right, Jap, he is probably in the mix.

        As for the Vics, if the last few matches are any indication they’ll score 1000 in the first innings of the Shield final next week!

  2. Had to consult the dictionary again for this title!

    Hodge made his Test double-century on the WACA road, not the MCG.

    I would br surprised if Watson were picked for Australia as a specialist bat soon. It’s been a while since he’s done anything much with the bat in whites.

    • Thanks Dave fixed the error. As for Watson that would be apart from his latest comeback match. He is one of the selectors favourites and only time will tell if he gives away bowling for good.

      • He’s a selectors’ favourite only as an all-rounder though – the old trying to pick an eleven that has twelve players. As a pure batsman he’s just another solid batsman in domestic cricket. He may get picked at some stage, as he does have good talent with the bat, but he’s hardly a stand-out in the domestic cricket that he plays.

  3. nesta…watson was the bowler who looked like getting wicket most in tests in india…specially he used the reverse swing better than most oz bowlers…

    now you are advocating giving his bowling…are you saying for time being till he becomes fully fit… or permanently…?

    am not sure he can pull weight as specialist test bat though…

    • I think we can safely say that Watson’s body won’t allow him to bowl for a prolonged period. His batting is up to scratch and can only improve if he gives bowling away. He’d never make the team as a specialist bowler but as his innings yesterday showed (145 next best 30) he could as a middle-order bat.

  4. Poor old Hussey, not really on his game is he? Getting a Steyn work-over is just what he needed! Still, its not too bad if even when he’s struggling he still posts 50.

    • It didn’t look good fred. And it has led to a mini-collapse. There’s a bit in the pitch this morning so perhaps 348/7 isn’t too bad a score.

      • Make that 348/8. Ntini on a hatrick.

  5. It’s not what it was looking like it might be yesterday morning, but 350+ is not too bad on a pitch with something in it.
    I hope Ponting gets his act together soon.

  6. I do believe that Aussies are back on track. Though still nothing can be said. The Saffas are looking a bit dangerous in this game.

  7. Terrific morning from SA. Very interesting to see if Aus can get any movement.

    • Looks like we can! 2 for 0!!!!!!!!!!

  8. McKenzie gone to Mitch. 49/7 for the day. Amazing! Now Amla. What a ball.

  9. What a Test! Johnson has pinged Smith and it looks as though he has broken his other hand.

    de Villiers and Kallis have plenty to do. Johnson is bowling like a man possessed. 350 looks a very good score at the moment.

  10. extraordinary! 3 for 6 plus smith retired hurt!

    • I don’t think extraordinary does it justice considering the pitch isn’t that bad. Oh! Almost another one. South Africa looks in deep, deep trouble. I reckon Siddle is chomping at the bit to have a go but I doubt Mitch and Hilfy will be giving up the nut for a while.

  11. Smith should try using his bat instead of his hands. It doesn’t hurt so much.

    • Smith is off to hospital for a new plaster. Big blow and he must have nightmares about Johnson who is tipping the 150km/h mark in his fifth over.

      18/4 including Smith.

  12. Perhaps this is the end of SA’s tilt at the number one ranking. Quite aside from Australia’s performance, their confidence must be totally shot. That essential ingredient, self-belief, must be in short supply.

  13. Time to unleash Siddle. If South Africa get out of this they deserve to be number one.

    Below is a link that has a live stream.

    • And if they don’t and drop the series at home as overwhelming favourites, their hands practically on the mace, they will have another chapter to add to the SA v Aus story.!

  14. Drinks. 35/4 or 35/3 if Smith returns.

    Johnson has been supersonic. He gets better each match. Hilfy tight and even a bit aggro which is out of character. I think Siddle will get one early in his spell and if he does Boucher and the tail are in for a hell of a time.

    I’m still not discounting South Africa I still remember Melbourne but it will be miraculous.

  15. I’ve missed all this – a shame because it’s as exciting as Port-of-Spain is dull.

    I’m not writing off SA yet either. It’s a big if, but if SA can get 270, the game is very much alive.

    • Be annoyed if they get 270 from effectively 4 for 42.

  16. This is the 27th day of the series and I don’t think you could describe even one as dull.

    Ponting is now suffocating them and considering his bowlers need to back up again in the second dig and there is plenty of time left it’s probably the right move.

  17. oh dear.. blood on the grass again!!!

  18. oh nesta.. *blush*.. a ring of ambulances at every ground from now on.. oh dear.. the embarrassment.

  19. Mitch doesnt like being bowled for bugger all, apparently..

  20. might as well go for Steyn’s legs, now. Make it a hat trick.

    • Well Steyn was very hostile before lunch so as they say in the playground, “He started it , Miss!”

  21. maybe Mitch is practising for Pietersens ribs…

  22. Mitch is a sweet bloke but he sure is doing his best Thommo impersonation this afternoon. They all count Pepp and we might have them all out by the end of the day.

    They just said Smith is out for three weeks. Kallis will be back. He is a hard bastard but he’ll have a sore head. Ricky has them playing some hard-arse Launceston cricket and it’s working.

    Little Duminy is doing well and might have to do it on his own again.

    • 3 for 56 and another two retired hurt. Smith busted hand. Kallis busted jaw? MJ has become something far beyond any of us could imagine (except DK).

  23. Nest.. Dooms is that good, he could do it by himself.. darling Mitch..!!….

    yes, that was Thommo’s thesis.. ‘break ’em’…

  24. good lord, boucher.. mitch.. nesta nesta.. IS it Thommo?? reincarnated??



    and gorgeous, too.

  27. Graet bowling to Boucher who genuinely looked scared. Three or four brutal bouncers then a lightening yorker. Brilliant and damn scary. Glad he is on our side.

  28. that was a corker to Boucher!

  29. that is the first time I have ever ever seen Boucher look even nervous, nesta.. but he did look utterly demoralised.. my god, Mitch!!..

  30. I am very worried for Steyn now, he is on Siddle’s hit list.. Mitch will wind him up, too. oh, my goodness..

  31. Well after we all settle down there is the obvious question. Does Ricky enforce the follow-on if he gets the chance this time? I think if we get them all out before stumps he must.

    • Yep straight back at them.

  32. Yes, nesta./.. I trust Ricky in this matter, he usually calls it on the money. .. I think he will, terrible as it is, with all this ambulance and blood and teeth, and stuff.. but that’s cricket. And it’s a Test match. so.

  33. 4 for 62, but 6 for 62 effectively at tea. Or Kallis may be back? They’re saying Smith is out for 3 weeks.

  34. Extraordinary stuff – on English telly, they they are saying that the pitch is playing up, but surely it’s the quality of the bowling?

    • A truly great spell. Might just win one of the greatest away series wins for Aus. Like Martyns efforts in that Indian series, just outstanding individual efforts that take the game completely away.

  35. Pitch is fine. Gorgeous day in Durban. Mitch isnt playing up either, he is just bowling as he bowls..

  36. It’s the same pitch as yesterday. There’s no vicious movement just good bounce if you bend your back. It’s been a hostile session but it’s the accuracy and intent of the bowling that stands out. Johnson is consistently around the 150 mark and on the money every ball.

  37. I cannot believe it hit Kallis.. I am still reeling.

    shades of McKosker, nesta!!!

    I wonder if Smith told him what McKosker was told. . ‘tie it up in a napkin and get out there and bat, you bugger!@!’…

  38. Kallis must be thinking about being the hero here – and why not? Duminy is class and a hundred here will underline that.

    Test cricket is just fantastic when it’s played like this.

    • Kallis might be wondering if his dentist works on a Saturday afternoon. Both Kallis and Smith were struck flinching and taking their eye off the ball. It’s been awfully brutal but it’s not as if balls are jumping off a good length.

      Nice bowling by Siddle too. Very controlled and mature.

  39. It wouldnt surprise me to see Kallis totter out, all bound and wired up. And slog a few, too.

    good old Jaque.. it’s hard not to love him, really.

    hehe. .. NELS would not even hesitate!!.

    • Kallis reportedly gone to hospital

      • Three stitches and gone for x-rays.

    • This is the sort of match that Nasty Nel would revel in!

  40. Harris . how long can he last?

    • Who knows when these two teams are playing. I’d like the boys to roll them quickly and put them back in as I’m sure Steyn and Morkel will be fired up and wanting to crack a few heads after seeing their skip and Jacques sent to hospital.

  41. Every time I turn my back on this game for a few minutes, it changes dramatically. Generally in Australia’s favour. Boucher scared of Johnson? That would take some doing, he’s a tough nut.
    Australia hasn’t played like this for a long time. McGrath and Warne were clinical rather than brutal. Except for bringing KP down:) I can’t help feeling this game is really drawing a line in the sand.

    • The Saffers went after the tail with alot of short stuff in the morning session and the Aussie bowlers came out and returned the favour with interest. Steyn and Morkel are going to cop plenty when they arrive there is no doubt about that. Interesting that they sent Harris out instead of Morkel and so far he has done a pretty good job. Mitch is looking tired and deserves a break.

  42. Duminy playing a fine stand alone knock. Up to 45.

  43. I think Boucher was completely put off by seeing Kallis fall to the ground like a toppled dray horse, it was slow, it was heavy and the ground shook. ANd then the spitting blood. well.. I was behind the couch myself after that.

    • My wife went to bed disappointed that Mitch would do such a thing and that I thought that it was top bowling. I tried explaining that it was Jacques fault but she was having none of it.

      It looks a bit harder for the bowlers now with the ball softening and I think Ricky should bring back The Ginger Strangler from one end.

      • The way this game is going, The Strangler isn’t just going to just bowl a tight line, he’s going to loop his jockstrap around the batsmen’s neck and squeeze until his tongue pokes out and he goes purple in the face. It’s that sort of game.

        • A new tactic, the jockstrap strangle. I like it. Ooh Harris just took his eye off the ball and wore one on the shoulder. I hope the ambulance is on stand-by! Duminy 50. He can play and should be in their team forever.

      • Ha! Had the same conversation with my girlfriend.

    • They are good mates and I’m still a bit shaken by it all. It was very ugly but strangely invigorating. I remember days without helmets and those blokes were hard and courageous. It’s hard for the younger generation to truly understand the brutality of Test cricket before World Series Cricket but todaty is a pretty good example.

  44. those were major errors by Smith and Kallis, nesta.. why he took his eye off it, I can not figure out, but there it is.. It’s not as if Mitch is a slowie.

    the Ginger Strangler, yes..

    • Hussey got worked over this morning too, but he managed to avoid playing the ball with his hand or his jaw. Mind you, he did play one with his helmut.

  45. it was hell bowling this morning, SA time, nesta, no doubt about it, Steyn was like a mad thing.

  46. ooo Hilfy.. bit of throat music there.

    • I hope the Ambos are ready. Harris is an accident waiting to happen. I hope he gets out before he gets nailed.

    • Cricinfo saying Kallis will be next man in / Cleared by x-rays.

  47. Harris is in all sorts of strife out there.. If he could keep Duminy at bat ,he’d be a happy man.

  48. Kallis.. hard bugger.

    • When he returns, guess where the bowlers will be aiming…

  49. there we go. He did well, Harris,.. considering…

  50. The strangler strikes.

    • Hmmm, maybe he has a role after all.

  51. Is there a worse commentator than Pommie? When he isn’t stating the bleedin’ obvious whatever he says the opposite happens. Good on Jacques but I’d still like to see him back in the pavilion as soon as possible.

    • Which Pommie, TV or radio? I’m forced to suffer Roebuck. Disgraceful that he’s on Australian airwaves. Nichols is OK, he’s just English, and no worse that some of the Australians. Roebuck boosting Ponting as a captain today was stomach churning considering what he has written.

      • There’s a bloke called Pommie on SAF telly. Nice bloke but a deadset lightweight.

  52. Geez you gotta hand it to Mcdonald. l wasn’t a fan initially but he has been very handy in these 2 tests.

  53. The Ginger strangler strikes again. I reckon his jockstrap deserves a place next to Boonie’s box in the Bellerive museum!

    • Ahh, disappointing, that wicket didn’t involve any blood.

  54. * big bloody grin!!

    • Jesus, McDonald’s going to get 5.

  55. I have Roebuck as well, Fred.. I endure it because I like Jim Maxwell. What a groaning bastard he is.

    • I did have the radio on but Mike Coward really irritates me with his pointless anecdotes. Jim is the business and I wish they’d fly Walshy from Adelaide over. He is great value and paints a vivid picture.

    • Yes Maxwell’s fine, and Lawson is funny, he’s not a commentator at all, which is refreshing. Listening to Lawson is like sitting in the lounge with your family or the pub with mates. Why Roebuck is used in Australia I have no idea.

  56. I bet a deal’s been made re Steyn.. Johnson or Siddle.. but it would be neat if the Strangler got him.

    and I LOVE Steyn.

  57. That ball that got Morne was a class delivery seaming back off the deck through bat and pad. Dale is on his way. Hope he sticks around long enough to get a bit of his own medicine.

  58. yes. a finger, or I rather like a toe broken for Dale, nest.. few teeth maybe… ?? your preferences?>?

    • Stunning performance from the hungry rookies. Playing their hearts out for their baggy green. Kudos to the skipper on marshalling this.

    • Toe. He’s so hard that he’d still bowl with bleeding gums.

  59. gee, nesta.. remember those fabulous innings that Dale put in in AU this summer?? it made me cry.

    • Steyn looks lucky again today. I’d like to see the back of him.

  60. Siddle is hungry as hell for a wicket.

    • He deserves one. He’s obviously injured but he still keeps charging in. I love our new attack. They’ve all got the mojo and killer instinct in their own unique style.

  61. Who on earth could have predicted Australia was going to shell-shock SA at home a few months ago?

    • Oh, of course, Roebuck just said on the radio that he saw this coming a few months ago. Twat.

    • Not even Nostradamus Fred. A lot of old blokes are gone and the young blokes are hungry. I hope the Poms are ready for some brutal cricket next Test series. This team reminds me of 1989 and I expect there’ll be no mercy shown.

  62. whoa.. Mitch ‘Chopper’ Johnson in to bowl.

  63. me,. Fred… me and Nesta, I guess. I was quite happy for everybody and their Auntie to have a go in the team over the home summer. Sort it out now was the best thing to do. It never occurred to me that AU was in some sort of ‘decline’ at any stage. In transition, yes. Decline? hardly.

    • Yeah well a quick look through the blog shows I was always reserved but quietly confident. Never expected to dominate but I did expect a decent showing if Ponting didn’t have Lee, Symonds and Hayden cramping his style.

    • Yes, we all knew Australia was rebuilding, but it seemed inevitable that a resurgent SA was going to overtake us in the meantime. The summer series only confirmed that. And our new guys made a middling to average impression. But they seemed to have turned the corner very suddenly. Beaten in Australia and then debuting at the bullring, it doesn’t get harder, but their response was not just to compete, it was to dominate. And cause injuries.
      Ruthless disposal of older stalwarts has been proven yet again as the right approach. (Although in this case the ruthlessness was somewhat soft, Hayden was indulged).

      • Yeah Fred, the great thing is the hunger and how the new blokes become bulletproof when they put on the Baggy Green. Wrote of it a few days back but the mess in Pakistan swamped it.

        Ponting is turning into a hard man and I like it. He was just berating Johnson for wasting time.

        • Agree Nesta, but “Ponting is turning into a hard man”? The Kings Cross brawler? The hard man has always been close to the surface. Perhaps he is seeing his chance new to form Australia’s post-champion future. It’s no longer all about those couple of champions. As you wrote in a blog recently. Berating Johnson, goodness. I’d be kissing his boots.

  64. I was a bit astonished to read that lots of cricket ‘writers’ assumed that Ricky would be shoved.. hell, no.

    Only Ponting could pull this lot together, really. And keep it together.

    oooo…..Johnson is winding himself up.

  65. you can see that Ricky wants Steyn’s wicket so bad he can taste it.

  66. Disappointing Australia folded to score only 350. Those 350 seem like a mountain now.

  67. I just dont think anything can rattle Duminy.. He is truly truly going to be, if not well on the way to being a great. Even The Great.

    • The idiot Sth African commentators were wanting him dropped last Test! Another wicket before stumps would be lovely.

  68. I know that you might not believe this, but I think Strauss, Ravi, KP, Colly and Prior will all play the short stuff better than the Saffers. It’ll be great fun finding out!

  69. lmao.. I love MoTM’s comedy..

  70. Catch you all tomorrow, folks.

    Much satisfaction, Nesta..

    • “…will all play the short stuff better than the Saffers”
      So maybe they won’t bowl short.

  71. Well pepp, Smith has a history of hand injuries, as did Nasser Hussain, because they both play with low hands. Kallis is getting to an age when even the most confident (Langer for example) get hit. Boucher has always been susceptible to being roughed up.

    After being caught hooking a few times, Strauss has learned how to deal with the short stuff, KP will be okay, Ravi will attack anything and Colly and Prior will enjoy it too. Mitch is genuinely quick, but will have to bowl some firece second spells with an oldish ball to keep up the pressure. Siddle will be hostile, but may not be quite quick enough to rough up the frontline batsmen. Hilfenhaus will be a challenge throughout.

    Whilst this is hugely impressive stuff, Dale Steyn has batted for very long periods and, despite having great heart, he’s a Number 9 through and through.

    • Smith and Kallis also have a much more relevant history of being much better batsman than all the English blokes mentioned KP aside.

  72. You’re right Toots I find that very difficult to believe. These are the same blokes who haven’t won a match of any kind since August and lost the last Ashes 5-0, aren’t they? Didn’t South Africa give them a touch up? And India and the Windies too? The bravado would be taken more seriously if England could actually achieve something first.

    It’s going to be very long and depressing English summer Toots best to resign yourself to that fact now. There’s something special about these new guys and today’s remarkable comeback after Australia were on the mat at lunch only emphasises that.

    Thanks everyone for sharing the love. It’s been another absolutely thrilling day’s Test cricket. I’ll post some thoughts in the afternoon and hope to hear from you again tomorrow. Ciao.

  73. England’s bowling has lots of problems, but the batting is looking in reasonable nick, and it was the batting of which I write.

    England’s scores working backwards are:


    Only the last two of those were at home.

    It’s not a great set of figures, but apart from the 51 anomaly, it’s pretty solid and a foundation for The Ashes even if we aren’t winning Tests.

  74. Tooting, your optimism is impressive. You’re talking up the team that has struggled to force a win in the WI, and in fact will probably lose that series? Against a team that has SA on the ropes at home?
    Strauss has had a second coming, but we will see.
    KP is in the second slump of his career, we will see how long it takes him to get over losing the captaincy. The guy has character problems.
    Ravi, not sure, too young to say.
    Colly and Prior, OK, fine. They’ll score a few occasionally. Nothing to be scared of there.
    England is grinding it out aginst the WI, but that’s a different kettle of fish.
    I love the way you spin Boucher, Smith and Kallis being prone to injury. It was all due to SA incompetence right? Nothing to do with an attack facing a strong confident team in their own back yard, two premier batsmen and one old hand, intent on being number one, and just being oitbowled. You should run for elected office.

  75. Fred – Look above. I say it’s a fine bowling display that gladdens my heart as a fan of the game. But Smith is prone to hand injuries and Kallis (like Hussey) will get hit at his age. It’s not spinning, it’s just true, but it takes excellent bowling to exploit it.

  76. A list of scores means little out of context. Australia scored badly in the second innings but won the first test. It doesn’t matter how many they scored, it matters if they lead to victory.
    The key qualities needed in an inings, aside from volume of runs, is the speed at which they are scored, and the ability to stabilise after a wicket or two, or to avoid collapses. England is expecially prone to collapses. Australia generally has some resilience, although tested a bit recently. As for speed (or ability to get on top of a bowling attack), England clearly struggles there. I think England is back to the early days of the Fletcher era: make yourself hard to beat before you think about winning.

  77. Yes, I know you are a connisseur enough of the game to appreciate the quality of the bowling today.

  78. Fred – thanks.

    I see your point, but I’d say that England’s batting is not as aggressive as India’s or Australia’s, but that is to compare them with two of the most aggressive batting line-ups in history. Yes, there are still collapses, but few teams don’t lose wickets quickly from time to time.

    The batting is getting there – the bowling has a long way to go. In the last 16 Tests, we have lost twice to SA, once to a very pumped up India post-Mumbai and once to West Indies (if we don’t lose the current one). That’s pretty hard to beat I’d say.

  79. Lost 4 of the last 16? It really annoys me when the facts get in the way of a good story. I would have thought England was easier to beat, given the overall trials and tribulations they go through. I suspect the devil is in the detail, which ones did they win and lose, did they win the ones that count, did SA or WI have historic wins in England recently? (The answer to the last one is yes).

    Australia hasn’t had an aggressive batting line-up, if that implies one team, its had a succession of aggressive lineups, in other words a culture and an ongoing stream of talent to execute it.

    I still think there is something especially fragile about the English team and mentality. I think it ties back in to the national culture, cynicism, grey weather, cautious temperament, end of empire etc. It’s why KP is so alien, and probably why he was sacked. Without wanting to be too fatalistic, it was probably inevitable the 2005 Ashes lead immediately to glorious failure, culminating in 5-0.
    Anyway, enough cod philosophy. I accept England are pretty good as a middling team. That’s as much as I’ll give them. After the SA wins in Australia it seemed Aus and Eng were converging. After the last 4 test matches in WI and SA, that’s been exposed as way too pessimistic.
    PS. I don’t blame them for losing post-Mumbai, Sewag was an irrisistable force.

  80. I’m not trying to be too down on England, it’s just the way my thoughts have been heading after a day of such intent from Australia. Such intent is something England has been searching for, unsuccessfully.
    Please don’t employ Buchanan as a consultant, he’ll just confuse everybody even more. Can you imagine him counselling Harmison?
    And Sewag is irresistable, not irrisistable.

  81. Fred – there’s plenty in what you write, but I suspect a stung Australia have bowlers in peak form and fitness and England do not. Home advantage will help as will the crowds, so Aus will have to maintain the standard they are at (with a bit of leeway as SA are a better side than England) through to end August. That’s something Warne and McGrath knew all about, but Mitch and co will have to learn it on the job.

    England might have got 50 more runs in this innings or declared on their target score twenty minutes early – neither will be critical. Monty and Swanny will be much more important.

    • Strange conclusion Toots about the bowlers. Johnson is at peak form and fitness no doubt. Or something even more.

      But Stuart Clark certainly isn’t and is 2nd bowler picked. And l would expect Siddle and Hifenhaus to be getting better from every test they play – whilst bowling great atm – these guys have heaps of room for improvement. And are definitely good enough to do that. England will suit Hilfy more than SA. Both Siddle and Hilf, as their bodies adapt to test cricket, strike me as promising ‘warhorse’ bowlers able to bang it out day after day rather than just break through every now and then.

      McGain we will see, but l reckon he will do a job for the next 18 months while Jon Holland is groomed.

  82. Yep, Johnson better learn how to cavort with tarts in his gstring in the evenings.

    SA is learning all about maintaining standards.

    The Eng WI game has not been impressive, but I suspct the pitch is the biggest culprit there. 3.5 an over from Eng is ok. Good for a draw.

  83. isnt he just the most gorgeous person u have ever seen… lol, im SO jealous of his girlfriend… lol.

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