Posted by: nestaquin | July 16, 2009

Ashes 2009: Hallowed Turf & Hungry Ghosts

18th Century Lords Cricket GroundThere are few people still living that witnessed England’s last Ashes triumph at Lord’s and while some Englishmen fantasise that Australia’s undefeated streak of 75 years at the venue is pure coincidence the unprecedented run is more likely a consequence of the power inherit within Australia’s conservative cricketing traditions.

Once the dream of a BaggyGreen is reached a common goal among Australian cricketers, past and present, is to have your name appear on the hallowed wooden boards at Lord’s. It is, even in Australia, the undisputed home of cricket and every debutant to St. Johns Wood will be encouraged to linger and study the many revered names that have been inscribed over the last century.

Before and throughout the match the players will be whispered many an exaggerated and epic tale of their predecessors heroic exploits in an effort to inspire them to join the list of legends that have achieved cricket immortality with a wonderful performance against the old foe on the sacred sloping turf.

The opportunities are few, with a match played quadrennially, and more often than not it is the true greats of Australian cricket that have seized the day and stamped their names in gold script.

Bradman, Trumper, Woodfull, Miller, Gregory, MaCartney, Brown, Morris, Hassett, Barnes, Lawry, Chappell, Waugh, Border, Hughes, Boon and others grace the Batting Board and many of them were captains of their teams. A fact that Ricky Ponting in his final Lord’s Test will be well aware.

On his first appearance in 1930, Bradman at the tender age of 21 scored 254 and announced himself to the wider cricketing world with a batting display that he described in retirement as the pinnacle of his career. Considering that it was only his sixth Test and what was to come after it illustrates the esteem that Lord’s is held by those in the BaggyGreen.

Neville Cardus, the most prominent cricket journalist of that era described the famous innings as “the most murderous onslaught I have ever known in a Test match. After tea a massacre, nothing less. Never before this hour, or two hours until close of play, and never since, has a batsman equalled Bradman’s cool deliberate murder or spifflication of all bowling.”

In the next Test The Don scored 334 at Leeds to leave old Nev bereft of superlative but Sir Pelham Warne described it best when he uttered in frustration, “This is like throwing stones at Gibraltar!”

Australian names on the Bowling Boards are less frequent with many of Australia’s most prolific absent. Lindwall and Miller appear, as does Pascoe and Lawson, Alderman, McDermott, Gillespie, Mackenzie, Davidson and Massie but one man stands above them all in performance at Lord’s.

Glenn McGrath played three matches and achieved immortality in each, a truly remarkable record and befitting of his honourable disposition and respect for the cap and the men that went before him.

Of the spinners, only Clarrie Grimmett and Dutchy Holland were able to master the pitch and the batsman, with even the greatest of them all, Shane Warne, unable to have his name etched for future generations to marvel and dream about. To be fair, playing with McGrath limited his opportunities.

In 2009, which of the Australian players will join the list?

Will Phillip Hughes, like Bradman, defy his critics and score an unlikely dashing century and never look back?

Will Ponting fulfill a lifelong dream and find a place in the pantheon of Australian captains?

Can Michael Hussey in his first Lord’s Test regain form and truly earn his nickname Mr. Cricket?

Can Michael Clarke get passed the 90s on the second attempt?

Will Ben Hilfenhaus join his swinging forebears Massie and Alderman?

Or can Mitchell Johnson announce to the cricketing world that he is a genuine allrounder as Keith Miller did in 1948 and Alan Davidson in 1961?

The Lord’s Test match is always a difficult assignment for England in an Ashes series and history, form and dearly held tradition suggests that this year will be no different. I’m not sure if England truly understand the significance of the Lord’s Test to Australians but over the next five days they’ll get another chance to comprehend that, for the BaggyGreens at least, this is no ordinary Test match. It is the fulfilment of a childhood dream and a chance of a lifetime.

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Responses

  1. hoping for a quinella, nesta.. Ponting, Hilf, Phil and out of sheer sentiment, Hussey.

    as a side bet. .Katich.

  2. Great stuff, interesting to hear just how important it is to the Aussies. And ‘spifflication’ is a marvellous word.

    Whoever wants to do it had better take their opportunity in the first innnings as the weather forecast suggests they may not get a second go.

  3. Andrew Flintoff, anyone? Surely not, overcoming an injury and scoring a century or taking 5 wickets, after 4 years? Probably not, but stranger things have happened.

    Really great stuff Nesta, one sometimes needs a reminder of the genuine affection and respect most Australians have for England and the English.

  4. A post worthy of the immortal ground itself, which live up to every bit of its reputation.

    Of those you name, I’d back Hilfy to get the five he deserved at Cardiff and Katich to carry on his great form. I’m hopeful of getting one to go down the slope early to Punter.

    Re England, I’m hoping that Broad and Ravi can show their mettle. Ravi enjoyed his ton in May at Lord’s.

  5. oh no.. Rudy Koertzen!!!.. it’s all over for us now!!

    • Oh dear, Billy and Rudy together – a pudding of a pitch and no referral system.
      I just hope post match doesn’t decend into 10 days of name calling and finger pointing.

      Regarding Australia – would have been tempted to go the extra bowler for this one. Choosing between Hussey and North to stay (Is Hussey due a score? Is North due a failure? I’ve no idea)

  6. I am hoping that during the match, Shane Warne up in the commentary box.. ( safely in the commentary box) takes a biff at Rudy for some lapse, some moment of madness.. it will only take one to set Shane off, he and Rudy have had many a dingdong scream at each other..

  7. christ, this looks like england will get 550, with aus putting on 700 and england nervously holding on, ending at 117/6 in the 2 sessions they’re given to bat on the last day.

    More free runs for Ponting at any rate. He might just get to Tendulkar.

    • Starting to wonder how Australia and South Africa managed to produce 6 W/L results out of six? Even this early, the feeling of having the extra bowler grows and grows.

  8. In the first leg held in Aus, Matty Hayden was a useful catalyst by being a walking wicket almost every time. 1 down for almost nothing tends to create more jitters. Plus, SA has some great bowlers.

    About the second leg, the pitches in SA are just more bowler-friendly, I guess.

    I see I’m clutching at any straw other than giving England credit :)

  9. I don’t think I have ever seen such wayward bowling from Australia in the first session of a test match. Hilf has bowled okay, but one needs wickets and not just containment.

    The pitch may not have pace in it, but still 92/0?

  10. 12 extras in a total of 100 !

    Nesta,

    You should’ve written your fine piece about Lord’s yesterday and emailed it to the Aus team management.Peter Roebuck has an evocative piece about Lord’s on Cricinfo.Any one who reads these pieces would want to do well on their first appearance at this ground.

    Does any one think Oz bowlers, esp Mitch got overawed by the occassion?

    I think McGrath is being missed now more than ever.And I feel Ricky has blundered by sticking with Hauritz and not bringing Clark in.

    • But only 1 no ball, which is an improvement.

  11. Anyone in the vicinity of the Australian dressing room at Lord’s – can you take a copy of the above and pin it to the wall for all to see.

  12. One session. 14 to go.

  13. OK, time to see what this Australian team is really made of

  14. Siddle the new Hughes?
    Big Merv made two tours of the UK in ’89 and ’93. 6 tests on each tour.
    On his first tour he bagged 19 wickets at 32. Taking 3 or more wickets 3 times in 11 innings.
    On his second tour he bagged 31 wickets at 27. Taking 3 or more wickets 8 times in 12 innings.

  15. Bit gratuitous using hotspot to take a look at that Hauritz injury!

    • Not what I was after when I asked to see what Australia was made of.

  16. Part timers to bowl spin and we’ll use a specialist fielder for the rest of the match. When in Rome…

  17. Oh dear! Horrible thing to return home from work to discover…Only cowards pray for rain?! How much would it stung to be 1-0 after 2 after that first test…Sounds like MJ has lost his radar. Hmmmm bad signs or just more Ashes twists and turns.

  18. oooo it’s Richie Benaud, I think that calls for a glass of vino

  19. Japaljarri, it’s a 5 day test match, they’re a long way from being in trouble. Batting well on a flat pitch when the opposition’s strike bowlers is self-destructing is a good start, but there’s a long way to go.

    • Yeah of course, well aware of that just playing around with it…Its a nasty shock when you walk in from work, with your Lordly hopes, to see 0 for Plenty….

      • KP looked pretty flaky there. See if he settles after tea.

  20. I don’t think Oz are in trouble – I don’t think any team is in trouble unless they’ve batted once at least. I said a few hours ago it looks like ENG 550, aus 700, eng 117/6 – seems as likely as anything else.

    I have a bone to pick though. Shane Warne was a great bowler, but really has a lot to learn about commentary (hopefully not from bias merchants Gavaskar or Lawry). Collingwood just stepped out and hit a beautiful lofted straight drive for four, and all Warne could say was that Collingwood was a nervous starter who looked to hit a shot to settle down, and that it was a risky shot to play. Really, Shane, just because Tendulkar gave you nightmares 11 years ago is no reason to diss all lofted shots. Give the spin a rest, you’re not playing any more and this is not a poker game either.

    • Warne was going mad in the first session because Point was back on the fence. Warne was going on about it being ridiculous to be giving away easy singles. The previous scoring sequence was – going backwards from his comments –
      4 0 4 1 / 0 3 0 0 0 4
      Not to may singles there. Indeed not to many singles in the whole of the first session.

  21. Beautiful innings by Strauss though. He’s understated and unlovely, but remains a mighty effective opener after his comeback from the horror slump a couple of years ago. A true captain’s innings, even if he gets out this ball.

    (he didn’t)

  22. Rajesh,
    quite right, and at 4-302, Engalnd is in the process of squandering their opening stand. Aus could win this if MJ gets himself sorted.

    Having heard Warne snap at their scorer “Jesus, get your act together” and refer to KP as “The walking ego”, I think he does alright.

    • To Jim and fred – apologies if my sample’s a bit small, I just heard him for 15 minutes, and he seemed to be slagging off everything English.

  23. 4 wickets on a batting track inspite of a largely radar-less bowling display is not bad.Could have got 2 more if the bolwers bowled better lines and lengths in the first session.One more wicket before close of play could actually help them sleep better, hoping to mop up the rest for around 425.

    But the day belongs to the England captain and his young opening partner.Pity Colly just threw it away.

  24. 5/320 with new ball due, and I wouldn’t put money on Flintoff lasting too long.
    England could put on 600 for the opening stand and still get bolwed out for less than 400.

  25. oh dear.
    Prior, Pietersen and Bopara – 58 runs (10 fours) from 71 balls (SR 81.69). You see this is what happens when none of them have Collingwood at the other end. If it comes off it’s great, but if not, it could lose you the match in a very short space of time.

  26. reverse swing ! don’t take the new ball yet, Ricky !

    Johnson Vs.Freddie could be good contest and I would love to see it for a while :)

  27. Oh dear ! its a merciless sport, this cricket.

    333/6

  28. If Broad makes 2 and Swann 1 the score card would look fanfastic

    • I think short term memories cloud one’s judgments. If you’re 300/0 and you were asked if you’d like 300/2, obviously you wouldn’t, but at the start of play, you’d kill a few of your generations for it. Similarly, I think it’s wise to look at England’s score at the end of the day as if you were checking score for the first time – would you be satisfied if you were an England fan? I suspect the answer is yes (unless some really nasty shit happens in the next couple of overs)

      Again, a hand for Strauss – simply magnificent. He’s been a strokeful Gibraltar today.

      • I just liked the fact the card read
        Pietersen 32
        Collingwood 16
        Prior 8
        Flintoff 4

        I notice that unlike last week, the live betting odds on the final result has hardly changed today.

  29. Sorry, the Cibraltar context was Nesta’s earlier post about Bradman and Plum Warner likening bowling to him to throwing rocks at Gibraltar

  30. RK,

    355/6 with 2 overs to go is not bad, but losing 4 wickets in one session is.

    Session 1-Eng
    Session 2- Draw
    Session 3-Aus

    • I’d suggest it’s not a bad as 52 fours in 90 overs.

      Well played Mr Strauss.

    • I think this session-wins metric can be taken too far. 364/6 is England’s day, even though, as you say, it’s 1-1, session wise

  31. Andrew Strauss is a curious case. When he started off 5 years ago, the hyperbole was deafening – if you were to believe the press, it was a matter of time (10 years) before he got to 10,000 runs. And when he lost his mojo, the same journos slagged him off as a limited batsman who played above his potential and had now been found out.

    They’re all idiots of course (as are we all, for some reason or the other). He was never as good, he was never that bad. He’s a solid player who’ll ultimately end up doing more in an England shirt than either of those celebrated recent retirees, Vaughan or Flintoff.

    P.S. – Warne just gave a very decent and balanced assessment of the day, so I’ll backtrack my bias claims a bit.

    • Oh, I was just going to point that (abt Warne) out, RK :)

      Good night.

  32. 6/364 is not a bad score, but that fact that it could have and should have been so much better will be discouraging for England.
    Signs at the end too that MJ was getting his act together.

    • What would Australia think abou giving away 364 runs for only 6 wickets after the dominance at Lord’s? I think, if England are sane, they’ll think it’s a good score per se, and go on from there.

      By the way, have you seen a better ball than the one Mitch bowled to Prior? By god, I swear I jumped as high as I did when I saw Zidane thump his volley against Leverkusen in the 2001 Champs League final. Truly a sight to behold.

      • I meant Cardiff, of course, not Lord’s

  33. Missed the day’s play at our Graduation Ceremony, but I’m very pleased with the score. If England get 400, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the bowlers to knock Aus over for 500 – I’m not saying they will, but it’s their job to do so. A shame for Hauritz who bowled very well, but from what I’ve heard and read and the card, it really does seem that my point about MJ and Siddle learning to bowl in England is being borne out. Hilfy looks made for it, but he looks shattered and, having bowled 67 overs in eight days, with more to come tomorrow, I’m not surprised.

    I have England marginally ahead here, but two quick wickets could change that tomorrow as could knocking over Katich and Punter with the new ball. All to play for – good game this Test cricket!

    • We missed you today toots – you’re absolutely right of course, it’s England’s day, but so much to be done tomorrow, by both teams. But such a beautifully poised second day too. Not for nothing is this the world’s pre-eminent cricketing contest.

  34. http://www.stephenfry.com/blog/2009/07/16/cricket-speech-presented-at-lords-14th-july-2009/

    Please read this – hysterical stuff.

  35. 4 an over??? Times have changed. England can usually be counted upon to play for a draw in a situation like that – winning the toss on a flat track. If they were playing NZ or someone, they’d be a happy 2 for 273 by now.

  36. I’d agree, poised, perhaps in Engalnds favour. But context is everything. After Session 1, Australia was heading for a train wreck, and the fact that it’s almost a tied day after that will be very encouraging. And presumably, they will never bowl that badly again. Those 4 bowlers will never have to debut at Lords again in their life. My main point is that it reinforces the “Aus is never out, and Eng is never safe” principle. Aus can always find a way back, Eng can always find a way to throw it away. Especially after Cardiff, the performance of the middle order will be deeply disturbing.
    But yes, just on the bald statistics, 6/364 is not a bad score.

    • True Fred, but England have found a way in twice now and a way out once. I wanted England to create chances here and, having won the toss and had much in their favour, they are just shy of creating the first chance by scoring 400+. For that chance to be taken, the bowling must be good tomorrow.

      Another way of saying that, is to believe that Aus have to bat themselves back into the game tomorrow – they should, but it’s still work and hard work to get to a winning position. They did that comfortably in Cardiff, but to do so twice is a stiff ask.

  37. Well, it’s all imponderable at this point. Anything can happen tomorrow.
    Nice symmetry developing with the two captains both making statements with their bat.
    I really think KP is digging a hole for himself. It was a good ball, but he’s a good player, he’s supposed to be able to cope with them.
    A good days cricket, even if not all of the players will have fond memories of it.

  38. If England keep making 400 with a Number Three and Number Four who can’t bat, I’ll settle for that, in expectation of what’ll happen they they do bat. (We haven’t yet, but sporting index – http://www.sportingindex.com/spread-betting/cricket/test-match/?MeetingID=3427730&Split=1 – has the spread showing England making 468, which seems a little high. They also have Aus as slight favourites, which surely they won’t be if England make 465?)

    Of course, you can counter that I’m focussing on the shortcomings of MJ and Siddle, but there’s only four bowlers and possibly three now, so an out of touch bowler is always more difficult to carry.

  39. Just watched the highlights. What’s with Pietersen? I thought handling the ball in Cardiff was a bad habit to get into, now he’s almost doing it again to protect his wicket. He always seems to be trying to do something lairy (if that word still exists).

    Was it swinging much? Was Siddle bowling as badly as it looked?

  40. GM – The highlights can skew matters, but England got on top for a while for sure. I suspect there was a bit of poor bowling but some good batting too.

    This England side can bat. This is their run of scores – England are heading for 400 here, made 425 in Cardiff, made 569 and 377 vs WI and made 546, 600, 566 and 318 in the Caribbean, 302 and 316 in India and 316, 363, 327and 593 vs SA at home.

    I keep saying that this England side has flaws, but it’s not bad – and I’ve seen plenty of bad, believe me!

    Onions will bowl well on this track.

  41. 11.00pm in London and there are storms everywhere.

  42. Thanks, Tooting.

    I don’t doubt England’s capabilities at the moment. They do seem to have improved.

    They’re in a better position than they were at the end of day 1 in Cardiff, and the Aus bowlers are tired, two have bowled crap, and one is injured.

    Broad and Swann can both bat, although I don’t expect Broad to trouble the Australians much at the moment. But Strauss is still in, and Anderson was nearly always batting No 3 in the Windies.

    I haven’t seen anything at all of Onions. Curious to see how he copes.

  43. If I may contribute…

    MJ was in awful form. He had completely lost confidence and he didn’t know where the ball was going. But, for me, the most impressive thing about the batting was the openers’ ruthlessness in making sure that Johnson didn’t have the luxury of a quiet over to get any confidence back. OK, many of the boundaries came from really wide, short long hops but some nice shots were played to reasonable balls, which was smart aggressive cricket to keep Johnson down. Cook, to his credit played some spanking pull shots to balls that were not that short. I remember him hooking Brett Lee when bowling at 150km/h with a new ball late one day in 06/07 and showing that he can really play that shot. Not many can. As a compulisve hooker in my time I notice who can play pulls/hooks and who are the pretenders. Cook is the real deal.

    No one has mentioned that the ball that got Cook out was the fastest of the day, 93.4 mph. It beat Cook for pace. Cook can look good belting the straight ball through mid wicket for 4, which he did a number of times, but the shot still does not have the face of the bat full enough for long enough for my liking, as for example Ponting does when playing well. But well done to him for backing himself and being so positive.

    Strauss was great and didn’t let MJ off the hook wide of off and kept Hilfenhaus out (although he was beaten a few times).

    Hilfenhaus to Bopara was just beautiful cricket. He bowled some really nice outswingers and Bopara took him on. One superb cover drive to a wide swinging half volley but two others were uppish – one just wide of shortish cover and the other half volleyed backward point. Then the off cutter had him plumb. Outswingers the world over could see it coming but it is pretty hard to execute so well. Maybe next time Bopara will make Hilfenhaus bowl to him.

    KP was beaten a few times as well in his short stay and was lucky not to be out before tea when Hilfenhaus surprised him with a short one. Credit to Siddle with perservering with a fuller length after being driven twice hansomely by KP in the one over. KP hasn’t settled yet but it’s coming.

    North actually bowled pretty well. A bit wide of off to Strauss but had some good work on the ball. Better than your average part timer I think. Apparently Moody persuaded him to really work on his bowling about 18 months ago when Moody returned from his time with SL where he learned a lot about spin bowling. Perhaps his first class bowling figures are not a good reflection.

    MJ finally started to get his arm higher late in the day and actually swung the ball into the right hander a few times. Prior got a beauty. People are criticising the gap between his bat and pad but he has been out to two ripping inswingers that were different to the all the other balls he had been seeing. Best he could have hoped for this time was LBW.

    Flintoff got a good one also. It went sharply off the wicket.

    Rather oddly, the old ball started swinging appreciably for MJ and Hilfenhaus. Ponting had a real dilemma whether to take the second new ball. He perserved with the old one for a few overs after the new ball was available and which claimed Flintoff but then took it. Warne was saying he should take the new ball but later said he wanted the old ball back.

    So, MJ’s improved form was encouraging but probably very fragile. England will want to keep him down if they can. Ponting has come close to over bowling Hilfenhaus but it is easy to see why.

    England on top and it is such a good batting wicket and the second new ball will probably not swing so I expect them to get at least 450. It will be hard for Australia’s batsmen to keep responding to large scores.

    Sorry for the length…

    • That’s a really great dissection of the day and the dismissals – agree in toto.

    • Fine stuff Vernon. You must watch the game very closely. I hope you’ll be back here. Thanks.

  44. RK,

    This is about The Ashes being the ‘pre-eminent’ cricketing contest in the World.

    The Ashes gets all this media attention mostly when it is played in England.The coverage was rather subdued in 2007 when the Poms visited down under.

    Yes, it is the longest running series, and has been graced by immortal cricketing greats.It has an unparallelled sense of history about it because of its longevity.

    But is it the pre-eminent cricketing contest in 2008-09? No. The India-Aus series in 2008, and the Aus-SA seies in 2008-09 deserve that title.The pre-eminent contest is one that takes place between No.1 and No.2/No.3.

    • As a contest it is good, partly because conditions vary so much,

  45. 8.34am in London. Chilly, but leaden skies are brightening.

    • “8.34am in London. Chilly, but leaden skies are brightening.”

      Is that the weather or the Australian dressing room?

  46. Depends if MJ’s mother-in-law has phoned or not.

    • Geezus the day before the First Test too……Hasn;t she made an excellent defence of her ‘wronging’…….Don;t wait by the phone Mum!

      • I just read that article and then apparently she went on TV as well. She must be well short of few roos in the top paddock.

  47. There’s 400 – I’m happy.

  48. Gets interesting..10/2

  49. Very interesting. Not a good decision to give the catch, but if Punter missed a straight one, he’s asking for trouble. I thought it was LBW on first view.

    • So did Anderson, he was up before the ball had reached Strauss, and hawkeye had him plumb. Bad decision but right outcome.

  50. Out, if not plumb – though you’ve got to think that hit low down in front of the stumps not going forward is out.

  51. North just out to a terrible shot. I commented yesterday:
    True Fred, but England have found a way in twice now and a way out once. I wanted England to create chances here and, having won the toss and had much in their favour, they are just shy of creating the first chance by scoring 400+. For that chance to be taken, the bowling must be good tomorrow.

    Well England have that chance and must drive it home now.

  52. I’ve been waiting for this bouncer attack and now it’s coming. At last!

  53. That’s three Test match days in a row that I can say that I have been very proud indeed of my lads’ efforts. Much work to do of course, but this England team have spirit, skill and good plans, if a little short on raw talent.

    MJ needs to get his mind back on the cricket, because Siddle doesn’t look very penetrative in English conditions. The batsmen need to remember that horizontal bat shots are much riskier in England than in Aus or SA, especially if the ball is above the shoulder.

  54. Poor batting display after tea. Stange lack of application, especially after last weeks effort. Talk of the bowling strangling the bating, but the run rate was in the 3s all innings which isn’t that far off the 3.4 – 3.5 they scored at last week.

    I wonder what Stauss will do as he is very conservative by nature? go for the kill or try bat them out of it?

  55. Aus threw this away with overly adventurous batting. The bowling kept them honest, and found them lacking.
    They can certainly still save the game, but it will need a damn solid batting effort.
    The rebuilding of the team goes on. Beaten by SA at home, a winning reply away. Put under pressure by Eng (not beaten yet, by a long way), waiting to see the response.
    Good jigsaw pieces lying on the table at the moment, just need to form the picture.

  56. Happy hookers? What is it with the lofted shots? They are making it so easy for England and themselves look so dumb. Broad isn’t a very good bowler. Why gift him wickets?

    All though MJ is making even him look like he is test class.

  57. Rudy didn’t exceed my expectations..

    * glum*

  58. No Pepp – poor stuff, but Punter played a shot that gave him the chance to make his usual error.

    KP looks like he injured his ankle further whilst attempting a diving boundary save – good effort from him, I felt.

    I still think England have a lot to do. Katich looked imperious until absolutely suckered by Onions skiddy bouncer (I don’t think they did their homework on Onions) and he won’t make that mistake again. If a couple can stay with Kat, there’ll be big runs, but what to do about the bowling? It could be Lee, Clark, Hilfy and Krejza for the next Test, which would be a turn up!

  59. England bowled well enough to expose the funk Australian batsmen were in. Since the old heads have left the team, the most worrying thing for me is its mysterious periods of “flatness” for want of a better word.

    Inconsistence is expected with inexperience but I am not so sure about lack of intensity. The times that come to mind for me are: vs SA in Perth when SA ran down a huge chase (great batting wicket but still); Steyn/Dumminy partnership in Melbourne; 3rd test in SA; even the first session of the Cardiff test (before Siddle woke them up), first session in this test and now this. At these times, the team’s flatness is palpable. Maybe it’s not flatness. Maybe it’s tightness or confusion, not knowing how to translate their levels of arousal to performance.

    Ponting has a chance to mould this team but it strikes me that he is missing something as a leader of men (his tactical inadequacies on the field are clearer). He often fails to translate his personal intensity to the team for some reason. Maybe that’s harsh and it is just about inexperience.

    Anderson bowled well to Hughes. I haven’t seen much of Hughes but I have a knowledgable friend who has, and who has taken a bet (at long odds) that Huges will not score more than 99 for the series, partly because he will be dropped before the Oval. His reasoning is that bowlers (including SA) have yet to execute properly on the obvious strategy of bowling straight (leg/middle and leg). My initial response is that he might not score when they do that but he’ll hang in there for the inevitable balls outside off. His strike rate for his second hundred in SA was only 49 (compared to 76 for the first) so maybe he has patience and is not just a dasher. But I think he played a loose shot to a nothing ball from Anderson because he felt a bit of pressure to respond to the straight balls. It will be interesting to see if Hughes can a) be patient enough if they bowl straight to him or work the ball and b) if the England bowlers are good enough to execute on the plan for sufficiently long periods.

    Ponting was done in by some good bowling I think. He didn’t pick a good inswinger and fell over. Koertzen’s unsurprising incompetence should not deflect from the fact that Anderson did him. It seems that Anderson’s inswinger swings more than his outswinger, although maybe that’s just this innings if you think about Katich’s dismissal in Cardiff.

    A Sky commentator and Toot have said that Onions has skiddy bouncer so we’ll give Katich the benefit of the doubt. It looked like a lazy shot to me.

    Hussey looked the best I have seen him for two years. That’s a good sign for him and the Australians. He probably did err by leaving too many balls that were very close to off stump but perhaps he can be excused for thinking anything that Flintoff bowls will bounce over especially when more than 95 mph!

    Flintoff was amazing. Very rare quality and pace every ball for two long spells. I was surprised that he maintained his pace but maybe he was thinking that he did not have to pace himself at all given his new circumstances. Towards the end of of his spell he was limping, which is a shame (seriously). Perhaps if he bowled fuller he would get more edges rather than beating the bat with his seam movement but boy, his bowling has been an absolute highlight. I think he contributed to a few wickets taken at the other end on this occasion.

    Clarke and North showed a lack of “desperation” in my view. When you are desperate not to give the bowlers a sniff (a la Cardiff), you don’t hit the ball uppishly to the leg side. But a fieldsman had to be be there to catch it so well done to Strauss.

    North looked like he was batting with desperation but 13 balls without a run proved too much. Disappointing for such a professional but credit has to go the the Engalnd bowlers (including Flintoff) for building the pressure.

    Not sure what happened with Haddin and why he was late on the shot. Maybe the ball was skidding on faster because of the small amount of rain that fell on the pitch or maybe he was just trying to hit the cover off it.

    It is almost as if Clarke, North and Haddin were in such good form after Cardiff that they failed to raise their levels of intensity to match the occasion. Maybe they failed to adjust to the pace of the wicket after the pudding in Cardiff but normally they would kill to bat on such a wicket. Maybe they didn’t respect the much improved bowling.

    And what a superb wicket this is. The pace and carry was fantastic and Katich and Hussey showed that it is a good batting wicket although offering enough for the bowlers.

    Well done to England for bouncing back so well from Cardiff and being all over the Australians. It will be interesting to see how Australia responds.

    I am not a fan of enforcing the follow on if the fast bowlers need recovery time (think Flintoff) but with the weather as it is perhaps Strauss should risk it. I suspect he might be without Flintoff in the second innings although a few more needles might see him through.

  60. 7.30am and the sun is shining in South London.

    Another perceptive post Vernon – you must watch the game closely! I was surprised by Flintoff bring so quick and if definitely took wickets at the other end. I felt that if England could find two bowlers with the discipline of Hilfy, we’d be right in the game – and we did.

    Hughes has a lot of work to do because he looks terribly cramped on leg stump and a candidate for bat pad. Lord’s is perfect for Jimmy – it does swing, but not too much. At Headingley, expect three big inswingers and three big outswingers per over – but they go too far!

    Did you see Hussey rushing out to avoid Punter’s wrath? Do you think the younger players are a bit intimidated by Punter? Clark and Lee might balance that off a bit – if Punter picks them!

  61. Excellent post, Vernon.Please keep’em coming !

    I would love to see Strauss enforce the follow on.Having come this far, he should back his batsmen to get around 200 in the 4th innings, if it comes to that.

    Australia find themselves in unfamiliar territory.Will be thoroughly entertaining to see how their cricketing nous and pedigree hold up.I am sure, by now, some one from the entourage would have read either Roebuck’s or Nesta’s pieces :)

    Nothing less than a double century by one of their batsmen will be good enough now.

  62. What to do? Looks like it’ll be a better batting day today, but I’d put money on 350+ being chased down on the last 4 sessions – expect the pitch to hold up well. Bat again or make them follow on?

    • Weather is still forecast to be changable over the next three days so time could well be a factor in this. If the follow-on is enforced (if available of course) then it avoids the need to time the declaration and means that England will know exactly what is needed when they bat. It’s probably the conservative decision in some ways, but that might suit Strauss.

      The bowlers would have had a chance to rest up overnight and I suspect they’ll be chomping at the bit to get back into the Aussies. So my money’s on the follow on if Strauss gets the chance.

  63. Follow on surely? Strauss has five bowlers who haven’t bowled many overs between them at his disposal and the Aussies will hate following on.

    He can use Fred in short bursts to keep him fresh. Anderson can bowl longer spells than he used to be able to without becoming too wayward. He is a vastly improved bowler, his control is better.

    And Onions is coming off the back of a lot of County cricket so he will be fit for long spells.

    About Punter’s captaincy, I can’t see how his antics on the field help this new team to cope with pressure. MJ is clearly struggling, Phil Hughes is looking more nervious with each innings and Siddle is getting wayward too often. I wonder what sort of use Punter is to these relatively new players when the presure is on as the old hands he inherited would not have needed the same sort of support and leadership.

    And there is no Gilly to keep the energy levels going and to help think in terms of attack.

  64. I think our bowling attack needs an experienced head be that Lee and/or Clark. But I could see the see the selectors just bring Ronnie in for Hauritz for the next test. This whole game has been defined by the first session and the resulting opening partnership twixt Strauss and Cook and Australia’s endless four balls. Strauss may be tempted to bat on due to Australia’s weakened bowling attack – can Hauritz bowl? how ill is Sizzle? He’d be nuts not to send us in again if he gets the opportunity

  65. I like the decision to bat. England should aim at setting Aus 500 in five sessions. If Aus bowl us out for 200, fair play to them.

    • Agreed and the latter would be enough anyway…

  66. c’mon, ricky,.. go hard or go home, mate..

  67. Pete, they’re nuts it seems. I agree, it has let Aus back in the game.

  68. pepp, he doesn’t do it any other way does he?

  69. What a shambles. I wonder what Punter is saying to them n the breaks. Or is lost for words.

  70. Leading by 330 with 8 wickets in hand, what are they waiting for? England doing their best to draw the game here.

  71. I like it. Two players out of touch haven’t given their wickets away and are engineering the chance to declare 500 ahead with five sessions in hand. To have gone hard and precipitated a collapse (15 wickets had fallen in just over four sessions) leaving Aus to have a go against the hard ball tonight and leave 400 to get in two days would be foolishly negligent.

    There are many ways to win a Test and even more ways to lose – England are plotting a smart route here.

  72. See what Prior has done? If the others had batted like this, Eng would be close to declaring already 500 ahead, maximising the opportunity to win, especially with rain around.
    I guess KP and Bop decided they had the luxury to attend to their own form, rather than the game situation.

  73. No Fred – Prior’s innings was the reward for KP’s and Ravi’s circumspection. Had they got out and Prior and Colly come in to face fresher bowlers cock-a-hoop, they wouldn’t have been able to play like that.

    What I’m saying is that England couldn’t afford a repeat of the first innings card and KP and Ravi set up a situation in which that was most unlikely.

  74. You’re enventing a strategy to suit what has happened. Prior would have had as much or more licence if KP had knocked a quick 50 and moved on.
    Maybe it was the quality of the bowling that held them back. Don’t know, wasn’t watching.

  75. Surely time to pull them in and have a quick go before stumps? With potentially dodgy weather over the next two days I’m not sure what else there is to gain from batting.

    • Although it looks like the Umps are considering the light, so maybe they’ll just play until close.

  76. What else is there to gain? The sort of security that Strauss and England would want.
    Chappel says to Aggers: What’s their approach, will they bat them out of the game or dangle a carrot? Aggers replies as if addressing a naughty child: There’ll be no dangling. Classic.

  77. I’m normally not one for changing batting orders but if Australia doesn’t have to bat until the morning. If conditions are like this morning, I’d start with Haddin and Katich and move Hughes down the order – if all goes well, when the second new ball is taken.
    Both teams have ghosts when it comes to being unable to bowl teams out for wins, not just Oz, and a good start with Haddin in one day more could scare the crap out of Strauss, plus plenty of others to come in after to pick up the pieces if it doesn’t work out.

  78. Jim, I like your approach! Too adventurous I fear, even for Aus, but a nice idea. In any event, I think they need to show confidence in Hughes a bit longer.
    If they bat well, and with time lost to rain, a draw is easily possible. Live to fight another day.
    Interesting point about scaring Strauss though, musn’t forget he’s new to this and his his own points to prove. Waiting with interest to see how much he feels safe with. I suspect he will be very conservative.

  79. fred, I agree with your assessment of Ravi &KPs batting. Sure they had time and runs up their sleeve, but I suspect their approach had all to do with saving thier skin rather than improving the position of their team. Ravi in particular really just wasted time and ultimately didn’t do himself any good. Cf. Owais Shah’s decision to send in a night watchman in a similarly strong position in the Windies.

    In general, though, it’s probably the best I’ve seen from England for the last few years. They’ve played this quite sensibly.

    Given what Aus had on the board last test, they’d want 600 plus to feel at all safe. They’ve probably got the time. They had that nasty experience with India chasing a big total, but this time there’ll be no Harmison bowling short outside off to Sehwag.

    Good to see a spinner picking up a few – especially a written off injured one.

  80. GM, yes, certainly the best we’ve seen from Eng for some time. They haven’t shot themselves in the foot yet, even if KP and Bop were a bit slow. Tooting will be chuckling contentedly into his ale tonight. Aus needs three things to go well, 1. Strauss to be conservative in declaration, 2. rain, 3. a great batting performance. All are on the cards so it’s all to play for.
    The Hauritz story is great isn’t it? Bowled well, too, they weren’t just lucky wickets.

  81. I expect Strauss to declare overnight. Any more than 30 mins batting, and I’ll be very disappointed.

  82. But what would be the point in more batting? The Aus team have no, and I mean, no recent history in even half-decent chases on dead flat tracks.

    Put pressure on them and they will fold, I am sure, much as I hate writing that.

  83. I quite liked Tuffers’ suggestion of coming out to face an over then declaring just to wind up the Aussies and give them only ten minutes to prepare to bat.

    • They’ll probably feel 520 is not enough, which of course it is. I reckon the poms will go the tonk for an hour or thereabouts, get a 600 run lead, then give us a difficult pre-lunch session. Either way small acts of psychological demoralisation will be in their minds. Knowing the way the weather has gone so far this match I bet the skies become leaden and overcast just as Hughes and Kat walk in to bat.

      I think the fact that England has 5 bowlers is a big plus for them. Strangely enough the battle of the spinners so far has been won by Nathan Hauritz. I think he’s done what’s been expected of him. Alas Mitch has been a let down so far, but he’s always been a bit inconsistent. I think he needs to have a chat to DK. Surely he’s on the same gravy train that so many other former players are on in London this week. He’ll come back stronger for the third test (I hope!) and Punter will win the toss (I hope!).

  84. Declaration overnight – good move.

  85. I should be able to avoid the need to write an essay today…

    Not much to say really. England seriously dominant and Australia struggling for inspiration.

    As for the KP/Bopara partnership, I am OK with it. The only chance Australia had of getting back into the match was if they went through the English batting line up after dismissing the two openers quickly and be chasing less than 400. That was not inconceivable given the English batting to date. For them to put on 70+ at that stage, even if it was slow, tired the bowlers, softened the ball and squeezed the life out of Australia making them ripe for the picking by Prior and Collingwood (who both batted superbly).

    The biggest risk they were taking was of allowing MJ back into form but that didn’t quite happen, almost, but not quite. What a mystery MJ is.

    The Sky commentators constantly talk about the absence of inswing but that is the last problem. He got a lot of wickets of good batsmen on flat decks without an inswinger. The inswinger was going to make him even more difficult to face but it is a bonus in a way. He just needs some more control. His arm was usually higher in his spell to KP/Bopara so maybe he’ll get his act together. If there is a first class match before the third test, presumably he will play.

    We can talk about selections after the match but I would stick with this attack for Australia.

  86. Vernon – we’re in a minority re KP and Ravi, but I think we’re right!

  87. Katich out off a no ball, grrr. Rudi, these are the most basic elements of your craft.

  88. Oh..I agree with ‘eating up the overs’ as a strategy considering Eng’s insecurities.But I doubt if KP’s heel problem did not have any thing to do with his slow going as well.But Ravi, having spent so much time at the crease, should have made it count.

    The important thing is that the strategy(if it was really that) has worked.It could well have backfired had Prior and Colly not taken advantage of Australia’s tired bowlers.

    Now, with Katich gone, part of me says that this could well be the last day of this test.

  89. Koertzen’s having a horrendous test.This should have been referred to the third umpire.The catch looked iffy to me.

    34/2.

  90. un-be-lievable, right, let’s tow that plane onto the Heathrow runway

  91. The only thing to say in defence of the Hughes dismissal, is that he’s a walking wicket and would have been out soon anyway. Not very good from anyone except Flintoff, who barely appealed, barely celebrated – he could see it was dodgy. Hughes did well too. Unbelievably bad umpiring from full-time professionals. There’s dirt on the ball as Strauss lifts it FFS!

  92. It shows how much pressure the umpires are under. Reminds me of India v Australia in Sydney a few years ago. These situations tend to favour the home team.

  93. Well Pete, when Punter charged Aleem Dar with ball in hand after it had clearly come off Colly’s pad in that last hour or so in Cardiff, I felt there was trouble coming.

    No excuses for umpiring as bad as we’ve seen it, but experience shows that this is what happens if that kind of pressure is applied to the umps.

  94. really, toots? out anyway?

  95. could you tell Hughes would go out soon by his body language, toots??

  96. Tooting, you can give my regards to that other paper because I won’t be joining in for a while. It has, as you mentioned before, deteriorated, and after this it will be a tasteless dogfight, with P being crucified for calling Hughes back. Might be worth reading again when the Ashes is over.
    Anyway, England are doing all the right things, mostly, so you were right they had the ability to turn it around.

    • If it is a slamming of Punter, then I don’t blame you for staying away, but I really don’t think it will be. If so, you should come back as the place needs you.

  97. well.. I wont post anymore, really, just in case I get banned . Toots has already had me banned from the Guardian blogs, while at the same time disingenuously complaining about AU posters not showing up. …so that’s my lot for the day….

    and I see that Rudy’s problem is again being sheeted back to Ponting.. amazing. …

  98. Indeed pressure does funny things to people. More reason to allow a distanced third umpire to actually radio the umpires if he feels something needs to be looked at further. Although it does take some spontaneity out of the game. To be honest you just have to accept the good with the bad. We deserve to be in the situation we’re in and need to keep fighting. To the last man.

    Interesting stats mentioned on the Australian TV coverage. Neither Punter, Lara or Sachin have scored a ton at Lords. Time for Punter to correct that. At least I hope he gets the 63 needed to top captain grumpy as our greatest run scorer.

  99. Pepp – I don’t have that power and wouldn’t use it if I did. It’s not Hughes’ body language so much as the fact that if you edge two into the slips in the space of ten overs and they are the direct result of an unorthodox technique, then you look like a walking wicket.

    Fred – the umpires are more likely to be hammered than Punter, but it’s stuff like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bK9YK0kkEvw that riles people about Punter.

    I see it as an umpiring error, but the phrase “reap what you sow” comes to mind.

  100. If KP had played Punter’s shot in that situation, he’d be pilloried. Why play a half-drive, half-cut to a wide ball? They all do it though – which is my defence of KP.

  101. Tooting: Gavaskar, right. Sure.
    The umpires will be celebrated. The blogs last night were a circus, and I probably have better ways to spend my life. Like following the actual cricket. The dismissal of the two openers to bad decisions has greatly compromised this contest, but that’s unlikely to be acknowledged.

  102. Look at it this way, we’ll get all our bad luck out of the way in this test. I’m not convincing myself here. I’ll get my coat.

  103. Hotspot suggests that Hussey didn’t nick it either. Tough to give the umps too much stick for that when there was the sound of ball hitting ground, but another unlucky batsman.

  104. Fred – I wouldn’t say compromised, but there’s an element of disappointment that what should be a glorious win (for either side – until MJ is out, I’m not counting chickens) has been so influenced by poor umpiring.

    Perch – Very few umpires wouldn’t have given Hussey out. That really was a difficult one.

  105. That first test really rankles now but hey we weren’t good enough and had more than enough time.

    Some tough ones here sure, but cop it and the fair result on the chin – massively outplayed in this Test. All credit to England, well bowled, especially in relative terms…Time off to regroup, get our nerve back and our heads down, most especially MJ…its like his last 12 months has disappeared…Credit to Hauritz though as l had him pegged alot lower than what he has provided to date.

    Far far from out of this series, long way to go. l dips me lid for now!

    • Japal – that’s more generous than the umps deserve (and the game isn’t up yet), but I think you’re right.

      • Whats done is done, and best way to deal with it l reckon for us to bounce back hard in the third test. We can’t ignore some of our own crap in amongst it all. Manic revenge and jumping up and down won;t do us any good, we need to keep our cool, bowl our lines and concentrate – loved our considered focus from our batsman in the First Test. We’ll be back.

  106. North has looked like a county pro again in this match – Lord’s doesn’t just intimidate England players.

  107. Not compromised? Australia’s only chance to save the test was defence, and the two key defenders have been wrongly given out. The innings has been undermined.
    Still, England bowled well most of the match, and they weren’t the ones adjudicating, so they did their job OK.
    MJ’s problems have set the tone for Aus. After seeing Aus come back from defeat in SA, I’ve no doubt they can do it again in England. Assuming a fair playing field.

  108. Australia will bounce back, never fear. I said 2-1 Aus before the series, toots said 2-2 – he’s more likely to be right, but it’ll be clse either way.

    Oh, and I see MJ Clarke is on his way to another glorious and utterly pointless innings in a losing cause. He seems to make it a specialty – in my mind, he’s a 43-44 average player whose stats are inflated by these innings. I think Japaljarri disagrees though :) so we’re at an impasse.

    • Pointless? Wouldn’t think so. Was disappointing and not alone in the First Innings. But l thought he played well in the First Test too Rajesh? Lovely knock, excellent feet…

      • He did play well in the first test, as did everyone else. The thing about how beautifully he plays is that it tends to mask a lack of temperament, in my opinion – he has a long looong way to go before he reaches Ponting as a match winner, but he isn’t considered that much worse a batsman than the skipper.

        And yes, this is a pointless innings – not his fault, but pointless in the sense that it won’t affect the result at all. So Australia lose by 150 instead of 300, I’m sure that’ll console them.

        • Depends where you start them l guess – l have him nowhere near Punter as a batsman career wise. l don;t think many people do at all.

  109. Hopefully they’ll get knocked over today. Walk away from this debacle, have an extra day off, play some golf and regroup for the next test.
    Clarke was important at Cardiff, and also in SA. Today will just be batting practice for him.

  110. Tooting: “If it is a slamming of Punter, then …”, I missed your comment before. I’m not thrilled about this structured reply system, makes it difficult to see what’s new.
    Of course Ponting will be slammed over this. You know how it works. He’ll be slammed, his character mocked, his physical appearence taken as proof of idiocy, and the blog will descend to name calling. And no, the place doesn’t need me, they have their audience. It’s not a good lens through which to observe the game.
    By contrast, the comments on this site are consistently interesting, even if the volume is lower. Always interesting to see what people have to say here. Nesta (and the English correspondent) sets a good tone and the contributors are always well considered.

  111. I don’t think it pointless that Clarke has put together a 100+ partnership with Haddin till now.

    Australia are likely to lose, and its no big deal.But throwing in the towel now will mean they lose the respect.I am all for Clarke, Haddin and others putting in another 200 runs, and lose by less than 100.Make Eng earn its well deserved victory.

  112. I find Clarke just a little bit over-rated, but I do think that he plays spin well and that we’ll only really judge his credentials as good or outstanding when Punter retires. Not a pointless innings this as it still might rain tomorrow and it shows fight. Make no mistake, the fight Colly and co showed at Cardiff was crucial in delivering this England performance – not win yet!!!

    Fred – I take your point re the Guardian and I’m glad that you enjoy it at 99.94. (You do know that The Tooting Trumpet, the English Correspondent – as you put it, Mouth of the Mersey and the OBO’s Gary Naylor are all actually me!) I hope to read your thoughts somewhere.

  113. Yes, you’re right Clarke’s innings is important, we need to show fight etc etc, it just gets a bit boring that’s all. I suppose I don’t really look for fight from them because I know they can, they have nothing to prove there, what they really need to prove is that they can win. And they almost certainly won’t here, unless Eng self destruct with their bowling. I guess a ton is always confidence boosting, regardless of the context. I suppose too it might be an opportunity to bowl Flintoff towards his next injury.
    If Clarke makes it a double, and MJ gets 50…,no no, stop it. It’s over.

    Tooting, yep, I know it’s all you. Sometimes I suspect you are not an actual person but a production company, such is your output. Always good to read though.

  114. I am happy that Clarke and Haddin are making the English attack run around a bit in the field. Why make it easy for them? And you never know.

    I would rather they sent Hauritz out next even with his gammy hand as I can’t see MJ having anything about him with the bat if his head is this down.

    And if anyone thinks the Guardian blogs are bad, try BBC 606. It appears to be populated by lunatics, racists, half-wits and pure wind-up merchants. It has no tone at all.

  115. Didn’t get to see any of today, or yesterday for that matter, passed up the cricket for 2 days of Rollerderby mayhem at Earls Court, but Haddin’s knock now was what I was after for the start of the innnings.
    True, having time to think about it, Pointing is no longer in a position to do anything outside the box. Actually that’s not true, he is not in a position to do anything that doesn’t work, be it the expected or the unexpected, without being slammed.

    Still. 5 down and 200 needed. Strauss will not sleep well tonight.

    I fear that as so often with evenly matched teams, who scores quickest wins. Australia could face 25 extra overs in the match and still lose by 50 runs.

    The one advantage for Australia is that the 3rd new ball should not be an issue.

  116. Just been reading the comments on the umpiring.
    I did voice my concerns at the start of this game about these two. I still hope that the next 10 days do not descend into finger pointing and name calling.

    I do worry when in the very professional era that the umpires are still so old, with few ready replacements.

    Toots there is a flaw in your argument of you use Ponting running at Dar, that being that the incident did not fluster Dar at all after it. For all we know he just ran up to make Aleem aware that he should think of caught in case he thought it was not LBW because of an edge. One of those things that was over eager at the time and looks bad when replayed 24/7 but in that player/umpire relationship was a non event. Both got on with things by the next ball. Ponting running at Dar did not affect any of the decisions today – or by Billy on days 1-4 of the first test.

  117. With 209 required, 5 wickets in hand, and watching Clarke and Haddin bat so well in the evening, one wonders, ‘what if’,about the three controversial dismissals in the morning.

    By not referring the Strauss catch to dismiss Hughes to the Third umpire, the umpires have dealt an unfair blow.

    And it is not about these two umpires alone.We have seen horrendous decisions over the past few years, from most of the elite panel umpires.Mainly because of their inconsistency in using the benefit of technology.

    It is not fair that Ravi Bopara gets the benefit of doubt and plays on, and Katich doesn’t.

    The referral system should have been launched from this series.

  118. On the “controversial” umpiring decisions, I think it overwhelmingly supports the referral system. I think it is fair to say that, despite England’s impressive dominance of the match up to the start of the fourth innings, many people in all parties will feel agrieved. Many Australian fans will feel they have been denied a fair shot at fighting back, many England fans will be frustrated that England’s dominance is being unfairly tainted and the neutrals just want to see a fair contest.

    Hughes is worrying but I guess the selectors have committed to five tests with him. My mate might win his bet.

    Katich’s shot was a bit odd. He doesn’t seem settled.

    While Ponting played his shot with a crooked bat, I suspect that was a result of the ball keeping low. If you are shaping for a horizontal bat shot and the ball keeps low it is hard to play it any other way but with a crooked bat.

    North was done by good bowling from Swann but he would probably conclude that he should have been out LBW rather than bowled (or even got his pad outside the line) if he thinks about what he could have done differently.

    Clarke and Haddin played well of course. When Clarke first came in the bowling was very good. I think his technique stood up very well and he showed the required desperation without ignoring scoring opportunities.

    Haddin is pretty impressive and plays proper cricket shots but he has a hint of an edge waiting to happen that you don’t get in a normal top six test batsman. We can talk selections after the match but I wonder if Australia will be so bold as to consider batting him at six and bringing in Lee for North. If Johnson shows some fortitude with the bat in this innings then it becomes a thought, albeit improbable.

    The England bowlers bowled well, again. So, it seems the England attack needs to be respected, which, dare I say, might require an adjustment by the Australian batsmen.

    Odds are that England will certainly have sufficient chances to wrap this game up pretty quickly and I think they are in a positive enough space to take them.

    The way England have been bowling, Australia will need considerable luck to get through this second new ball (already had some). I think Australia’s only chance of pulling this off is if they somehow get through the second new ball and England tighten up (psychologically) and then miss opportunities as a result. More realistically, Australia’s aim will be to at least show some fight and leave this game in a better position mentally than they would otherwise be entitled to do – a bit like England after Cardiff.

  119. Jesus, looks like I spoke a bit too soon about Clarke. England should still win this, but total props to Clarke and Haddin, they’re giving England a terrific fright.

  120. Clarke has a great technique and pretty decent temperament. His work with Haddin was admirable. Yet he invites quite a lot of hatred in Australia. Here’s a Murdoch journo totally stitching him up and assassinating him earlier this year:

    http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/not-up-to-job-he-wants-so-much/story-e6freyar-1111118771131

    • Yeah he invokes absolute loathing, especially for his partner and ‘lifestyle’ about which l dont identify. Seems like the showpony type l guess which never goes down well in Aus – tints, tattoos, flashy romance, Ferraris and want to leave the dressing room before midnight kind of thing. l dont give a stuff really as long as he bats and bats for his country. That journalist must be running second only to Aussie Ben Dorries from the News-Limited papers who makes the GU Blogs look moderate!

      As a bat depends where you start the rating l guess. l have him nowhere near Punter as a bat career wise and l dont think many do seriously (few are). But l think hes been a better than good and approaching very good bat for Australia. l think he has shown signs of knuckling down alot more over the last 18 months. Nothing more than that but that is admirable enough especially given the batting travails of Hayden, Hussey, Martyn, Symonds etc over the last 1-2 years.

      l have a sneaking suspicion he might make a decent Captain actually.

  121. Glorious morning in central London, light showers anticipated after lunch. All set up for a good day’s play. Should be enough play to make all three results a possibility still.

  122. I have seen Clarke score 151 on debut at Bangalore in 2004.That was a magical innings, believe me.Before this series, I predicted that Clarke would be the top scorer for Aus, and I am happy he is well on the way.

    Clarke has had one or two less than average series since then, but has been more consistent than most Australian batsmen.What I am surprised is that he is still under rated by many even in Australia.The prolific run of Mike Hussey for 2 years may have contributed to this feeling probably.

    It may be too big an ask to expect Clarke and Haddin to carry Aus to an improbable victory today.But both can feel satisfied that they have stood up under pressure.

    And if Pup really brings Aus to within touching distance of the target, it will rank as one of the top 3 all time great test innings.

    Is Clarke as good as Punter? At this stage (around 50 tests) in his career, Punter was at the same turning point as Clarke is now.If we say 2002 marked the Punter’s transition from being good to great, 2009 or 2010 could be that year for Clarke.

  123. Btw, some days back, there was a discussion here whether Ponting would make it to the All Time Great Australian XI. The cricket journalists in Australia have voted and Ponting is the 12th Man. The public may think otherwise, though I am with the hacks (Gideon Haigh and Roebuck, among others) on this one.

    • Be interesting to see the rest of the team. Do you have a link?

      Mine?

      Matty
      Arthur
      Donald
      Greg
      Allan
      Keith
      Adam
      Alan
      Shane
      Dennis
      Glenn

      12th Little Ricky

      Geez l’d be tempted to give the Captaincy to Warne or Miller! Has to be Border l guess – albeit not our best Captain. l grew up as a biased Border nut and Miller is a glorious legend so could take either out for Swaugh or Ricky and you wouldn;t be too hurt. l probably reckon Ricky should get the nod there but depends on pitch, team etc (India?!). Actually Miler would mix some pretty fine drinks as 12th man you would imagine!

  124. I admire Pup for a whole different reason, his determination to forgo the IPL to stay with Lara while her Dad was dying, and then his own Dad was diagnosed with the same illness, so he supported 2 widows .. flash he may well indeed be, but there is a lot to like about him as well. .

    well.. it’s off for another night of sheer agony and delight, may a thousand emu’s kick Rudy’s backside black and blue and may the dreamtime songlines tell of a story of a fine and sunny day at the Lords Oval.

    I hesitate to plunk this down,.but hey.. what the hell.. Mitch is a very good batsman, no slouch at it.. .. it isnt over just in case Mitch comes in to bat.

  125. Just popping in before settling in to watch the final day. Congratulations to everyone who has contributed to this meandering thread, it’s more of an epic than the actual match.

    Although I think England will win easily, if Clarke can get his team over the line he thoroughly deserves the captaincy whenever Ricky is pushed. And if Australia fail to retain the Ashes it may be sooner than most would expect!

    My extended thoughts on the match and the rest of the series tomorrow.

  126. Regarding Clarke, anyone who is rich, good looking and successful inevitably invites criticism. And if you have a model for a girlfried, well…
    Pete, that was quite a hatchet job you linked to. But, he didn’t get a test average of 48 by polishing his nails. He’s looking like he will grow into a great player. Give him time.

  127. well, that’s the end of that, then.

  128. dear mitch.. he is looking his defiant best today.. * helpless giggling* ..

  129. well .. that could be that, now…

  130. alrighty.. on to edgbaston.

  131. no giving up, by Mitch… he is making them work for it. Him and Hilf..

    gorgeous.

  132. Never had much chance in this game with MJ going AWOL like that. Two openers given out incorrectly made it impossible. Shame the game was ruined by that, it could have been an interesting 4th innings.
    Indeed, on to Edgbaston.

  133. Mitch is an Grade A tennis player..hope he doesn’t try a serve..

    oo… careful, Mitch.

  134. It is very very terrible, watching flintoff limp.. awful.

    ah there we are.. well done, England. well played.

    what on EARTH made it take 75 years??

  135. No idea what made Mitch go walkabout with the bowling.. it was like watching a snake swallow an antelope. horrible, yet fascinating..

  136. Great spell of aggressive fast bowling this morning by Freddie.Congrats to Eng on a historic victory.

    Very well played, Australia. The way the team has shrugged off the bad umpiring decisions and gone on to cross 400 in the 4th innings shows pure class and spine.You can hold your heads high.

    Edgbaston – I will be very disappointed if Australia’s bowlers don’t unleash a bumper attack at the Eng batsmen.Especially if Mitch doesn’t break some one’s arm (if he is retained in the team).

  137. Funny article Pete. I like the way they complain he can’t keep his ambition secret – he’s been openly earmarked for the captaincy for ages.

    Pepp, I noticed that after he showed up late to the WI, he passed up a chance to get 100 in each innings, by going for the needed quick runs when he was on about 80. He could easily have played for the record books and to silence the critics, but he put the team first.

    …I remember as a kid watching Border an Tommo putting on 130 for the last wicket, and Tommo getting out with 4 to get. I think Aus have done well here too, even though they (have just) lost.

  138. Great teams always factor in Umpires nuttiness, I am pretty sure Ricky would have, he usually does, and when it happens a team just has to move on. Which he did.

    the trouble is, . I can’t!!… I still have all my pins and jabbers stuck in to my Rudy doll, and Billy’s too.. but those pins have had a permanent home for some time now.. . nothing new there..

  139. They were down and out not long ago, beaten at home by SA, and look what they did after that.

    Will be interesting to see how defensive Eng become for the rest of the series.

  140. I think it is just tremendous that cricketers from all over , everywhere it’s played, have lifted their skills, South Africa, a case in point, West Indies, ditto, Sri Lanka and there has never ever been any reason why England could not do the same. And they have. No argument there.

    No reason why the momentum cannot be maintained, either. That is the hard bit, but it is not impossible.

    aww, Ricky.. take it up to ’em , hon. Give those booers a bit of a payout.

  141. Ha. Boos turn into cheers in the face of his gracious words.

  142. As he always does Ricky is generous in acknowledging the opposition’s performance in this particular match, and as usual a large section of the fans and press will be blind to this.

    • Ponting, Ponting, what a paradox – all glares and arguments and dissent and general unpleasantness on the field, all grace in post match ceremonies. Pete, people are not blind to his immense grace and acceptance in defeats, it’s what precedes it on the field that’s slightly incongruous.

      And give it a rest with the umpiring, guys – 522 would have been well nigh impossible even without those 2 decisions, one of which (Hughes) was marginal either way. Just because they got close as England thought they had it won at 130/5 doesn’t mean you automatically add in 50s each for Hussey and Hughes and say hey presto, Aus would have won without those decisions. They would not have, but more pertinently, they didn’t.

      As for the first innings, Ponting was out one way or the other, so really, the only unfair aspect of that was Strauss getting a free catching credit.

      Well done both teams, but it’s England 1-0, and on to Edgbaston.

  143. Excellent interview by Ponting at the end. Magnanimous and didn’t even rise to the bait from Atherton. I’d like to think that it’s a panto aspect tothe booing on Ponting, at least from the vast majority of fans, and the reception he received when he spoke was how he should be viewed.

    Having said that it’s easy to be generous in applause when your team has come, it’s probably better assessed after Australia have won a test.

  144. well.. I’ll take it as panto stuff, I guess. 5-0 had to hurt.

    I freely admit that I , along with 100,000 at the MCG , and at Sydney, stood and booed long and loud at Harbhajan.. who will probably be booed for the rest of his life in Au, as long as he draws breath.. and we were not kidding, either. No panto stuff. We meant it.

    but then, we are illbred, I guess.

  145. ah Nesta… * … good stuff on your blog. I enjoyed everyone’s contributions. Even the Trumpets. As I am sure he enjoyed mine. 10 days to get the lawn mown, the ironing done, the bare root roses planted, all the stuff I simply ignored. Catch you all back here at EDGEBASTON.

    Cheers to all.

  146. This is the First time England have won a live Test against a proper cricket team in years (since 2005 or 6 ?) so every reason to rejoice.
    If you think Punter got booed at Lords wait till he gets to the bearpit at Edgbaston.

  147. The most important thing is that Ashes 2009 is living up to its billing.In contrast, the 2007 Ashes were quite predictable after the first one.

    I am sure England’s self-belief (the team’s and the supporters’) will increase in spades now.It will be good to see them consolidate on the strengths, and address some urgent issues (Ravi Bopara, KP’s fitness, if Flintoff plays, should Harmison be brought in for Broad etc etc), and improve over the series.They must not forget that they hold the edge now, and must act accordingly.It is a long series, and there is no way one could get defensive against Australia and survive.

    Australia will be expected to bounce back from this defeat.Their problem is not so much as self-belief or talent or commitment – they are suffering due to the inexperience of their attack, and a young opener unable to remember his basics.(Probably too much has been made of the importance of Lord’s and the history, and created unnecessary awe among the Lord’s debutants from Oz?)

    There are many (like me) who don’t like some aspects of Punter, but we still admire him as a great player.And more importantly, the admiration for the greats of Australian cricket extends to the team as well for their pursuit of excellence in the last decade and a half.Their pride, we have seen over the years, is slightly fiercer than the challengers’.It will be interesting to see how they bounce back from this defeat.And how England faces up to that task.

    Excellent !

  148. Good to see the Aussies at least give it a shake on the chase.

    Shame about Katich and Hussey but if anyone deserves a few dodgy decisions to gain a five-for in his last series it is Freddy as he is so far and away the best English bowler it isn’t funny and his stats just don’t show it. He is never gives up and is never bland.

    The Australian team had such a dog of a game batting and bowling they really didn’t deserve even a draw much as I hate typing that.

    Anybody think Mitch will be dropped? He may have taken heart from grabbing whatever runs were going.

  149. I give up on opposition fans’ response to Punter. I have had people say to me in genuine shock ‘he gave such a gracious speech’ when Oz lose matches.

    I think people expect him to stand up there and say ‘fuck you all’.

    I mean, for god’s sake.

  150. Bring on the Sore Looser Ponting…. Now he will start complaining about everything… From the umpiring(which by the way was disgusting!!) to the lunch served at Lords…… Anyway, well done England… And by the way, Ponting talking about “Spirit of the Game”.. That was the biggest joke of the whole Ashes 2009… the guy who claimed the false Ganguly Catch and what not…. He yet again proves he is a poor Captain and also yet another century by Clarke which is of no use to the team….

  151. Lou, wait till they hear he can write his name in joined up writing, they’ll be gobsmacked!
    It’s the feelgood factor kicking in, the appreciation will dry up once he starts winning again. As Percinho said.
    Flintoff is a force of nature isn’t he? Still, when three of the top four go to poor decisions, you don’t really have a chance. 400 was a pretty amazing score in fact in the circumstances. But we’ll never win with such a bowling performance from MJ, and the suicidal batting in the 1st.
    I’m glad I’m not a selector, but I think they need to stick with the current bowlers, assuming MJ continues to improve in the next practice game. Maybe dropping North for Watson would help strengthen the bowling options without compromising the batting.
    We were on the verge of an innings victory not so long ago, so no drastic changes are needed, just hard work from the incumbents.

  152. But Watson has never shown trumps in batting, has he? North has done very well for a player who has only played four matches.

    I would be tempted to sit out the young Mr Hughes (and send Hussey up the top) as he looks about as messy as MJ, but he doesn’t have two strings to his bow.

    Not that I am sure MJ does right now, but in theory… if he bowls like a dog in the practise match, they have to sit him out, as who can’t take much more of his ‘navigation with a blindfold’ bowling? Ricky will go spare.

    It makes me feel like we have our very own incipient Steve Harmison which really gives me the creeps.

    Hari, I don’t think he’ll complain about the lunch at Lords apparently they do them proud on the tuckerbox front.

  153. Lou, no I wouldn’t normally look to drop North, but given the problems with MJ, Watson would be good bowling insurance. Still, they took 19 wickets at Cardiff, so I wouldn’t be too concerned if they went again with the same team. If they all play reasonably close to their ability, they should not have too much trouble with this English team, but they need to have their games in order. Alot depends on what happens in the next practice match.

  154. I’d keep North, fred, as he seems a much better batsman than Watson. If anything, I’d get Clark in for, unfortnuately, Siddle, as Aus could do with a bit of line and length. I really think Mitch is too good to get insurance for after two bad matches – he’ll bounce back in Edgbaston. Unless of course England fly in pitches from Multan and Kanpur for the next few matches in order to hold on to their lead :D

  155. Lee, Clark, Watson all a chance to press with one big performance in the tour game? l think North would be stiff but maybe Watson can finnnnnnnnnally deliver. Hussey for Hughes l don’t mind the sound of at all – l think Huss needs a shake up and l’d back him to hunker down. Hmmm need to wait a few days and let the dust settle. Only 1-0 and not far off 1-1 so its not panic stations by any stretch. MJ sorting it out is the key really…

  156. We’ve done an England with this squad. Just how much pressure are the batsmen under when there is no obvious replacement. I guess Watson is considered the replacement batsman but it would have made sense to pick Hodge or Ferguson or someone to be there as pressure on underperforming bats. Picking both Clark and Lee now seems such a folly as both are coming off injuries.

  157. Rajesh, I don’t disagree with you on North, but I couldn’t contemplate dropping Siddle, nor Hilf. MJ will almost certainly get his game back together, and Haurtitz has proved pretty useful.
    I’m glad I’m not a selector.
    I guess you’re right, we don’t need insurance for MJ yet. A good tour game, and everyone will be breathing easier about him.
    Once again, very difficult to pick form, or even the teams, leading into the next test. That applies to England too.

  158. MJ has bowled the odd jaffer in between all the Pies and he can bat. Of the batters only Hughes has not come off at least once and you have only had three innings and some roughies from the Umps.
    We gave it to you on a plate at Cardiff and you did the same to us at Lords.
    England has a flaky middle order at the moment but the Aussie bowling lacks a leader. Is Binger the man ?

    • Yes, Binga’s the man.Binga, Clark, Hilf, Mitch and Siddle.You guys really don’t need Hauritz except for managing the over rate.

  159. The selection dilema for Australia just highlights the fact that too many bowlers and not enough bats were picked in the squad. The squad looks designed for a 5-1-5 selection but that’s not the Australian way – well as far back as I can recall anyway – we play 6-1-4, so we have, when fit, no spare bats and a load of spare interchangeable bowlers. I wonder if Hildich has shares in internet chat rooms or something because they seem the only beneficiaries of such a squad?

  160. Umpires.
    I’m sure the Australian’s and probably most teams, if they were serious, would do their homework on the umpires as much as each opposition bowler/batter, knowing strengths and weaknesses of each, when you are more likely to force an incorrect call etc. On the second innings calls, well you win some, you lose some.

  161. Good to see the specter of Test 1857 is raised once more. It is a test which fascinates me greatly. Will be interesting to see if the feelings felt towards it pass with Ponting’s retirement, or if it takes on a life of its own a la Bodyline for Australia or the underarm ball for New Zealand.

    • Jim,

      I get a sickening, nauseating feeling whenever I think about Test 1857.You are right when you say it will take a life of its own even after Ponting’s retirement.

      A pity because the test also had sublime batsmanship from Sachin, VVS, Hayden and Hussey.And Pup’s miracle with the ball towards the end.A great test match with much avoidable bad blood.

  162. I think that test will run and run Jim. It’s so tied up in the growing power of the BCCI, it is a key moment in the development of the international game. Ponting will probably be defined by it.
    After looking forward to it so much, I must say I’m not enjoying The Ashes so much this time, the rivalry seems to overshadow the actual cricket, and The Guardian has become more or less unreadable. I’ll just stick with TMS, which remains quality, and thoroughly enjoyable to have Chappel and Maxwell partnering Tuffnell and Agnew. And of course this site:)
    Very interesting time for Australian cricket. The Legends was all well and good, but watching a young team grow is also fascinating, and I’m looking forward to seeing who emerges from this to lead the team forward.

  163. I don’t suppose one of you could point me towards a review of test 1857 could you? I’m not sure which one you mean or what the significance is. Cheers.

  164. That was the test against India in Sydney, Perchinho. Do I need to say more?

  165. Thanks gents. I remember the racism allegations, the talk of tour abandonment, and the subsequent discussion of exactly what was and wasn’t said. The full ins and outs of how it’s perceived is not something that I’ve read about previously though. There’s a good amount on cricinfo to wade through though. Thanks.

  166. Percinho,

    Just so you it doesn’t get lost amid all the info about the racism row, that test was also marked by bad umpiring, people claiming bumped catches, and a captain literally instructing an umpire to give a batsman ‘out’ based on his ‘word’ and gesture.Batsmen also got thick edges to first slip and waited for the umpire’s decision.

    And to top it all, the racism row, and the press conferences.One captain showed he’s well-read in cricket history and milked the press.The other captain got testy about a journo questioning his word.

    And the ICC’s slow grinding wheels of justice.The BCCI behaving like an Indian political party (It probably is one because it is full of professional politicians).The (media-concocted) legend of the waiting plane at Sydney airport.

    Well, I am truly disturbed now and I’d rather the discuss the Ashes :)

    Here’s a news item from Cricinfo, jan 6, 2008 though.I hope you like it.

    Sachin’s slow walk

    When he played-on to Stuart Clark, Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed for the first time in four Test innings on the ground. Australia hadn’t dislodged him in the previous three digs and his average at the ground dipped from a phenomenal 326 to 249. His slow walk to the pavilion, when he practised the shot again, was greeted with emotional cheers. It was the last time Sydneysiders would watch their darling in a Test.

    • Thanks Kumar. Flicking through a few other cricinfo articles it seems it was an extraordinary test all round.

  167. FWIW I would not change the Australian team and I would bring in Harmison for Onions – although I say that without any knowledge of the Edgbaston wicket (it seems Lords was the first place to pick Harmison from what I can gather). I would expect Australia to get its act together for the third test especially with the batting.

    Australia has to gamble on Johnson getting it back together.

    Siddle has to understand that you cannot bowl with as much width in England. The ball usually sits up pretty nicely for a carving through the off side.

    Lee is not bowling yet as I understand it and I don’t think he is really going to help with penetration unless he is reversing it at 150 km/h and I doubt whether that is going to happen for a while after the most recent injury.

    I think Clark has not had the nip that used to make him so dangerous. Lloyd said that he was bowling very slowly in the warm up match. He played a few games of grade cricket in Sydney before the tour (including the final) and his figures were not what you would expect if he was near his best. From a big picture perspective, I think we need to move on from Lee and Clark.

    My (knowledgable) mate’s theory about Hughes is that he will get dropped after the third test and Watson will open (this was the mate who took out a bet that Hughes would not score 99 runs for the series).

    What is it with Flintoff when he plays Australia in England? He bowls like the best bowler in the world but in other matches I have seen (not too many but including 06/07) he doesn’t look the same man. Just outstanding in this series.

    Nicely poised series.

  168. I think Fred only really cares about the Ashes and the Ashes in England at that. It was the series in 2005 that made him the superstar of sorts that he is after all.

    For him, everything else seems second-rate. I said that to someone before the series started as to why he had to play.

    If he can play like this, you would think his career could go on longer, but he just doesn’t want it.

    Would Onions be the natural one to be dropped again? It seems a bit stiff to give him one match then boot him out. I am wondering how much longer Stuart Broad will be in the test line-up, he is an established player for them without actually doing anything or so it seems. Very odd.

    I actually like Onions, he makes the batsmen play.

  169. It’s hard to gauge the Warwickshire pitch as the Bear’s bowling attach has been pants this season.
    But two results stand out –
    Durham took them apart a month ago for the only 4 day result there this season, with Harmison getting 5 in the first and Onions 7 in the second
    But Ian Bell still managed 79 and 57 and it took Durham 170 overs to bowl the Bears out twice.
    Bell has made loads of runs there amid many snore draws.
    The other result of note is more a passage of play during the England warm up game where Anderson got swing and 5 wickets in about 10 overs. It is about the only time wickets have fallen regularly at Edgbaston this season.

    Another high score draw like in Cardiff is no good to Australia. I think the only way Australia can force this would be to drop a North or Hussey and go with 5 bowlers

  170. JimDavis, what bowlers though? It would mean putting MJ at 7 and he looks miserable enough without the pressure of having to be a batsman.

    I watched the highlights of the last day at Lords and he seemed to take no pleasure in what he was doing (which was batting pretty darned well it looked like). Really odd to see as he usually smiling frequently on the field.

    But then again, I wouldn’t mind seeing five bowlers just in case MJ’s whateverlag has set in good and proper as Hilfy can’t carry the seam attack having only played 5 international matches. And with a more senior bowler like Lee around hogging the limelight, Mitch might effing well lighten up.

  171. Hughes, Katich, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke, Haddin, Johnson, Lee, Hilfenhaus, Hauritz, Clark

    How’s this? I like 5-1-5 (though with Haddin, it’s 6-5), and Australia need an attacking mindset to get back into it. 5 bowlers provides that.

    I like North, but since Ponting doesn’t want to use him much as a bowler, he’s the batsman who’ll have to make way for a an extra bowler.

  172. Agree with your lineup RK, except I would drop Hauritz as well, and keep North in.

  173. I’ll get around to adding a new post eventually I’m just a tad snowed under with work after spending 10 days in a fortnight watching cricket.

    On selection, there is another alternative to dropping North. Hussey forged his reputation as an opener and with Katich would give Australia an opening pair of considerable experience.

    Not likely, but if Hughes continues to struggle then I’d rather Mr. Cricket facing the new ball than Shane Watson.

  174. I don’t think our batting is a major problem. 5 of our top 7 have got tons so we can cope with a rattled Hughes. An extra bowler would be nice but maybe it’s just papering over cracks.

  175. I agree, nesta. I mentioned that above about Hussey opening in place of Hughes who looks overwhelmed to me. Watson is not a test opener to me at, even though he is pretty good in ODI. Expecting him to do it in a crisis test situation is rich, especially with such limited long format cricket as he has had recently.

    Hussey has looked ok in the last test match, got done leaving it like a few others and got a sticky decision. Like a few others.

    But the bowling was so gap-ridden due to MJ’s falling into a heap and some nervous patches with the others that I haven’t really got a suggestion for that apart from bringing in dicey injury return players. Sheesh.

  176. We’ve just come through a test where our strike bowler collapsed and conceded over 200 runs, and we had three of the top four dismissed for incorrect/dubious decisions in the second innings run chase. Yet we still made 400 of the 500 required in the second innings. Can you imagine what SA, Ind or Sl would have done to us under those circumstances? Beaten us by an innings no doubt.
    We almost won by an innings in the first test.
    Our “terrible” spin bowler has outbowled theirs, and took thhe top three wickets in the second innings.
    Johnson is the only one with real problems, assuming he stays on the road to improvement in the tour game, I’d make no changes.

  177. But Fred, are you sure he will come back? He looked such a mess out there. According to Mickey Arthur is only weakness is that he gets ‘down’ on himself. How is he supposed to suddenly perk up after that debacle of a game.

    Strauss and Cook are going to quite rightly go after him first chance they get.

  178. Fred, The reason I think we should add a bowler is because I have no concerns about the batting.
    But what is the point 600/6 or 400+ during the 4th digs if it doesn’t win you the game.

    Also adding the extra bowler rather than replacing a current member with someone coming back from injury has to be the less risky option.

  179. I agree, Fred. I don’t think it’s worth carrying Hughes a bit. He’s been especially targeted by Flintoff, who would probably trouble any batsman at the moment. I think he’ll come out of the experience stronger. I don’t know if Hussey would do any better than him there at the moment.

    Mj is a bit trickier. No clear replacement for him. At the least, he needs a plan B for how to bowl when he’s lost his line.

    Meanwhile, KP is trying to repair himself using homeopathy, and the pom are talking about Bell. They certainly look better than they have done for ages, but I think they’re on even thinner ice than the Aus, even given our lack of fit bowlers and no back up batsman.

  180. England’ll definitely be making a change as Pieterson’s been ruled out of the series. Given the last squad I assume Bell will be in instead for the next test at least.

  181. Lou, to be honest I don’t know if MJ can come back. YOu’d have to be closer to him than I am to know! Perhaps only he knows. But I’m assuming he can’t have gone too far wrong so quickly, and should be able to recover. Everyone even seems to be able to diagnose the problem, it’s no mystery.
    GM, agree, Monday was a big day for them, but they have their issues too.
    Jim, I suppose I’d like to see what happens after the tour game. If MJ is still shaky, maybe Lee in for North (and this is assuming Kat can and will bowl).
    If it’s Clark in, then it’s Haddin at 6 and MJ at 7. Gulp.

  182. Bell for KP. That helps.

  183. Whoops, correction: cross out “don’t” in my last comment — “I do think it’s worth carrying Hughes for a while…”

    KP out will relieve a bit of pressure, but Bell could score as many runs, just slower, and, on past record, only when it doesn’t matter anymore. When NZ rolled them ignominiously for 120, Bell scored a 60 of them, and said it “felt great”. Curious attitude.

    But if he’s matured from finally being dropped, he’ll be hard to remove. Just a different kind of threat from Pietersen.

  184. Er, another correction. Or qualification. I was comparing Bell to what Pietersen has done in the last two tests, not his talent overall. Pietersen looked really out of sorts.

  185. Bell is back on home territory with the ‘Shermanator’ tag to get rid of. He has done his best work at 5 and 6 but will now go in 3 or 4. I would love him to make a big score. It was onlty 12 months ago he made his breakthrough 199 v SA and then his form fell apart.
    It is piss poor injury management on KPif the problem can be solved in 6 weeks. IPL has now done for KP for the Series and I can’t see Fred lasting till the Oval.

  186. KP out will hopefully give Australia a boost.

    What is the story with Lee – is he fit enough to bowl in the 3 day game?

    The Aussies can’t afford to lose the next one and need to find a way of taking 20 wickets.

  187. Shame about KP, he is one of the few genuinely exciting players in the English team. Hell, in either team.

    Bell is a bit of a wally. He’ll look great for a match and it will be ‘ra,ra,ra, so much talent, such a wonderful shot-maker’ then flake out when they need him.

  188. I’m in the Swedish bush where the library is only open on Monday and Thursday afternoons, so I have only just found out the result! Naturally, I am pleased with that, but in catching up on this thread, I am honoured to be a part of 99.94, so erudite and generous are the contributions (even yours Pepp!)

    Just a few quick points.

    Anyone surprised at graciousness in Punter’s speech (not that I’ve seen it) knows neither him nor Australian sportsmen.

    As pleased as I am with the result, I am more pleased that England have shown that they can complete and, with luck – and we’ve had plenty – win. That was what I have asserted from before the start of the series and it’s nice to be borne out, but nicer still to see some substantial cricketers and some with potential getting the respct they deserve. 2006-7 was a terrible letdown for everyone (though a great result for Aus) but now we have two worthy opponents, closely matched, with pockets of greatness, if not the spine of greatness we have become used to with Aus or the extraordinary inspiration England summoned in 2005.

    Re Aus selection, I sugget that this XI has too much unorthodoxy and inexperience to play in cool, English conditions. I know Lee is of the old guard, but I’d fear him more than anyone except Hilfy, as he knows how to bowl in England even if he has paid heavily for his wickets. Hughes needs a season in the First Division of the County Championship to build a technique that can deal with the variations in English wickets when the ball is propelled by tall men at 88mph to a disciplined line.

    The team I fear will bounce back at Edgbaston

    Katich
    Hussey
    Punter
    Clarke
    North
    Watson
    Haddin
    Johnson
    Lee
    Hauritz
    Hilfy

    The team I think will be picked

    Hughes
    Katich
    Punter
    Hussey
    Clarke
    Watson
    Haddin
    Johnson
    Hauritz
    Clark
    Hilfy

    I’ll be back as soon as I can with an England Report Card that previews their XI for Edgbaston (which I shall see most of in England!)

    Thanks again to all contributors above.

  189. http://in.reuters.com/article/topNews/idINIndia-41285620090724

    This is good news. Should help mend some fences.

  190. It is always interesting how Oz cricketers fall in love with India. DKL has done loads of work there, Steve Waugh has set up a charity, now Hayden is having a shot.

    They must very much appreciate the passion for the game there.

    • DKL has done wonders with the MRF Pace Academy in Chennai.Initially, only young Indian pace bowlers used to attend the training there.But for the past 5-6 years, the academy has become a sort of finishing school for young pacemen allover the cricketing world.

      Fred,

      There are no fences to be mended.Once in a while, we can discuss Test 1857 and fight over it.But even without the charity work and the academies, people like Warne, Lee, Gilly, McGrath etc are adored by many in India.And I mean the ordinary fans who may not ever visit online cricket blogs.

  191. [Maybe this should be in a different post…?]

    The Australian selectors face an extremely difficult task in picking the team for the third test. I find it comforting that I cannot influence the selection and could just wait and see what they decide upon but then that would be the easy way out so I am forcing myself to think this through.

    I think the main objective is to improve the bowling without materially weakening the batting. There are numerous combinations that could legitimately be chosen for this test so I will try to structure my thinking.

    There are seven certainties, being:
    Katich
    Ponting
    Clarke
    Hussey
    Haddin
    Hauritz
    Hilfenhaus

    Some may argue that Hauritz is not a certainty but I think he is.

    Let’s bite the bullet and drop Johnson. It is a horrible decision to be forced to make because he was a big part of the Australian’s confidence going into this series and he was also part of the new guard that was helping Australia get over the loss of some champions. But I now think he must go because: there are reasonable alternatives; the odds of him suddenly coming good are miniscule; and the cost of him not coming good is huge.

    Let’s add Clark because, although I didn’t see him bowl in the three day match, there have been suggestions in the press that he got some good bounce which suggests he is getting his “nip” back, which is an important complement to his accuracy.

    Maybe that improves the bowling enough but I would look to have additional bowling resources when compared to the first two tests. Bowling is the weak area and Australia should be erring on the side of aggression/risk taking to obtain a win. That means space needs to be found for Watson and/or McDonald. I am sure Ponting pines for the feeling of control that McDonald gave him in Sydney and South Africa and he is not a bad batsman. However, I would lean towards Watson being a better option because he has to replace a top six batsman if the bowling is to be improved (replacing Siddle would strengthen the batting but probably not the bowling given Watson’s history of injuries). He either comes in for Hughes or North. Coming in for Hughes provides Ponting with an additional bowling option (North) so, to be consistent with the objective stated above, I would suggest that is the best way to go. I don’t care whether Watson or Hussey opens.

    So that gives:
    Katich
    Watson
    Ponting
    Clarke
    Hussey
    North
    Haddin
    Hauritz
    Siddle
    Hilfenhaus
    Clark

    The only other temptation I have is to replace North with Johnson on a whim. Bat Haddin at Six. But maybe that’s better left for the fourth or fifth test when Australia REALLY needs to win.

  192. No whims where Johnson is concerned if you please. The idea of dropping him is anathema to me but it is a place the selectors have to go. He won’t bowl well next test, we all know that. It looks like he has forgotten how to. What a mess. Siddle bowled some junk at Lords but at least he was less junk than Mitch.

    I can’t believe that the day has come when Watson looks like a good pick.

  193. Vernon, I’ve been enjoying your commentary here, but I think you are fundamentally mistaken here. Australia’s bowling struggled at Lords’, true, but it still came out with 16 wickets, and bowled England out for a little over 400 on a decent pitch.

    It was the batting that failed, miserably. Twice suffering a top order collapse, missing a straight-forward follow-on target, and batting for less than two days. I agree Johnson is struggling, mentally as much as physically, and with Clark there, they’d be mad not to replace him. But it is the batting that needs fixing. Don’t forget too, the last time Australia played 6 batsmen in South Africa, they lost by an innings. It would be pure folly to drop a batsman for a bowler. Watson is more batsman than bowler, so his inclusion is reasonable, if he can stay fit.

    But as an opener? Personally, I think Ponting needs protection. He is increasingly vulnerable to the swinging ball, and would benefit from moving down to four below Katich, Hussey and Hughes (who’d I stick with a little longer).

    North was picked on the basis we were playing four quicks and needed his spin. If Hauritz is to play (and that is a reasonable position to take) than Watson should replace North. Alternatively, go with the actual team that beat South Africa, and play McDonald instead of Hauritz.

    No easy solutions though.

  194. Good comments and analyses. I also think it’s worth giving Hughes a bit more time. He’s being heavily targeted and is rightly seen as a real threat. I’m not sure how many 20 years olds with any other kind of technique would find Flintoff or Harmison particularly easy. Dropping him would, I think, take significant pressure off the English bowlers. They saw what he did to Steyn & co, and don’t want to suffer the same experience. Watson wouldn’t do anything like that to them.

    I really think Hussey is the key for the Aus batting. His loss of form has left a large hole in the middle order. You can carry a promising but streaky young opener for a while, but some in Hussey’s position shouldn’t be a gamble. Hope he comes right.

    Clark for Johnson, though.


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