Posted by: nestaquin | June 30, 2009

Questions Remain

Siddle TattooAustralia enter their final Ashes warm-up match against the England Second XI tomorrow in less than ideal nick with only their two youngest players, Peter Siddle and Phillip Hughes, in what you would consider Test form.

The batting, although settled because of Watson’s latest injury and the lack of any other batsmen selected, needs runs, and plenty of them, to convince that they are ready to dominate against England’s finest in Cardiff. Sure, they easily produced innings of over 350 against Sussex but no-one scored a century and the middle-order crumbled twice with Brett Lee concealing the failure by making the score respectable with two fighting innings at number eight.

The bowling is still undecided with only Siddle and Johnson worthy of their places for the first Test. Lee will play regardless of his propensity to go for four an over and bowl a no-ball every second one. I suppose if they could carry McDonald in South Africa as a bit part all-rounder then Lee could do the same although he should bat at nine behind the more technically accomplished Johnson.

That leaves one bowling place open with only Clark and Hilfenhaus competing as Hauritz is clearly not up to the mark. Presumably, both quicks will play against The Lions and the better performed should earn the final spot, however, with knowledge of the selector’s conservatism it is likely that Clark will be given the job if he performs admirably at Worcester.

This match against The Lions, Australia’s only First-Class fixture before the First Test, should help all of us ascertain if the BaggyGreens are ready to defend The Ashes. At the moment, I am unsure but it would be wise to wait and see what unfolds over the next week before making a final judgement.

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Responses

  1. Reasons why I feel slightly less bullish than just after the South Africa series:

    1. M Hussey’s continuing slump.
    2. Strange, strange selectorial decisions – only taking one spare batsman, who is terribly injury prone?
    3. Lee’s return. Not good enough to merit inclusion (if you take those rose-coloured glasses off) and not bad enough to drop out of the running completely.
    4. No spinner.

    Rays of light in the gloom:

    1. Hughes, a bright new beginning.
    2. Johnson.
    3. Siddle, who’ll be well up for it.
    4. Clark. Quietly returning to form. People seem to forget he’s a silent destroyer, proven against both SA and England, with lots of county experience.
    5. The team rose to the occasion in SA, a far superior team to this English line-up.

    Going to be a tight contest. Arrival of butterflies imminent…

  2. A very considered view Nesta.

    With plenty of questions about the England XI, Cardiff will provide some, if not all, the answers with the shape of the series only emerging after Lord’s I feel.

    33 degrees in London today, so batting conditions should be good for the warm-ups.

  3. are you guys serious? its fucking england you’re playing guys… they only rested the goddam vaughn issue a little while back. i mean if this ashes is still alive after the second match it would be the second best ashes of my life time. the aussies could play with eleven andy symonds after a night in town and still win with an annings to spare. or are you guys just trying to hype yourself up for a contest you know would be a joke?

    • We’ll see – you’re aware that England’s top four have more centuries per Test than Australia’s and that of the Aussie bowlers, only Brett Lee has bowled in a Test in England?

  4. haha toots – as pakistanis say – “don’t mind”

    honestly though, perhaps sitting here the whole excitement over the ashes seems to make no sense. probably because i’ve only seen one ashes series ever which was a contest.

    i know all of us would love to watch a real battle. but although the aussies are less experienced, that didn’t stop them in south africa either. moreover, england always has that ability to waste their talent for some mental issue – cue harmy’s first ball in 2007.

    • Karachi – I can understand why you wonder at the hullabaloo, but I can recall many close series. And we have been playing each other for 132 years!

  5. @toots

    i concede that there is a huge difference between anticipating a series as a neutral vs anticipating it as a passionate supporter. for example in the t20 final, we were a nervous wreck during the match, even though the highlights later proved it was a rather one-sided affair.

    BUT

    unlike 2005, this ashes feels like all the other ones – a confused buildup by the poms, a host of injuries to key players, a lack of clarity in terms of vision. i would love it, like every other cricket fan, to see a great ashes series. but unfortunately i don’t expect to see on. of course, i would love to have a rude surprise, so best of luck! :)

    • karachi – Cheers. We’ll need that luck, but if we get it, it might be very interesting.

  6. nesta, the selectors seem to feel differently to you, at least in part. Siddle and Johnson are in, true, but the other two bowlers still look up in the air to me. I get the impression they really want Hauritz to play, and are willing to both allow him opportunities and to bend their perception of his performances to convince themselves he should.

    This is a bizarre policy, I think, given Hauritz offers nothing that between them, North, Clarke and Katich don’t. It has also meant that McDonald has had no chance to prove anything, when he might potentially have been useful (mind you, he still might, pending injury and form).

    For the pacemen, Hilfenhaus is missing the Lions game, so presumably he is out. But I think the selectors are torn between Lee or Clark or the unsettling idea of four quicks.

    The lack of lead-up games is worrying me though. Siddle and Johnson need more than one game each to adjust to conditions, I feel, but the relatively few opportunities available for them to play are being wasted on bowl-outs between fringe players, and quixotic quests to make good of bad rubbish.

    • Cheers, Russ, I can only echo everything that you wrote here and the problem is that after the Lions game, nothing seems to have changed.

      They are still dead keen on Hauritz and I wouldn’t put it past them to not play Siddle in this ridiculous obsession with a full-time spinner. Over the 2 matches, North has managed to take more wickets with less overs so the myopia makes no sense. And the gall of them to undercook both Johnson and Siddle neither of whom have never even played in an Ashes series…

  7. Perhaps I’m paranoid but I’m seeing parallels between the murmurs of Cardiff spinning and the rot about Edgbaston seaming last tour.

    • Nobody knows what pitches do until they’re played on, especially over here. I feel that turning pitches don’t much help spinners – but pitches with bounce and pace do.

  8. Australia bowling – would do well to play their best 4 bowlers -J ohnson and Siddle being automatic picks, that will leave Lee, Clark, Hilf, and Hauritz; I would go with Lee and Clark, and trust Katich, Clarke and North to bowl 15-20 overs a day between them.

    Australia batting – Hughes, Katich, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, North and Haddin stil look one of the best lineups in Test cricket today, on paper. The key will be the kind of start Hughes and Katich provide. I can wager that Clarke will do well, and I hope Ponting doesn’t get more than 1 century in this series :)

    England bowling – looks settled in the pace and swing department, but doesn’t inspire confidence that it can restrict Aus to below 200 at least twice during the series.I would take a gamble with Adil Rashid, and give him the liberty to attack.

    England batting – will benefit from home conditions, but if Bopara and Strauss are taken out cheaply, it will all be down to KP and the supporting batsmen.

    I expect the Aus batsmen to struggle but still make scores of around 350+ on a regular basis. If Aus bowlers find their straps quickly, I see them retaining the series comfortably.It will require an extraordinary collective batting performance from England to make this a close series.At the moment, it doesn’t look likely, but all it takes is one big innings from KP at Cardiff for the entire team to find self-belief.

    Dark horses to watch for: Cook for England and Lee for Ausstralia (Yes, I think Lee will putin atleast 1-2 performances close to his best).

    Other predictions:

    Siddle (max wickets)
    Clarke (max runs)

    Anderson (max wickets for Eng)

    • I’m always surprised at how easily Colly is dismissed as a batsman. Wait, I’ll try that again – I’m always surprised at how easily Colly’s importance as a batsman is dismissed. Sure he’s not stylish, but he averages 44in Tests with 9 tons and averages 62 in 7 Tests this year.

      • Toots,

        Colly is a player who will always give 110%, no doubt about that. But he is not a batsman (probably he never will be) who would stamp his authority on a game or series in an emphatic fashion, and by doing so, succeeds in grabbing the initiative for his team.England did have two such batsmen in 2005 (Tresco, Vaughan) and a third one announced him self (KP).

        Of the current Eng batsmen, Ravi Bopara has that potential (this series will give us the answer if he’s the real one), Strauss has the temperament, but only KP has that proven X factor.I once thought Ian Bell could be the next Vaughan for England.

        So, Colly:Good, but not some one who will give nightmares to Johnson, Siddle & Co. I will be happy to be proven wrong, for Colly strikes me as a jolly good fellow.He will grow in my esteem if he receives a few good bouncers on his body, won’t flinch, and go on to score a back-to-the-wall century that helps Eng save a test or win :)

        • Kumar – I agree that a back-to-the-wall Test saving ton is probably the most we can hope for from Colly – but I’d be happy with that!


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