Posted by: nestaquin | August 7, 2009

Ashes 2009: Headingley Ramble

Headingly pitch vandalisedUnderwhelmed by this series I am struggling to imagine anything meaningful or worthy to impart. Obviously, Australia have everything to play for at Headingley, not least the prized Mace that they fought so fluently to retain in South Africa.

Neither side has played anything that resembles excellent cricket for more than a session. England’s bowling led by Onions and finished by Anderson on the second morning at Edgbaston stands out as the superior session of the entire contest but apart from that both teams have either cashed in on wayward bowling or horrific shot selection to gain advantage.

Hopefully, the Yorkshire Test will provide something memorable. It usually does.

In living memory the most famous is the 1981 encounter. A Test where an inspired Bob Willis assisted Ian Botham in becoming a legend and where Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh infamously placed wagers on the opposition, an act of conveniently forgotten subversion that is, in my opinion, the lowest, most treacherous act in Australian cricket history.

Speaking of treachery, in 1975 some well intentioned but embarrassingly misled vandals dug up the Headingley pitch preventing what promised to be a thrilling fifth day’s play in the deciding Test of the series. These idiots were protesting the imprisonment of a cab driver for armed robbery and he was eventually released only to reoffend within the year by attempting to rob a bank. Four of the five people involved received suspended sentences for their miserable protest and considering they conceivably cost England the Ashes they were fortunate indeed to get off so lightly. I can only presume the judge wasn’t a cricket fan!

The last Ashes Test at Leeds in 2001 saw Adam Gilchrist lead the side in Steve Waugh’s absence and on the back of a ridiculously optimistic declaration and Mark Butcher’s finest innings Australia lost by six wickets after leading handsomely on the first innings. It was an impulsively naïve decision and was undoubtedly remembered when Cricket Australia decided to leapfrog Ponting over Gilchrist when the captaincy became available on Steve Waugh’s retirement.

In 1989, Steve Waugh announced himself as something more than a bits and pieces all-rounder by producing an innings that would stand as a blueprint for his and the nation’s future success. It was an outstanding innings of gritty defence and flashing cuts, drives and pulls and his fruitful partnerships with the tail, where he refused to farm the strike, set a tone that changed the way that teams the world over approached their late innings batting.

There was also plenty of advice for the bowlers, something Allan Border actively encouraged and something I’d like to see from this current team regardless of the administrators disdain of what Steve cutely coined, mental disintegration.

If I may digress on the subject of sledging, it is apparent that without it Australian cricketers lose their edge. We saw it after the infamous Border-Gavaskar Test in Sydney where a chastised Australia looked lost in Perth and Adelaide. Again, after the tense and aggressive South African series a missive was delivered sternly from the administrators that mental disintegration should cease immediately and as we have seen during The Ashes Australia have appeared unsure of the boundaries and have erred on the side of caution allowing England to have the upper hand when it comes to psychological aggression.

Perhaps I’ll write more fully on this subject at a later date but for now back to Headingley.

Paul Reiffel is another that excelled in Yorkshire snaring back-to-back five wicket hauls in 1993 and ’97. Alderman, McGrath and Gillespie also excelled while Shane Warne was made to look average on most occasions. With this in mind Hauritz should be dropped and hopefully Stu Clarke will be resurrected in 2009.

Of the 23 Tests between the countries at Leeds one stands apart from a perspective of individual performance and that is Don Bradman’s mammoth 334 in 1930. He broke literally every batting record that stood at that time and finished unbeaten at stumps on 309. Imagine, if you can, what that innings must have been like. A chanceless triple century in a day containing 46 boundaries where he brought up his first century in 90 minutes with his team’s total on 127!

I’ve been privileged to witness more than my fair share of centuries in a session and all have seen the bowling obliterated. The England bowlers weren’t trundlers either with Larwood and Tate among them and those crammed in like sardines at Headingley on that first day 79 years ago must have remembered that innings fondly for the rest of their lives.

From lunch on that first day in 1930 Bradman was afforded a standing ovation by the Headingley faithful whenever he entered or exited the arena. The Don returned the favour by scoring another triple on his return four years later and two more centuries in 1938 and ’48 and I imagine that tickets for those Tests were just as hard to procure as they are today.

In 2009, it is very unlikely that we will be witness to anything resembling Bradman or Botham. So far this series has seen some very ordinary cricket between two teams lacking confidence, consistency and quality and I guess the best we can hope for is a result. With The Trumpet informing that his home paddock of The Oval is as flat as the Nullarbor it would appear that this Test is the one that will decide where The Ashes resides until the next contest in 2011.



  1. magnificent stuff, Nesta – I fear, as you do, that the teams will fail to match your superb nostalgia trip. Indeed, they might even fail to match the pre-match excitement. No Freddie! No Lee! Ambrose to be flown in from Edgbaston in 50 minutes?!!

    And then the cricket will begin. Hopefully, the ghosts of Headingley past will spur these guys on.

  2. Reports are now saying that Prior is OK but the toss has been postponed for ten minutes while he does a fitness test.

    Logically, if we get at least 400 overs in Australia should win in the absence of Pietersen and Flintoff and especially if Clark plays. Saying that I’m well aware that cricket and logic do not always align.

  3. By the way, I read an extremely interesting study recently, which says that the probability of a coin landing on the same side as it was at the beginning is 0.51, instead of 0.50. Of course, this would only matter if you knew beforehand which side of the coin was originally facing up, but still, totally counterintuitive.

    Apparently, the flight path of a coin is dertermined by initial conditions, and a coin tossing machine, using the proper force and direction, can make a coin come out heads 100% of the time. The 51% is for humans whose flip forces are random.

    Sorry for the geekorama – on with the test.

  4. All very interesting Rajesh. I guess that’s why one skipper tosses and the other calls while the coin is in the air.

    On to the cricket, England’s selection is interesting. In a match where a draw will likely suffice they have Broad at 7.

    With four quicks I reckon Ponting would be pleased to have lost the toss and if they can get rid of Strauss early – easier said than done – they might be able to restrict England to a moderate total.

    Shit!! Strauss looked plumb first ball and given not out.

  5. I’ve long thought Bowden’s one of those umpires who’s scared of making the tough calls on lbws and errs on the side of not giving them out. That’s just bad umpiring.

  6. Great piece, Nesta.

    That looked out.

    So, not just the teams, even the umpiring (especially the umpring) has been below par this series so far.

    Waiting for Punter to toss the ball to Clark.Lets see some good bowling please.

  7. Thankfully, the umpiring blunder has not proved costly.

    The real test for Eng batsmen starts now.Great opportunity for Bopara and Bell.

  8. Soft again Bopara. Not a 3 which l think we nearly all said from that loose first innings.

  9. bye bye opportunity

    • Unforgivable for a top order batsman to play that shot.

      Not just bye bye opportunity, I would say its bye bye test spot :)

      So, Belly boy now.Lets see what he does with this opportunity.

  10. No ball.

    We’re all even.

    • That was a bit tight, Vernon.

      But I think its not about being even, alone.It is more about the sub-standard level of umpiring in this series.

      On second thoughts, just goes to show how technology is making umpires mistakes so obvious.It is in the interest of the game to have all line decisions determined through technology.

      • Even with technology the alleged no-ball would still be hard to call. It looked like he had a millimetere behind the line and anyway the argument completely misses the fact that Bopara was beaten by a good ball and the wicket was deserved.

        • Is anybody certain that was a no-ball? Too close to call for me.

  11. HIlfy’s bowling has been very good throughout. 16/2 and Big Stu and MJ are yet to bowl. Bopara isn’t equipped to bat at 3. I wonder how long it will take for the selectors to realise what everyone, including Ravi, already knows.

  12. btw, in case anyone missed it on the earlier blog, I’d like to once again apologise to M. Clarke for dissing him so much earlier. He’s clearly proved me wrong, and Australia would love nothing more than that match saving innings spurring Clarke on to becoming the main man of the team.

    • There have been signs of his maturity RK but he hasn’t been able to follow through. Even though he was criticised after being deceived by Mishra in Mohali that knock was a turning point. He dug in after the top order arrogantly imploded and ever since has put a high price on his wicket. Whatmore, his best is still to come. I’m confident that in another two seasons he’ll be recognised as one of the premier batsman of his generation.

  13. Siddle bowling a good line and length to Cook. Let’s see if he has enough patience to stick at it

  14. A stunner of a catch, a loose shot, and a no shot (fending a bouncer awkwardly) = 3 wickets in 16 overs.

    Plus, Stu Clark – 3-2-1-0 (Econ 0.33)

    England does bat very deep.So, I reckon they can still repair the damage.But I don’t see them crossing 200, if Australia continues to bowl and field like this.

  15. I’m sure Anderson, Harmison & co can do similar so we need to restrict England as much as possible. It’s reassuring watching the experienced Clark bowl, especially to right handers.

  16. similar damage that is

  17. Lol ! 50/4 and suddenly Australia is looking like their old selves :)

    Who’s gonna stepup for Eng now? This tendency to collapse used to be an Indian trait.Now, Eng and Pakistan are taking their turns.Quite infuriating to the fans of these teams, I reckon.

  18. It is not fair that Johnson bowls some superb overs and then dishes out pure rubbish to Prior.

    Try that middle stump bouncer again, Mitch !

    Also, is it just me or does the tonsured head really makes Mitch look bit more menacing?

    And why is it that just before I hit Submit, another wicket falls?

    • Kumar, how inconsistent is Mitch? After all this time in test cricket, well 18 months anyway, you would think he could get it right for more then 4 overs at a time. He looks, so, so good when he does.

  19. Broad might lose his teeth before this game is out….

  20. Someone needs to be in Johnson ear telling him to look for Broad’s edge.

  21. Stuey Broad is a lucky little boy.. he’s walking off with all limbs intact.. just his dignity gone to hell is all.

  22. It is so pleasing to the eye to see Stu Clark bowl.

    Taking a break now and will be back after Tea.

    Oh..a wicket again !

  23. well.. I guess your average English cricket fan is well entrenched in the usual position behind the couch with the eyes closed. Situation normal.

    Nesta… I am so thrilled for Hilf.. every time I see him bowling I am thrilled all over again.. worth waiting for.

  24. And now the other Clark does some vindicating! Been surprised he wasn;t there since Test 1 (albeit l had him in for Hilfy….).

    Shows you the power of quality line and length and making them play, especially since neither of these teams are particularly great sides. Mature bowling.

  25. LUNCH 72/6

    What a surprise! Australia bowled well from both ends. Most wickets were earned with only Strauss’ demise down to a poor shot. Stu Clark’s inclusion has tightened and focused the line and length of the entire unit and England will do well indeed to escape this Test.

    Broad’s blatant time wasting ten minutes before lunch was probably a factor in him losing his wicket. Fortune rarely favours the negative and insipid.

    If I was a gambler I’d put a wager on a Ponting first innings hundred. His foot is firmly on his opponent’s throat and he’ll be determined to keep it there.

    And does anybody know what Andrew Strauss finds so amusing? I can’t imagine another leader in world cricket smiling like the Cheshire Cat with his team in a similar position on the first morning of an important Test.

  26. I suppose Australia will start after lunch with Hilfenhaus and Clark but I wonder if Siddle and Johnosn have learnt their lessons about bowling to batsmen who go after them.

    Prior and Swann will surely counter attack and the bowlers have to keep their cool – not something Siddle nor Johnson have managed to date in this series.

  27. Now that felt good! 25 solid overs back to back. It had been a while. But now the hard bit – finishing them off.

    Hopefully the other four can be worked over quickly before the fact that only 10.5 overs were bowled after the drinks break starts to become an issue. So few overs cannot all be down to Stuart Broad’s tactics.

  28. Since when has Clark swung the ball? It is like seeing McGrath swing it.

    • Indeed! Will have to hold judgement on this innings until it’s time for England to bat again….which could be later today the way things are going.

      Siddle is bowling like is career depends on it.

  29. So important to have gotten Strauss early. Been a huge wicket all series and especially thin middle order without KP.

  30. well.. the good side of this , for England, is that it’s not it’s worst all out number.. 51,, 81… so.. there is improvement there.. eh?

  31. still.. winning the toss and deciding to bat, and then being all out in 34 overs for 102… well.. you know.. not real good.

    not a lot of ingenuity, courage or endurance shown here by England..

  32. 5-for, well done son!
    And he will start England’s second innnings on a hat trick.

  33. What odds England batting again before the close of play?

    • Katich gone and the ball moving. Big innings for the Skipper here.

  34. Woeful. the only straw to grasp for is that if it moved for the Aussies it can do the same for England. It’s difficult to see England scuttling them though, and one flashing innings and the game’s already gone.

  35. Ponting needs to be careful he doesn’t try to pull a ball that seams away – and many of them are seaming away by Harmison.

    • Got their heads back down now that England have decided to pitch the ball up and use the very friendly conditions….

  36. It seems Siddle’s post lunch spell has confussed the English bowlers a bit. They seems to have forgotten that not to many of their top order were out to short balls.
    Still shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves it’s only 10 overs gone.

  37. “Neither side has played anything that resembles excellent cricket for more than a session.”

    Well that’s emphatically changed and it’s gone 95% of the way to levelling the series.

  38. TEA AUSTRALIA 69/1 33 runs behind.

    Australia are finally resembling the team that retained the mace in South Africa.

    England fell to some very disciplined and intelligent bowling which they’ve failed to replicate.

    If they keep bowling short to Ponting then they’ll be chasing plenty when it is their next turn to bat.

    Siddle has put Lee’s comeback on hold till the Australian summer and I suspect that in the last hour The Oval curator is changing his plans for the Test pitch.

  39. I haven’t seen the match between lunch and tea, but from what I’ve seen Australia bowled and fielded very well and were disciplined.If the England batsmen were disciplined, they would have lost may be 4 wickets by tea.Instead, they lost 10.And continued the shoddy performance on the field.

    It has been a battle of unequals today.

    And a grinning Strauss would make my blood boil, if I were an Eng fan.Luckily, I am only a KP and Freddie fan.

  40. There is plenty in this wicket in terms of sideways movement so, if the England bowlers bowl well then I think it would be tough batting.

    It will be a good test of technique and punishing the loose balls.

    They started bowling fuller but a bit wide. Interesting session coming up.

  41. I haven’t seen any of this as I’m in rural Sweden paddling in lakes as the sun beats down at 28C. But obviously I’m horribly disapointed if not surprised. Nesta’s fine piece above makes the point that there has been some ordinary cricket played in this series that has been rescued by the tightness of the match situations and the fact that England have held their own or better after the dismal 5-0.

    Whilst Nesta, Fred and others have called for faith in the new lads, there’s no doubt at all that experience in English conditions is paramount. Watson has some big scores for Hampshire and has shown that orthodoxy is needed at the top of the order. Punter has been rattled, but is delivering what we all know he can. Clarke has learned not to play round his front pad (and he only did it a little bit) and North has played for five counties (Katich has tooI think and Mr Cricket, though horribly out of form has ticker of the highest order). Haddin has talent to burn with the bat, which is handy as his keeping is poor in England where the bal dips and swings after pitching.

    Hilfy has been marvellous throughout (except when knackered) and Siddle appears to have learned what length works and stopped the absurd histrionics that waste too much energy. Clark, though long in the tooth for seven Tests in so closely scheduled, has the brains and experience not to miss a trick at Headingley and will niggle away at The Oval.

    I’ve always said 2-2, but now 1-1 is the only drawn series available and I feel that would be a fair reflection on what I’ve seen so far, knowing that England have had a lot of luck and home advantage.

    Well done Aus for fighting back – much of that 102 Eng score is due to Clarke and North on Monday.

  42. England’s luck continues Toots with a couple of LBWs in the last hour that could have been given the benefit without controversy.

    I’m reasonably certain that most Aussies would settle for retaining The Ashes 1-1 at this stage of the series.

    Michael Clarke continues to look a class act whether against spin or swing. If England are any chance they’ll need to remove him before stumps.

    AUS 165/4

  43. oh dear.. that’s so over the top, toots..

    not a lot of crackpot eyeballing from Broad today.. he is sweating it out there.

    I could watch North and Clarke at it all day.. it’s very calming to watch this time of an AU morning.. .

  44. Jimmy looks like a broken down old carthorse..

  45. I think Watson learned more in India and South Africa playing for the Raj Royals than he ever ever could at Hampshire. All three places he was with Warne and his terrific tutelage , though. Watson has surprised me , though.. he looks a lot tougher, and a hell of a lot more confident.

  46. Pepp – do the math. Watson averaged 68 in First Class cricket with Hampshire and 85 in the one-day stuff. And there’s plenty of previous too as I wrote here in January –

  47. you are so over the top, toots..

  48. no use pulling the histrionics on me, toots.. its 3.30 am on a cold winters night, and I can’t be bothered with it, thanks.

  49. good old Pup….

    nutty Harmison is throwing every thing he has at him.. Pup is just travelling along…

  50. I can hardly see me reading your old stuff, toots.. I recall rejecting your premise about it then. As I do now.

  51. oh. a lovely day’s cricket. Excellent stuff.

    Strauss…. at a complete loss.

    Cook… useless.

    Collingwood.. useless.

    Bell………….. Useless.


    and so on.

    Harmison… as nutty as he was four years ago except now he is less agile.

    Broad… a rather trying little shit. I saw how he tried to escape into the pavilion, and had to be called back. Gutless, really..

  52. STUMPS 196/4 AUS lead by 92

    A big lead beckons for the visitors. Even though they took three wickets England didn’t bowl enough balls in the corridor to threaten consistently. A fantastic day for Australia in the circumstances where they took eight catches behind the wicket to dismiss England cheaply and then Ponting aggressively made certain that his team would have a first innings lead.

    With Clarke and North at the crease and Haddin and Johnson to follow tomorrow should be a day where there are plenty of runs or wickets or both.

    England should play better because for the most part they were made to look very ordinary today.

    Bedtime, I’ve earned it!

  53. Nesta – Enjoy the sleep. A fine day for Aus, but there’s a lot of work to do before the fine position earned is converted to a win.

    Pepp – I don’t always reply to you, but I do read your comments and welcome them here and elsewhere. But you must see that staying pretty much silent whilst a day after day of close, if not top class cricket, was played out, then returniung to throw insults at England players the first time Aus set up a position, does you a disservice.

    The game is hard and should be – few master it for long, even Warne couldn’t in India. This is the worst Aus team I’ve seen for years, but I’ve found it right and proper to praise Katich, Watson’s batting, Punter’s fightback today, Hussey’s heart, Clarke’s class, North’s skill, Haddin’s class with the bat, Hilfy’s technical excellence and Hauritz’s surprising threat. MJ has problems that seem to be sorting themselves out and Siddle is learning from a low base. That’ the game, not “rubbish”, “clueless” etc ad infiniteum.

  54. Well, where did that come from? I guess it was always there, just hiding. I guess they never had the gifts from Harmison before either, to help things along. That first 30 minutes or so of Pontings innings was amazing. Harmison eh?

    I wouldn’t mind if we lost the ashes, but I would mind if we went down playing rubbish. At last they can be satisfied with their performance. I’ve always thought they will walk all over England if they play to their full potential. If they do it for another day or two, it will be 1-1.

    Tooting, you’re still overplaying the experience angle. Of course it’s important, but talent and courage is too. Hilf has been outstanding amongst the bowlers, and he has none. Siddle turned it around today. Watson stepped up to a role no one believed he could fulfill. Yes the side is short on experience, but everyone knew that was coming, with the retirements we’ve had. It’s all about the new talent now, we live or die by that. Clarks incluson was a slight adjustment that yielded better returns than could have been hoped for.

    Ah, the English collapse. It’s been too long. Today was like watching a favorite old film you love but haven’t seen for a while. Like watching Bogart and Hepburn in Casablanca, never fails to satisfy. There’s something reassuring and timeless about it.

    We all know what Aus can do, we’ve seen it against SA, it’s a question now of if they can maintain the level consistently enough to carry the series.

    Nesta you’re right it’s not been a series to set the pulse racing, but things might be looking up if they start to play to their potential.

    The way I’m feeling about Stuart Clark at the moment…I better go give my wife a hug, just to reaffirm my sexuality.

  55. 14 wickets in a day is always great entertainment. I wouldn’t despair if I were an Englishman, stranger things have happened. And even if this one is done, the Oval will be the decider, carpe diem time. BUt I suspect the England cricket team hasnt done carpe diem since 1986, not without that man called Fred.

    By the way, I saw Pepp resurfacing here. Here’s a message for him/her/it:

    If you only want to rear your head when Australia does well, then I have two things to say:

    1. you’re a flake and a fair weather fan, and you’re better off whichever jingoistic abscess you sprouted from

    2. there’s a lot of absences ahead for you, going by this aussie team.

  56. Still a way to go, fred, but I share your feelings about seeing Aus firing again. They look different with Clark there. Somehow reassuring to see England performing normally again too.

    Always a good sign (at least for an Aussie) to see comments from Pepp appearing. Always used to read her coments at the Guardian too (when I read the GU). Bit of spark is always good, even if not everyone understands Australian humour.

  57. I’d written Prior off as a goose, but I’m surprised how much he’s worked on his game and improved.

  58. Hello

    I think you can get off Strauss’ case about the inane grinning, it’s probably nerves. He looks the type to grin when he is feeling tense, I know in that position I would be hysterical.

    Having Stuart Clark come in and keep it so bloody spick and span made me want to weep with joy, even before MU outgunned Bell. (Who, by the way, looks like he hasn’t been watching the series. He actually looks nervous when MJ comes on.) If Clark has that effect on me, lord knows how the other Aussie players feel about him. Punter is probably out carving his name on a tree somewhere. And I suppose we did see the effect it had on the Aussie bowlers. MJ and Siddle looked like proper test bowlers. Yay. Blessed is the line and length man.

    If the English selectors and Andrew Strauss genuinely think it is a good idea to have Bop at 3 and Bell at 4, well, they need to sign up for some serious colonic irrigation as there is a blockage somewhere.

    That time-wasting by Broad was funny as all he did was put himself off. So busy trying to be clever that he forgot to look at where the fielders were positioned. But he made up for it with the best spell he has bowled this series.

    Even if he got LBW’s that the Aussies couldn’t get given in a month of screaming ‘howzat’ at Rudi/Billy B/Billy D.

  59. And one more thing. It wasn’t just me who wanted to smooch Clark. The Sky commentators were just about creaming their pitch maps.

    Most unsavoury goings on, if completely understandable.

  60. toots and rajesh, whatever that is, mineral or vegetable, I usually like to let those of a particular envious frame of mind towards AU cricketers have quite some time to dig their own holes without my assistance, hence my silence. And of course, I do have another life to lead, as well, as most Australians do. It amuses me, no end, and particularly from Toots, and I now include rajeshnisi on my list of nutters who feel able to direct bloggers lives, such hubris has it’s own end game though. As we all just saw. Never mind about my silence, old chaps. Concentrating on your own blithering would be by far the more healthy attitude.


    I have been banned from the Guardian, GM, due to much lobbying on the part of Toots and their ilk, although I have noticed much plaintive wailing for my return from the unwashed and the uncared for, you just can’t please everyone, it seems…

  61. you are still way over the top, Toots.. it’s only a blog, and while I understand you believe that everything you write (you being the sacred flameholder of cricket and all that ) must be agreed to, you’ve had quite a few absences yourself at crucial times, I recall many many long silences from you when England was being dragged around in SriLanka and West Indies and , even at home in England.. SA, was it? .. .yes..

    long days, long long days of it.. I just presumed you were out paddling in some Malmo pond. .. very fair weather stuff indeed.

  62. I was very proud of Siddle for restraining himself from histrionics for not falling on the ground, spreading his arms in the crucifix position and demanding the accolades of the crowd for his fine bowling … nope.. he just got on with it. I thought for one mad moment, Siddle might just do it , to take the mickey, but thank god, he didn’t. I noticed that Strauss called the physio on at one stage, desperate times, desperate times..

    And a lot less lippy stuff from Englands bowlers, eg.Broad , today.. bit of huff and puff and sweat, which exhausted Little Stuey in jig time, actually. Onions has it down pat, a hard worker in the field and much to be admired about there.

  63. Toots.. might I add that you must realise that your views of cricket, and blogging and bloggers is merely that. .. your view, and of no more value than say, mine.. or even a rajeshi , whatever a rajesh may be.

    It hardly becomes you to demand a standard that you yourself cannot adhere to. You do yourself a disservice in spades to complain and whine about people ( me) not contributing enough, at a time that you deem appropriate , regardless of the complete ignorance you have of any one else’s commitments and schedules, and then turn around and complain of the content ( mine) when they do. It hardly makes any sense, ay?

  64. Shame for Punter not to bring up the three figures as it was a delight to see him pulling the game away from England early on, when there was clearly still plenty there for the bowlers. The panto monster England have turned him into for four years is ludicrous and most unbecoming. l’m not sure l’ve ever heard booing at a 50 before. Of course it doesn’t really matter etc but its a shame for England methinks.

    Strange how solid that Australian momentum felt coming into this match, such a crucial intangible. A fit KP would have made a huge difference to this series and may well have completely swung it Englands way. Is there any need for IPL reflection Toots or is that a red herring?

    Great to have the wiser head of Clark out there as well bowling at the top of off stump all day. A touch of consistent class goes a long way in a tight and flawed series like this.

  65. Here’s an odd thing, toots..just for and your pal, the vegetable rajeesh.’s recor4ds ( and dont think I am not flattered by the awareness that the both of you actually COUNT and TIME my paraghraps , a most peculiar hobby) when Au was playing South Africa and winning, I wasn’t blogging. Because I was there, in SA. So all your blather about my timing really doesn’t hold water.. it may be sprung from some well of envy, I suppose.. however… I , in the spirit of fair play have tried today to make up for my lack , as you state , of contribution. No doubt you and the Vege ( rajneeshi) will have some complaint yet again, but I can hardly be held responsible for that..

    I can only blog when I can, and don’t forget.. they also serve who stand and wait !!


  66. I was surprised at how damn good Stuey Clark looked, really… I had forgotten that little shake of the head, the blinking, the snappy little skip at the crease, the business like walk back. It seems a long time between drinks since Clark was on the field , too damn long..

    I wish Stuey was my accountant!!.

    ( he is now a fully qualified CPA )

  67. Some observations on an interesting day.

    Australia clearly bowled better in very helpful conditions.

    The sooner referrals come in the better. From what I can gather, the experience with referrals in the West Indies was not great but I think it worked pretty well in South Africa. The best think about it for me is that it stops all the head shaking, looks of horror and injustice, and other histrionics in the middle.

    I don’t know what to make of North’s catch. Clearly a great grab but why was he using one hand? Were they standing too close?

    Siddle showed a bit more patience than before. If the batsmen are trying to let everything go, an inexperienced bowler often over compensates whereas an experienced play is likely to just edge in closer and closer to work on that reluctance to play. Of course that takes great skill but I think at least Siddle tried to do that.

    Poor Bopara. That ball that is quite short and moves away in slow motion and you are drawn to follow it because you think you can get there but nooo… I know how he feels but probably should have done better as a test number 3. It will a test of character for him to see how he responds to this trot of low scores.

    Johnson did bowl better but I wish he bowled a bit fuller in general. I am not sure that all the aggressive mucho stuff works for him. Perfect bouncer to Bell that followed him back.

    Collingwood does plant his feet early and is a bit stuck when it swings. On the other hand he is nice and still. But it was a good ball that got him and Ponting must have worked on his hand position for the low ones.

    Everyone is raving about Clark and rightly so, but he swung the ball like he has never swung it before. I don’t think he was picked for his outswinger. His accuracy was great of course. His dismissal of Cook was nice – such as superb line and length when the ball might be swinging back. Cook played well. I love the way Cook did not turn around after he snicked it – he just waited for the reaction for the Australians and the crowd to tell him. I did like to see Clark telling Ponting quite emphatically about the field changes he wanted. I bet Ponting was relieved to have a bowler who knows what he wants and why. Did he really ask for Katich to move into that position just before Broad hit the catch to him?

    I was surprised that Ponting started with Siddle after lunch and not Hilfenhaus. I thought Swann and Prior would counter attack and Siddle would lose it. Maybe Ponting should received some credit for that and Siddle too although his discipline or patience was not tested.

    Both Anderson and Harmison got an enormous amount of movement both off the pitch and in the air. At the time Katich was dismissed, if aksed, I think Australia would have taken the stumps score. I really think the early parts of Australia’s innings were crucial and may well be a turning point. You could say that England’s collapse was the crucial point but with the ball moving around the way it was, it was not inconcerivable for Australia to be all out for a very low score. Ponting and Watson were outstanding. That little period was real test cricket for me. Sure you can say that England bowled poorly but the batsmen counter attacked, put them under pressure, put away anything loose and did not play at many good balls that they would normally be tempted to play. I think, for the first time, Ponting was picking Anderson’s inswinger and Watson was too.

    Ponting’s reflexes looked OK to me when Harmison was getting steep bounce with a lot of away movement. At the risk of overstating it, that period took real skill, courage and an ounce of luck but they pulled it off.

    After Onions went for 17 off his first over he responded very impressively and his next 5-6 overs went for very little.

    Broad bowled well and looked dangerous all the time. He did OK in his last spell at Edgbaston too. Clearly he has some serious talent and could be a top test cricketer but I guess the question is what is the best way to develop him. Some, like Steve Waugh develop well in the crucible of test cricket and some don’t. England might as well stick with him unless he really does go backwards. The Aussies are trying to destory him but he has shown some real character and will have learned a lot from this series.

    Three LBWs from straight full balls. A bit odd. Maybe they were so keen to cover the edge they were getting off balance. Well done to the bowlers though. Hussey is not doing himself any favours. The strongest of temptations for selectors is to keep picking an ex-champion. If Australia somehow lose this test I would expect Hughes to come in for Hussey. Otherwise he’ll probably get the Oval as the last chance to score a hundred before being dropped.

    Tough game the old test cricket. It must have seemed only hours ago that Clarke and North had to grit their teeth and dig deep to keep the Ashes alive at Edgbaston. Now they had to do it again because England were coming back strongly. I reckon there are only so many times you can “go to the well” in a short space of time.

    First session tomorrow will be interesting. I have a feeling that there is still a story in this match especially if the ball keeps on noving but it is Australia’s job to kill it.

  68. Without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing I can understand why they had not picked Stuart Clark until the 4th test but I think the selection conundrum could have been avoided.

    Clark was all set to play a number of county games leading to the Ashes when the Australian selectors, selected him to go to the Middle East for the one day series against Pakistan. So he had to cancel his county stint. He played in 3 of the 5 ODIs against Pakistan and bowled a total of 21.1 overs.

    This is why they had no real idea how well he had returned from injury IMO. Plus, with the extra bowling he would have done in county cricket, he probably would have improved.

    I couldn’t understand it at the time and I still can’t.

  69. I remember Watson was going to play ahead of Clark in the 2007 Ashes. Luckily Watson got injured and the rest, as they say, is history. I don’t know if it’s Ponting or the selectors or both but Clark has often seemed not to be a favoured selection.

    • Pete, I think Symonds came in for Watson but the critical decision you refer to I think, had to be made between Clark, Johnson and Bracken for the third seamers’ spot. I remember Ian Chappell arguing against Clark because he was too much like McGrath! He wanted Bracken. As you say, the rest is history.

      • Your version of events makes more sense Vernon. I like mine better though!

  70. Agreed on the dangers and excellent efforts of Ponting and Watson in that testing period (as well as too short from the English). They played really well, there was a real test of technique this deck yesterday, it was very interesting.

    Anderson didn’t look 100% but l also think he was over-bowling his inswinger such that they definitely began to pick it up.

  71. Vernon, I got very wound up at the time I heard Clark had been called up to the squad for the Pakistan one dayers.

    It seemed beyond stupid to me then, and still does now. He has never been a permanent member of the ODI squad and to undercut his preparation for test matches in that way was just plain short-term dumb but more and more what I am coming to expect from the wallies at CA.

    I remember Clark himself being rather restrained in a cricinfo interview but still coming across as being very annoyed that they had called him up out of his Kent contract when the Ashes were coming up. He always gets his message across nicely without saying it right out.

    • In contrast to Mr Lee…

    • Very much in contrast to Brett Lee and even more so, Shane Watson with his overt dancing on the graves of the droppees.

  72. I wish Johnson would bowl fuller as well, but he has had no luck with plumb LBW’s in this series so maybe he is just giving the yorker a miss for now as a waste of time.

    It is a shame as he can bowl an excellent yorker when he is bowling properly.

  73. Vernon and others – I won’t see any of this Test, but reading your perceptive comments brings it to life for me. One talent is to see the game as clearly as you guys do; it’s quite another to describe and analyse it in the detail and with the empathy that you display above. I’m convinced that your point about Clark missing the county games is well made and that he should have played four, if not five Tests, in this series.

    Reallly good stuff, far in advance of anything I read in the general or specialist Press and living up to Nesta’s statement below the 99.94 header above. From distant Sweden, my thanks.

  74. Toots.. I really think you are doing yourself a great disservice by going AWOL while your team is playing so badly. I mean… it’s a bit over the top. People could make the same sly imputations you do about me, now that you’ve decided to go missing. You should reorganise your entire social schedule to fit in with others expectations, don’t you think? It would gain you some credibility that is now so deeply lacking..

    Nice interview with Clark. He is an excellent speaker and certainly miles away from the grunting of Harmison, by a very long country mile. He was rather wise to make no comparisons about his batting with Hauritz.. . although I have seen Clark make quite a nifty 48 once..

  75. I hope the Aussies manage at least another 100 runs.

    I am not hopeful though if the ball keeps moving. James Anderson won’t bowl as badly as yesterday.

  76. I think Jimmy looks sicker today than he did yesterday.. and he looked pretty bad yesterday.

    Doesn’t look to me like he’ll last the series, and I doubt if he’ll last this effort at Headingly. ..

  77. Ordinary start early on from England. So many loose or short 4 balls in this innings…

  78. Clarke and North are excellent batsmen but honestly, they are doing this at a canter. They would have to concentrate real hard on hitting badly not to accumulate runs here.

    Harmison. * shakes head *.. Anderson looks sicker every second. Collingwood off with a ‘mystery injury’.. Broad being a clunker..

    I am getting quite worried about Jimmy now. He looks like a friend of mine who once had Dengue fever, known as break bone fever. Jimmer appears to be in the same situation. Uncoordinated, sweating, unable to bend or swoop, whiter than pale, I can hardly bear to watch.

  79. I do not understand Strauss’ field settings. I never understood Flintoffs, the less said about Pietersens the better, Vaughans were Runic in their incomprehensible nuttiness.

    I’ve only ever seen Collingwood when he captained the ODI’s for a while with a solid grasp on field settings. Not that it did much good, but he did have a clue and had his eye on it, too.

  80. I reckon Anderson has lost about 7 kilo’s overnight, and about 20 mph off his runup, too.

  81. I try to like Stuart Broad, I think he has a lot of talent, but I loathe players who sledge their own team and he does it consistently. Who does he think he is?

  82. I don’t understand that at all, either, Lou.. seeing Sidebottom and Broad screaming at Panasar, it seems little Stuart has the habit of screaming at his own teammates when it suits him. .. not a good look , apart from the idiocy of it.

    You would think the captain would put his heel on that throat immediately, ..but no.. incomprehensible.

  83. A very 100+ good partnership by these two. Left/right combo plus they seem to have developed a good understanding already.

  84. haha.. Little Stuart is now taking on an argument with the umpire.. ..

  85. hehe.. now he’s arguing with Micheal Clarke.. oh dear..

  86. Vernon, thanks for your comments about yesterday, very interesting.
    I agree about Ponting and Watson. Although the outstanding feature was the frequent loose balls, their aggressive attack completely took hold of thas game and kept England down. Harmi is not the steadiest of bowlers anyway, at he had no chance in the face of that batting. That was probably the period that wuill determine this match. (Unless there is another twist, but it doesn’t look likely).

  87. well played, Marcus.. a pleasure to watch.

  88. well.. not a lot of English cricket fan bloggers around… a bit like Toots, they are pretending to be paddling around a Swedish lake, or like Rajeeshi, undergoing their third lobotomy.. perfectly understandable, I guess. oh.. that fielding error.. horror, horror…. c’mon, Pup… make a 100

  89. North balanced and most of all composed. So good to be steady at 6 again for the first time in many years.

  90. oh shoot.. I did it. I mozzed him

    * clunk*

  91. well done, Pup.. well done indeed.

  92. I am becoming a North fan. He seems unnaturally calm at the crease which is very appealing. Well done Michael Clarke. What a shame he couldn’t get a century.

  93. i thought this blog was for cricket enthusiasts to share their passion for the game, not some jingoistic cynic like Pepp to keep on blabbering.

  94. LUNCH DAY 2 AUS 306/5 lead by 204

    It took Strauss 90 minutes to find a combination (Onions & Swann) that could bowl to a field and by that time almost any chance of an England recovery was lost.

    Excellent batting again from North and Clarke. They have developed within half a dozen Tests into an impressive pair when at the crease.

    Looking forward to Mitch being let off the leash later. If we are lucky we may witness a whirlwind cameo laden with boundaries.

    In summary, for the first hour and a half England bowled poorly and Australia batted sensibly.

    England’s lack of a plan B for either batsman was incomprehensible considering they had all night to work out their plans.

    Watching Broad bowl as wide and full as possible outside off to a stacked offside field only confirmed that Strauss was dumbfounded.

    Luckily for him Onions and Swann are intelligent and proud although questions need to be asked why they were the last pair to bowl.

    I doubt things could be much worse for the home team. They look a side that have accepted their fate.

  95. I seem to have attracted another lunatic, whose intelligence is on a par with poor Harmisons score.. greetings Venky, ( rajeesh’s cousin, I suspect) ..

    Poor Harmison. He is one sad case. My vision of Harmison is skewed by the 2006 tour in AU. I saw a lazy bastard, a sulker, taking up space and not much more. .. I can’t get past it to distinguish if he has improved any or if he is worse..

  96. Yes. I do believe they have accepted their fate. And embraced it with no little enthusiasm. It isn’t true that every one wants to win. For some teams, some individuals, winning is a horror, a nightmare. Losing is comfy and familiar..

    beats me, but that is true.

  97. on the other hand.. you know.. Venky sounds a tad Swedish.. might be one of Toots paddling crew…

    I have a great respect for Onions. He isn’t infected , or contaminated with the fear the others have. So it seems to me.

    Bat on, Mitch…

  98. Nesta: North and Clarke, starting to become a bit of an act.
    What on earth has happened to England? Where did they go?

  99. ooo the Eng physio is on the ground again.. .Hopefully his sidekick, the Widow Twankey will emerge.. .

  100. Pepp, I suspect England are still paying for those years of closed shop (non)selection. Collectively they’ve experienced so many farcical collapses, they get stuck in the groove very quickly, and just throw in the towel.

  101. its an odd thing, GM… but predictably, England will disparage playing to win. There will be lots of blither about character, and cameo performances, and many a sly dig at the rudeness and well… you know.. the.. illbred attitude of playing to win. But England is comfy in that zone. It’s like an old armchair your cat has sat on for years.. it’s cosy, it’s really how they like it. They never seem sufficiently dissapointed at losing.

    I mean.. look at them. They are not embarrassed, or concerned.. it’s a day’s pay to them, come what may, it’s of no great import. Even after consecutive farcical collapses, they manage to wipe them clean out of the collective mind and it’s on to the real business of promoting their own projected excellence.

    They are a wierd mob.

    I’ve become seriously adoring of Marcus North.

  102. Boycott is agreeing with you on the BBC at the moment (about the weird mob, not the feelings toward North).

    the English headlines today are all saying they’ve lost the Ashes – already, with 9 days still to go. I find many English fans admirably loyal – perhaps even too much so. I remember they went on stike in Sri Lanka the other year, but generally they live in hope and then take it ermarkably well when their hopes are crushed.

    I have a bit more sympathy for them after the first three tests.

  103. Actually l thought it was an aggressive move of ENG to play the bowler for Flintoff when they could have easily brought in an extra bat at 6 to try and shore things up, especially given how thin that batting line up looks. Hasn’t worked out, and may well have been wrong, but it was a positive selection.

    Unlike the Windies in that last series when they practically picked 10 batsman…!

  104. We looked all over them in Cardiff as well. And then lost all momentum. Content to enjoy today and work towards the win and then take stock (assuming we win).

    ENG will rebound without doubt and could be set for a cracker of a finish. One good bowling performance from either side….

  105. I remember that Sri Lanka stuff.. when the Barmies turned on Vaughan like a pack of spitting cobras.. even the team bus was bombarded. All those cranky signs around the ground accusing Vaughan et al of wasting good british money… that was the day the singing stopped, for sure.

    But Vaughan wasn’t worried!!. he spoke yet again of the swags of character to be found in the dressing sheds.. ….

  106. Surely Harmison is finished after this. Could he ever be trusted again?

    • Selection will be interesting – (IF) Aus win and ENG have a one off test match to win. Surely they can;t go with the same batting line up – very interesting second innings. l know it isn’t all done and dusted here yet but it would be an interesting selection premise. Ramprakash, Key etc?

  107. He is not too sharp as a fielder.. he is a walking wicket.. .. it’s not as if he has a whole quiver full of arrows going for him, but I don’t see these things as Geoff Miller et al do, Fred . . .

    Eng has actually given up on fielding now, always a certain sign of complete disinterest. That one of Mitch’s could have been prevented from a four, no worries..

  108. then again, Jimmy looks like he’s for the knackers yard any moment,. Broad is goofy, Mitch is having too much fun out there… .

    Sidebottom, ( another screamer at his own team ) might have to replace Jimmy.

  109. well played , Mitch.. … he was beginning to enjoy himself far too much..

  110. Amazing stat on the commentary. 247 wickets from leg spin to Aus in last 20 years and 0 to Eng. (Mcintyre 2 and of course Magilla and Warne).

    First day of a very long awaited week off for me is being thoroughly enjoyed l must say! Especially watching Broad seethe all day. Real test of his nerve.

    • Mcintyre 2, Hohns 11, Magilla 39 and Warne 195.

      • Good fight back from Broad.

  111. Botham had a batting average of 33.5 after 102 tests. MJ has an average of 33 after 25 tests. Is it time to stop talking about him having potential to be an allrounder? Isn’t he already?

    • Fred, I think he is high on the ICC allrounders list but in my opinion an allrounder could be picked in either discipline.

      Johnson is a handy bat but he is picked to take wickets with his runs an added bonus. If he bowls poorly consistently and averages 50 with the bat he’ll be dropped eventually. If he scores another half a dozen centuries I’d be prepared to change my view.

      The way Stu Clark drove that last six he could be an allrounder too if he spent more time in the nets with bat!

  112. I am sure that Vaughan is secretly in discussions with Giles Clark. Or a delegation of analysts have been sent to track down Trescothick. Wouldn’t be surprised if Nixon was madly packing his kit and whiting his boots, and blueing his teeth in case the phone call , the long awaited phone call comes..

  113. I also thought it was positive selection from Eng. Thought they might try and play for 2 draws, but with that batting line up, I can’t see them getting to 550 too many times.

    Was also very pleased they didn’t play Sidebottom – I find screaming at your own team mates worse than any sledging I’ve ever seen. (Or done.)

  114. bloody beautiful, Marcus..


  115. Solid Marcus, really solid. Head over the ball all day.

  116. fred, let’s have a bit more of a look at MJs bowling before rushing into any judgments!

  117. japaljarri, I don’t think they’ll change selection very much. They’ve done OK in this series, just suffered from KP and Freddy being injured, and having few other options. (Calling Flintoff/Harmison a like for like change is stretching cedibility, and insulting Flintoff). They’re not desperate enough for Ramprakesh, but Key is forever being talked about. They can come back and play much better at The Oval (except Harmison).

    • Yeah l agree. l think a fit KP could have swung the series to be honest.

      The Flintoff selection point is not about like for like at all. Rather that conceptually since there was no all rounder to sub in it would have been much safer to have gone for a batsman and padded Prior down to 7 rather than picking Harmison. l think it was a positive selection rather than looking to defend their 1-0 lead.

      Surely Bopara can’t play 3.

      • Agree it wasn’t like for like, but that’s what they were calling it.
        True, Harmi was an positive selection. Unfortunately for them, their only positive option was a decidely flaky one.

  118. GM, surely you’re not doubting his bowling? He’s having a horror series, but it’s clear he’s a seriously good bowler.

  119. fred, Joke – in appalling taste. Sorry.

    I didn’t think much of him before the SA tour to Aus. As far as I’m concerned he’s still got a lot of credit. Even if he did cost us a test, my default setting is “impressed”.

    • Johnson has loads of credit from SA, but it is wearing thin now. He bothers me as he has loads of talent, but it just seems to me that he hasn’t got the killer instinct or the self-confidence that he needs. And without that…

  120. Considering North was an unexpected selection in South Africa for Symonds the selectors, namely Jamie Cox, deserve the kudos.

    And what a way to bring up the ton! Stu Clark just hit another six too! Great shot! And another! Perhaps he should bat in front of Mitch. Give Stu the new rock too. He won’t waste it and is hungry and in form!

  121. Clark is just making a mockery of little Stuart here..

  122. Harmison just stood there. .. Simply amazing.. amazing.

  123. GM, sorry, missed it. I guess after his recent performance I thought it quite possible for people to doubt him.
    Quite right Nesta, North was not predictable, good call.
    What isn’t there to like about Clark? I’ll never forget his innings in Perth, the game was already lost, but he swung his bat with no small talent and pleasure, to good effect.

  124. ah… well played , Clarkey.. well played..

  125. fred, he has indeed copped a lot of criticism. Sure, he didn’t do what was expected, but he deserves to be quite a bit of slack.

    What he did to SA also wasn’t expected.

  126. awfully good, Marcus..

  127. TEA – AUSTRALIA LEAD by 343

    England will have to bat for about a day to just get even and even if they can there will still be over two days to go.

    Australia’s bowlers are fresh yet runs should be cheap with Australia attacking without fear.

    I think we can expect a much sterner batting performance second time around from England but being so far behind it probably won’t be enough.

    If England could somehow win this match (which I seriously doubt) it will make 1981 look tame in comparison!

  128. Just catching up on what appears to be a fine performance from Aus with two old pros in North and Clark supporting the talent of Clarke really well.

    This series has been characterised by periods of poor play from both teams which has allowed the team with confidence to make the game look very easy indeed. If, as seems likely, we head to The Oval at 1-1, then a couple of good innings or a decent spell could become hugely influential on the fate of The Ashes. Aus certainly look to have sorted out their selection and have the confidence at the moment, but the fragility of both teams will make the first day at The Oval critical. I’ll be there and I hope to provide a video report as well as some texts.

    120-0 at the close will be nice, but I suspect 96-4 is more likely.

  129. I think this could be a really tight finish. Both teams are prone to very poor sessions of bowling and lunatic batting.

    Well done on Stuart Broad getting a haul of wickets. It would be nice to see MJ follow suit but I really won’t hold my breath.

  130. Oh, yes and well done Marcus North on steaming ahead when he gets past about 20! Good no 6.

  131. You know, I still don’t see MJ as an all-rounder. I just want him to bowl consistently well, instead of the ‘which Mitch’ game that we seem to play with him. Any runs are a bonus.

    I am seriously worried about his head for pressure following this series.

  132. HILFY!

    Blimey, the decisions are now going the Aussies way!

  133. I do feel for Bopara, he is having Mike Hussey sort of series. When your form is crap, everything follows.

  134. Lou, do not feel for Bopara. Tha Ashes are at stake. Feel for him once the series is over.
    Everyone gets challenged, Bopara is being given the chance to show what he’s made of. He’ll sort it out.

  135. The way Johnson set up Collingwood was Test match bowling at its finest. Wonderful stuff worth staying up till 3:30am to witness.

  136. Hilfy hasn’t been too shabby either.

  137. Cook is gone! Lou this spell by Johnson is the reason he is worth persevering with.

  138. Cook goes. Will we get them for less than their 1st innings total?

    • I reckon they’ll get them for less than 343! Hilfy and Johnson in tandem have decimated England in half an hour. Fantastic bowling that has left the batsmen impotent.

  139. Surely Hauritz can’t play next week? How could you drop any of these four?

    • Lee won’t get a run either.

  140. Congrats to Ponting for bringing Aus to a point where they can say they are basically following on from where they left off in 2006/7. Except this is more of a route.

    Only have radio, but MJ certainly sounds awesome.

  141. 3 for 1 apparently in this spell for MJ…And some idiot joking about him only half an hour ago.

  142. GM, picked your day to joke about MJ didn’t you?!

  143. Bloody North, hopeless. Drop him. This team has better standards than that.

  144. …A unique mix of guilt, embarrassment and happiness, and a genuine feeling of stupidity.

  145. I know I know, nesta. When he is on, he looks bloody amazing. Aaaaaaaaaah, where you bin all series, Mitchie?

  146. STUMPS DAY 2 ENG 82/5 still need 261 to make Australia bat again.

    Australia are playing like the team that holds the Mace. After six consecutive dominant sessions they’ll win tomorrow and hold the upper hand in The Ashes with one to play.

    They continued to bowl with quality and when they play cricket in this fashion England can do little to resist them.

  147. Bloody North, indeed. I knew that chance was coming and man did MJ deserve it.

    Still whacking a 6 to get to 100, perhaps we can cut Marcus some slack.

    Didn’t take long for Bell to become MJ’s bunny did it?

  148. I don’t want to gloat as we still have to finish them off, but it is quite unreasonable how happy it makes me when MJ starts monstering it.

  149. Won’t be any more “who are ya” chants at Johnson.

    fred, always said North is a bit of a passenger.

  150. Lou, I think Ponting finished them off in the first morning. But yes, never relax until all 10 are gone.
    MJ, amazing. Still, Anderson was amazing only a game ago. Once Aus does this consistently I’ll be impressed.
    Hayden a a great commentator on TMS today. Aside from a very disturbing 3rd person tendency, he was intelligent and informative, and also good fun.
    Bugger me, I still can’t believe this. 5/82?

  151. In north’s defence he has been out in the middle every ball today and quite a bit of yesterday too.

    Is Broad the bowling equivalent to Bell? That is, he only performs when the match isn’t in the balance.

    He took 6/91 today which reads well but he took the majority of his wickets when Australia were over 250 ahead. Like Stu Magill he has a knack for getting wickets with bad balls. Good luck to him but I’m yet to be convinced he is anything special.

  152. Nesta, we’re being tongue in cheek about North. How could you begrudge him an error off the last ball after they day they’ve had, and the day he’s had?

    • I knew that Fred but I couldn’t resist backing him up. We all owe him a beer for giving us some cheer when all looked lost. And not for the first time. He did the same on debut in Johannesburg when we all expected Smith, Steyn and co. to spank the BaggyGreen and steal the Mace.

      • Yep. Serious backbone.

  153. Eng lost their top 5 wickets for 20 runs. And what’s the idea of sending in poor ol tired, injured Jim as a night watchman?

    The batsmen don’t need protection in a situation like that – they need punishment, if anything. A bit work-shy aren’t they.

    This is what irks me about the way Eng manage their team – they get rolled for 100 by NZ and drop two bowlers. They pack their failed batsmen in cotton wool and hope they’ll get better.

    And then sending Anderson after he’s been bowling all day to protect their valuable batsmens’ wickets.

    Strauss’s first game as captain saw his team get bowled out for 51 by a team they wanted to beat comfortably, and this is a repeat x2. He needs to find a better way for his batsmen to protect their wicket than just sticking JA in the firing line. What in god’s name does he think he is protecting?

    (Better stop. Starting to sound like Geoffrey Boycott, I am.)

  154. I kind of feel the same about Broad’s wickets, he had to buy them as the lower order started making hay, but at least he did pitch it up, which is far better than bloody Steve Harmison did.

    What a mare of a bowler that bloke is.

    I am still not convinced that Anderson is 100% and he can be cut some slack as he has had some great sessions this series.

  155. The nightwatchman at 80/4 250 plus behind with three days to go was pure comedy.

    Oscar Wilde wrote that the basis of optimism is sheer terror. I think we saw the truth in that aphorism today.

  156. Problem with Johnson is he could turn around and bowl garbage tomorrow. I hope not and I doubt it as he has been ok two games in a row, but you never know with him. He is still Mr Inconsistency, but what a guy when he gets it right.

    And we have Siddle who very much likes terrorising the tail, so hopefully all will be well.

  157. Lou, as far as I’m concerned, MJ can bowl as much crap as he wants tomorrow!

    But, yes, he obviously has a bit to learn about the mental side of things. I think he will have learned a lot from this experience though.

  158. MJ hasn’t been that inconsistent in his career. He’s had good games and bad games, but I don’t think he’s impersonated Harmison like this before. I’d expect a more consistent level from him now.

  159. I think Johnson could be compared to Jeff Thomson. When on song he is damn near unplayable but there will be days when he is off target.

    He started slowly last summer but became more consistent the more he bowled. He had limited preparation for this series and I feel he and the rest of the quartet will continue to bowl well until the end of the series.

    Also, I think he is better suited to first change. Hilfy has led the attack for Tassie and won three trophies in three years. Tassie had only ever won one before Hilfy gave up bricklaying to try his hand at cricket.

    Hilf is only in his seventh Test. Another twenty under the belt and he’ll be something very special. One day he’ll have a statue at Bellerive beside Boonie’s. Although Ricky will get one first!

    Siddle is only 24 so I’m hopeful that he and Hilfy will be sharing the new ball for many seasons to come with Mitch coming to the crease after them.

    When they get it right like they did in South Africa and in this Test it is hard to not be excited by Australia’s current, and future, success.

    • “He had limited preparation for this series…”
      Left out of warm up games, because he was certain to be selected. Didn’t help, did it?

      • Didn’t help at all. It was a stupid decision and most people knew that, I am sure. The bowl-off was a joke. Punter decided on the SA tour attack by facing them in the nets.

        I agree about the future. The three of them look good together. But they need to have some patience taken as they haven’t played much together. Having an old head in there in Clark is spot on for now.

  160. Yes, nesta, MJ needs to bowl a lot to get going. The Aussie management knows that as well.

    He does look better coming in with the shine off the ball. I am sure he was first change when he got the 8 for in Perth.

  161. Not unexpected, but a fine effort from Aus.

    My feeling is that both teams will still have poor sessions, but that Aus’ best is much better than England’s. There’ still a lot of cricket to be played on The Oval’s hard, quickish pitch and some time for England to gather their senses. England will go into the Test with nothing to lose and likely at least one, maybe two new players who will live on adrenaline. There’s a chance for England yet – not a big one, but a real one and I’d have settled for that at the start of the series.

    Hilfenhaus was always going to be a handful in England – that the selectors couldn’t see that, that they had no back-up for Hughes, that Clark was treated like some upcountry trundler, that Manou is the reserve keeper (and a few other selectorial issues) seems bonkers to this Englishman, and did at the outset. England’s selectors make errors because we lack Test standard players and make it worse by not playing those that might be (going back to Bell and Harmison instead), but Aus have lots – why not have some of them in the 16?

    I’ll be surprised in the Test goes to the halfway mark, which is a damning indictment, but, 1-1 with one to play? No Aussie would have settled for that on Day One at Cardiff, never mind Day Five in Sydney in 2007.

  162. Clark wasn’t treated like an upcountry trundler, he was treated like someone coming off an injury and needing easing back into the team, in the face of an attack that had just rolled SA. Of course Manou is the reserve, Haddin is doing fine, overall. Hindsight is so easy. Aus has always had the team to win, they just haven’t performed. Lee may well have destroyed Eng today too, but we’ll never know.
    I have no problem at all with the selection choices. The problem is there is so much talent all around about the same mark, with few clear choices. Eg. dropping Hughes for Watson was just crazy, but look what happened!
    You’re right though Tooting, this is not where any Australian thought we would be. Eng have done better than expected to be at this point.
    I really think Eng has a serious problem with success. As soon as they face it, they freeze. How did they build a global empire based on blood and violence, and then produce players like like Bell and Harmison?

  163. Fred – You’re closer to Aus than me, but I did think that Clark was treated pretty shabbily. I have always had faith in Watson the bat, but not the bowler – I have faith in neither discipline for Ronald.

    Empire? A little blood and violence sure, but a helluva lot more politicking, playing off interests against each other and backstage organisation. Hence one Botham / Flintoff per generation, but the MCC goes on and does a pretty good job on the whole (note, not ICC).

  164. Tooting, I don’t know what most Aussies would’ve predicted after losing the central pillars of their team. It was always clear it was going to be a bumpy ride. I think more after SA we’d’ve predicted a better result than this. (Pre- this test, that is. We wouldn’t’ve predicted quite an utter walk-over as this.) I always thought Aus were capable of losing it, but I didn’t think England would be capable of playing as well as they have done (til this test).

    But England must also be pretty stunned. After all the post 2007 rhetoric about bouncing back, they’ve suddenly slumped to what will be their worst Ashes defeat ever – unless they score another 80 or so. Even Warne & co never managed that.

    They have always spoken as if their failures of the last few years have been put behind them, but I don’t think it’s that simple. After their 51 against the WI, they reckoned they’d put it behind them when they got runs the next few tests. I’m not sure.

    There’s more to self-belief than just mental games. It has to be earned.

  165. Before this series started every Sky commentator gave this series to England by a variety of margins. Nasser and Bob Willis had been dismissive at best about any Australian chance of retaining the Ashes.

    David Gower with his Devil’s Advocate hat on and only then seemed to be the only one with any sense or proportion at all.

    The English team can still win the series, but after all the stick some of our players have taken in the press and how the English fans behave about Punter, I am very glad that the Aus team is performing to some decent standards.

  166. “Empire? A little blood and violence sure..” Bah, bathing in it. But that’s the way it was done.

  167. I stood up and ran round my treehouse , arms spread wide with Mitch in the early horrid hours this morning. Nothing nicer than Mitch on a roll. There was a lot of comfort in watching Strauss, Cook, Bell and Bopara and Collingwood walk out on to the pitch, too. Prior, too. Their body language gave them away before they’d even reached the crease, and this is something English cricket has never ever adressed, in fact ignores, yet it has such impact.

    There is something brave in Anderson that I had not recalled before, really. He is obviously suffering, and suffering mightily, yet his courage was in the back of my mind from when ENG played the West Indies, and Anderson wound up on his knees after pitching everything he had. I had forgotten this aspect of him but I’ve been reminded of it this match. No idea of how long he’ll last, but I merely register this thought before it sinks again. He isn’t a great bowler, but he gives his all, and that’s no small thing for an Eng cricketer.

    And so on to the next episode of this terrific match.

    As a small aside, I felt for Dileep Premacharadan this morning, the Guardian cricket ‘writer’.. he spends his days and nights lost in the absorbing dream of AU’s ever promised decline, tough days for Dileep.

  168. Stuff the present day, nice as it is to be vicariously standing on the throat of England once again, I wanna go back to the article up top and ask Nesta about Lillee and Marsh’s 10 quid bets on the 500 to 1 shot at Headingly in 1981.

    It didn’t tar their reputations like Shoeless Joe or Hansie presumably because it was seen as larrikinism-gone-wrong. Is that it or is there any other reason why it didn’t give rise to a betting scandal?

  169. Nesta would have another view I suspect, Lev.. but my stepdad says it was more a bit of a laugh at the hapless English bookie, more than anything else. And probably therein lies the key.. English bookie against Indian bookie. One is presumed to be a bit of a duffer, and the other dodgy in the extreme.
    I don’t think anyone even thought of networks of underground bookie madness back then. God knows why not, though.

    Things were not as electronically swift , or as cheap, either, in those days..

  170. poor Hansie.. I won’t forget meeting Bertha, Hansie’s wife once, in Sydney at a cricket function, and bugger me if she didn’t have a leather coat on at the time, which I thought wierd, since it was not exactly nippy. Later, as it turned out, Hansie had insisted on a leather coat for Bertha as part of his payment.

    It was not a well designed coat, either, from memory. And Bertha didn’t look that hot in it, to boot.

    Hansie went so cheap, too. …

  171. Pretty happy to take 1-1 now though Toots, especially in this manner – IF we do retain the Ashes away, any which way we can is fine with me!

    l always thought 2-1 Aus and thought we missed one of those at Cardiff. Kudos for the backs to the wall North and Clarke partnership last test as l thought ENG had a real sniff then and didn’t grab it. Was a huge moment that generated significant momentum for AUS at Headingley. N & C actually moved us towards a strong position in the Third test weather permitting.

    To me a strong middle order has been one of the critical traditions of good AUS sides. We built from there with AB. And Hussey, Symonds etc (and even Gilly late in his career to be honest) travails have made that fragile for some time.

  172. ah well.. the Australian Fanatics have claimed to be the ones to set off the fire alarm at the Radisson, disturbing the peaceful and probably confident slumbers of the Eng cricket team the other night. ..

    ‘ it’s just hi jinks!!’….

  173. Very readable and insightful discussions here as always ! Thanks all.

    Assuming the formalities are completed by lunch or tea today, I agree that Eng has performed to expectations (from its supporters), and made this a close-run series, whatever happens in the next test.

    Aus failed to close out Cardiff, and Eng let Aus off the hook at Edgbaston.So, even considering the momentum shift in this test, Eng has done well to keep the series alive till the Oval.

    After the away in SA, expectations were a bit higher from Aus.Their fans will heave a sigh of relief now, to see their attack rediscover its collective potency, and the middle order becoming once again, one of the best in the world.

    “Empire? A little blood and violence sure..”

    I think the generations that built the Empire (with a lot of blood and violence in the colonies, and lot of politicking all over) were not a pampered lot, and thrived in an extremely competitive milieu.There may be many such people in Eng these days, but they may not be playing Cricket or being mentored properly at an early stage in their cricketing careers.

    Continuing the analogy further, if Eng has to replicate a cricketing model based on the successful Empire model, they need to have a quintessentially English captain and a team selection policy that does not allow bubbles to be formed and sustained.

    Inspite of the impending massive defeat, I don’t think Eng will change their team much for the Oval.But surely, Bopara and Bell need to be dropped?

    No analysis about Australia.They have been magnificient in this test.They need to maintain the consistency for one more Test and seek to win 2-1.A 1-1 score is credit to Eng.

  174. Lev – My reading of the Marsh / Lillee bet was that plenty did that sort of thing in those days often using journos to put their bets on, hence a bit of a guilty silence from both parties.

    Japal – N and C’s partnership was as important as England’s final day stands at Cardiff in providing the belief that both teams seem to need.

    England have twice made 400+ in first innings in this series and twice bowled Aus out for less than 270 in first innings. England can make chances and will need to at The Oval – and then drive them home. Hard to see now, but it’s not impossible in this strange series.

  175. Just a quick point re Empire. Kumar – if you have roots on the sub-continent as your name suggests, you’ll know that Britian occupied it for centuries often with tiny numbers of troops, but lots of East India Company administrators and a careful manipulation of communities and local potentates.

    Likewise elsewhere – taken over century-long periods of time (after some horrible genocides, not least in Aus), Empire was remarkably blooodless because blood and violence cost too much money. And most of the blood spilled or violence meted out was done by Scots of hired mercenaries, not Englishmen!

    I’m no defender of any Empire, but as the US consistently fails to learn, they are not sustained on violence but on the getting of things done and clever, devious politicos.

  176. On Marsh and Lillee and sly bets I’d be less critical if the whole team chucked in a fiver for a bit of a lark.

    I presume Warne and MWaugh thought some easy cash for pitch reports was a bit of a lark too yet it tarnished their careers and characters forever.

    When it comes to the crunch, betting against your own team no matter the circumstances should always be condemned whether in the past, present or future.

  177. Surprises me that the Headingly punt is seen as something of the times by Pepp and yourself (‘back then’ / ‘those days’).

    There were betting scandals before that in Australian sport, at least in Aussie Rules and racing no doubt, can’t remember any in Cricket but it would have been frowned upon surely. I can only imagine they donated the money to charity or to the team p!ss-up fund.

    Remembering the trash that Mitch et al bowled at Lords gives you hope toots. If the Australian attack reverts to that you’re in with a chance, if they bowl like they have this Test your batting line-up will struggle again.

    One all is fair at this point (presuming I know) and it sets up the Oval for a result. I’ve enjoyed the series for all its flaws.

  178. Toots,

    Yes, I am an Indian.I think we can agree to disagree on the moral aspects of the Empire.

    Only an Englishman can say that the Empire was remarkably bloodless.The blood and violence did cost a lot of money.The colonies paid for their own destruction. India’s wealth was suck out by England like a swamp leech sucks blood.

    Please, lets stick to Cricket :)

    Or if you want to carry the analogy to Cricket, have more South Africans, and Asian origin players in the side, and be led by an Englishman.Let your fast bowlers be of African origin or Irish.And your cricket administrators be the Rothschilds.

    Before that, have your players not sledge their own team mates.And don’t diss your best batsman when he thinks like a mercenary.

    • As a descendant of the decimated Pulawa nation and an Irish political prisoner transported on the First Fleet I enjoyed that riposte very much Kumar. If I was handing out awards for best comment you’d be the winner!

  179. Lev, I’ve posted something new so I’m going to take this thread completely off-topic and say that I’m impressed with your ‘Pies mate and I expect to see them and the Saints at the ‘G on the last Saturday in September.

    • Got to say as a Geelong man l can see the Pies knocking off us Week 1 of the Finals as we look very tired and battered. Saints vs Pies. Who on earth to barrack for there…

  180. Nesta – I was at footy park last night and I came away with high hopes, a dangerous frame of mind for a Collingwood supporter (let’s just say I’ve been burned before). The Saints will be a problem, Geelong too but maybe this is the year.

    As an aside, the Crows have this marketing cum crowd gee-up thing where they give the crowd a goal assist for cheering (or booing) I guess. It flashes up on the scoreboard.

    Put it up against setting off a fire alarm in the opposition team hotel and cause them to traipse out to the street at 4.30am the night before the game and its lame to say the least (not that I in any way condone the actions of the prankster in question)

  181. Well mate I just watched my Swans produce for one of SA’s finest, Micky O, even sang the song in the lounge room. The U7 soccer team I coach won 16-nil too so what with The Ashes this weekend has been a memorable one from a sporting perspective.

    The Crows are a weird bunch from afar. Not sure I understand the goal assist business. Then again Adelaide is a unique and quirky place!

  182. Those days, Lev.. things change so much with technology and attitude… I am often astonished at people who maintain the line that no one sledged before the Australians. .. the myth is, they invented it, we all know who does it. . then inevitably the ridiculous line that the WI didn’t do it. Not so.

    Back when the WI was tops there wasn’t the technology to pick up the sledging, but it went on loudly and all day. In ‘those day’s’ it wasn’t transferred off the ground, only when transistorised pitch mic, along with pitch cam came in did everyone hear it, until it was censored. Sadly. Steve Waugh named it better , I suppose.

    Technology and time does change things.. back in 81 international betting, and even local betting was done by phone, not by the internet, or mobiles, which is where poor old Hansie came unstuck. Had he be doing it in 81 he’d still be around doing it, I suspect.

    I’m with Nesta, in that it was a mongrel thing to do, but even so, I suspect they never dreamed it would actually come off. Cue red faces, I suppose.

  183. wester bulldogs faithfull follower here, and I got my usual heart attack moment again last night. oh well..

    one day, it’s going to happen.. one day..

  184. amen to that, Kumar.

  185. Geelong look shaky without Scarlett Jap. If they don’t improve quickly they’ll be seen as failures even though they’ve won 57 or so from the last 60 matches. Australians are hard taskmasters in sporting matters aren’t we?

    If Geelong don’t win the flag this year they’ll be forever crap. I hope they can recover because seeing Gary Ablett cry bothers me for reasons I’m yet to comprehend.

  186. Oh God no, not football. Not here.

  187. If it was Australians that set off the alarm at the English hotel, I’ll be deeply ashamed. No need to stoop to such levels.

  188. You’re not responsible Fred so you shouldn’t feel anything but scorn for the alleged dickheads. I’ll reserve judgement until the all too convenient accusation is proved.

  189. Interesting stuff – I don’t condone betting against your own side, but I suspect it went on plenty. It’s a while ago now, but from memory, few former players at the time condemned it and it needed a code and investigatory body to cut it and related stuff out (if it has ever gone completely).

    Nesta and Kumar – Believe me, I undertand your points and I don’t wish to defend Empire. My antecedents were worked to death on docks and in factories living in accommodation that ensured that 40 was an advanced age. My only point is that it is a misreading of history (and I have read quite a bit about it, thought that’s no guarantee of knowledge) to believe that successful empires are sustained on blood and violence. They are not. They are built on administration and boring stuff, always backed by the State’s monopoly of force. The Romans and the British both knew that in their long-lived empires – I’m not sure that the adventurists who used to occupy the White House unsderstand that.

    I might also say that the British Empire’s most bloody times always come in its conquering phase and after its retreat. Empire’s most pernicious impact, as Kumar says, is its bleeding dry of the natural resources of the land and its squashing of talent. That pot bubbles over when Empire retreats, whether in the Dark Ages of post-Roman Empire Europe or the violence after Partition in 1947, or much of Africa in the 60s until today.

    Again, please don’t think of me as an Englishman who has an agenda to defend British imperialism – as with cricket, the complexities are considerable and seldom reduce to stereotypes.

  190. I agree Mouth that empire needed not only the force, but also the technology and administration to maintain it. But the point I was making originally, which wasn’t intended as a reproach against England, was that England has shown ruthlessness as times, to put it very mildly. They could do with some of that now, in a sporting sense.

  191. Nesta

    Last year hurts a bit but we got 2007 and lm ok with that. l’m pretty sure l only sobered up on 2008 GF day in fact. We’ve lost 3 of our last 6 and l won;t see 2009 as a failure at all as the Saints are easily the best team in the comp.

    Actually it has all been transcended for me by the arrival of Liam Jurrah in the AFL. He is making serious OZ history on behalf of the small Warlpiri desert community of Yuendumu where l have lived the last 5 years. The first real remote desert community Indigenous player to make it to the big stage. An even better young fella than he is a footballer which is really saying something.

  192. I’ve watched Liam’s every match and he has me spellbound. I wish that Sydney picked him up to replace Micky O. I reckon Micky and Goodes would be good fellas to help him adjust to AFL and city life. Anyway, I’m now watching the Dees play regularly and although it isn’t always pretty Liam’s skill and vision make it a worthwhile and enjoyable experience.

    • Actually Micky and Goodes have been useful off field supports to him. Terrific blokes. Davey has been sensational and young Aussie is just a wonderful friend to Liam.

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