Posted by: nestaquin | July 14, 2009

Ashes 2009: First Test Australian Review

The Australians Trudge Off at CardiffOn probably the flattest pitch Australia have played a Test on since Mark Taylor equalled The Don in Peshawar, Ponting’s inexperienced team went within one wicket of an innings win in a performance that should have England very concerned as the teams head to London for the Second Test.

England had everything in their favour after winning the toss and batting first and yet the visitors controlled the match for almost its entire duration. In hindsight, the middle session on the first day and Swann’s cavalier innings on the second morning were about the only time when Australia didn’t have the upper hand.

Australia were underdone going into the Test and will be much better for the outing and with a friendlier pitches there should be little doubt that they can knock England over twice regularly.

The batting, which collectively broke a number of Ashes records, appears as mentally and technically solid as any team in world cricket and England will need to work out a method, if indeed there is one, to counter their ability to build partnerships and occupy the crease for extended periods.

All things considered, when the disappointment and frustration subsides Australia will be well pleased with their efforts in the Cardiff Test. They batted, bowled and fielded far better than their opposition and were tactically superior as well. With the next Test at Lord’s, a ground that has inspired many an excellent Australian performance, the BaggyGreens will be confident of continuing the dominance they worked so hard to achieve in Cardiff.

Phillip Hughes

Batted very well in a tricky situation before lunch on Day Two before succumbing to an inspired attack from Flintoff. Scored more than England’s top three and his nerves will settle after his initial outing. If England are keen on ramming home any advantage they may have gained then Steve Harmison’s inclusion at Lord’s might just do the trick.

Simon Katich

His century in grinding partnership with Ponting enabled Australia to gain control of the match. He obviously has a point to prove after being made the scapegoat from 2005 and his wicket will be vital if England are to restrict Australia to reasonable totals.

Ricky Ponting

Reminded England of his talent, discipline and desire by scoring a chanceless 150. Passed 11,000 Test runs and 2,000 against England and brought up his 38th Test century as well. His field placements were thoughtful and his leadership inspirational although if he had his time again I’m sure he’d change a few decisions.

Michael Hussey

The only Australian to not get a start and he’ll be disappointed by that happenstance. His two catches however, the first and the last of the match, were outstanding and that bodes well for his future innings as when he is out of form his catching also is less than perfect.

Michael Clarke

Even though he failed to reach three figures Pup’s innings was the most pleasing on the eye as he upset England’s spinners with some of the finest footwork seen in a BaggyGreen for many a year. After Ponting departed, Australia were still over a hundred behind and he showed why he is the incumbent leader by taking control and steering Australia away from what could have been a precarious situation.

Marcus North

Played a defiant innings expected from a gnarly 60 Test veteran that superlative wouldn’t do justice. Few thought that the man replacing Symonds would strengthen the team but Marcus has done that and now is an automatic choice in the XI. Along with Haddin and Johnson Australia have an exceptional lower-order and the cool head of North will be an essential ingredient to success in this and future series.

Brad Haddin

Played the best innings of his brief Test career and kept tidily to boot. He has waited a long time for his chance to establish a Test career and his mature innings illustrated that he won’t be wasting the opportunity.

Mitchell Johnson

Obviously needs more bowling before hitting his straps. Even so, he collected both openers and snared five wickets and probably won’t bowl any worse the entire tour.

Nathan Hauritz

Outbowled England’s spin twins with ease but that is hardly cause for celebration. He did bowl well in patches but you wouldn’t want to rely on him too often. Still, he did far better than anyone expected yet I think he can thank England’s irresponsible batsman for his success. There is no other spinner in the squad so unless England serve up some juicier pitches Nathan has plenty of bowling in front of him.

Peter Siddle

Another who will be better for the overs under his belt. Mostly unrewarded he ran in hard in every session giving his all for captain, cap and country. He is fast becoming a talismanic figure in this new Australian outfit with his energy and aggression lifting his team-mates when the going inevitably gets tough.

Ben Hilfenhaus

He was without question Australia’s most consistent and dangerous bowler and the only one to continually trouble England’s ace, Kevin Pietersen. His line and length were spot-on for the conditions and he was the only bowler to find movement every time he bowled. He got a wicket in his opening spell and broke key partnerships in both innings and Ponting erred horribly in not allowing him the opportunity of cleaning up the tail after he removed Swann late on the last afternoon.

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Responses

  1. I can’t argue with any of that. The batting looks very strong and the bowling will be better for the run. MJ will have to learn the English line and length quickly and I remain unconvinced that Siddle has enough weapons in the Northern hemisphere, but we’ll soon learn. Hauritz was much more of a threat than expected, but he’ll have fewer suicide shots in the future I feel.

    The big question is how much can England improve? Obviously, lots if they are even to compete, but if even just the very bad shots are cut out and a bowler or two learns from the very impressive Hilfy, then improvement will be made.

    After all, England’s main problem vs Australia down the years has already been solved. If Swanny can wear Siddle’s fastest and Monty and Jimmy can block their way to a draw, England will not be cowed by the Aus attack as they have been so regularly over the years. England will be bowled out or throw their wickets away, but they won’t be bullied out. And that augurs well for a more competitive match come Lord’s.

  2. I didn’t understand how Ponting thought that bowling *more* balls at England would have helped take the last wicket instead of bowling fewer, but *higher quality* balls from someone like Hilfenhaus.

    Apparently, he thinks it is a game of chances where the more you toss the dice, the more likely you will come up with something. Disappointing captaincy at the end.

  3. Krish – If it were KP as skipper making that decision, everyone would say it was arrogance, with Punter thinking that the batsmen were so hopeless that it was just a matter of bowling more balls to them until they missed one. I don’t think Punter is arrogant, but I’m damned sure that people would grab that stick and beat KP with it.

    I felt Punter just wasn’t thinking straight – the charge with hand outstretched to Aleem Dar for a catch when the appeal had already been turned down, did not speak of a man in full control. Again, I don’t blame him – it was the end of a tough day’s cricket – but I think England should be given plenty of credit for provoking that state of mind.

    Clarke and Hussey should have had a quiet word to promote Hilfy’s case, but either they didn’t, or they were rejected. Neither explanation sounds good to me.

    PS This isn’t hindsight – I couldn’t believe that none of the last 18 overs were given to Hilfy. Others seem to have expected MJ, but he was barely pitching it on the cut part with a lower and lower arm, so I thought Punter was right there as well as turning down Siddle who had wasted too many balls with ineffective short stuff earlier. Hilfy barely bowled a bad ball all match.

  4. Hugely encouraging performance that gives me alot of confidence for the next month or so. England could lift by a considerable amount in the coming games and still be in trouble. Bummer about drawing, but doesn’t change the fact that they walked all over England.
    MJ and now North: where do they come from? There’s always talent knocking on the door. Heard Hilditch say the other day they expect to take 2-3 years to rebuild and to remain at or near the top over that period. Seem to be well on course for that.

  5. fred – I think North came from county cricket!

  6. Yeah, yeah, tooting, right. You never give in do you? They should sign you up for Lords.
    Those inexperienced aussies seem to be doing OK so far. Rather, it seemed like it was the home team that didn’t quite know where they were or what to do. Lords will suit Aus just as much as Eng (except it does have a tricky slope for the bowler). 1-0 by Sunday night.

  7. fred – it was merely in jest. If you insist on setting them up, what can I do except knock them down?

    0-1 looks more likely than 1-0, but you can’t have seen much of Lord’s post-drainage system if you think that a fifth day won’t be needed.

    Curiously, I thought only Hilfy of the inexperienced bowlers did okay (much better actually, but you could see how suited to England he would be in the SA matches). Hauritz was okay too and I can’t help but like him (I like Hilfy too). Had MJ and Siddle been okay, it would be 0-1 already.

    • A fifth day? I thought it started on Friday:)
      I agree re MJ and Siddle, imagine what will happen when thery’re all firing. If Hautitz doesn’t play there is no weak link, and if he does play, then maybe that particular link is not as weak as thought.

  8. I thought North came out of the Osmonds. He looks like Donny to me.
    Jimmy has an excellent record at Lords. If England are to keep Australia down they need to get to and through Punter sharpish. Easier said than done but Hughes will always give us a chance.

    • Bush – Getting to Punter and Hussey while the ball is still hard is critical. Katich looks like he will be huge for Aus in this series – a Hayden without the posturing and, if the interviews are anything to go by, a very decent bloke. Got to admire his willingness to work on a technique that was good, but not quite good enough.

      Good spot on the Osmond connection – as Mormons, they’ll be able to tell us if they are related 20 generations back!

  9. I thought Anderson’s success in the dying minutes was due, as much as anything else, to getting two fine lessons from the Windies on how to do it.

    Also, Collingwood seems to have taken the unusual (for his team) step of actually feeling some pain from the Adelaide defeat, and converting it into motivation. His teammates seem more likely to just laugh it off or “put it behind them”. Actually Collingwood also has done his fair share of such behaviour too over the years, but he seems to have learned something.

    Also, also, just as Anderson missed a run out by not getting behind the stumps, Saj Mahmood did exactly that the same thing in Aust. He even seemed to think he was pretty clever for trying to deflect the ball onto the stumps.

    I learned that when I was nine and it just became automatic. I never even thought of not doing it. How many coaches have England got, again?

    • GM – the sheer inattention to basics shown by England in Cardiff is what gives me hope that Lord’s will be tighter. Some of the errors were club / junior cricket mistakes – surely they’ll be put right. I’ll be writing about what each player has to do here tomorrow.

  10. that should be a very short contribution, toots.. all they have to do is reverse the mass lobotomies.

  11. all up , Nesta. I had a bit of trouble discerning whether AU was so damn good at it, or England was so bad.. it’s a very hard call to make. One wants to say, well. England couldn’t be as incompetent at this game as I am seeing, but … it’s a realisation that manages to sit in the mind and stay there.. it was as awful a display of cricketing skills as ever I have seen, and I have seen plenty of England games . Plenty..

    Hard to believe, but the fielding from England was even more abysmal than my usually conservative predictions could have imagined.

    re AU team. I endorse your calls.

  12. It is very hard to find fault with such a controlled performance from Aus, but then they could not win in spite of dominating most of the match.

    The lessons for Aus from this match, IMO:

    – Nesta was happy with the ‘attritional’ bowling and fielding to KP and Colly in the 1st innings, but to me it looked rather unimaginative.Too many easy singles were given.Aus teams under Waugh would have gone for the kill in such situations than waiting for the batsmen to commit mistakes.

    – Again in the 1st innings, the Aus bowlers allowed Swann and Anderson some easy runs by bowling utter tripe.But for a silly mistake by Anderson, this pair could have gone on to inflict even more damage.

    – On the final day, after removing KP and Strauss, the bowlers forgot their discipline a bit and bowled wide outside offstump 3-4 times an over, when they should have bowled straight and fast.And they did not bowl many straight deliveries at Panesar and Anderson either.

    A missed chance but the above mistakes can be easily rectified.hauritz has done well, but I would still go for Stuart Clark, and trust North+Katich+Clarke to contribute 20 overs between them per day.

    Finally, yes, England did use some delaying tactics, but Punter’s moralising is funny, thought not unexpected.Some how, I feel, at school he would have been the kid who ratted on others.Please Ricky, you are a great batsman, but can you stop rushing to the media mommy?You are a better man than that.

  13. Pepp –

    Australia were good

    England were Poor,

    now how much of that was down to the other team making the other look like that is open to debate.

    England played poorly, and were made to look a lot worse by a competant Australian side and a dreadfull pitch.

    But I didnt see anything to suggest australia were above ‘good’ at any time. Although looking at our shower, ‘good’ might well be enough

    • The Aus batting was above “good” I would suggest, as was Hilfy’s bowling. But there was a lot of substandard cricket played at Cardiff.


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