Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 30, 2009

A lack of competition and a competition

pimg4a66b93d6cec0_frontNesta, below, has set out the quandries facing big Merv as he ponders options for the Australian XI for the Third Ashes Test at Edgbaston. Incredibly, in an age of seemingly non-stop international cricket, both Australia and England appear short of proven international cricketers – in the quantities required to discharge five Tests in seven weeks. This state of affairs can only be an indictment of selection over the last couple of years, emphasising continuity perhaps too much above the necessity to give youth its head. Whilst Australia have tried lots of options (at spinner and all-rounder for example), the absence of alternatives there may be put down to a lack of the kind of talent that the selectors are looking for – although Jason Krejza may have a case that the talent is being ignored and surely Brad Hodge’s English experience cannot be overlooked should Hughes’ fail again and Watson’s fragility rear its head?

England’s lack of options is more directly the result of past selectorial timidity (or the Team England concept, if you prefer) and bodes ill should any of the current XI break down at Edgbaston and alternatives be needed for the pressure cooker environments of Headingley and The Oval. The Trumpet looks at Thursday’s likely starting XI and the alternatives.

Openers – Cook and Strauss look set for the duration, but Strauss has a lot on his plate as captain, so Cook needs to take the initiative in the way he did so admirably at Lord’s.  If he can do so, and deliver three more scores of 80+ in the series, he will have delivered on his long apprenticeship. Strauss’ challenge is to concentrate on the next ball – he has the mentality to do so.  Alternatives? None with any credibility at all – selectors will probably go for one of Kent’s openers, Denly or Key, but both are playing in the Second Division this season having averaged just 31 each in the First Division in 2008.

Middle Order – Ravi, Belly and Colly sound like an act down the bill at the 1959 Royal Variety Show and harsh judges will say that’s about right. Ravi needs a tighter technique, Belly needs a stronger mind and Colly needs to look like he can seize the initiative as well as block for draws. All three have much to prove over the next few days. Alternatives? Bell’s selection tells you all you need to know, but Owais Shah and Ed Joyce would probably be next in line with Jonathan Trott backing up – not very comforting!

All Rounders – Matt Prior is inked in at Six, but there’s always a plethora of keepers to choose from and they’re always a Seven at best. If Prior breaks a finger, Steven Davies will probably come in although James Foster could do the job as long as there’s a proper batsman at Six (but there isn’t one available – see above) with Flintoff at Eight and Broad and Swanny at Nine and Ten. Flintoff looks suited to Seven, but his nocturnal knee treatment must be keeping the selectors awake too.  Adil Rashid would probably replace him if he succumbs (particularly at The Oval), but Tim Bresnan and Ian Blackwell will have their supporters. Flintoff has never been more fragile – nor more needed.

Bowling – Here, at least there is some vestige of cover, with Harmison ready for August, the only month he seems able to bowl in international cricket, Saj as quick and erratic as ever, but Sidebottom the most likely to step in if the call comes at Headingley. Monty covers Swanny, though looks half the bowler he was a couple of years ago.

Well, after that look at the absence of competition for caps, here’s a competition for a shirt.

THE ASHES PHILOSOPHY CRICKET COMPETITION – Edgbaston

The self-styled ’sporting outfitters of intellectual distinction’ at Philosophy Football have extended their philosophy cricket range with playwright Harold Pinter’s musings on cricket’s place in culture. Lifelong cricket fan, and occasional player, Pinter would have indulged no spin in his side, just straight down the middle, taking the right stump out with considerable venom, with dramatic celebrations after no doubt. If there is an afterlife, Pinter won’t be gabbing with Goethe, nor railing at Reagan for the next five days – he’ll be haunting the Pavilion in Birmingham. The T-shirt pictured above is available from www.philosophyfootball.com. 99.94 has one to be won in our Edgbaston Test competition, to enter simply answer the following simple question :

Predict the runs scored in the third innings of the Edgbaston Test.

Email your answer with name, address and preferred T-shirt size to admin@philosophyfootball.com Entries close at 11.00am British Summer Time 1 August 09, no purchase necessary to enter, so get your predictions in quick!!

Good Luck!

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Responses

  1. I presume you mean Brad Hodge as cover for Hughes ?
    If you talk about squad strength, how many of England’s reserves would be in the Aussie team ? Monty, Harmy and even Sideshow would be in the frame for selection. Rashid, Denly and Davies are waiting in the wings with decent reputations. England are a young team so we look to have a decent future.

  2. Bush – I knew I’d got that Hogg / Hodge thing mixed up. I’ll correct it – ta!

    I wish Tresco and SP Jones were in the wings.

  3. fark this!

    • Wet outfield Pete? It’s absurd. They should be playing.

      • Jayzuz! I have returned inebriated after pub trivia and this is the epitome of fuistration and annoyance. Cricinfo says boggy outfields, I say it’s the 21st century and surely ground drainage can keep up with the times. I’ll stick with the 13th Floor Elevators and Van Morrison, but in this rare instance they remain 2nd best.

  4. Oh dear, Australia batting first, I fear Jimmy could have a 5-for before the close today.

  5. And Manou will probably be one of them.

    Can anyone believe what is going on?

    I am finding it difficult to know what to say anymore.

  6. …and Haddin has broken his finger!
    Firstly, good luck Graham.
    Secondly, well played England for allowing a replacement even though it happened after the toss. Actually does anyone know if that is legal?

  7. Watson looks very good. He averaged 84 in FC cricket for Hampshire and 65 in one-dayers.

  8. I’ll come round if he scores a ton, not before.

  9. It’s Edgbaston 2005 inverted!

  10. Maybe not.

    Swanny really does have a knack of making opponents do crazy things. He has the perfect attitude for a spinner.

    • Spinner….he’s more captain material than Cook

      • I agree!

  11. Watson couldn’t have played any better. England have a lot of work to do. Well played Aus.

  12. Tooting:
    Agree with your basic points about the failure to invest in talent outside the bubble and the consequent thin-ness of back-up options. But I think Denly’s a better prospect than you suggest. Looked composed, confident and compact in the Lions game against Australia. I reckon he might well be able to step up. James Hildreth seems to be getting there too. Bowling wise, I’m keeping an eye on Steve Finn who’s got height, a nice smooth action and probably more pace to come as he fills out a little.
    Well played Australia today. Showed real mental toughness. Shame about the weather forecast for Saturday…

    • I’m with you on Hildreth, but Denly’s form in Div One last season really surprised me – I prefer Horton at Lancs.

      Finn? Looks like a McGrath type bowler and he didn’t take a Test five-fer until he was 25. At that rate, Finn will start to deliver in 2014.

  13. I don’t know what Australia were thinking by not having a reserve opener in the squad, especially when they have 2 high quality openers waiting in the wings (Jaques and Rogers – I’m really partial to him, looked really solid the couple of times I saw him bat in the Shield, and has the requisite Test disappointments behind him as well). That said, Watson batted well enough.

    But England were piss poor. Anderson was too wide and Flintoff was his vintage self (that would be unthreatening but not egregious, which is the norm for him. The heroic Flintoff rears his head only once a year or so). Broad’s stuff was true garbage though – it takes real skill to ping in leg stump half volleys ball after ball, unerringly.

    Screw it, though. This match was destined to end in a draw before it started, and maybe the English bowlers knew it and hence couldn’t be bothered. Maybe it’s WI-type strategy from England, with a bit of help from the weather. Win one early on, and draw the hell out of the rest.

    Unlike 2005, this is a contest between two ordinary sides, who should be ranked 3 and 5 respectively (Lanka comes in between and yes, England is 5). Villa v Birmingham, if you will – heated local rivalry, but not top table stuff.

  14. RK,

    Much as I hate to see Australia placed at 3, I think you are correct as far as this series is concerned.

    But in the 30 overs yesterday, they played as well as any one can under the conditions.The Eng bowlers were disappointing,and I simply don’t understand how Broad can be ranked as the No.2 pace bowler in the country.

    It will be a draw unless one of the teams commit a batting harakiri in one session.Highly unlikely.I only hope Watson scores a ton and remains injury free for the rest of the series.

    Jim,

    Manou replacing Haddin is legal because rule 1.2 allows such replacements (after the toss) with the consent of the opposing captain.Obviously, one can’t expect Haddin to keep with a broken finger.

    Btw, how good is Manou as a batsman?

  15. Manou is a decent batsman who has improved a lot in recent years. And not since Ian Healy has Australia’s best keeper (or close to best) been selected in the team.

  16. Kumar, absolutely, Aus played well, but there’ll be more testing days for them. Utter dross offered by the bowlers – apart from a couple of close lbw shouts, it was very very tame, unthreatening stuff. There wasn’t too much in the pitch either, though.

    Very amused by Shane Warne trying to be diplomatic about Ponting’s decision to field in 2005 at Edgbaston. He tried valiantly, saying he was “happy that Ricky chose to field”, but his contempt for the decision was very obvious. Rightly so. And I’m really beginning to warm to him as a commentator, after misjudging him early on. Then again, he has the finest brain in contemporary cricket, what else should we expect?

  17. The Media reaction here has been kinder to the bowlers than you guys are, but I think you’re right. Some poor stuff from England. I was more disappointed in Anderson than Broad, but both owe England plenty.

    SK Warne is never dull, but I do think that he is a bit quick to criticise captains for not attacking and a bit quick to go on about body language – particularly when the next ball brings a wicket!

  18. Onions has roared back – that skiddy bouncer that snared Punter is a good weapon. Hilfy will bowl very well on this track.

    • I rate Punter as the best player against the short ball in world cricket.And Onions deceived him with a bouncer.Very well bowled, but I think Punter’s getting on the years.

  19. This is what I was expecting from England last night. Good thing the run rate is still high.

  20. Some excellent cutters here by Onions.Good signs for England.I hope Australia won’t rue not bringing Clark into the XI.

  21. Conditions change so quickly in England – much more to do with the atmosphere than the pitch or the newness of the ball. The secret for the bowler is knowing how to use those conditions – Onions, like Hilfy, bowls stump-to-stump which can be expensive, but dangerous.

    • Exactly, Toots.That’s why I feel Stu Clark with his stump-to-stump bowling would have been a wicket taking option.But then, benefit of hindsight :)

    • Stump to stump. Hmm. I hope at the end of this series Australia don’t rue playing North instead of McDonald.

  22. That’s quite a few starts on the board now.

  23. Isn’t this supposed to be a batting paradise?

    The heartening thing for Eng should be that the batsmen did not gift away the wickets.The bowlers earned all of them.

    The way its swinging (the one that Clarke was almost unplayable, it swung so late), looks like we may actually have a result in this Test.

  24. No doubt the Sky team will be saying Rudi was in his rights to give the bowler the benefit of both Anderson’s LBWs. Tough calls.

  25. The MJ decision was terrible – an embarrassment.

    Pundits rattle on about the pitch, but it’s less important than the atmosphere.

    • Cannot argue with the last one to Manou!

  26. With both teams prone to bursts of confidence and bursts of lack of confidence (if that makes sense), we’re going to see a lot of tooing and froing I feel. Great stuff from Jimmy and Onions, but I felt there was some poor batting against the moving ball and a poor shot from Punter.

  27. Is it just me or does Punter look like a 70-year-old when he hooks?

    Good to see Onions getting wickets, he always makes the batsmen play. And excellent work from Anderson.

    MJ’s decision was possibly poor but he gave the umpire bugger all choice really. On first look, that was out.

    Unfortunately I was expecting this as well, I nearly always do these days, the batting is so poor so frequently. In the 6 tests against SA, the tail was in permanent rescue mode.

  28. Yes, Ponting shot was disappointing. Hussey has some serious issues mentally. At Lord’s, in addition to the delivery he was bowled on in the first innings, he let a number of deliveries go that he really should not have been letting go. I think that reflects a problem with his mental approach.

    Flintoff’s catch (drop), apart from being awkward because of the way Clarke “played” it, it was at that awful height right between a fingers up or fingers down approach. It usually hits the hard part of the hand and bounces out. Ponting would have caught it :-).

    OK, now I see what the fuss has been about with Anderson and Onions. Pretty impressive use of the conditions. Swinging the ball along way, both ways and late – I reckon that means you need some luck to bat for a long time irrespective of the umpiring.

    I don’t think the batsmen did too much wrong. North’s shot looked on for a long time and it went late and sharply. The ball to get rid of Manou was pretty handy.

    I wonder of it was a good toss to win or lose. Maybe the runs scored yesterday were the easiest of the match. But that depends on the conditions which seem to change rather drastically and whether Australia can bowl straight.

    I would advise Koertzen to retire before referrals come in for good.

  29. Vernon – I may be made to look foolish here, but I predict that this will be a Test in which conditions will ease through each day. The morning sessions will require patience and discipline to watch the ball all the way on to the bat; afternoons will allow freer play and the evenings will be like last night. I don’t think Aus played with that pattern in mind.

    Hussey looks shot doesn’t he?

    • Or could it be something as simple as failing eye sight messing with his depth perception?

  30. Onions is a good bowler. I don’t see what the fuss is about Broad when you have a bowler like Onions around who makes the batsmen play consistently.

    Tooting, what you mean is that England is playing England.
    Which does make for exciting cricket, it’s true.

  31. It seems that the batsmen are not picking which way the bowler is trying to swing it. It seems all conventional swing and the bowlers are changing their actions although I will not pretend I can pick it all the time from behind the arm.

    So, is that one of the advantages Anderson has when he is bowling well – that he can swing it both ways conventionally without a big change in action and good batsmen struggle to pick it? Or are the batsmen showing some real lack of knowledge/skill about conventional swing?

  32. Anyone know if the conditions at Birmingham are very different at either end, like at Lord’s for instance?
    Yesterday Flintoff and Broad from the “Koertzen” end and Anderson, Onions and Swann from the “Dar” end

    Today Broad and Anderson have been swapped.
    So it looks like cutters doing the damage at one end and swing at the other.

    Given Anderson’s LBW shouts given not out by Dar last night and the two given out today by Koertzen, it may well be worth him staying at the “Koertzen” end.

  33. Siddle has just been dismissed by getting an oustide edge to an inswinger. I think he picked it and I think both he and Hauritz were picking Anderson’s swing but I don’t think Ponting, Clarke or North were. Maybe the bowlers have more idea.

    Now the sun comes out…

    • 4 lbw and possible another 2 last night which could have been, 2 bowled and 3 caught behind. All out in 71 overs with 8 guys getting into double figures!
      I take it the key is the pitch it up and the wickets will outweigh the runs when its in the right areas.

  34. Well bowled, Jimmy Anderson.

  35. Re Jimmy – there was some telly analysis during the WI series that showed that his wrist position changes very little when going from in to out swing. he does need a bit of help, but he’s a craftsman these days once he gets it.

    Onions I like.

  36. 60 runs for the last two wickets. Hope it’s not going to be indicative of the rest of the day.
    Hat’s off to Onions and of course Jimmy and his 4-4 in 13 balls before lunch.

  37. Jim – I’m sure it’s a day that is easing for batting. I hope so!

  38. Tooting… This question is for u… Please tell me why Stuart Broad is still in the team??? He is easily the worst bowler in the England team right now…. And also why the hell is he being rated as one of the best England have?? On any given day Flintoff and Anderson are wayyyyyyyy better than him.. Also there is Sidebottom, Swan and now Onions….

  39. Vernon, I think Punter’s hook shot was poor because he isn’t as flexible as he used to be. He should give the hook a break as with all the back problems he has had, it looks to me like his mobility is affected. He sure isn’t as fast either as he used to be.

  40. Hari, if I can give a non English view,
    he seems to get wickets out of nothing, and he’s now done it enough to prove its no fluke.
    At Lord’s he got Johnson and Haddin at the very end of day 2. When you see the ease with which Siddle and Hauritz batted the next morning, and the ease with which Johnson and Haddin batted in the 4th, they were massive wickets.
    He also got Ponting in the 4th just after lunch.
    For all the histrionics about Flintoff, for me they were arguable the 3 key wickets of the game.

    I don’t think he’s an English conditions bowler, which is probably another reason they keep him. I’d expect him to be their best bowler in the next Ashes series.

  41. Hari – the short answer re Broad is that McGrath was 25 before he took a five-fer. Broad has just turned 23. We’re waiting for the potential to come through… but he’s trying our patience.

    He can bat beautifully and I expect him to be as effective as Vettori if he stays in the team.

  42. I wonder if Ponting remembers he has another bowler on the park for this game?

  43. I might be speaking too soon and I don’t know if it is sustainable but Johnson is showing very encouraging signs.

    The LBW to Bell swung and there is a sniff of swing the other way as well which is more usual for Johnson and a good sign.

    Toot, his body language looks better too.

    It is staggering that Koertzen is still umpiring at this level. I know it is an impossible job but there are limits to incompetence. He has been very poor for a few years.

    Hauritz has looked good.

  44. I thought MJ looked like a Test bowler too.

    Koertzen looks nothing like a Test umpire – the Bell LBW was just incredible.

  45. I don’t usually moan about umpiring as it isn’t worth it, but the lbw umpiing in this series has been very dodgy.

    They missed what I thought was the plumbest LBW miss I have ever seen in Cardiff, Hilfy to KP. Johnson had three yorker LBW’s turned down by Doctrove which all looked out on first look and replay but really Bell’s was just silly.
    Rudi embarrasses himself a lot.

    Michael Holding called it out on commentary. Fast bowler’s club kicks in at times like that.

    Great encouraging signs from MJ. When he bowled that bouncer to Bell and made him hop, I suddenly thought he was on. I hope he is now switched on.

  46. Koertzen seems to have something against the Ausies like Steve Bucknor had against Indians….. Ofcourse we were able to bully Steve out with the big fat bank account that BCCI had.. Wonder what Ausies are going to do about Koertzen?!!!!!

  47. Tooting, there is an awful lot of comparisons with Freddy and McGrath for Broad by fans and in the press.

    The name Garfield Sobers has been used as well. Do people really believe that he is going to be that big?

    I think he certainly does, but really great bowlers first and foremost have to have big egos so he is ok there.

    If Johnson had as much self-belief as Broad, he would be a proper world-beater.

  48. Lou – He’s very unlikely to be as good as McGrath or Sobers, but at 21 / 22 he showed great potential and that’s what excites England fans. He isn’t delivering half way through the series and he has to do so, if he’s to be a solid Test player, never mind good or great.

  49. To be fair to the umpires, we all know before hand what they are like and what faults they have, but Rudi’s inconsistencies do continue to grate. Especially with both teams seemingly full of confidence players. Anderson being a perfect example, had a decent shout last night turned down and was poor the rest of the session. Comes back today and gets a poor one given and with his tail up he’s on his way to brilliance.

    I am forever staggered, not by what the umpires themselves do, but by the fact the ICC has put itself into a position where it needs 60 year olds to be on its elite panel.

  50. JimDavis, Anderson responded to the moving ball as he always does. He is an excellent bowler in the right conditions. He can be completely unplayable.

    When the ball doesn’t swing, I think he gets confused over whether he should pitch it up or not.

  51. So I noticed this cricket bat for sale on eBay. One owner, never used, contact M. Hussey, Edgbaston.

    • Cruel – you sure it was M Hussey and not M Johnson?

      • Well exactly. I find it hard to forgive top order batsmen that leave balls so close to off stump only to get bowled. I would have preferred an inside edge into the stumps, anything else but that. At least Hughes would have attempted a stroke.

        Onions must be a sub editors dream. He certainly had me close to crying yesterday.

  52. Pete, thanks for the Hussey joke. I wouldn’t have laughed yesterday about it though. I was expecting someone to tell him, mate, you just left the Ashes.

  53. Having used up their ‘batsmen’ cards already on this tour, who do they drop Hussey for? I can’t believe I suggested that he open. Ha, ha, ha.

    Chappelli had a mega whinge in cricinfo about the selection of the squad before the tour started, which I read thinking he was being over the top. Unfortunately, a lot of what he wrote just looks like good sense now.

    As Schultz used to say on Hogan’s Heroes, ‘I know nuthink! Nuthink!’

  54. Don’t panic. This is called rebuilding. Since when do builders ever finish the job on time? Might be 2013 before we win in England again. A bit rough on Ponting, but that was the hand he was dealt.
    Anyway, this one gets washed out, and still two more chances to win, every chance they can do it. If one or two things go their way, they’ll be right back in the series.

  55. Fred – There’s a long way to go in this match and in the series. I’m just pleased that, even if the standard of cricket isn’t the highest, it’s a competitive set of matches is which the initiative is coming and going and Test cricket’s holy trinity: technique, guts and strategy – are being rewarded.

    That’s what I wanted and expected and, so far, we’ve had it.

  56. Tooting, yes, agree about the holy trinity, which is why I don’t respect 2020, and why you can never say what’s going to happen next in a test.
    It’s not at all what I wanted nor expected so far, but it’s good test cricket, so I’m happy with that.

    There’s always alot on garbage about aura and mongrel, but I also seem to remember Aus talking about executing skills. Aus did what they did through skill and discipline, and although the greats and the experienced have retired, there’s no reason why this lot shouldn’t make their mark through their skills.
    I’m getting a bit irritated though about Anderson, and Onions, and Strauss’s batting.
    I just prey MJ comes back, and, win or lose, it will set the series alight.

  57. Fred – the skills levels of the Aussies have surprised me. Hauritz seems much better than his figures show with some dip and a nice easy action. MJ’s arm, wrist, head, everything are all pointing in different directions – the problem is mental, but it shows that his technique is fragile. Hilfy looks class. Siddle seems to think he’s a pace bowler, but he’s really fast-medium and needs to do more with the ball. All England’s bowlers seem more skilled than the Aussies, except Hilfy, with the important proviso that they are playing at home.

    Katich and Hughes both have exaggerated movement as the ball is delivered and I think that in England that will cause problems. Hussey’s eye seems to have gone. I’m not sure North isn’t a decent county pro and slightly out of his depth. Punter is worried and it’s getting into his batting. Clarke is a bit too keen to work the ball to leg. Funnily enough, the two all-rounders seem to have the most classical techniques – Watson and Haddin.

    Conditions change very quickly in England, but there’s a time when only classical batsmanship will do if the bowling is good. Watson and Haddin have offered this, Punter once he is in, Clarke to the spinners but who else?

    (PS – I could make the same points about England’s batting!)

  58. In terms of quality, I find it a real shame that Pietersen’s out of it. I never liked the guy or his attitude, but he’s been treated so badly by the ECB and the press, that I would wish him the chance to prove his worth.

    I also found Strauss’s comments about deciding who can play in the IPL next year quite tasteless and pathetic politicking against Pietersen. Should Engalnd not regain the urn, it’s already clear who’ll carry the can.

    Re 2020: if test cricket disappears, 2020 will follow soon after. I think the rules of cricket are just too obscure for an unfamiliar audience.

    Imagine a new comer getting emotionally involved in a match, getting hooked into watching a courageous run chase, only to have it rain and the duckworth lewis method suddenly proclaims their team needs 37 from one over.

    Also, 2020 doesn’t have a context outside test cricket. Stanford and the ECB already proved that you need some gimmick like a million bucks winner take all to engage people’s emotional interest. (And imagine going to the opposing captain after the toss in such a game and asking “our keeper’s broken his finger, can we change our team?”)

  59. The answer to Hussey may well be to open with him so he is facing a harder bouncier ball rather than hiving him come in later when the ball is softer and the bounce lower.

  60. Jim, that might well be the best option for Hussey, but it would mean breaking up a successful opening pair. If Hussey fails again if there’s a second innings, maybe they should try Hughes down the order, and just write the whole thing off to experience.

    With Haddin out as well, the decision not to take an extra batsman looks really dumb.

    Interesting comments from TTT above.

  61. Rudi got that Bell LBW right. The side-on show shows that the ball has six feet to travel and has hit at bail height. The benefit of the doubt still goes to the batsman.

  62. [Bell just out]
    Johnson looking good. His arm action is still pretty low and he is getting the ball to swing in. Where are the “experts” now?

    The Bell wicket was a good bit of bowling partially because I think Bell was sure it was going to be short one after the previous pull shot.

    The LBW shout earlier against Bell was too high but I think Koertzen gave it not out because he heard the second noise of bat on pad. Maybe I am just too anti-Koertzen.

  63. The Aussie bowlers are inexperienced at this level. Siddle is inexperienced at any level, he doesn’t even have 25 first class matches under his belt and has played stuff all odi or 20/20 at state level.

    Apart from Mitch, who’s head is a bit…
    Nice to see him looking more like it, but I always know a mediocre over follows a good over and so on. But one good over from him out of two feels like a win.

    Still can’t quite get my head around the idea of Watson being an opener for the Aussies. I feel slightly bereft of thought whenever I think about it.

  64. Heavens, I just realised Watson will make Johnson look good. We are sunk. I have never prayed for rain in my life, but jeez it’s hard not to.

  65. As Prior has shown, never underestimate the ability of England to throw wickets away.

  66. Tooting, they are probably under orders to get going though?

  67. Good on Freddy for going the bosh. He must feel tremendously freed by deciding to retire. It is really the only way he should have ever batted, just going for it at full bore.

  68. Lou – it’s dangerous to hot out do early. I’d want a 100 lead before risking things. A fifty lead could become a 120 deficit by the close and, although Punter won’t declare, Aus all out 300 with two sessions left tomorrow would be horrible for England.

  69. it’s dangerous to hot out do early

    I mean hit out too early!

  70. I love the way Warney says mo-mentum.

  71. With comments like that, tooting, I don’t think you are watching the same series as me. Can we swap?

  72. I don’t quite know how to express my disappointment with Mitchell Johnson. Though, I am not at orphan obviously.

    He has gone back to his four-ball, run-leaking best in this series. You wouldn’t think he has learnt anything about bowling at international level.

  73. MJ should have played a season of county cricket. England needed a bigger lead than this. You guys can see why Broad’s batting excites us?

  74. No, he has played and missed a lot and chanced his arm with some very nice-looking shots.

    Am I supposed to get excited about that? Swann can do the same thing.

  75. In fact, he looks the same as I have seen him previously. Chancy. But he has a nice style when he hits it properly.

  76. MJ needs to be dropped, stop behaving like a baby and learn some control.

    Anyway, what County would pay out good money for him now?

  77. Once Broad tightens his defence (which will come with experience) he will be a proper Number 7. That’s enough to excite me!

  78. So what do you give him? Another 2 years with his bowling?

  79. This is mean of Punter, he should have kept MJ on instead of wearing out Hilfy and letting them smash him. I’m so peeved I’d happily have them belting Johnson around.

  80. I will say well played Stuart Broad rode the luck but 55 at that stage of the match in such quick time is invaluable and there was some excellent hits.

  81. Lou – Broad has to pull his weight as a bowler. He’s going to have to do that very soon indeed.

  82. Yes, however, look at Ashley Giles stats, and he was a very handy 8 while no great shakes as a bowler.

    It depends what you want from that part of the line-up. If he can take 2/3 wickets a match, well three would be brilliant as an average and pull out useful innings like that, perhaps it would be enough?

    England always go with a five man attack, co depending on how the others perform, he can be carried possibly when not performing with the ball, but he would have to score more runs more often to make up for the inefficiency of the wicket-taking. I imagine that the English selectors will stick with him. They have been very dedicated to him as a young player so far.

  83. How Ponting can let his bowlers (Siddle and Johnson) bowl that way to the lower order is beyond me. Trying to intimdate them with short balls is not smart and shows impatience and inexperience IMO. Surely Ponting has the experience to calm them down, and provide very clear instructions on where to bowl. These lower order guys are good enough to require proper bowling, not trying to get a wicket with every ball.

    This is especially true when they are batting well and/or having some luck because that’s when frustration can get the better of you.

    I think the bowling approach reflects just as poorly on Ponting as on the bowlers.

  84. Yes, I agree. Punter should be in their ear.

    Siddle is very inexperienced even at first class level. The bowling team need someone with a lot of experience out there with them as between them they just don’t know enough. MJ seems to get rattled so easily and he is the one with the most games at international level under his belt.

  85. Ponting gone.
    Ah well, I really thought we’d do this, but it seems just a question now of how many matches we’ll lose by. I guess it’s all about building for the future now.
    Get Hughes back in and leave the bowlers, Lee and Clark are not part of the future.

  86. Onions is bowling a great line (and length) but Hussey is just not committing to the shot. He’d still rather be letting everything go.

    Great over by Swann to Ponting.

  87. Nesta and I had a long debate about sledging a year or two back. I don’t like it and find no excuses, whether part of Aus cricket culture or not.

    But I think that the booing of Punter has a parallel with sledging. For years Aus cricketers sledged opponents to make it uncomfortable for them at the crease, to let them know that they are not among friends, to get in their faces (as MJ did literally earlier to Broad), to provoke mental disintegration – all the euphemisms for what I call abuse. The crowd are doing this now to Punter, and it’s working as he is plainly rattled by it.

    I don’t like it and I don’t defend it, but I don’t like sledging and I don’t defend that either. Most Aussies do defend sledging, not least SK Warne on the commentary.

    There’s an element of reap what you sow about it – nobody would have booed MA Taylor.

  88. Watson looks the best bat in the XI (in this match anyway) because he is the most orthodox.

  89. Fred how acceptable is it to build for the future right now? Now that I have calmed down a it, if I grit my teeth I agree, but in that case they’ll have to drop Hussey who looks like his head is being messed with again by Onions. (what a cracking bowler he looks. Love to see how he goes in non-English conditions.)

    And they need at least one old head out there with the bowlers.

    Tooting, what Warne has sounded annoyed about is that the Aussies aren’t sledging this time around.

  90. Lou – He praises them every time there verbals in the middle. That’s the Aussie way and I don’t like it but live with it. The way for English crowds is to get involved especially if they see that it gets to the player. Once Punter had that shouting match after the run-out in 2005, he guaranteed to get himself stick from the crowd.

    As I say, I don’t like sledging and I don’t like booing, but I don’t think one can condemn one and not the other. MJ’s preposterous histrionics earlier in the day made it certain that he and Punter will be booed.

  91. MJ deserves to be booed. I’d be tempted to boo him myself if I was at the ground.

  92. TT, I don’t think it is the booing. Ponting has, for about two years now, been far less than the player he was. His tendency to prod forward early has meant he has always been vulnerable to swinging balls early in his innings, and always been no better than average against spin. But in the past his reflexes and eye saw him through that.

    Not anymore. He hasn’t scored a fluent hundred in three years, the hundreds he has scored have all been gritty, determined knocks. The worse Australia has played – and the batting is very flaky – the more determined Ponting has looked. He still averages 40+, he is still one of Australia’s best batsmen, and he wants to succeed. But his technique is letting him down, and has been doing so for some time.

  93. Russ – it’s certainly a combination of factors. Hussey’s and Punter’s numbers in the last couple of years show that age is catching up with them as it did to Vaughan. They are still class players, especially Punter, but there are vulnerabilities that weren’t they in 2006-7.

  94. Very true, Russ. He gets starts a lot now without going on. His conversion rate must be going down the toilet.

    The batting is very flaky. I think I was less worried about the bowling than the batting before the series. Now it is a toss-up which is more frustrating.

  95. Anderson matching MJ I see.

  96. Vernon – I don’t like any of it, but it’s only ever an issue when we play Aus.

    There’s been plenty of stuff like this – http://static.cricinfo.com/db/PICTURES/CMS/68500/68561.jpg – over the years and we’ve learned not to back down.

  97. TTT, I thought it was good when India took it up to Aus in Australia, but I don’t think it’s, as you put it, “only an issue when we play Aus”. What about the jelly beans incident, and Priors constant jabbering behind the stumps against India?

    What I find really dumb is commentators who call it “great entertainment”.

  98. I couldn’t disagree with you more Tooting about booing. Players being aggressive with each other, or overly aggressive, is their business, and they can chose how they wish to play the game. The crowd however is not a participant in the action, and is generally in more of a position to enjoy the game without being overtaken by partisan positions. Most crowds behave in this way, and recognise good cricket, and cricketers. The English crowd consistently doesn’t with respect to Ponting. Even silence as he entered would be understandable, but booing is totally without class or dignity. Idiots and ignorants, unable to appreciate elite performance.
    I don’t believe for a minute Ponting is too concerned by it, nor his performance impacted. In fact, I understand Aus players consider stick from English crowds a badge of honour.
    Lou, what do you mean is it acceptable to build for the future now? What choice is there? They may turn it around, but it seems unlikely.

  99. GM – Prior was a bit of a special case and soon cut it out. The jelly beans was childish foolishness. There has been more heat recently vs India, but it’s not the “in the face” walking up to players swearing at them that you see from Aus. I’m not getting at Aus, merely saying what I see.

    Fred – “Players being aggressive with each other, or overly aggressive, is their business, and they can chose how they wish to play the game. The crowd however is not a participant in the action, and is generally in more of a position to enjoy the game without being overtaken by partisan positions.”

    I’d say that the crowd are equally able to decide how they wish to behave as long as there is no racist stuff nor encroachment on to the field. I’d also say that crowds are both partisan and participants in the action and can boo opposition players and applaud their hundreds and catches etc. In the main, that has happened.

    I’d think Punter wasn’t bothered too, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

  100. Tooting, the bits that I saw of Eng v India seemed to me to be very similar to the Aus style in your face stuff, especially from Flintoff. Could it be that the fact it wasn’t backed up by the kind of performance that Warne & McGrath could muster, makes it seem a bit more innocuous?

    Also, I must say I would describe the jelly beans incident in much stronger language than childish foolishness.

  101. Just watching the highlights – what on earth is Johnson doing, eyeballing a bloke who’s plastering him all over the ground? Mitch, first get in form, wait til they’re scared of you and then do it, if you really must!

  102. Russ
    I agree with you about Ponting. He’s always had technical flaws but his stupendous hand-eye coordination has enabled him to get away with them. But age has started to diminish him. He’s gone from being stellar to merely very good. I hate it when brilliant players start to look mortal and even speaking as an Englishman, that applies to Ponting. It reminds me of watching Viv Richards in England in 1991. I knew he might make runs but I also knew they wouldn’t be brutal, brilliant, scary runs. Weirdly, I’ve found myself feeling sorry for three Australians in this match. Ponting (see above), Hussey when he was out first ball (he looked genuinely distraught on the way back to the pavilion) and Johnson (for obvious reasons).

  103. [Warning: rant]

    I think there is enough promise in this Australian team to become a very good team. It is disappointing that the less experienced guys are not receiving the guidance and wisdom from Ponting that you might expect given his experience and personal record. Sure he provides “steel”, intensity and competitiveness but not that’s not enough and you can get that from a young person. He has no idea how to shore up the players’ spirits when the going is tough. I am not referring to speeches.

    His field changes make statements to his own players as well as the opposition’s. As a captain, IMO you should do your best not to let your players or opposition know that you are worried. This is not just about playing cute games. Never place a fieldsman to cover a boundary shot immediately after it has been played once. Apart from it usually being the wrong decision tactically, it sends a signal that the bastman is dictating terms. This signal is received by the bowler and fieldsmen as well as the batsman. If you really have the need to plug that shot, it doesn’t matter how tempted you are, at least wait a few balls before making the move – so it is proactive not reactive. It matters.

    Ponting makes this mistake (among others) often and it tells me he has little idea how to manipulate the mental side of the game. Most who have played at a reasonable level know the importance of confidence whether that is the “in the moment” confidence when in the micro battle between the bowler and batsman, the confidence (and alertness) to take a low sharp chance after a long partnership and the general feeling of which team is on top at any one time. The captain can have a massive impact on this and it is where Ponting fails.

    Perhaps he is not aware of its importance because he has always felt dominant with bat in hand. Maybe his personal level of performance and natural talent has hindered his development in this area. Maybe he just lacks emotional intelligence. Whatever the reason is though, I am convinced he is not serving the rebuilding process well.

    Here are some other ways he impacts the different types of confidence: placing 7-2 fields for bowlers who are not Glen McGrath (bowler is inhibited from fear of bowling too straight); placing sweepers out too early easing pressure and allowing the batsman to be relaxed so loose balls are invariably put away; not providing the necessary guidance to bowlers when lower order batsmen are swinging away; placing everyone out to try and get a weaker batsman on strike; when he understandably takes a bowler off for bowling poorly, he never brings them back a short time later from the other end; shaking his head; putting his head in his hands; slapping the ground; being “disappointed” at criticism from wise elders.

    He has shown signs of hope in these areas at times but they have proved to be fleeting.

    Sorry for the rant but given we were starting to talk about the rebuilding process, I couldn’t contain myself.

  104. Just feel sorry for Australia.This is no way to defend a title they won 5-0 last time.

    They still have time to turn it around, but both batting and bowling look shaky now.England, I think, are playing upto 80% of their potential, but that seems to be enough to keep the opponents behind.

    Apart from the lack of spite in their bowling, what has surprised me about the Aussies is their ‘seeming inability’ to play with correct technique against the swinging ball.The bowlers seem totally confused.They do need Lee’s experience and cool head.It is unfair to expect Hilfy to be the leader of this attack.

    If Aus fail to win a single test match in this series, will we see Punter dropped as a captain?

  105. Vernon – I give Punter a lot of credit for inspiring the 5-0 and it’s clear that he does a good job off the field. On the field is a different matter – he has been very poor on this tour.

    In addition to what you write above, Hauritz has been under-bowled (and should always come on the moment Flintoff walks to the crease) and Hilfy bowled into the ground. He hasn’t helped Siddle much and he clearly needs it.

    He just seems to give confidence to the England batsmen, especially the late order who seem to expect at least 20 every time they walk to the crease.

    Anything could happen today, but if Manou isn’t batting by lunch, I think Aus will survive – at least!

  106. Kumar – the lack of technique in Aus batting is shown up by Watson who appears to have the best technique of all and Hilfy in the bowling. Considering how few Tests those two have played, that’s an indictment of the others.

    • Agree with you about Watson showing up the other batsmen, especially Katich and Hussey.

      I am surprised because one would expect Australia to know the Eng conditions better than any one else (except the home team).Is it lack of adequate preparation or simply inability to concentrate? What can a captain do if the main batsmen and bowlers forget the basics of how to play in England?

      My sympathies are with Punter, but it still needs Eng to play out of their skins to make it 2-0 by end of day.

      • Kumar, the bowlers aren’t forgetting the basics of how to play here as none of them have as far as I am aware.

        The batsmen are a different kettle of fish.

  107. I am not so sure that the Australians are showing such poor technique against the swinging ball. In the first innings on the second day, not many players could have played that bowling confidently. It was swinging a lot both ways and late.

    I think they could improve on picking which way the bowler is trying to swing it. It is not just in the wrist. Onions and Anderson both change their actions a bit. Not much but enough to have a good idea I think.

    Compare Collingwood against Hilfenhaus yesterday when the ball was swinging. His bat was a mile from his body for every ball that swung. So do most when the ball is swinging.

  108. Looked like Watson missed that didn’t it? The timing of the noise seemed wrong.

    • I thought he missed it.

  109. fred, I meant that even though in theory, I agree with you, I can’t see losing the Ashes being acceptable to the press or the fans in Australia. And I still think this bowling attack needs at least one experienced head amongst them. It is just unfair on them.

    Tooting, whichever of his bowlers is bowling well, Punter flogs into the ground. It is the combination of a four-man attack with spin bowlers that Punter rarely trusts.

    But I think MJ usually responds well to being flogged into the ground. When he is bowling a lot, he bowls better. He was taken off at the wrong time yesterday as he only had about a 4/5 over spell and actually looked half decent then Fred got his eye in well and truly against Watson’s homebaked.

    However, I would drop Hussey for the next match regardless, he is doing nothing except clogging up space. He has had two fifties in this series, but he should feel like England is his backyard, if he can’t get big knocks here, ditch him.

  110. My apologies to Clarke and Kumar, among other people, for having heaped scorn on the twinkletoed one. It was a beautiful innings to watch, as all of his innings are, and I’m sure he’ll savour it all the more for having led his team to a draw. He’s a long way from Ponting’s achievements, but is headed in the right direction.

    • RK,

      I am savoring his century because I have gone wrong on many other punts :)

      Aren’t we all suckers for twinkle toes(can any one be better than Lara ?), languid artistic elegance (Gower, VVS), wristy strokes (Salim Malik of Pakistan comes to mind along with Vishy and Azhar but there are many), classical models (Sachin, Martyn), fluent bowling actions (Holding) etc? If there is nothing else on offer, I would love to see at least a perfect defensive technique against pace and spin (Gavaskar, Boycott, Atherton, Dravid).

      Clarke has potential and has played well on all surfaces and in all countries.He may not ever reach Ponting’s tally of runs or centuries, but I think he will be remembered as much for his all surface ability as for the twinkle toes.


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