Posted by: nestaquin | July 10, 2009

Ashes 2009: XI More Hasty Thoughts

Leading the ChargePhillip Hughes

Did a fantastic job protecting Ponting prior to lunch and then lost the battle with Flintoff after the break. The jingoistic English press are now informing all and sundry that Flintoff is back to his bollocking best but that is just their usual wishful hyperbole. Hughes copped a fearful examination from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in Johannesburg yet scored twin centuries in the next encounter. Beating up a 20 year old kid is hardly triumphant especially when you consider the score at day’s end.

England’s Bowling

If England are relying on atmospheric conditions, the turning of the tide and potholes in the pitch to dismiss Australia cheaply and regularly they will be beaten as soundly as they were last series. Consistency, versatility and aggression win Test matches and they weren’t on display for any length of time on Day Two.

Ricky Ponting

In Australia we all grow up listening to stories of our ancestors who were possessed by the mythical ANZAC spirit. These heroic men and women under severe adversity dug deep into their core and produced their best when it was needed most. Ricky has that spirit in spades and yesterday he inspirationally showed his young team of Ashes rookies how to bat in England.

The Venue

The first Test of an Ashes series deserves a grander venue than the provincial Sofia Gardens. At times, probably because of the lack of grandstands, it appears to have the subdued atmosphere of an ordinary domestic match.

Simon Katich

After being made the scapegoat at the conclusion of the last series in England, the New South Wales skipper set about reinventing and reinvigorating his game and yesterday was the culmination of all the sacrifice and honest introspection. Katich is an important foundation as Australia move forward in this new era and vital, both on and off the field, to its success. Mentally, he is cut from a similar mould to Steve Waugh and England will need to get him in the first hour as he has a thirst for grinding out huge scores when in touch.

Graeme Swann

The feisty tweaker played a superb innings in the first session belting Australia’s bowlers to all parts. He could have scored plenty more and continued Australia’s agony but was let down by an unnecessary and incredibly stupid shot by James Anderson. Although I like his cheekiness I fear the wink at Johnson after hitting him for four may see him attending casualty before the series is through. I can only assume he didn’t watch the carnage Mitch produced in Africa!

Billy Doctrove

I understand that the people from the Caribbean are usually laid-back but this umpire has taken ambivalence to a whole new level!

Andrew Flintoff

Apart from a couple of overs bullying Hughes he was pretty ordinary. He’ll need to perform more consistently over longer periods if England are to gain ascendancy over five Test matches.

Monty Panesar

If Australia are able to gain a lead and are pushing for runs Mitchell Johnson could end Monty’s international career today. His line was loose, his length uncertain and he never bowled anything but the same delivery over after over. To put his performance in perspective all you need to know is that Nathan Hauritz is a more accomplished bowler.

The Psychological Battle

After being smashed five-nil in the last series the English players wouldn’t be human if doubt and shadow weren’t their constant companions as they drifted uneasily off to sleep last night. Australia’s senior players, Ponting and Katich, reminded them that no matter the circumstances Australia will never, ever give anything but their whole.

Day Three

England must dismiss Australia before stumps. If they do not I think we’ll be hearing Cardiff and Adelaide in the same sentence quite a lot in future Ashes discussion.

[Image: Getty]



  1. Hasty the thoughts may be, but very well put, Nesta.

    Nit pick: Though we have had Steve Bucknor first, and now Doctrove, I think it is still unfair stereotyping to say that their umpiring is that way because they are Caribbeans.We have seen horrendous decisions from elite umpires of almost all nations in the recent past.

    I think the English media and many fans, have forgotten the 2007 Ashes, and only remember the 2005 series.I hope the squad itself is not guilty of that memory lapse.

    Having said that, Eng is still not out of the game.But their bowlers, esp. Anderson and Broad (if he is fit), and Swann need to step up today.I hated the body language of Eng fieldsmen after Tea yesterday.I mean, how can they lose the intensity so soon?This is test match cricket, and one has to keep at it all day long, no matter what.Some one like Strauss is ideally suited to instil this temperament into the team, but yesterday I started doubting whether he is able to play the Prefect with full freedom.Eng’s hopes seem to lie on Freddie doing a Botham or Swann doing an Underwood.Strauss needs to make them understand it is a 5-day game, and every one has to pitch in.Challenge them to come up with the ‘bull dog’ from within.Lets see if he can do it today.

    • Thanks Kumar, I read somewhere this morning that Fred gave an inspirational speech urging the team to lift their efforts. Something along the lines of, ‘We can still draw this one!”

      I guess that is the difference between the top four (Australia, South Africa, India and Sri Lanka) and the rest. The better teams would be reminding themselves that they still have 186 runs in the bank and are bowling last.

      England, as always, baffle me completely in terms of tactic and psychology.

  2. I know you tolerate my scorn of Strauss ( and a few others ) with equanimity, Toots.. but honestly.. if Strauss hasn’t been able to bring up the dog it’s too late now.. that’s a fact.

    Monty. Nothing I say can be added , really. It’s all been said before.

    Aleem Dar and Billy.. *shrug* .. umpire’s errors have to be factored in. It’s a good team that rises over it. Hilfy did this excellently, I thought.

    Jimmy.. it is always a tactical error to give away so much hopelessness. Whatever he is feeling, his display of it is inexcusable at this level. Keep it hidden, Jim.

    Small petty point, I suppose. Kev’s fielding. He missed every ball that came within a cooee of him. Cricket is multi layered matter of physical and mental skill, and fielding happens to be one of them, it has to be exercised. Not Good.

    Broad.. well.. he has potential, which may sound damning , but … I just can’t think of anything more to be said there. Except this potential is needed now.

    Prior. Good , and valuable. As a wickie? .. adequate.

    Back to Strauss. . there is nothing in Strauss’ body language that tells me he has got a plan A or B or C. Not so Good.

    Bopara. . prey to other players fear, I regret to say.. shame, really.

  3. Internet down for me for much of yesterday, but I’ve read up the thoughts and comments and can pitch in mine.

    As the day went, England batted bery well in the morning and I suspect getting hit all round Cardiff may come back to haunt MJ and co before the series is out.

    Punter and Katich then played wonderfully well in scoring at a decent clip while taking few risks. England are unlikely to bowl as badly today, at least not as unimaginatively, with the exception of Monty who needs a season away from the Test arena to reconstruct his game.

    Aus are still 186 behind and I’d rather be in Strauss’ shoes than Punter’s right now. I can only see a result in this match if Aus make 700 or England secure a first innings lead of 50 and I don’t think either of those will happen. The Adelaide factor will arise, but Warne made his own rules.

  4. I’m not interested in body language. Malcolm Marshall slouched around and Gordon Greenidge hobbled. Even Big Clive had the weight of the world on his slumped shoulders.

    KP nearly ran Punter out with a spectacular pick-up and throw. Unlike Siddle, Broad can bowl 90mph deliveries at will and at 23 (just) is learning to be a fast bowler – when he knows what Siddle knows, he’ll be a better bowler. Ravi will come good too – one innings is no base for judgement.

    Swanny’s wink? He does that sort of thing all the time. MJ must beware the straight one when he bats.

    • I understand it’s all a bit of a shock Toots but I think your faith in Broad is misplaced. Siddle is only a year older and has played 10 less Tests, 48 less ODIs and 35 less First Class matches than your golden boy. Steyn and Ishant are of the same generation too.

      Broad lacks cricketing intelligence, which is alarming considering his pedigree, and I don’t think a few more circumnavigations around the sun is going to change that. His opening spell to Hughes was as stupid as stupid gets.

      As for Ravi, I don’t think a good run against the Windies is an indication of international standard. This series will decide if he is up to the mark or not.

      • I like Bopara actually, Nesta. Totally agree that centuries against WI are asteris-able but I don’t know, I just like him. He has the necessary nonchalance, which poor Ian “uh-oh, headlights approaching” Bell never had.

        Siddle was being written off by a lot of English journalists prior to the series, and a lot of times, I heard his performances in India as a justification. He was magnificent vs SA, and as Smyth at the guardian says, English fans are going to HATE him by the end of the series.

        Till a few months ago, I was inclined to put Broad alongside Mohd Sami – looks great but ye gods, look at what he’s actually achieved! I think he’s beginning to ignore the hype and just concentrating on accuracy, and he’s improved a lot. I’d still rate Siddle higher, mind.

        • Bopara is a likeable player, isn’t he? I liked the way he came back from IPL and hit a century against WI.And he does have all the shots.

          Siddle – His first ball in test cricket was a bouncer that hit Gautam Gambhir on the helmet.A hungry chap, and won’t lose heart even if you hit him for successive fours.I know most teams would love to have that sort of bowler available.

  5. Maybe Nesta, but McGrath was two years older than Broad when he got his first five wicket haul, so I’m prepared to do what you’re doing with your team and back our young pair (Ravi and Broad). We’ll know by The Oval if I’m right.

  6. toots, i have to give it to you. everyone has been going for your (and your team’s balls) and still you keep defending resolutely, even lashing out when the moment arrives.

    if only your team display that dogged spirit today, we’ll have an entertaining day of cricket :)

    • Karachi – I think they might!

  7. Twists and turns abound through an Ashes series no doubt. Curses on that morning run fest from Swann or else Aus would be in a very strong position.

    l will wait and see on Broad, Toots as l haven’t seen enough of him and obviously respect your judgement. From primary evidence though l prefer our bowling and batting line ups – the gel of that is of course what test cricket is all about.

    Were you disappointed with Anderson? We heard he had improved no end?

    Love to see these two get huge hundreds. No reason why Aus can;t mass up a big score here if get through the first hour or so. Plenty of batting to come – good test for that middle order which has not been its typical solid self over last year or two. But Hussey coming back and North finally adds some solidity at 6 for mine.

  8. (Add S. Clark of course to our bowling line up for Blueberry)

  9. Big night on the remote control in remote NT – first possible night off in a week (please don’t call, please don;t call) – Ashes, Tour de France hitting the mountains and cracker Collingwood vs Bulldogs in the AFL.

    • TdF in Andorra will pull me to the remote too!

      I was disappointed in Anderson, but that’s the deal with (conventional) swing isn’t it? It does come and go abit, but he should have more to fall back on.

  10. There has never been any doubt about the class and temperament of the Oz batting line up, with the exception of North considering he is new to Intl’ cricket.

    So, England’s bowlers had an off day against one of the best (really hard to decide which line up is best, among Aus/SA/Ind in test cricket these days) lineups. And that has been compunded by some unimaginative captaincy.

    If the only plan is to wait for batsmen making mistakes, it ain’t gonna work.And I am sure the Eng bubble would have learnt that lesson yesterday.

    So, my guess is that Eng will come up with a few plans for today.The big question is:How effective will they be in implementing those plans?

    The first few overs are the best chance for Eng to pick a couple of wickets.And the bowlers most likely to create chances are Flintoff and Swann.I would open with them, and try to deny singles (and don’t mind a mistimed boundary or two).

    I think Katich is capable of going through periods of scorelessness, but Ponting generally gets restless if he is not allowed to score fast.

    It will be fascinating day’s play only if Eng makes it so.Else, we will hear the pitch being blamed for bowlers’ lack of application.

  11. The Broad question – I think it is fair to say he is among the most talented young allrounders in England, but he will not get into a World 11 or a Combined Ashes 11. And I can understand the ‘cricketing intelligence’ question considering the six sixes in an over, and more recently, the last over fumbling in a must-win T20 game.He has been largely injury free and if he can sustain his pace, the guile would come in a couple of years.

    Siddle may sneak into the combined 11, but not into the World 11.He seems to be injury prone though.By the end of the Second test, we’ll know how well his foot has healed, I suppose.And the shoulder was a bit iffy too just before his debut, if I remember.But he is some one who strikes me as capable of bowling fast even with bandages all over.

    Ishant is too raw and too young at 20 years to be even discussed, IMO.We Indians hype any young bowler who can hurl it above 87 mph on a regular basis.His bowling average is okay for this stage of his career.Ishant has more guile than Broad, but will need to protect his fragile body and sustain the pace.

    Only Steyn is world class right now among all the young pace bowlers.

  12. Kumar – I tend to agree. Ishant seems to have gone backwards a bit recently, but he’s probably playing too much cricket.

    In this match, Hilfy looks much the best of the pacemen, but we should really only judge at the end of the Second Test.

  13. Kumar – The Aus bowlers were generally below par, but they did make things happen from time to time and England’s bowlers need to be able to do that too. I still feel that this is a 350 pitch if bowlers stick to plans and use imagination. Both batting line-ups are likely to exceed that score as a result of some flat bowling and less than inspired captaincy.

    • I agree they (Aussie bowlers) were below par, but they’ve not had too many overs in Eng and with the Duke till now.Mitch and Siddle will definitely bowl better as the series goes on.Before this match, I thought Anderson will be better than Hilf in the swing department.Eng fans must be disappointed with him till now, though its early days yet.

      But the inexcusable thing is for Swann and Monty to bowl so ineffectively, considering even Hauritz did okay.

      Any way, this looks like a slightly juiced up sub-continent pitch, and Day 2 would always be the best day for batting (Eng should have batted till lunch on Day 2 at least).If Swann or Monty can do any thing, it would be after tea today.

      Yes, totally agree on the lousy captaincy from both sides.But the Aussie captain seems to be making amends with his batting.

  14. Ishant has gone slightly backwards but not so much if you just look at him as a Test bowler. It’s like a stock dropping 50% on a 10% earnings decline – a case of P/E derating (i.e. less hype), rather than actual fundamentals decliningn that much. We Indians elevated him to a point slightly above Malcolm Marshall after a great year – but in reality, I think he’s fine as a test bowler, still one of the 4-5 best in the world (Steyn, Mitch, Zaheer, maybe Anderson?).

    Kumar, I posted (before their innings) that Katich and Ponting were their best bets – but am not so sure about the class of the rest of this lineup. Hussey is shaky, North and Hughes are untested, Clarke is a show pony (so sue me).

    This one has draw written all over it, but never underestimate the English team’s masochism.

    • Rajesh,

      Umar Gul hasn’t played much test cricket in the last year or two, but I would rate him among the top bowlers too.

      If this were Ind or SA in this position, the players would be confident of a draw but will make noises about a win. Eng seems to need Freddie’s inspirational speech to hang on for a draw, at the end of Day 2.Yes, call it masochism or lack of self-belief.And this, in a home series.

      -No sign of Flintoff yet.Monty opens the bowling with Broad.Yes, Eng are aiming for a draw, which is exactly what Australia wants them to do.If I were an Eng fan, I would pray for torrential rain or a run out.

      • Or watch the Women’s Ashes test.

      • I was thinkign of Gul and, to a lesser extent, Bond as well, but very very tough to gauge if they haven’t played any test cricket.

    • Agree to disagree on M Clarke. Been our best bat the last 18 months.

      • :) we shall. One of these days, I’ll sit down and do a proper statistical analysis of his performaces over the past 2 years and test my theory.

        • RK,

          Clarke has only had one bad year(2005) since his debut in 2004.Rest of the time, he has been averaging close to 50 or above.And he has done well against SA, Ind, and SL.And he is probably the best player of spin in the current Aus team.

  15. A wicket, finally !

    Ever since Ishant opened up Ponting at Perth in early 2008, I expected fast bowlers the world over to test him with the ball moving away from slightly outside offstump.And then bring it back in as a surprise.It is easier said than done though.

    • The way Ishant was bowling then he would have rolled Sir Don! Glorious bowler in full flight. Interested to see the comments on him earlier as haven;t seen him too much of late. Loved him then, wonderful action, the mane bouncing! Still learning the craft in many ways l guess l’d love to see him become the best quick in the world. Has all the tools.

  16. well done, Simon.. excellent.

  17. Huge confidence knock for Hussey. Game/Series aside be really pleased to see him put some runs on the board.

    • bugger.

      • Now, the match is more alive !

  18. The Sky commentators are waffling on a bit about but the key being bowling outside Ponting’s off stump. Like this isn’t the case with most bastmen?

  19. Good contest between Freddie and Ponting here.

  20. beautiful, Ricky.. Hussey will be gutted, but never mind.. just beautiful.

  21. Fine captain’s knock from Punter and splendid “hard man’s” knock from Katich. I haven’t seen any of it yet, but I feel a bit for Hussey coming to the crease after such a long wait.

    Three wickets in the this session and England will be on top; no wickets and us will be. The forecast is awful though, so I fear this match is just sparring before Lord’s

  22. Hello again.
    good summation above but two points

    Ambivalence shouldn’t be confussed with simply not being very good. Billy is letting Aleem down in a big way.

    I always thought Ponting made more of the mythical shinboner spirit than the mythical ANZAC spirit?

  23. Terrific partnership here led by Clarke. North looking solid at 6.

    4 for 421.

  24. Really impressed by the focus and support in the partnerships. Clarke and North lots of interaction and encouragement. Good camaraderie in this side, excellent session.

  25. Back from an excellent Welsh themed dinner at the cricket club and a bit disappointed that the rain has prevented Pup from scoring a century before stumps.

    Surprised that Panesar didn’t bowl more to North and if the weather allows for two sessions tomorrow England will be in for a very nervous final day.

    Johnson’s cutters are going to be difficult to handle on the deteriorating surface. Hauritz, North, Katich and Clarke will apply pressure and if the ball swings Hilfy will be dangerous also.

    Saying that it wouldn’t surprise if Siddle produced a last day spell like he did against South Africa in Sydney.

    England look resigned to not winning and if Haddin and Johnson get going we will be in for one very entertaining session tomorrow.

    Hold on, I spoke too soon. The covers are coming off. Light will be offered at some stage. If North and Clarke are still unbeaten I hope they decline. Different story if Haddin is at crease. Better he begins the assault tomorrow.

  26. Aus have shown great heart and will go to Lord’s the more confident team. Onions and Clark for Monty and Hauritz will balance bat and ball a little more.

    Seems I was wrong about the 350 pitch!!

    • Monty was England’s best bowler in the middle session and unless it rains all day tomorrow this Test is far from over from an Australian perspective.

      • It is going to rain most of the day. Monty has barely got a wicket all season – I felt he needed to do more, especially as his selection means that we bat with nine wickets and the fielding is terrible.

        I haven’t seen the wicket, but it sounds like Broad eventually did what he had to and bounced someone out.

        • Monty has shown a bit and just needs to relax – looks overwrought/thought. Swanns length was all over the shop. How many full tosses can a finger spinner bowl?! The bowling of Swann and Broad has been poor in this Test so far.

          • Japal – Have a look at Monty has barely got a wicket all season and needs time to rebuild his game and, especially, confidence.

            This is Swanny’s first poor Test (he has 38 wickets in 8 Tests at 29). Broad we need to stick with for a while before we write him off.

            • Sure aware of all that and hence the comments, in this test so far. l was quite worried about Swann coming into the series. Thought he might really get under our skin. l was just reflecting on performance to date which has been poor from both of them.

              l feel for Monty there is a quality spinner in there somewhere. Looks like he is trying to please about 10 different coaches at the moment.

        • Clarke got himself out playing a hook shot without intent. Also, Monty has been faultless in the field. In that area of his game he has improved remarkably.

          • Fair enough – he has worked at it. He does need to be hidden though (not alone on that score).

  27. japal – Monty needs one stock ball, an arm ball and a quicker ball. Those three will see him through. I just can’t understand why someone can’t explain this to him. His natural talent will do the rest.

    • Agree very very much on that.

  28. Interesting line from Marto. He thinks that maybe Vaughan should have been made captain. Even if he’s not in great form he has a way of getting under our skin, something I can attest to, and is a fine captain. So maybe England should have made the Brearley like selection of making him captain. Easy to think that in hindsight I guess.

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