Posted by: nestaquin | July 29, 2009

Ashes 2009: Better Merv Than Me

merv hughesFor those of us with a greater sense of cricket than patriotism the Lord’s Test provided great theatre and has ensured that The Ashes should be an interesting, hard fought contest at least for the next two Tests over the coming fortnight.

For the Third Test Australia have an enviable yet difficult position regarding selection with three players outside the First XI, Stuart Clark, Shane Watson and Andrew McDonald all performing well in the recent tour match. A match made all the more interesting, from my perspective at least, because of the inclusion of Kepler’s lad in the Northamptonshire side.

Johnson again performed miserably and his position is under serious threat, an eventuality unthinkable only a few weeks ago. If Brett Lee was fit I’m convinced he would be dropped for Edgbaston but with it likely that weather will intervene at regular intervals I suspect he will be given one last chance to find rhythm and confidence.

Stuart Clark must play so pressure can be sustained at both ends, something completely lacking in the last Test. Hilfenhaus needs support and Clark will undoubtedly provide it.

It is quite feasible that Hauritz will be discarded for Watson, McDonald or even Clark and there are positives and negatives inherent depending on what tactical direction the brains trust decide to implement.

Regardless of conditions if Ponting wins the toss he will bat as he has every time since the last Test at Edgbaston four years ago. Haunted by that decision I can’t imagine he would reverse the trend especially at that same ground where the nightmare of doubt began.

Tactically, Australia may be best served by continuing to play the attritional cricket that served them well at Cardiff and in Sydney, Durban and Johannesburg. However, for this to be effective McDonald should play along with Hilfenhaus and Clark. Add North to the mix and Ponting will be able to control the match not by taking swags of quick wickets but by forcing England into error by making it difficult to score.

This leaves a choice between Johnson and Siddle as a strike bowler and unfortunately for the burly Victorian I believe that Johnson will get the nod. The selectors will be keen to persevere with Johnson in the cherished hope that what is broken is miraculously repaired. Personally, I’m pessimistic of a quick resurrection.

Australia will be happy to walk away from Edgbaston with a draw and according to the meteorologists it matters little what team they choose for it will rain for the first four days. Even with that knowledge there are some very tough, important and potentially risky decisions to be made for they could conceivably affect Australia’s team balance and personnel not only for this series but for the coming southern summer and beyond.

With that said, I can honestly say that I’m glad that selection is not my decision and I’m sure that current tour selector Merv Hughes will be tossing, turning and losing sleep as he juggles all the possibilities and permutations available. There are few men as passionate about the BaggyGreen as Merv and I sincerely hope that whatever decision he makes is fortunate, for it will cut a good man with a grand moustache deep if it turns sour.


  1. Don’t believe the weather forecast. There will be at least 350 overs in the game and that’s plenty to force a result. These are classic English conditions.
    With back to back Test matches I would give MJ another chance. If he is dropped there would be no reason to recall him until the Oval and it might be too late by then. I have seen nothing of Mcdonald but wouldn’t back Watson against the new ball.
    England have not led a proper series 1-0 for years. I am not sure how confident they are. A middle order of Rav, Bell, Colly and Prior looks a bit flaky to me.

  2. Bush, the middle order is a bit flaky – but if we don’t have someone who can effectively use the new ball then it won’t really matter, as shown in the last test.

    Australia should at least bat a whole lot better in first innings in this test than they did in the last. If not, only the weather can save us.

  3. They say the pitch will be like green jelly.

  4. Sizzle should be under more pressure to justify his spot but Mitch has kindly taken it all for himself.

  5. How much play we will get is conjecture, but, as Bush points out, it’s going to be typical English conditions which put a premium on getting the ball in the er… right areas and letting pitch, seam and overhead conditions do their work.

    On the bowling side, I think the selectors will give MJ a last chance knowing that they’ll get a miracle ball every other spell at least from him. But they’ll want better support for Hilfy, so I see Clark coming in for him. Hauritz has done well and deserves his place, but if Watson can bowl, they may go with him instead of Hauritz and look for quick runs to put pressure on England. The attacking option is to replace Hughes with Watson, but I don’t think they’ll do that.

  6. They have done exactly that.

    What has it come to that Watson is seen as some sort of worthwhile pick?

    If he opens, I shall give in to despair.

    • If he can bowl even at 82mph (and especially at 88mph) that’s a useful option. He bowled much better than I expected in India. I wouldn’t have him opening though.

      Hughes? Talent yes, but there’s a reason why no successful batsman has ever played with do extreme a technique. Build some orthodoxy on to the hand-eye coordination and you have a player. Even Gilchrist struggled in England in 2005 and his technique is nowhere near as extreme as Hughes’.

  7. He can bowl and bat but his figures at test level fill me don’t with much confidence in either skill. He can hardly be a workhorse with the ball as how can they risk him?

    I would like them to risk Johnson at 7 and play Clark.

  8. As the teams do not have to be announced until the toss – given the current state of the ground and the forecasts, is there a point in time that could be crossed, say if the toss has not happened by lunch on day 2, where you would them hold Flintoff back for the next test and give Harmi another crack?

  9. Now Haddin is out. Manou must feel like he has wandered into some parallel universe.

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